With June approaching, normally the community of Louisburgh and Killeen would be getting ready for the Corpus Christi procession. Even though the community cannot come together this year we can still celebrate and look forward with hope of this event happening again in the future.
Corpus Christi is a religious festival which takes place on an annual basis in Ireland and around the world. It is a moveable feast and is celebrated on various Sundays in June throughout the country. Historically in Ireland this is where the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament or body of Christ is led in a procession by the priest of a parish and its parishioners through their local village or town. While many religious festivals in Ireland have died out or are in decline Corpus Christi is a festival that has managed to survive in parts of Ireland, mainly rural Ireland. Corpus Christi processions still take place in Mayo and has continued in Louisburgh for generations. The processions are also returning to Dublin’s inner city, to the parish of St. Laurence O’Toole. At a time of global consumerism and social media and in a country that is rapidly changing, people are returning to old ways and coming together as a community.
During an interview with a parishioner from Louisburgh, he imparted how important this festival was and is in the community. “There were bigger numbers years ago…all the houses a few days to a week before were all painted outside…the festival was a way to bring our Lord out onto the streets…people would travel from surrounding townlands to Louisburgh by foot”
The procession took the format of “a man from the parish carrying the cross, followed by men, then women and then kids…the children wore their holy communion clothes…the priest then followed carrying the blessed sacrament with four men carrying a canopy over him…the procession takes place down the main street with benediction and then continues back to the church, people sing hymns as they walk. In the town they have little altars out with statues, flowers and candles in the main door or windowsills”.
In Ireland Corpus Christi is also known as ‘Diardaoin Álainn na mBínsí Breátha’ (‘Beautiful Day of Great Blessings’ or ‘Lovely Thursday of the fine benches’). It was customary to place flowers such as iris or wild rushes on benches outside people’s homes.
The origins of Corpus Christi go back to 1246 when the bishop of Leige Robert de Torote celebrated this festival in his dioceses, after St Juliana of Mont Cornillon had a vision of a blemish on the moon which, which was interpreted as a missing feast which Christ wanted celebrate on earth. Later Pope Urban IV ordered that the whole church observe this feast. Corpus Christi processions date back to 1320, of which, the earliest recorded example is in the council of Sens in France. Originally very important members of society would be part of the pageant such as princes, magistrates and guild members. In the Calendar of the Ancient Records of Dublin, the Corpus Christi day pageant was confirmed into law in Dublin in 1498. During Corpus Christi it was customary to hold pageants or religious plays in Ireland in medieval times. Dublin pageants had guilds such as shoemakers, mariners and weavers playing various bible characters Adam and Eve and Cain and Able. This festival was suppressed when the Reformation came to Europe and protestant churches were established.
Currently during Corpus Christi in many communities in Ireland, altars are laid in the doorways of people’s houses and businesses, in Louisburgh in Co. Mayo each house on the main street decorates their doorways with altars of religious statues, crucifixes, altar cloths, framed religious pictures, rosaries and flower arrangements. It has been tradition to keep these statues in the household to be displayed every year. These traditional customs remain a lovely way for members of the community to come together and celebrate.
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