Harri Williams offers a reflection for Corpus Christi

I must admit to having been rather despondent about the celebration of Corpus Christi this year. At the beginning of lockdown I had imagined we would have returned to our church buildings and our altars by now and that Corpus Christi would have been a wonderful day to celebrate our faith and our belief in the sacraments. Last year, for the first time a procession of the Blessed Sacrament was held from the Parish Church to the Altar of Light in the Shrine Gardens. Children from Kentish down proudly displayed their Christian symbols and scattered rose petals, clergy and people sang wonderful hymns, the day was a splendid occasion. Fast forward to 2020, with no opportunity for public worship, no procession and no singing I couldn’t help but feel downhearted. Yet during this time of exile from all that is familiar, I decided to notify the faithful that the Blessed Sacrament would be exposed on Corpus Christi for 4 hours in the afternoon, outside of the South Porch of St Mary’s Walsingham. Even my plans of wonderful weather, having enjoyed such a sunny May, were dashed by the Met Office prediction of a cold, windy and rather wet afternoon. But I persevered, and before exposition I set up my stall under a few trees at the edge of the churchyard, in the hope that if I was going to spend the afternoon on my own, I should attempt at least not to be soaked to the skin. At noon the Blessed Sacrament was brought from the Church and exposed upon the makeshift altar and to my amazement the people began to come. Never in great number, and always socially distant, but hour by hour the faithful were there. What was perhaps so moving about the situation was that not only was it the young and the healthy who were present (yes we do have them in Walsingham amongst our worshipping family), but so came the elderly, those in mobility scooters and many who perhaps had not even ventured out of their homes on more than a few occasions in the past twelve weeks. There amidst the gloom and the rain, they sat or stood or knelt (some for over an hour) and watched and prayed before the Lord, whose sacramental presence they had not found themselves in for over three months. During those four hours of watch, I was never alone but no words were spoken amongst us. The faithful people of God in this place, were reunited with their Lord, their desire to be in his presence so clear, their love for Him so apparent. As one parishioner remarked in an email to me later that day:  ‘After three long months of being denied the physical presence of Jesus it was truly moving to be able to lay my troubles at His feet today and to feel His comforting presence.’ Although it wasn’t the Corpus Christi I had hoped for or imagined, it was one I shall never forget. The people of God bearing witness for love of the Lord and adoring his presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Catholic faith and practice remains alive despite our present circumstances. 

Fr Harri Williams is the Vicar of St Mary’s, Walsingham

The image on the cover of this month’s New Directions shows exposition of the Blessed Sacrament this Corpus Christi at St Mary’s Walsingham.