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Day 34 — Weirton, West Virginia

WEIRTON, WEST VIRGINIA, June 20 — The Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage passed into West Virginia early in the morning of its 34th day, adoring the Eucharistic Lord Jesus in their support van as they crossed the border from the Diocese of PIttsburgh into the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

Their first activity was an early morning Mass celebrated at the Church of St. Joseph the Worker in Weirton. The pastor of the parish, Father Dennis Schuelkens, celebrated the Mass and Seton Chaplain Father Seraphim Baalbaki, CFR, preached.

During his homily, based on the readings of Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time, Father Seraphim said that the Eucharistic Revival underway in the United States is supposed to help us find the fire that so characterized the life of the prophet Elijah whose praises were sung in the first reading. The Eucharistic Revival is not a program but a fire that needs to be lit in response to the fire of divine love that characterizes the self-gift of Jesus in the Eucharist.

For us to be able to experience that fire, the Franciscan Friar of the Renewal said, we need to remove the obstacle of unforgiveness. Pondering the Gospel in which Jesus gave us the Our Father, Father Seraphim focused on Jesus' words to forgive us our sins and we have forgiven those who have sinned against us, and said that if we're not open to sharing God's mercy, we really cannot receive it. He asked why we don't share mercy and he said that, mistakenly, we often define ourselves by our lack of forgiveness, as if that gives us some power over those who have hurt us. The opposite is true, however. He said that when we fail to forgive, we give those who have hurt us a continued ability to hurt us. As most of those present were preparing for the Eucharistic Procession after Mass, he urged them to take the intention of forgiveness with them along the way, which would open them to God's mercy, and to the fire of mercy received in the Holy Eucharist, which is given for the forgiveness of sins.

There was a period of adoration after Mass followed by a Eucharistic Procession from St. Joseph the Worker to Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Weirton. Even though the procession began at 9:30 am, the intense heat approached 90 degrees. Father Seraphim and Seton Route chaplain Father Roger Landry carried the Blessed Sacrament. Having arrived at Sacred Heart of Mary, Father Landry imparted Eucharistic Benediction.

There was next a reception at Sacred Heart of Mary during which each of the Seton Route pilgrims gave a brief witness of why they wanted to participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and what some of the fruits have been. They also took questions from those present.

At night, there was a Eucharistic Holy Hour at St. Paul Church in Weirton, where pastor Father Binu Sebastian welcomed the Lord and pilgrims.

During the Holy Hour, Father Landry gave a meditation in which he pondered St. Paul's teachings on the Holy Eucharist.

After introducing the National Eucharistic Revival, Pilgrimage and Congress, he said that the main point of the Revival is to help us draw our very life from the Eucharistic Jesus. That's what St. Paul himself did. For him, to live was Christ and the life he lived in the flesh he lived by a relationship of faith with Christ. He accounted everything else as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus. St. Paul wants us to draw our life from Jesus in the same way, Father Landry said.

For that to occur, we need to learn from St. Paul's conversion, the Fall River diocesan priest stated. St. Paul's conversion was not from a wicked life to a good one, from murdering Christians to making them, but from a false notion of a holy life based on his own fidelity to the law to one based on receiving the grace of God's saving action in his life, received in faith overflowing in love. It was a death to an old way of religious life and a resurrection to one with the Risen Christ. We need a similar conversion to live principally by our relationship to what Christ seeks to do in us by means of his self-gift in the Holy Eucharist.

Fr. Landry then pivoted to St. Paul's explicit teaching on the Eucharist, in which the apostle focuses on celebrating the Eucharist "in remembrance of Christ." Landry stated that that remembrance is not primarily a thing of memory but an actualizing of the past in the present, which is what takes place in the celebration of the Mass. The way we remember Jesus is to meet him in the present by means of the celebration of the Mass and the enduring Presence of Christ that happens as a result of the Mass.

He also mentioned that St. Paul taught that as often we eat Christ's flesh and drink his blood, "we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes." St. Paul had resolved, after his unsuccessful discourse at the Areopagus in Athens in which he didn't mention the crucifixion of Jesus, conscious that to Greeks the Cross would be "folly," to know and preach "nothing but Christ and him crucified." That's what we do, Father Landry said, when we celebrate Mass: when we eat Christ's flesh and drink his blood, we proclaim and make present what Christ did in the Upper Room and on Calvary, and we also enter his resurrection, because we receive his Risen Body and Blood.

The fourth point of St. Paul's Eucharistic teaching, the Seton Route chaplain noted, was about communion with others though communion with Christ. St. Paul criticized the Christians in Corinth for their selfishness in the agape meal after Mass. Such selfishness, the doctor of the gentiles said, was "eating and drinking condemnation." Our communion with Christ must overflow to our communion with others. That union is essential, Jesus said on Holy Thursday, for the credibility of his whole mission: without it people wouldn't really grasp Christ's mission or the love of God the Father. St. Paul had experienced personally the connection Jesus makes between himself and his Bride and Body the Church when Christ spoke to him outside the gates of Damascus, saying that Saul was persecuting Jesus himself in attacking the Church. St. Paul's whole mission was to build up that unity and it's in the Eucharist that Christ above all seeks to make us one.

The final point was about mission. St. Paul gave his life to share the Gospel. He wrote, "Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16) and Father Landry said every Christian who grasps the gift of the Gospel, and especially of the Gospel incarnate, Jesus the Word-made-flesh present for us in the Blessed Sacrament, must feel this inner compulsion to share the gift. That's what the Revival is trying to catalyze, by inspiring us to go out to family members, friends, and even strangers and to invite them one-by-one, with perseverance and patience, to come with us to Christ in the Eucharist.

At the end of the Holy Hour, which featured silence, joint prayers and praise and worship music, Father Seraphim imparted Eucharistic benediction.


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