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Archbishop Coyne Launches Seton Route at Pentecost Vigil

NEW HAVEN, May 18 — Archbishop Christopher Coyne of Hartford celebrated the Pentecost Vigil Mass at St. Mary's Church of Blessed Michael McGivney Parish, which was the official launch of the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

Here is the transcript of Archbishop Coyne's homily, published with permission.


How fortunate it is for us this evening to begin this holy pilgrimage on this feast of Pentecost for Pentecost itself was a Jewish pilgrimage festival. It was a festival that was a celebration of harvest and it was a festival that was filled with joy and feasting, not one that was burdened with penance and sacrifice. Jewish people from all over the world would make their way in pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast and the city would be filled with many different people and many different languages. We know this from the account of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples from the Acts of the Apostles. And so there is a certain resonance that this Eucharistic pilgrimage begins on this pilgrimage feast.

We have just taken a pilgrimage of sorts in the proclamation of the Word. The readings that we heard proclaimed have directed our attention to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit throughout salvation history. We also hear these readings within the context of the later Pentecost event from the Acts of the Apostles. The story of the Tower of Babel is in many ways an anti-Pentecost event, giving us a context in which the later Pentecost in which the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, speak in the many languages of mankind. Even after God has cleansed the world with the flood of Noah, sin still prevails. Now the peoples in their hubris have come together seeking to elevate themselves to the level of God by erecting a city and a great tower, reaching to the heavens. God, knowing their intention, chooses to reduce them to confusion by bringing forth the different languages of mankind. And so they are scattered and separated.

The reading from the book of Exodus is the crowning moment of the covenant of God with Israel. They will be God‘s holy people and God will be with them in the covenant they have made. The presence of God is manifested in fire and thunder upon the mountain. The old covenant manifested in that way is paralleled in the new covenant of the Pentecost event in the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the form of fire and wind.

The prophecy of Ezekiel over the valley of bones reminds us that the Spirit, proceeding from God Himself, is creative. It is life-giving, it renews, refreshes, and brings life. Tonight’s reading from the prophet Joel is quoted almost verbatim by St. Peter his first speech to the people of Jerusalem, after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him and the disciples. But now Peter interprets the words of Joel as being fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The words of Saint Paul remind us that we are inheritors of the spirit, which strengthens our hope and helps us in our weakness we seek to pray. And the words of Jesus himself in the Gospel of John tell us that the spirit is a life-giving water which flows within those who believe. Our life as Christians is a pilgrimage along the path of salvation. But it is not a solitary one. It is one in which we walk together as the body of Christ. But it is also a pilgrimage in the power of the Trinity, father, son and Holy Spirit.

But that is not the only way in which the concept the idea of pilgrimage is rendered in our lives. There are the unique events of particular pilgrimages like the one that is to be undertaken tonight. Most pilgrimages are journeys along the a path towards a holy place or a holy event. And so it is for this pilgrimage. The 6 permanent pilgrims, their chaplain, and those who will accompany them along the path at various moments are on a journey towards a holy event, the celebration of the Eucharist revival in the city of Indianapolis. The path of this pilgrimage will also encompass many holy places, churches were Mass will be celebrated, in which the word of God is proclaimed, the Eucharistic sacrifice is offered, and the fruits of that sacrifice are received in Communion of the glorified and resurrected Body of Christ. The Holy Eucharist celebrated and renewed once again will then be carried forth in devotion and honor in pilgrimage as well.

Within the Christian tradition, a pilgrimage is more than just a journey from one place to another. A pilgrimage is prayer embodied. One author once wrote “For pilgrims walking … every footfall is doubled, landing at once on the actual road, and also on the path of faith.”

[Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot]

A pilgrimage requires not only attention to one’s body - especially one’s feet - but more importantly, attention to one’s soul. As the pilgrim sets aside what are the normal patterns and circumstances of life, they can turn inward to tend to what is most important in life unity with Christ, discipleship in His name and the offer of eternal salvation through the His life, death, and resurrection in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, one of the most powerful metaphors for the journey of the soul to God is that of a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage in this life to God and eternal life. This feast of Pentecost reminds us of the abiding presence of God in the life of the Christian. The first breath of the Holy Spirit is given to the pilgrim in baptism, then renewed and strengthened in confirmation.

Soon in our celebration of the Eucharist, we will ask the Father to send forth the Holy Spirit upon the gifts of bread and wine, that they may be consecrated and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. I ask us to consider that in as much as we speak of the abiding presence of the resurrected and glorified Christ in the Eucharist, we also need speak of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within the Eucharist as well. For Christ as the second person of the Trinity can never be separated from the Father or the Holy Spirit. Any manifestation of God is always an encounter with the Trinity. Just as we seek to become what it is, we receive, the Body of Christ, so in the larger manifestation of our lives, we seek to become more of God, more of Christ, and more of the Holy Spirit in the holy pilgrimage on the way to salvation.

One last thought my friends: pray each day that the Holy Spirit may free you to find where God’s will is taking you. A true pilgrimage requires letting go of the very things we most try to hold onto. In seeking after what God desires of us, we become pilgrims with no path but the one that He would have us follow.

May your journey be a safe and fruitful pilgrimage as you accompany the Blessed Sacrament and manifest the words from the Breastplate of St. Patrick:

“Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me. Christ to win me.”


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