Two disciples on the day of Jesus’ Resurrection were making their way away from Jerusalem toward Emmaus, disillusioned and disoriented. As they trudged along, the risen Savior came up beside them on their journey, listened to their disappointment, opened the meaning of the Scriptures to them, and revealed himself to them in the breaking of the bread.
After spending all day in the presence of Jesus—having a powerful encounter—these two disciples who had begun the day heavy-hearted ran swiftly back to Jerusalem to announce to the others the reason for their newfound joy. They had seen Jesus, risen and alive, and they had recognized him in the Eucharist, the “breaking of the bread”! We could say that these two disciples of Emmaus were on the very first Eucharistic pilgrimage.
As we enter the Year of Parish Revival, we are preparing for one of the largest Eucharistic pilgrimages in history here in the United States. For two months, women and men will process with the Eucharist across the country, lighting hearts on fire with hope and joy along the way. This demonstration of faith in the Eucharist will take place from May 17 (the weekend of Pentecost) to July 16, 2024.
Commencing from four starting points, Brownsville, TX; Lake Itasca, MN; New Haven, CT; and San Francisco, CA, pilgrims will process with our Eucharistic Lord through cities, along highways, and past rural towns, meeting in Indianapolis just before the National Eucharistic Congress. Along the way, they will be praying, seeking new depths of transformation in Jesus, serving those on the margins, and witnessing to their faith in the Risen Jesus.
I would love to travel with the Eucharist across the country and to witness the marvels of grace that Jesus will pour out upon our nation during this prayerful journey. However, I know right now that I won’t be able to be part of the National Pilgrimage. Probably many of you won’t be able to join this amazing Eucharistic event either.
Yet all of us are invited to grow in love for Jesus in the Eucharist and to share our faith as missionary disciples. This summer, why not go on your own Eucharistic pilgrimage right where you live to deepen your Eucharistic faith and devotion?
On a local pilgrimage, you can explore the holy places in your own diocese, state, town, or even your own parish, adoring the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ anew and participating in Mass in your own backyard.
Are you going on vacation this summer? Locate a shrine or a church along the way where you can pray before the Eucharist. You might even research if there is a church where an American saint is buried near where you will be. The Archdiocese of Denver has designated seven churches as pilgrimage sites for the Eucharistic Revival, and your diocese may be doing something similar. Even if you are homebound or ill, you can make a “spiritual pilgrimage” right where you are.
As a matter of fact, Pope Francis reminds us that “a pilgrimage is a spiritual journey. We don’t choose our destination; it is God drawing us into himself. Something inside us simply yearns to go. We feel invited, even summoned. Actually, we don’t have to ‘go’ anywhere, for life itself is a pilgrimage. But going affords us the opportunity to leave behind that which hinders us from moving forward” (Message to participants in the 37th nocturnal pilgrimage on foot from Macerata to Loreto, Italy).
Are you ready to plan a local pilgrimage this summer? To make it easy for you, we have created a simple, step-by-step guide that you can download today. Here are the most important things you’ll want to consider as you plan your pilgrimage:
•Your intention (WHY you are making the pilgrimage)—A local pilgrimage is the perfect opportunity to pray for special intentions that you, your family, and your friends may have. You can carry in your heart intentions for the Church and the world. Don’t forget to pray for the Eucharistic Revival!
•Your pilgrimage destination (WHERE you will be journeying on your pilgrimage)—Check out your diocesan website or town directory. Is there a shrine you have never visited? Is the cathedral close to you? Is there a monastery that would receive your visit to their chapel?
Remember, on a pilgrimage, you are part of the Body of Christ, the Church. Even if you make a pilgrimage as an individual, you are in communion with all the people who have prayed in that pilgrimage spot over the years. In fact, when you are on pilgrimage, you journey with the whole Church—the communion of saints—in heaven and on earth. On your pilgrimage expect an outpouring of grace that will rekindle your hope and renew your faith in Jesus in the Eucharist. Know that you will bring back the joy you received on the journey to share as a gift with those you encounter every day.
As did the disciples at Emmaus, and as the holy women and men have done through the ages, we too proclaim the hope and joy our world so desperately seeks. A Eucharistic pilgrimage is a visible and powerful witness to the world that Jesus is here, present in the most Blessed Sacrament, and he accompanies us—all of us—on our pilgrimage through life.