Pondering the Pilgrimage

Friday, Jun. 21, 2024
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

Two weeks ago God granted me several wonderful opportunities to grow closer to him by attending the events surrounding the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage as it came through Utah. These began May 31 in Preston, Idaho, where the Eucharist was transferred to Father John Evans, our incoming vicar general, and ended June 5 with Mass at Saint James the Greater Catholic Church in Vernal. Along the way – in Hyde Park, Logan, Park City, Salt Lake City, Fort Duchesne, Roosevelt and Vernal – were Masses, Eucharistic processions, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and other events associated with the pilgrimage.

As part of these celebrations I attended six Masses and participated in four Eucharistic processions. I could claim that I sat in Adoration, which was offered at most of the stops, but in all honesty I was so distracted by work that even when I knelt before the monstrance I found it hard to think of anything other than who I needed to interview for the story, or whether I had gotten a decent photo.

Every parish had wonderful participation in the events. Having 50 in the procession in Vernal may not seem like very many, but it was when you take into consideration  the size of the Catholic population in that area, the fact that it was at 5 p.m. on a weekday when many people had to work, and that the walk was in 80+-degree heat.

My failure to have a spiritual moment depressed me to no end. Those who participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will be granted a plenary indulgence, assuming the usual conditions are met. Indulgences also were granted to those who attended the talk on Aquinas’ theology of the Eucharist, which was given at Saint Catherine of Siena Newman Center in Salt Lake as part of the pilgrimage but also in conjunction with Saint Thomas’ jubilee. I did attend these events, receive Communion, go to Confession in a timely manner and pray for the intentions of the pope, but never did my thoughts stray far from the needs of work, so I don’t think I qualify for the indulgence.

“For the Church, pilgrimages, in all their multiple aspects, have always been a gift of grace,” Pope John Paul II said, but I wasn’t given that gift as others were.

What I was granted was the stories of others who did receive it. Among them was Sister Mary Rose Chinn of the Handmaids of the Triune God, a religious sister who is following the entire national pilgrimage on her own. She has a wonderful story of conversion to Catholicism that is too long to repeat here, but she is making the pilgrimage in thanksgiving, she said, and along the way is praying for the intentions of people in her hometown as well as for those she is gathering along the route. When I talked to her she was two weeks into the 60-day journey, and she said already her faith and spirituality had deepened.

Another story I heard was that of Paul Tinker, who carried the St. Olaf Parish banner in the Summit County processions. Tinker, the Utah Knights of Columbus’ state director of faith, said he finds an “amazing sense of wonder to walk with the Lord.”

Jared Little, who is not Catholic but plans to start RCIA at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in September, said he participated in the procession because, among other things, he wanted to participate in the Catholic community and liked the idea of taking faith out into the world.

Deacon Chris Georges of the Diocese of Phoenix came to Utah with his wife Teresa specifically to participate in the pilgrimage’s mission to renew the understanding of the True Presence in the Eucharist, and was brought to tears several times as he carried the monstrance in the processions, he said.

Teresa Georges said her experience was “the joy of being here with so many like-minded people, all wanting to be with our Lord,” and that everyone she talked to mentioned the presence of Jesus being with them.

Rosario Cano, a Notre Dame de Lourdes parishioner, attended the procession in Vernal with her husband, Ruben. Although complications arose in planning the trip, everything worked out, which “was a lesson for me,” she said.

All of these people, and more besides, had memorable moments as part of the pilgrimage, but I didn’t, which I tried not to mind. And then came Adoration on the last day, mere hours before the pilgrims departed for Colorado. Kneeling before the monstrance, I was overcome by the certainty that Jesus was present, and he forgave my sins, and that fleeting moment of grace erased all my frustration and gave me peace that still comforts me today.

Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic. Reach her at marie@icatholic.org.

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