By Hannah Green
Editor’s note: Hannah is a rising sophomore at Simmons College, a member of St. Mary Parish in Westfield and a summer intern at Catholic Communications.
Imagine being in a procession of people almost 200 strong, chasing the Eucharist through the streets of downtown Ludlow. Your feet are swollen inside your dress shoes, the humidity is boiling you from the inside out, and after leaving the first church in your route, you realize that there are three more to go. Could you continue? More importantly, would you?
If you listened to your brain, you probably wouldn’t. Invaluable as our brains are, they also happen to be excellent excuse-makers.
“You have a baby, you don’t need to go.”
“It’s your day off, why don’t you lay down on the sofa and relax?”
“It’s too hot out, you shouldn’t go outside.”
As much as our brains want to keep us physically happy and safe, they can’t always account for our spiritual needs. While you’re walking down the sidewalk in peak summer temperatures, your body is trying to figure out why, and working to convince you to get somewhere cool and comfortable. It’s not your brain’s fault that it’s trying to get you to head home; it’s just looking out for number one, and avoiding conditions that could dehydrate and tire you out is pretty high on its list of priorities.
So sometimes, like the folks following the Bishop and the Eucharist around last Sunday afternoon for the feast of Corpus Christi, you have to listen to your faith instead of your judicious friend upstairs.
It wasn’t the expectant embrace of the freshly frosted air blowing from air conditioners that drew people from one church to the next, but a desire to dedicate their day to God, and to celebrate his gift of the Eucharist to us.
They weren’t worried about the heat, carrying their children, or tackling the walk between all four parishes. As I watched and processed along beside them, following our reporter and videographer, I wondered, where did they find that strength? And how did they do it with the eyes of the world on them?
Well, maybe not the eyes of the world, but the eyes of the motorists, store owners, and pedestrians who happened to pass along their route down the sidewalks of bustling Ludlow streets.
As we drove in the Catholic Communications car to beat the procession to the next church, I noticed just how many people were watching this public display of devotion. In a little bakery, teenagers in white aprons and hair nets gathered in the front window, and at the repair shop next door, mechanics with sodas stopped their conversations to stare.
The odd thing is, if these parishioners had been in a different situation, a different location perhaps, and seen these many eyes on them, most would be horrified or overcome with something like stage fright. But not here, and not today.
How did they do it? I was still wondering this as they dispersed that afternoon, during my winding and long drive home, and even at night as I settled into bed. Where did they suddenly get that fearlessness, that perseverance, that strength?
Then I did what I usually turned to in moments where I was unsure, confused, or uncertain: I said a little prayer, and asked for help. And suddenly, I understood.
How many times had I felt weak, torn, or unfulfilled, yet found strength in my relationship with God? How many times had I felt empowered, strong, and whole by drawing on my faith as fuel?
Could faith overpower exhaustion, heat, and physical discomfort of such a strong degree?
The answer seemed obvious then—yes, it could. Hadn’t it brought others through even darker places before, such as times of excruciating physical pain and challenging mental road blocks.
The power of faith, and the power of our God, became all the more clear to me that day. Through God we are stronger than any obstacle we might encounter, and with God, we can overcome anything. Through this realization I find my own spiritual ease, and I owe it all to the faithful parishioners who never doubted why they were chasing the Eucharist through the streets of Ludlow one hot Sunday afternoon.