While in the United States we will be marking Corpus Christi this coming Sunday, technically the feast falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. In many countries, the festivities begin on the Thursday and continue through the weekend, as one of the opening events of the summer season. As anyone who has been to Barcelona knows, one of the highlights of the festival are the beautiful carpets of flowers that line the tiny streets of the resort town of Sitges, south of the city.
Flowers, herbs, and palm fronds were commonly used to line the route of the Eucharistic procession through Catalan towns for many years. However in Sitges in particular, matters became advanced to the point where different neighborhood groups vied with each other to create the most pleasing geometric designs along their portion of the processional route. Formalized award competitions with prizes began in the 1950’s and continue to the present.
Carnations in various colors are the principal component of these carpets. In a typical year over 360,000 carnations alone are used in their creation. This all leads to the main square in the center of town, where an enormous altar comprised of hundreds of flowers is set up for Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction.
Admittedly, much of the Iberian Peninsula has wandered away from its Catholic faith. Nevertheless, the people of Sitges have managed to maintain this beautiful, pious tradition in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. Among the gawking throngs, let us hope that there are more than a few whose hearts are moved by this celebration of the Real Presence.