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Day 36 — Steubenville Parishes and Franciscan University of Steubenville's Youth Conference

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO, June 22 — The Thirty-Sixth Day of the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage began with a welcome respite of a slightly later start time due to the cancellation of some service opportunities the Pilgrims were planning to do. That gave them a chance to rest a little longer after a somewhat grueling weak in which every day temperatures have soared into the 90s.

In the morning, pilgrim Natalie Garza spoke at the Steubenville Youth Conference at Franciscan University on the National Euchaistic Pilgrimage and Revival and how her own time at Franciscan University as an undergraduate and graduate student helped her to develop the Eucharistic hunger that now characterizes her life and led her to want to paticipate in the adventure of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

The first official event of the Pilgrimage for the day was Mass at Holy Rosary Parish Steubenville, which was celebrated by Seton chaplain Father Seraphim Baalbaki, CFR, on his last day on the Pilgrimage. Seton Chaplain Father Roger Landry, who is present all 65 days of the pilgrimage preached the homily in which he focused on Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Mount — the Gospel passage for Saturday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time — and interpreted them in terms of the martyrs St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, whom the Church celebrates on June 22 as well as Jesus' self-gift in the Eucharist.

Jesus emphasizes in the Gospel that we have to make a choice about whom to serve, Landry said, because we "cannot serve two Masters." More and Fisher, he said, made the decision to serve God, to be "the King's good servant," as More before his 1535 execution, "But God's first."

Landry said that we see the evil that happens when people choose to serve another master than the Lord in the corrupt King Henry VIII, the 15 English bishops (other than Fisher) who sought to serve Henry over God and capitulated to him at every turn, and in King Joash and the Judah nobles in the first reading from Second Chronicles, who not only brought a pagan fertility cult into the temple in Jerusalem but executed the prophet Zechariah in the court of the Temple.

Landry focused on Jesus' pivot in the Gospel in the use of "therefore," which connects what Jesus said about two masters to what he described about the worry many have about what they are to eat, drink and wear. The reason why people seek mammon and other earthly idols, he said, was because of anxiety: they don't place enough trust in God. Instead, Jesus calls us to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," promising that eveything else will be given to us besides, and "not to worry about tomorrow."

Father Landry gave stories from his first year in seminary as well as from a parish where he was pastor in Fall River, Massachusetts, to illustrate the point of trusting in God's providence and how he comes through.

He then applied Jesus' words to the Eucharist and to the Eucharist-driven trust in God that characterized the faith of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher.

The greatest proof of God's care for us are not the birds of the air or the grass and lilies of the field, Father Landry said, but God the Father's giving us for our food every day his only begotten, much loved and well-pleasing Son, Jesus. More and Fisher knew this, which is why both not only defended the Church's teachings on the Holy Eucharist at a time when, because of the Protestant Reformation Jesus' real presence was being questioned, but remained confident in God's care during their imprisonment and martyrdom.

After Mass, there was a nice lunch prepared in the parish hall by host families.

Later that afternoon, the pilgrims brought the Blessed Sacrament to Holy Family Church in Steubenville, where there was a Eucharistic Holy Hour followed by a potluck supper.

During the Holy Hour, Father Landry preached a Eucharistic Meditation on learning from the Holy Family how to live a truly Eucharistic life. He said that the Holy Family was constantly on a Corpus Christi procession, a proto-Eucharistic pilgrimage, as Mary traveled with Jesus in utero to visit Saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist, how Mary and Joseph journeyed with Jesus about to be born from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to the Temple for the Presentation, to the desert to flee Herod's henchmen, from Egypt to Nazareth after Herod the Great's death, and three times a year up to the temple in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

Mary, Father Landry said, teaches us how to receive Jesus in Holy Communion with love, receptivity and response, seen in her fiat at the Annunciation and doubtless in her Holy Communions received from the hands of St. John the Apostle after her Son's Ascension.

St. Joseph, he stated, never received Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity within, but he is a model for us of Eucharistic adoration, worshipping him within Mary as he gestated, in swaddling clothes and the manger after his birth, in his arms as he cradled him, in the house of Nazareth as he grew and in all of his daily interaction. St. Joseph's contemplative life was all structured around the Real Presence of Christ in his midst and he teaches us how to keep an adoring consciousness on Jesus in the midst of all of our activities.

Finally, Father Landry said that Jesus shows us how to enter into the sacrifice of the Mass as beloved sons and daughters. He is the fulfillment of the sacrifice of Isaac and willingly entrusted himself to the Father's plan of salvation. He helps us to incorporate our own "logike latreia" (Rom 12:1), Landry said, as we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, pleasing and acceptable to God, "the only worship that makes sense." We make that sacrifice of our life as "sons in the Son," together with Jesus, "going all in," he said, and receiving in return, in the Eucharistic Christ, "every spiritual blessing in the heavens."

After the Holy Hour, pilgrim Dominic Carstens gave a witness talk about two encounters he's had over the course of the pilgrimage's first 36 days. One was during a 17 mile walk through the Diocese of Metuchen when, having carried the tall column speaker music and prayer for several hours, he had no strength left. But he looked a the Blessed Sacrament, remembered Jesus on the Way of the Cross, and found strength from Jesus to continue the journey lifting the speaker as Jesus lifted high the Cross. The second was visiting Kensington, the opioid "capital" of America, where pilgrims participated in a Eucharistic procession as Christ brought the light to the darkness, despair and difficulties of so many who were on the streets. It made him think, Carstens said, of how the Lord similarly wants to bring his light to our "inner Kensingtons," to those places of darkness, addiction and death that Christ wants to heal, save and raise.

During the potluck, Father Landry and pilgrim Amayrani Higueldo left to bring the Lord Jesus in the Pilgrims' monstrance to the Steubenville Youth Conference for the adoration of the several thousand young people present.

There Father Landry, in the midst of adoration, was asked to give a brief meditation connecting the Eucharistic Jesus and the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage to the theme of the Conference, "Illuminate." He based his brief Eucharistic meditation on Jesus' words in John 8:37, "I am the Light of the World. The one that follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life."


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