This is the story of an unlikely and awe-inspiring encounter on the streets of Brussels on the occasion of Corpus Christi, Sunday, May 29
Sunday, May 29, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Blessed Sacrament in my town — which looks more like a small village — near Brussels. The Mass had reached celestial heights thanks to a professional choir of twenty singers who came for the occasion. At the end of the liturgy, one of the priests asked us to follow him in an orderly way. Off we went, behind the three representatives of God, the deacon and the seminarian who was holding the censer …. but more importantly behind the Blessed Sacrament held up high. Behind us, a rather talented parishioner started singing a song of joy accompanied by a guitar in simple but effective harmony relayed by speakers throughout the procession.
Some amazed onlookers stopped to watch the procession …
It was strange to take in the scene with eyes of faith because the Host is the real presence of God on Earth and our parishioners were determined, on this particular Sunday, to let God be manifested in this form in the city and to make the town’s pleasant streets sacred through this Presence. Some amazed onlookers stopped to watch the procession … Did they suspect that something very important was taking place right before their eyes?
God does not (usually) manifest himself with pyrotechnic effects, and nothing indicated more was going on than a group of faithful walking along behind a bunch of fellows dressed in white. Yet, as Jesus in the Eucharist passed by, an ethereal light changed the nature of the urban reality in a subtle way.
A cat, fascinated, peered out of a window; bicyclists stopped to watch us, the smirk on their faces frozen as if their cynicism could not quite manage to express itself. As we reached a large avenue, the cars stopped on both sides, halted by the glare of the policeman accompanying the procession. Walking in the middle of the flow of stopped cars, I felt like I was following Moses crossing the Red Sea.
Believers and non-believers recognize each other despite the barriers of origin or religion
And then, passing in front of a bus stop, I noticed a veiled lady, presumably a Muslim. I looked at her, wondering what her reaction would be. Would she, as propaganda would have us believe, show offense, even subtly, perhaps by a disobliging glance? She didn’t look at me at all, she stared at the head of the procession. Then suddenly, with no notice, she raised her hand in a friendly and spontaneous greeting, a radiant smile on her lips. Deep in her eyes, I thought I saw a bit of pride, an expression of support … It seemed to be the recognition of a believer by a non-believer, that reached beyond the barriers of origin or religion. It was a magic moment when differences are not denied but transcended by the power of Christ the Savior. It was an unforgettable moment when something of the torn mantle of mankind was mended despite the hatred that is spewed out daily by some people; it was a few seconds of enchantment and real brotherhood …
As I continued up the street, I kept that simple and sincere smile in mind. On entering the church, I could not help but notice that the mood among the parishioners was light and relaxed, as any relationship inhabited by the Spirit always is. Before leaving, the choir broke spontaneously into song, yet another grace in a morning marked by the Presence, a taste of the Kingdom to come…
Translated from the French.