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Day 23 — Worshipping the Lord from DC to the Alleghenies

LORETO, PENNSYLVANIA, June 9 — On Sunday, the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage made the longest one-day journey of its 65-day trek, traveling in their specially outfitted support van from Washington, DC to Loreto, Pennsylvania, in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. It was a journey from a city to the mountains, from the majesty of the country's largest Catholic Church to an outdoor shrine, from a place dedicated to Mary's Immaculate Conception to another dedicated to her under the title of Our Lady of the Alleghenies.

The official schedule of the pilgrimage began with Mass for Sunday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time (B) at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, celebrated the Mass and preached.

The Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington the day after the Diocese of Arlington celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a Jubilee Fest at Warren Fairgrounds in Front Royal Virginia, which drew 7,000 people. Ten priests concelebrated including Seton Route chaplains Father Roger Landry and Father Joseph Mary Deane, CFR, before within a packed National Shrine.

In his homily, based on the readings from Sunday Mass which featured the Genesis account the original sin of Adam and Eve and, in the Gospel, the accusation by Jesus' critics that he was exorcising by the power of the prince of demons, Cardinal Gregory focused on how the devil seeks to destroy "the harmony that God had designed," to "destroy the intimacy that God has intended to exist between his creatures and himself," to "bring havoc to God's creation of genius," and "to divide us from God and from one another."

But, he added, "the Lord was already planning to restore the friendship that had originally existed between him and his creation. Jesus becomes the reconciliation and the restoration of the relationship that God still intends for all of us."

Cardinal Gregory described how Jesus seeks to do this especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.

In the Eucharist, he noted, "Christ makes himself present in ways far more intimate than even the Lord's walking in the garden calling after Adam and Eve might have been. Jesus is truly present in a magnificent way that he invites us to dine with and on him. … He is so absolutely present that even Adam and Eve would have been thrilled to have been so close to the one who continues to call out, 'Where are you?'”

"In the Eucharist God gives himself to us so completely that we are far better off than even Adam and Eve might have been before they disobeyed the one who gave them life," he added.

While the devil, he said, never ceases trying to deceive people to distance themselves from Jesus in the Eucharist through lack of faith or technological pseudo-sophistication, "The Genesis account of human failure has been replaced by the God who will never settle for the destruction of his friendship with the people he has fashioned to be his own."

He said that the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is a "national spiritual journey project to strengthen our belief that the Eucharist is truly the most perfect gesture of God's intense desire to be with us." It is the means by which God is "once again God hounding us and never ceasing to follow us and to precede us on the journey of love."

At the end of Mass, Bishop Burbidge led a Eucharistic procession around the inside of the Basilica before imparting Eucharistic benediction. After the Basilica cleared, Seton Route chaplain Father Roger Landry transported the Eucharistic Jesus to the route's support van for the more than three hour journey to Loreto, Pennsylvania.

Along the way, the Seton Route pilgrims adored the Lord Jesus in the specially-designed "tabor" (stand) for the Eucharist in the van.

Arriving at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Alleghenies, on the grounds of the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, the Lord and the pilgrims were welcomed by Rector, Father John Byrnes, and by Bishop Mark Bartchak.

The Basilica of St. Michael was founded by the Servant of God Father Demetrius Gallitzin, a Russian prince who entered into communion with the Catholic Church and was the first priest to receive all of his priestly formation and minor orders in the United States. The Basilica was completed in 1799, making 2024 its 225th anniversary.

At 7 pm, there was a beautiful outdoor Mass celebrated by Bishop Bartchak, about 20 concelebrating priests from the Diocese as well as by the Seton Route chaplains, in the presence of about 700 faithful stretched in every direction on lawn chairs they had brought. The Shrine of Our Lady of the Alleghenies has the tradition during the summer months of a 7 pm Sunday liturgy, which draws big crowds from those Catholic families who spend the Sunday at nearby Prince Gallitzin Park.

During the Mass, Father Landry preached a homily on the readings chosen for the celebration from the Votive Mass of the Eucharist. He focused on Jesus' desire, expressed in the sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel, for us to draw our life from him in the Eucharist just as he drew his life from God the Father.

He said that many Catholics "snack on Jesus," but draw their life from other sources. He said Jesus wants us to live on him "more than Italians live on pasta."

He described how Jesus wants us to live on him in the four ways indicated by the U.S. Bishops for the parish phase of the ongoing Eucharistic Revival of which the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is a part.

The first way is to draw our life from a reinvigorated participation in the Mass, through entering into Christ's sacrifice and through receiving his Body and Blood in a life-giving way in Holy Communion.

The second way is through Eucharistic adoration, in which we spend time in personal encounter with Jesus so that he can fill us with his light and enter far more deeply into our thoughts, words, and ways.

The third way is through robustly and accurately passing on our Eucharistic faith, helping people to understand that the Eucharist is not a thing but Jesus himself.

And the last pillar is mission, which means going out to give our body and blood for those in need as well as to invite everyone we know to come to draw their life from Jesus in the Eucharist.

Father Landry said that Father Gallitzin was certainly someone who derived his life from his intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus. Because he recognized Jesus was the pearl of great price, he was willing to forsake his royal lifestyle for one of priestly simplicity and to become a missionary seeking not just to bring the words of the Gospel but the Word-made-flesh, the Eucharistic Jesus, to others.

Father Landry mentioned that Loreto was essentially founded by Father Gallitzin after making a 150-mile sick call, to bring the Sacraments, including viaticum (Holy Communion at the end of life to signify that Jesus is "with you on the way"), to someone at the point of death. Falling in love with the people and wanting to give them the greatest gift of all, he asked Bishop William Carroll of Baltimore for the permission to found a Church and he invested his fortune to spread the faith.

Father Landry mentioned that, had Father Gallitzin not had that Eucharistic zeal, Loreto would likely never have come into existence. Therefore, the people of Loreto have not just received a great gift 225 years ago, but also a task, to keep the fire of Eucharistic love Father Gallitzin brought alive and to seek to imitate his Eucharistic life and zeal.

Immediately before the Mass, there was a brief light burst of rain and a triple rainbow appeared in the sky, which Father Landry said were, respectively, a "sprinkling rite" to remind us of our Baptism and not only of the covenant God made with Noah but the new and eternal covenant God had made with us in the Holy Eucharist. As he was speaking, after another brief sprinkling of rain, a huge rainbow appeared in the sky.

At the end of Mass, Bishop Bartchak led a Eucharistic procession around the grounds of the Shrine and imparted Eucharistic benediction. Then all present sang a beautiful hymn to Our Lady of the Alleghenies.

The following photos are from Tony DeGol, Communications Director of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.


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