This year I got to be part of the Corpus Christi procession and as with any event you get to experience more than once, you pick up on different things.
Honestly, Corpus Christi has always confused me. I survived a prolonged Catholic education (through graduate school) and had been a Sunday School teacher yet had never heard of Corpus Christi before moving to Mexico.
This year some local press re-ran a piece explaining Corpus Christi I had written and I got a response from a priest (a first for me). Fr. Lance explained that I was wrong writing Corpus Christi represented Jesus’ body and blood being in the communion wafer and wine. Instead, the wafer and wine were Jesus body and blood.
This confused me but I’m too steeped in Catholic school memories to question clergy. If the wafer and wine are body and blood, doesn’t that make the whole experience Donner Party-adjacent? Plus when I was growing up and alcoholism had a firm hold on central Pennsylvania, wine was never served except to the priest (which, in retrospect, was the pot calling the kettle black).
For this year’s Corpus Christi celebrations the Locos paraded around centro until the rains started. If you want to see someone move fast watch a Loco in the rain. It takes hours to do their make-up and they hate smearing so they leapt to safety as if in an acid rain. The torment postponed the religious procession so I used the time under the stone arches to ask Mexicans to explain what I was starting to view as Corpus Christi Cannibalism.
I learned Corpus Christi was all part of faith, meaning not something to be rationalized. That when folks are ill, they take communion because now Jesus is in them and will help fight the internal battle to make them well again.
About this time I heard from Fr. Lance again with links to PewSitter.com that I enjoyed if only for the web site name.
So as the chamomile, sparklers and confetti bombs lined the streets I had a lot to think about while the procession visited 20 altars around centro. Always, I marvel at the expressions of faith, like how folks will kneel in a puddle because Jesus (in the wafer) is passing by.
It reminded me of last year when a monstrance (the gold candlestick-ish container that holds the wafer) was stolen from the nearby village of La Monja. La Monja means the nun, as the village is rumored to be named for a nun run over by a car there and why there are twenty-something speed bumps in the village today to drive over on your way to the Queretaro airport. Believers didn’t care about the gold monstrance, but they wanted Jesus’ body back (in the wafer) and had pilgrimages around San Miguel to pray for the thief and Jesus’ return.
This year certain altars were dedicated to local folks you see in the processions and parades. One was for the Loco dancers that honor St. Anthony, St. Pascual and St. Isidore celebrated last month. Another was for folks carrying the stars for image of Mary of the Light also celebrated last month. A third was the mojigangas, the giant paper mache puppets, you see in processions year-round.
Another altar was sponsored by the cloistered nuns. Not those in the Immaculate Conception church down from Starbucks on Canal St., but the ones on Hidalgo St. down from Starbucks and Hank’s. You don’t see these nuns much as they take being apart from the world very seriously. But not on Corpus Christi! Tonight two followed the procession giving away bread to the men and women carrying the host, lanterns, flags and alike.
The Brides of Christ stuck out to me because one was very fashion-forward wearing Burberry rain boots. (Even ex-nuns are teased for not being able to dress having worn the same dress daily for years.) I was envious of my Burberry buddy as I simply had a black trash bag to protect me from the rain which hardly gave me any fashion flair.
The processions ended at the Parroquia with fireworks that were spectacular.
I may not still really understand Corpus Christi but I do appreciate that nearly all my neighbors do from being raised Catholic in a Catholic country I chose to move to. Believe or don’t in Corpus Christi, that’s not important. What is important is knowing how your neighbors think and what they believe so you can go along to get along better than you could otherwise.
by Joseph Toone
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkingTours.com, and JosephTooneTours.com.