Procession is a form of popular piety being practiced by the Catholic Church for many centuries. Catholics do it before Sunday masses along with the entrance hymn. A bigger procession with a cart or float are done during feast days and during the Solemnity of the Body of Christ (Corpus Christi).
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1674 Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc. 1675 These expressions of piety extend the liturgical life of the Church, but do not replace it.
Processions are always accompanied with prayers and hymns which is very similar to those in the Old Testament times. Yes! Catholics got the idea of processions from the Sacred Scriptures in both the Old and the New Testaments. It has never been an issue until these recent times when anti-Catholics started attacking every single Catholic practices in order to deceive Catholics and to make them leave the Catholic Church.
Israelites in Procession with the Ark
The Israelites went in processions to move the ark of the covenant from one place to another. The concept is very similar to Catholic processions nowadays. People carried the ark in a cart with images of two cherubims singing hymns and dancing while in procession to praise God! We find this practice in two parts in the New Testament:
2 Samuel 6:1 And David again gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose and went, with all the people that were with him of the men of Juda to fetch the ark of God, upon which the name of the Lord of Hosts is invoked, who sits over it upon the cherubims. 3 And they laid the ark of God upon a new cart: and took it out of the house of Abinadab, who was in Gabaa, and Oza and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. 4 And when they had taken it out of the house of Abinadab, who was in Gabaa, Ahio having care of the ark of God went before the ark. 5 But David and all Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of wood, on harps and lutes and timbrels and cornets and cymbals.
1 Kings 8:1 Then all the ancients of Israel, with the princes of the tribes, and the heads of the families of the children of Israel, were assembled to King Solomon, in Jerusalem: that they might carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, out of the city of David, that is, out of Sion. 2 And all Israel assembled themselves to King Solomon, on the festival day, in the month of Ethanim, the same is the seventh month. 3 And all the ancients of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark, 4 and carried the ark of the Lord, and the tabernacle of the covenant, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, that were in the tabernacle: and the priests and the Levites carried them. 5 And King Solomon, and all the multitude of Israel, that were assembled unto him, went with him before the ark, and they sacrificed sheep and oxen, that could not be counted or numbered. 6 And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord into its place, into the oracle of the temple, into the holy of holies, under the wings of the cherubims. 7 For the cherubims spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and covered the ark, and the staves thereof above. 8 And whereas the staves stood out, the ends of them were seen without, in the sanctuary before the oracle, but were not seen farther out, and there they have been unto this day.
1 Chronicles 15:14 So the priests and the Levites were sanctified, to carry the ark of the Lord the God of Israel. 15 And the sons of Levi took the ark of God as Moses had commanded, according to the word of the Lord, upon their shoulders, with the staves. 16 And David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites, to appoint some of their brethren to be singers with musical instruments, to wit, on psalteries, and harps, and cymbals, that the joyful noise might resound on high.
New Testament’s Only Procession Account
This event is recorded in three Gospels: Mark 11:1-10; Matthew 21:1-9; and Luke 19:29-38.
Mark 11:7 And they brought the colt to Jesus. And they lay their garments on him: and he sat upon him. 8 And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down boughs from the trees and strewed them in the way. 9 And they that went before and they that followed cried, saying: Hosanna: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord. 10 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that comes: Hosanna in the highest.
Other Bible References of Processions:
- Nehemiah 12:27-40. At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem. Nehemia relates a story of the procession attended by many people. There were priests with the trumpets, musical instruments of David, and there was rejoicing over the great feast of the LORD in which they shared.
- Psalms 42:5 These things I remembered, and poured out my soul in me: for I shall go over into the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God: With the voice of joy and praise; the noise of one feasting.
- Psalms 118:27 The Lord is God, and he has shone upon us. Appoint a solemn day, with shady boughs, even to the horn of the altar.
Criticizing Processions May Incur Consequences
Criticizing Catholics for going in procession might have some consequences. If we read what happened after a the procession led by King David in 2 Samuel 6:1-5, a woman questioned him about his behavior and accused him of pleasing the servant girls by his dancing. David rebukes her telling her that he was dancing before the Lord (in the ark of the covenant). So the woman never had child until her death. Full text below:
2 Samuel 6:20 And David returned to bless his own house: and Michol the daughter of Saul coming out to meet David, said: How glorious was the king of Israel to day, uncovering himself before the handmaids of his servants, and was naked, as if one of the buffoons should be naked. 21 And David said to Michol: Before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father, and than all his house, and commanded me to be ruler over the people of the Lord in Israel, 22 I will both play and make myself meaner than I have done: and I will be little in my own eyes: and with the handmaids of whom you speak, I shall appear more glorious. 23 Therefore Michol the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
So, procession is biblical. Even if it weren’t, the Catholic Church has the power to bind and unbind. She can create practices and doctrines based in Sacred Scripture and/or Sacred Tradition. Remember that not all messages of Jesus are in the Bible (John 21:25). In fact, some messages were delivered to his disciples privately (Mark 4:34).
Now we know what to tell those who attack the Catholic Church against processions. I hope this helps.
Let us serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances!