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Day 37 — In the Boat with Jesus

WHEELING, WV, June 23 — The Pilgrims of the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage had one of their most memorable experiences on the 37th day of their 65-day journey, a five-and-a-half hour boat ride with the Eucharistic Jesus on the Ohio River, which separates West Virginia from Ohio and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston from the Diocese of Steubenville.

That was the third time Pilgrims were together on the water with Jesus. The first time was on their second day, as they traveled on the Atlantic from New Haven to Bridgeport. The second was on their tenth day as they traveled on the Hudson River to bless those at the Statue of Liberty and disembark in New Jersey.

It was quite day to be a water in a boat — in this case, a sternwheeler — with Jesus because the Gospel reading for Mass that began the day was about disciples' being in a boat with Jesus when they thought they would perish in a storm.

That Mass took place in an overflowing Church of the Holy Rosary in Steubenville, where the newly appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville, Bishop Edward Lohse of Kalamazoo, celebrated the Mass and preached.

In his homily, he integrated thoughts on the readings of Mass with a welcome to the National Eucharistic Pilgimage with an introductory greeting to the new flock of Steubenville entrusted to his care.

"Today we're celebrating the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, but there's almost nothing ordinary about what we're doing here today," said Bishop Lohse. We have "the national Eucharistic procession, the Seton Route, passing through Steubenville having arrived here Friday will be today moving onto o Wheeling. That is hardly something ordinary. It is a tremendous grace and blessing. Likewise, this is my first time with you as a new Apostolic Administrator. That's not very ordinary either."

"In a way," he continued, "we are experiencing today the convergence of things that are eternal and unchanging with things that are always evolving by their nature and ae temporary and changing. What is eternal and unchanging? The Lord Jesus and his Eucharistic presence. That is He eternal and unchanging across the millennia until the Lord comes in the glory? What does change? Well, we do, we change. We grow up. Eventually we grow old. Communities change. Even friendships come and go. But what is enduring and unchanging even about us? It's our identity as Catholics. That is permanent, that is enduring, our identity as members of the Body of Christ and the communion of saints."

Noting that the Diocese of Steubenville is undergoing a discernment about its future with some question as to whether it will merge with another Diocese, Bishop Lohse said, "The future is uncertain and that can be unnerving. But what is certain is that we need to entrust ourselves completely and entirely to Christ; wherever He leads, we will follow. What is rock solid is our identity as followers of Christ as Catholics, who find our communion in the Body and Blood of Christ, and proudly profess our faith in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Today in the Eucharistic procession, and every day, we must approach the future, whatever that might be, with the attitude of faith.

He described the Gospel of the day of the storm on the Sea of Galilee and the disciples' fearing for their lives, but said true peace and safety was found in the "peace of Christ," who rested in the bow. He urged the faithful of Steubenville, the Eucharistic pilgrims and everyone watching on livestream, to seek from Christ that peace.

"Because," he said, "with Christ in the bow of this ship, wherever the boat takes us, is where we ought to be. We go forth in faith forward in Eucharistic procession, forward in hope, forward in love. We look to the Sacred Heart of Christ, with which he presides peacefully in the bow of this ship, the church."

After Mass, there was a motorcade to the Steubenville Marina. Bishop Lohse rode with Jesus in a float, together Seton Route chaplains Father Roger Landry and Father Justin Alarcón, CFR, and Deacon Randy Reddington.

Upon arrival in the marina, they boarded a sternwheeler for a five hour journey on the Ohio River. Bishop Mark Brennan and members of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, WV, were already on the boat. Over the course of their journey the bishops blessed those who were from their respective dioceses on the riverbanks.

Along their journey, the 30 pilgrims and faithful on board prayed the Rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet, sang hymns and praise and worship music, celebrated midday prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours and had plenty of silent prayer.

After disembarking in Bellaire Marina, they processed on foot to the Church of St. John the Evangelist for a Eucharistic Holy Hour.

During the Holy Hour, Father Landry preached a homily on laboring for the food that endures to eternal life. Bishop Lohse gave benediction and then joined the several hundreds in attendance for a meal.

In his homily, Father Landry said that the Christian life is a dynamic one of coming to Jesus, following him, and being sent out by him. The life of the Church, as the liturgy and Second Vatican Council proclaims is of a "pilgrim Church on earth" and the Eucharistic Jesus accompanies us on that pilgrimage, which he made on earth not just by foot but also by boat, traversing time and again the Sea of Galilee. Jesus used to use the water as a means to increase the faith of his apostles, as we saw in this morning's Gospel, Landry said, but also in the passage immediately preceding the Gospel read for the Holy Hour (Jn 6:24-35), the beginning of Jesus' Bread of Life discourse in the Capernaum synagogue, when the apostles feared for their lives for nine hours or more until Jesus came to them walking on the water. To recognize Jesus has the power to cast out (like an exorcism) storms at sea and even to walk on water was essential for the apostles — and through them the disciples — to receive with faith what Jesus was about to say about eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

In the passage read, Jesus urges us to labor for the food that endures to eternal life that he will give us more than hardworking people labor to put food on the table. Landry asked how hard we work to come into Jesus' presence and to receive him, how much do we prioritize Jesus. Hearing that the work of God is to believe in the One he sent, how much faith do we place in what Jesus says and does? After Jesus' hearers begged him, "Sir, give us this Bread always," and Jesus does indeed give us himself every day, how frequently and well do we receive that gives, labor and hunger to receive him and to spend time with him? Landry said that the Eucharistic Revival is meant to rewaken the primacy of the Eucharistic Jesus, our Eucharistic God, in daily life, gratefully to labor for this daily gift, and to conform our whole life to it.

After the meal, the pilgrims traveled with Jesus into the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston for a Holy Hour at the exquisite co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling. Bishop Brennan presided and preached and pilgrim Natalie Garza gave a witness reflection.

In his homily during the homily, he welcomed the Pilgrims of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage to the Cathedral of St. Joseph and said how grateful he and the Diocese were to host them. He gave a reflection on the Eucharistic dimension of the Emmaus scene in the Gospel (Lk 24:13-35), echoing St. Augustine's words that we are what we eat. He said that eating the flesh of the Son of God and drinking his blood can strengthen us with the strength of martyrs to be faithful until the end. We learn in the Emmaus scene how Jesus accompanies us in the Holy Eucharist, he said, as he stayed with the two disciples in the "Breaking of the Bread," the way the first Christians referred to the Eucharist. He prayed that all of us have strength from our Eucharistic faith to live our faith.

Garza in her testimony spoke about her journey from a phase of rejecting her Catholic faith and God to her conversion thanks to Eucharistic adoration. She urged all present to bring whatever their questions, doubts, needs, complaints, and all they are to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

After the Holy Hour, parishioners started a period of Eucharistic adoration throughout the night.

For photos of the "Put Out Into the Deep" boat ride, please click here. For videos of the boat ride, please click here.

The photos below are from the other events of the day.


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