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Christ Comes to New York

'Seton Route' pilgrimage continues its trek along the Eastern Seaboard

Memorial Day weekend saw thousands of New York Catholics welcome the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage to their city.

Featuring four coast-to-coast, border-to-border processions celebrating the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the first-of-its-kind event was launched simultaneously over Pentecost in New Haven, Connecticut; San Francisco, California; Bemidji, Minnesota; and Brownsville, Texas.

Over the next two months these processions will cover a combined 6,000 miles before converging at the 10th National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. The first national Eucharistic assembly since 1941, the July 17-21 congress — expected to draw 80,000 Catholics to America's heartland — will serve as the apex of the National Eucharistic Revival, a multi-year initiative to reinvigorate belief in the Real Presence.

'Nourish Our World'

Commencing their procession on Pentecost Eve in Connecticut, pilgrims on the 'Seton Route,' as the eastern route is called, traversed the Archdiocese of Hartford and Diocese of Bridgeport before crossing into the Archdiocese of New York — with approximately 2.5 million Catholics, the nation's second-largest — on the evening of Wednesday, May 22.

There, on the Feast of St. Rita of Cascia, "Patroness of Impossible Causes," the contingent was greeted by New York auxiliary bishop Edmund Whalen, who presided over a bilingual Mass at St. John Bosco Parish in Port Chester, before offering participants the Sacrament of Reconciliation and all-night Adoration.

Opening his homily, Bp. Whalen observed:

"We're here tonight because we know the Lord walks with us. We have a hunger for the Lord. Our city, our country, has a hunger for the Lord — and needs the Lord."

Describing the Blessed Sacrament as "nourishment — not just a symbol, not just a sign — but the reality of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Christ Himself," Whalen urged those gathered to spend "some time with the Eucharist" that evening, instructing them to focus, during Communion and Adoration, especially on thanksgiving and intercession.

"You remember when we were trained to do an act of thanksgiving after Communion?" he asked. "Sadly, that has been lost in many places."

To remedy this, Bp. Whalen directed Catholics to revive devotion to the Anima Christi, a 700-year-old prayer traditionally recited after receiving the Eucharist:

"After receiving Communion ... pledge yourself — each Mass, every Mass — to renew the act of thanksgiving.
'Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me.' — If you don't know that prayer, learn it and make that prayer your act of thanksgiving at each and every Mass."

"After Mass, when we start the nocturnal Adoration," Whalen continued, "tell Jesus ... what brought you here — probably for most of us, who brought you here."

"Because we're all here to pray for someone whom we love," the bishop noted. "Someone in your family with an illness; someone with a difficulty; someone who lost a job; someone with an addiction; someone who's lost; someone who should be here, but isn't."

"Thank God for the gift of the Eucharist tonight," Bp. Whalen exhorted. "Thank God for the gift of this time of renewal. Thank God for the Pilgrimage ... for those who, when the Pilgrimage passes them, will see the Lord — maybe for the first time in a long time — and something will move in their hearts."

"That's the leaven. That's the fermenting. That's the revival," he said in closing. "Because if you and I thank God for this blessing of walking with Him, then long after the Pilgrimage is past, we will continue to let the Eucharist nourish us — and nourish our world."

Into the Boroughs

Over the next couple of days, pilgrims made their way through various Empire State communities, including Scarsdale, Tuckahoe and the Bronx. Along the way, they took part in Mass, Benediction and Adoration at more than a dozen Catholic sites, including the New York Archdiocese's major seminary, St. Joseph's Seminary and College in Yonkers.

On Saturday, May 25, the pilgrimage crossed into Manhattan. That afternoon, 'Seton Route' chaplain Fr. Roger Landry celebrated Mass at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine at the borough's northern end. This was followed by a Eucharistic procession across the Upper East Side, and Benediction at the famed Naumburg Bandshell in the heart of Central Park. The day concluded at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, where New York auxiliary bishop Gerardo Colacicco led congregants in Adoration before ending the evening with Liturgy of the Hours Compline.

The pilgrimage resumed the next morning with Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown. In his homily marking Holy Trinity Sunday, New York cardinal Timothy Dolan reflected on the Blessed Sacrament as key to deepening the supernatural life.

"Every time we worthily receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, we put another log on the fire of God's life within us," Cdl. Dolan explained. "Every time we might feel somewhat listless or weak, sinful, worried, or desperate, we fan into a flame the wavering flicker of God's life within by receiving the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity — God the Son, Our Lord and Savior — in the Most Holy Eucharist." 

"And … when we ask for an increase of sanctifying grace, our prayers are especially effective … when offered before the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament," the cardinal noted, adding:

"This archdiocese is thrilled, as we welcome the pilgrims accompanying the Most Holy Eucharist on the national journey to the heartland in Indiana for our American Eucharistic Revival this coming July; as this cathedral, as Fifth Avenue, as Rockefeller Center, as our parishes, our seminary, our streets, our Shrines of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini — even the Statue of Liberty — will welcome Our Eucharistic Lord these days, awash in God's grace and mercy."

Following Mass, Cdl. Dolan processed the Eucharist in its monstrance to the front steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral, where he knelt and offered Benediction. Afterward, Bp. Colacicco received the monstrance and from there, he led the throng of pilgrims in a procession southward, to the city's Financial District.

Two hours later, in Lower Manhattan, the procession stopped for Benediction at the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton — dedicated to the Eucharistic convert for whom the 'Seton Route' is named — before concluding its trek through the Archdiocese of New York.

Continuing on toward the Diocese of Brooklyn, the contingent paused, midway across the Brooklyn Bridge, for Benediction. Afterward, Bp. Colacicco passed the monstrance to Bp. Robert Brennan of Brooklyn, who finished leading pilgrims across the East River into his diocese.

On the afternoon of Monday, May 27, the procession continued into the Diocese of Metuchen, in New Jersey, before heading onward to the Diocese of Trenton on Tuesday, May 28. From there, the pilgrimage will head to Pennsylvania, visiting parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Harrisburg, before crossing into Maryland, where it will traverse the nation's oldest diocese, the Archdiocese of Baltimore. It will then proceed to the Archdiocese of Washington for a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and a procession through the streets of the nation's capital. Afterward, it will return to Pennsylvania, heading westward across the Dioceses of Altoona-Johnstown, Greensburg and Pittsburgh, before crossing into West Virginia's Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. From there, it will enter Ohio, where it will visit the Dioceses of Steubenville, Columbus and Cincinnati, before moving on to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, where it will spend its final week traversing eastern and central Indiana in the lead-up to the July 16 concluding Mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis.

Bringing Christ to 'the Crossroads of the World'

The arrival of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage wasn't the only manifestation of Catholic devotion in America's largest city this past weekend.

On Friday, May 24, as Eucharistic pilgrims were beginning to gather for Mass at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, a coalition of Catholic groups — including Souls and Liberty; Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP); and America Needs Fatima — came together in this campaign to unveil a billboard in Times Square reminding passersby that June is the Month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Each day, on average, roughly 330,000 people walk through Times Square — the most-visited place in the United States. Organizers note that hundreds of thousands of souls, therefore, could be impacted — seeds planted, consciences pricked, spirits edified — daily through the "Sacred Heart of Jesus" billboard.

Some passersby will be New Yorkers in spiritual need; many others will be travelers from other parts of America, and beyond. For some of these — visitors from secular corners of Europe, or from Communist China, or from Muslim strongholds in North Africa and the Middle East, perhaps — the "Sacred Heart of Jesus" display could be their first encounter with Catholic evangelization. Organizers are excited about the potential for impact, noting that God doesn't need much to ignite a soul — that a lone billboard could be enough to bring many to Him.

Anyone who would like to contribute to this effort can do so by clicking on this link.

Only the Holy Eucharist, which built the great culture of Christendom, can both renew and save our secular culture by infusing it with beauty, festivity, community, and charity. Click here to order your copy of "How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization."

Writer, editor and producer Stephen Wynne has spent the past seven years covering, from a Catholic perspective, the latest developments in the Church, the nation and the world. Prior to his work in journalism, he spent eight years co-authoring “Repairing the Breach,” a book examining the war of worldviews between Christianity and Darwinism. A Show-Me State native, he holds a BA in Creative Writing from Pepperdine University and an Executive MBA from the Bloch School of Business at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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How could we have ever forgotten the power of the Blessed Sacrament? We have truely lost our way; O Lord lead us back. +JMJ+

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