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Day 25 — Encouraged by the Eucharistic Jesus to Encourage Others

GREENSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA, June 11 — On the 25th day of their 65 day journey from New Haven to Indianapolis, the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage began the day at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, where the vicar general of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Father Alan Thomas, celebrated Mass on behalf of Bishop Mark Bartchak, who needed early in the morning to fly to Louisville for the annual June meeting of the United States Bishops Conference.

Seton Route chaplain, Father Roger Landry, preached at the Mass. He first noted that the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ground breaking of the present breathtaking Church, which he said shows the Eucharistic faith that built it and keeps in strong.

He mentioned many of the elements of the Church, from the majestic dome with the words in Latin for "Mystery of Faith," "This is my Body," and "This is the Chalice of my Blood," the baldachin with the image of a monstrance containing the Holy Name of Jesus, the stained glass windows of the Last Supper in the Sanctuary, of St. John resting his head on Jesus' breast, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in which Jesus spoke about our response to him in the Eucharist, and of St. Margaret Clitherow, whose love for the Eucharist led her to risk and eventually give her life to protect priests in recusant English.

Father Landry then pivoted to St. Barnabas, whose feast the Church observers on June 11, and how he was a true "Son of Encouragement," who fortified the first Christians thorugh his sacrificial generosity, the Christians in Antioch by his formation and catechesis, his nephew John Mark after his cowardly turning back on a mission and, most importantly, St. Paul, whom he defended before the apostles in Jerusalem, helped escape, and then recruited to help him spread the Gospel. Without Barnabas, Father Landry said, we may never have really had St. Paul, the greatest missionary in the history of the Church.

St. Barnabas' apostolic missions, with St. Paul at first, and then with John Mark afterward, were not just to share the Gospel understood as a message or teaching, but to share Jesus Christ, most fully present for us in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

St. Barnabas shows us, the Seton Route chaplain underlined, the dynamic nature of the Christian life, coming to Jesus, following him and being sent out by him to announce his kingdom and invite others to enter it, which means entering into relationship with the king. Jesus seeks to stengthen us for that mission by feeding us with himself. Fr. Landry said we see a prefigurement of that in the bread given by a raven to Elijah, which was the first reading of the Mass, and even see it in the epistle from 1 Peter, which talks about the way we need to conduct ourselves during our "sojourn" because we have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Our Christian life is indeed a pilgrimage, he said, and it's meant to be a Eucharistic one, as we live by Jesus' body and blood.

We also see the Eucharistic dynamism of the Christian life in the Gospel chosen for the Mass, St. Mark's account of the Last Supper, where Jesus sent two of his disciples to prepare for them to eat the Passover, instructing them to follow a man carrying a water jar. At the end of the Supper, St. Mark notes, they "went out" to the Mount of Olives. The celebration of the Eucharist, Father Landry commented, is always marked by this journey toward the encounter with Christ and by this journey with Christ afterward.

At the end of Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed on the altar, incensed by Father Thomas, and then carried in procession to the outdoor plaza in front of the Cathedral, where there was a solemn benediction not only of those present but of the city of Altoona.

After Benediction, Father Thomas returned the Eucharistic Jesus to the altar and Father Landry then carried Jesus to the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage support van. The pilgrims then drove with the Lord 15 minutes to the Church of St. Catherine of Siena in Duncansville.

Upon arriving in Duncansville, Jesus was exposed on the altar of the Church for 90 minutes while confessions were being held. Then there was a Eucharistic procession on the beautiful outdoor grounds of the parish, following an outdoor Rosary path, to a beautiful outdoor chapel of Our Lady of Fatima, where there was adoration for another 75 minutes.

Seton Route pilgrim Dominic Carstens gave a witness talk about drawing our life from Jesus as our daily living Bread come down from heaven, citing the example of how he learned how to live a Eucharistic life from his grandfather.

After Seton Route chaplain Father Joseph Mary Deane, CFR, gave Eucharistic benediction at the outdoor chapel, he transported the Eucharistic Jesus to the Pilgrimage van, where pilgrims drove him 90 minutes to the see city of the Diocese of Greensburg.

At 5:30 pm, there was a pilgrimage Mass at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Greensburg, celebrated by Greensburg Diocesan Bishop Larry Kulick, concelebrated by more than a dozen priests, and attended by a full Church of faithful.

Father Landry once again preached on the proper reading for the Memorial of St. Barnabas about the saint's work in Antioch and the Gospel for Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, in which Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

After explaining that, in Jesus' time, salt was used for flavor, a preservative and a fire starter, and light used to illumine and warm, Father Landry said that the Eucharistic Jesus, first, desires to do all five of those things for us and have us in turn, transformed by him, do the same for others. St. Barnabas, he said, was salt of the earth and light of the world in this way.

Landry then applied Jesus' calling to the U.S. Bishops' four pillars for the parish phase of the Eucharistic Revival: reinvigoration of the worship of God at Mass, personal encounter with Jesus in prayerful adoration, robustly passing on our faith with clarity and fire, and going on a mission of charity, to share Christ's love, truth and presence.

After Mass, there was a "Family, Faith and Fun Night" in part of the parish parking lot, with games for children, lots of food, as well as music.

Photos from Tony DeGol, Communications Director of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown


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