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Halftime Report from Pilgrim Dominic Cartens: Igniting a Fire of God's Love.

MOUNT LEBANON, PENNSYLVANIA, June 15 — The Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is about to reach the midway point of its 65-day journey from New Haven, Connecticut to Indianapolis, Indiana for the July 17-21 National Eucharistic Congress.

During a half-day on the road, the blog interviewed Dominic Carstens about his thoughts on the pilgrimage until now.


Over the first four weeks, Dominic, what have been your biggest highlights of the pilgrimage so far?

The whole thing is rather like a dream full of so many cool and amazing life-changing adventures, all packed into single days and weeks. It's hard to pick out a few!

One day we were walking in procession and I met an 89-year-old man named Frank. Through his love of the Eucharist, he walked two miles in a 90-degree weather just to follow his Lord. The highlights have been small testimonies like that where I've seen the depth of faith present in people, which have reminded me how novel a thing I really am doing. When you're processing behind the Lord every single day, it's hard to realize how grand an opportunity it really is. But when you see and experience people's faith, and how excited they are, when you see the size of the crowds that show up for him, it's a great reminder just to see how an amazing opportunity it really is.

Another highlight was New York. I had never been to New York before. Walking through New York, seeing the Statue of Liberty with Cardinal Dolan as he blessed it — those are crazy experiences, the stuff of dreams, the stuff of legend.

One of the highlights, has likewise been the unity between the religious and the lay people on this pilgrimage [with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love]. Through our mutually intense love of the Eucharist, we were able to form a brotherhood, a bond, a unity, being one in Christ. We were able to connect on something so deeply. This has formed a connection that becomes stronger in a week even than the bond I have with some of the college friends I said goodbye to after four years together. This is a witness to the power of the Eucharist to connect people, which has been amazing to see and o experience.

How did you find out about the pilgrimage? Was it easy for you to decide that you wanted to be a part of it?

I found out about the pilgrimage through the company I used to work for, Core Expeditions, which ran some of the safety consulting for the Pilgrimage. My old boss sent me a link to to fill out the application. And I looked into it a little bit and noticed this pilgrimage across the country. I didn't quite know what I would be doing between college and adulthood. And I figured there would be no better way to learn how to live out my Catholic faith as an adult than to practice the art of pilgrimage. To be a Catholic is to be on pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem. And what better way to learn that habit than doing it with our Lord!

Have there been any surprises along the pilgrimage compared to what you were expecting before it began?

Yes. I was in good, good shape. I have done backpacking and hiking and lots of high energy sports. But once I got on this pilgrimage, and I was drained and tired, completely out of energy after just day five, I discovered — it was surprising and not what I expected — that I really needed to rely on God's grace. We often say, "If God gives me the grace, I'll be able to do it," but this pilgrimage has been a clear manifestation of how true those words really are.

Being able to spend time with our Lord praying for the grace to simply share his joy, share his love, share his life, has led me to ask him to give me the energy to keep going, keep walking, and through that, to make the whole 65 days. That's what's carried me thus far!

Beyond that stamina that you've needed, have there been any particular challenges you've had to overcome?

One thing that has been hard for me at times was walking through places that were highly populated, like the Bronx or parts of Manhattan, even on days when we had 2,000 people, I wanted everyone to recognize that this was God and he deserves everyone to show up for him. It was hard to see the King of the Universe, my king, the King of my heart, not have every single person in the world walking behind him.

And what are you most looking forward to in the second half of the pilgrimage?

I am looking forward to seeing Christ loved everywhere. The pilgrimage so far has been a testament of the faces of people who are walking in the procession, the faces of the people on the sidewalks, seeing the joy that Christ has given them and the fire that is starting as we walk. We're starting quite a fire of God's love. And I want to see in enkindled even more.



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