By Mary C. Schell
Flowers adorned Cagli’s Via Tocci like an exquisite
mile-long carpet on Sunday, June 10. Richly-hued, fragrant and meticulously
placed, millions of petals, leaves, branches, and palms were used to depict
images paying tribute to the body of Christ. The scents of pine, rosemary,
and honeysuckle mingled in the air as neighbors and visitors joined to
celebrate the religious holiday of Corpus Christi.
The city was celebrating “the body of Christ,”
a festival dating back a thousand years. In the 11th century, the Blessed
Juliana of Mount Cornillon petitioned for a holiday to recognize and celebrate
the body of Christ after an excommunicated priest, Berengarius of Tours,
denied the presence of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine.
Today, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the second
Sunday in June as “The Day of the Body and Blood of Christ.”
Several American Catholic and Protestant organizations are beginning to
adopt this largely European festival.
morning, residents of Via Tocci, a central street in Old Cagli, had worked
to decorate the street outside their front doors. GiamPietro Chegai created
a crucifix of dried grass encircled in yellow wildflowers. He and his
wife, Daniela, chatted excitedly with their neighbors, who had created
designs like like suns and goblets.
“This is a beautiful holiday,” Daniela Chegai
said. “It brings any community together.
Indeed, there were no disconnected designs on the almost
1.5 mile-long street. Neighbors worked together to give the entire route
the feel of a single path.
“We share flowers and help friends who are not
artsy,” said GiamPietro Chegai of the collaboration.
A few doors down from the Chegais’ house, residents
worked together to create a stunning cup representing the blood of life.
More than a dozen residents cooperated to position the vibrant yellows,
greens and pinks.
After the street was covered from start to finish, a
procession began that included clergy from all 12 Cagliesi churches, monks
from a nearby monastery and uniformed members of various community organizations.
Clergy members wore heavy, intricately detailed robes;
some even wore velvet for the almost 2-mile march in the hot June sun.
Some read biblical selections and a homily celebrating the Holy Eucharist.
Others carried crosses and a lavish canopy covering bread and wine, which
was offered to all at the end of the procession.
Monks were dressed in solid gray robes and sang hauntingly
beautiful Gregorian chants. Boy and Girl Scouts, marching bands and other
organizations followed the religious heads, and finally members of community
were invited to join in the procession.
Along Via Tocci were four stations of worship: The Eucharist,
Bread for All, The Blood of the Covenant Seals Us, and Bread and Wine
The Catholic Church named this year’s special focus
the malnourished children of the world, specifically those in Africa and
Latin America. Pope Benedict XVI urged followers to visit the table the
Lord offers for all his people, so that they can help others in need.
He recalled the story of the loaves and the fishes, and invited all to
bring their blessings and donations, however great or meager, to this
the end of the procession, all were invited to partake in the body and
blood of Christ. Strangers and friends embraced one another and celebrated
the life of Jesus Christ.
As GiamPietro and Daniela Chegai walked home, they each
picked up a sprig of rosemary, as they have done at the end of the every
Corpus Christi procession for the past six years.
“It is part of our tradition,” GiamPietro
said, “to keep till next year and remember today.”
Web design by Debbie Schallock
Photos by Aziza Jackson
Video by Laura Treadway