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Day 38 — Following the Eucharistic Lamb of God Indicated by John the Baptist

NEWARK, OHIO, June 24 — On the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, the Pilgrims on the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage bookended their day with Masses in which they were able to ponder the figure of the forerunner of the Lord Jesus and how he points us ultimately to Jesus in the Eucharist.

They also had Eucharistic processions after each Mass as well as plenty of prayerful adoration of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The day began with Mass at the stunning co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling, West Virginia, where, in a crowded diocesan mother Church Bishop Mark Brennan celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist. He was assisted by eight concelebrating priests and two deacons as well as a four-part choir, trumpet, bells, oboe, violin, flute and organ, as the Diocese pulled out all the stops of liturgical beauty on a Monday morning.

Seton chaplain Father Roger Landry preached a homily on how John the Baptist was precursor of the Lord not just in conception, birth, preaching, imprisonment and martyrdom, but also in preparing the way and making straight the paths for us to come to, follow and be sent out by Jesus on the pilgrimage of Christian life. The saint's words, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," Father Landry stated, were not just so that John's disciples Andrew and John would leave him to follow Jesus, but ultimately, by divine plan, so that they might be said more than 500,000 times every day to point to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist at Mass, Landry said.

The way St. John the Baptist helps us to prepare the way for Him who is the Way is through conversion, the Fall River diocesan priest and Columbia University Catholic chaplain continued. His perpetual message is metanoete, to convert, to have a revolution in the way we look at the world. Conversion is not about a minor course correction or elimination of a bad habit, but about a new life, and St. John helps us to get ready to embrace the new life that Jesus seeks to give us so that we may have life to the full, to draw our very life from him in the Eucharist, just as he himself draws his life from God the Father.

The name given John at his circumcision means "God is gracious" or "God does grace," Landry added. Grace is our participation in God's very life according to our nature as creatures. The greatest means of grace, of participation in God's life, we have is receiving the Eucharist. Jesus had said, Landry stated, that John was the greatest born of woman, but the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he, and one of the reasons why those of us born anew in baptism are greater than John is by the gift we had that John never experienced: being able to receive Jesus within.

After Mass, there was a procession between St. Joseph co-Cathedral and St. Alphonsus Church in Wheeling. A few hundred faithful participated in the procession. Bishop Brennan and Father Landry had the privilege to carry the Eucharist under the canopy as Eucharistic hymns and songs of praise were sung on the streets.

At St. Alphonsus, Bishop Brennan led everyone in several minutes of adoration and imparted Eucharistic benediction.

Afterward, there was a sumptuous breakfast in a packed St. Alphonsus Church Hall.

At noon, the pilgrims departed West Virginia and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston for Ohio and the Diocese of Columbus. Along the way, they prayed the Rosary for the faithful in both dioceses and for all of the intentions entrusted to the pilgrimage. They also sang praise and worship hymns as they adored the Lord in the van on its specially designed tabor (stand).

They arrived to the Church of St. Joseph in Somerset, Ohio, which is where the first Mass celebrated in Ohio took place in 1808. They did a Eucharistic procession in the cemetery of St. Joseph, praying for all those buried there as well as all the faithful departed, that those who ate the body and drank the blood of Jesus might, according to his promise, live forever.

Then they processed to the front steps of Ohio's oldest Catholic Church where Columbus Bishop Earl Fernandes waited with dozens of faithful and the Dominican priests who staff the Church. Bishop Fernandes brought the Lord into the Church for an hour of adoration during which Seton pilgrims Zoe Dongas and Brother Lazarus Vina, CFR, sang.

The Church, which seats 300, was filled to overflowing well before Mass was to begin. Many of the faithful sat in choir stalls in the chancel (sanctuary) of the Church and stood along the walls, in the back and out the doors.

The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Fernandes who also preached on the mystery of St. John the Baptist.

He welcomed pilgrims to the historic church of St. Joseph where the first Mass in Ohio was celebrated more than 200 years ago and, therefore, where the Eucharistic Jesus was first adored and received. With Bishop Fenwick and those first faithful, we proclaim with gratitude, "Jesus is here," he said.

He focused on the importance of St. John the Baptist, who was a light who came to give witness to the Light of the World, he was the voice helping us to attune to the Word of God, he was not the bridegroom but the friend of the Bridegroom, he was a witness to Christ from his conception to the end, he was the link between the Old and the New Testament, he was the one to prepare the way of the Lord for God's people to receive the Messiah when at last he came. Like Isaiah and Jeremiah, he was sanctified in the womb to call his people to fidelity.

Commenting on the words, "Who will this child be?," Bishop Fernandes said that the Baptist is a model for every disciple in preparing the way of the Lord. We have the task to help others get ready to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He shows us that we have to give witness to the eternal word and true life.

The second way we are called to follow him, the bishop continued, is by cooperation with the Holy Spirit with which we were he was sanctified in hte womb and we in baptism, confirmation and the other sacraments. We are called to be temples of the Holy Spirit and help others to live according to the Spirit.

The third way we are called to imitate him is by pointing out Jesus who takes away the sins of the world and to make known to even the most hadened sinner how Jesus is full of mercy and love, who has given his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.

The fourth way he is exemplary, Bishop Fernandes stated, is by friendship with Jesus. The Baptist was the "friend of the Bridegroom," and each of us is called to be similarly a friend of Jesus, in Eucharistic adoration, at Mass and in Christian community.

The fifth way he teaches us is through the virtue of humility. He said, Jesus "must increase, I must decrease." In a celebrity, self-promotional way, John the Baptist's humility is a model for us. Jesus teaches us humility in his hiding himself under the appearances of Bread and Wine.

John was totally dedicated on his mission, and the third year of the Eucharistic Revival, the Bishop noted, is dedicated to the mission of going out in charity and in inviting people one by one to Jesus. We're called to bear witness to Jesus' presence and his way of life, by calling out injustice, by defending marriage, without concern for the way people thought about him. He bore the ultimate witness by laying down his life daily, living for and dying for Jesus. John was a witness to the Lamb, to the light, to the very end. John sacrificed his life because he was certain that Jesus the Messiah was present.

That same Jesus is with us in the Eucharist, he concluded, as he prayed that as we make the Eucharistic pilgrimage through the Diocese of Columbus, we may be similarly certain that Jesus is with us as we give testimony to his presence, his light, his life and his love.

After Mass, there was a procession across the parish grounds to the daily Mass chapel of the parish where adoration continued throughout the night.

These photos are from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

Thee photos are from the Diocese of Columbus.


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