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Halftime Report from Pilgrim Natalie Garza: The Tearing Experience of Building Several New Muscles

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 Seton Route team lead Natalie Garza about her thoughts on the pilgrimage until now.


The first half of the pilgrimage is coming to a close. What have been the big highlights of the first 29 days?

One of the big highlights for sure was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with Jesus. I'd never been there before and it was so crazy to think that my first time going to this really historic place would forever have etched into it the memory of being there with Jesus. It was a real moment of grace, seeing the Lord sanctifying one of the greatest monuments in America and coming to be close to all of us.

How did you find out about the pilgrimage? Was it a big challenge for you to apply?

I first heard about the pilgrimage online after I received a lot of emails about the Congress, I was looking up information about what the Congress was and I saw the tab for "Pilgrimage." I had already been thinking about doing the Camino de Santiago. One of the reasons I was hesitating to do the Camino was because of the fact that sometimes it might be difficult to get to Mass or to pray, especially in another language. So when I heard about the Eucharistic Pilgrimage, it was kind of a no brainer, blending my desire for adventure with the sacraments and being able to be with Jesus all day long. It was something I absolutely couldn't pass up! Hearing about it for the first time and reading about it online. I knew that this would be one of the greatest movements that the Church in America had ever attempted. I knew that I wanted to be a part of this great moment in history, to intercede for the American church, but also to grow my own Eucharistic love and devotion and to live discipleship with Jesus,

Compared to the expectations you had prior to the outset, have there been any big surprises?

Absolutely. I think probably the role of religious are playing on the pilgrimage and how important it is to have religious and laity together. Their life of prayer is very grounding and instructive to me as a lay person, because they already spend so much time in prayer. Because of this time that they spend in prayer, they also know how to bring prayer and work together. That's been one of my greatest lived experiences and learning curves, to allow the Lord to be with me in my work as I'm coordinating logistics while striving to be deep in contemplation with him as he's exposed.

How have you done in integrating the focus on Jesus in the Eucharist with all the logistical details as team lead?

I think it's been a fumble! I'm definitely figuring it out as it goes. But one of the graces that I've experienced is to realize that, as much as I want to be in contemplation all day long, I just physically can't be. There are things to take care of. So I'm living in a strange dichotomy of being both Martha and Mary at the same time, longing to be more of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, while knowing that Martha had an important role in getting things done. So I've seen those two things come together. I've come to see better that Jesus is physically present to me at every moment, even if that's a moment of logistics where I'm having to be on my phone to figure something out. Jesus is physically present there with me and his one desire as God is to be received.

In the Gospel of John, it says, "He came to His own and His own received him not, but to those who did receive Him, he gave the power to become children of God." Children of God remain with him, whether they are resting or working. So this is something that I've learned, about how just to be in the presence of the Eucharist. The fact that he is physically there has helped me understand that God wants to be present in every aspect of my life, and he's happy to be in those moments,

What has been your experience of hospitality along the pilgrimage until now?

My experience of hospitality has been so wonderful. There's been so much receptivity that we've been given. It's definitely challenged me because, whenever I'm receiving something from someone, I'm also receiving that person in some way. What they give is an extension of themselves through their gift. And so in my receiving more sweets or cookies, I actually am saying yes to that person.

I've been moved a lot by the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 10, where Jesus says, "Whoever receives you, receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, shall not lose his reward. So there is the reality that I am actually an opportunity for other people to give to Christ. That is a crazy way to live into what it means to be a Christian, a little Christ!

When you facilitate team sharings, you like to have pilgrims synthesize things in one word. How would you summarize the first half of the pilgrimage in one word?



Because this is this is how muscles grow. They have to be ripped apart. As you work out, you're ripping your muscles apart, but you're actually allowing more muscle to grow in that process. This is what the Pilgrimage feels like spiritually. I'm praying more than ever before. My ideas and boundaries on prayer have absolutely been torn apart. They've expanded so much. My idea of what I can physically do with my body has been expanded in walking 17 miles. My idea of what I can handle socially or emotionally has been expanded by the time spent with people. While being torn in these ways has been difficult, it's also bringing about an occasion of greater strength and greater capacity to receive.


 What are you most looking forward to in the second half of the Pilgrimage?

The midwest! I'm looking forward to the slowness of the people in the Midwest, the hospitality and the pace that they live. I think that there will be more time to give testimony to what God is doing. I've found that whenever I'm asked to give testimony, it's a real gift for me because I'm able to reflect seriously on what God is doing. I can get swept up in doing other things if I'm not asked to give a witness. So I'm looking forward to giving testimony. I'm looking forward to the sweet, hardworking people of the Midwest, and to being a little bit closer to home in Kansas City.


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