Many things are associated with Catholicism: novenas, rosaries, statues, holy water, scapulars, and so on. We call these “things” sacramentals. They are symbolic words or actions that remind us of the presence of God in our lives and draw us to the sacraments. One of my favorite sacramentals is the act of walking in procession. When our non-Catholic friends attend Mass with us, they very often comment on the amount of movement required of the assembly: sitting, standing, kneeling, bowing, genuflecting, making the Sign of the Cross, and so on. We Catholics do not like to sit still. And we are not supposed to stand still!
Processions symbolize not only our pilgrimage to heaven, but also our call to be a missionary people on earth—a people sent out to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who need it most. All symbolic actions tell a story, and processions tell the story of a Church on the move! Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, our processions became simply sentimental pious actions when they were meant to represent a people—an army—on the march. Marches and parades evoke images of an army heading to a destination to vanquish an enemy or to celebrate a victory. The same is true for us: we march in processions, led by our symbol of victory, the Cross, to celebrate God’s victory over sin and death and to symbolize our ongoing mission to go forth and announce this Good News to those in despair.
As a Church, we need to once again “get moving!” That’s why several years ago, I wrote a book called A Church on the Move: 52 Ways to Get Mission and Mercy in Motion (Loyola Press). This is not a call to a temporary strategy; it is a call to once again embrace our missionary identity as an apostolic people—a people sent forth. Here are a few of my thoughts about the book and our call to be a Church on the move.