June 11, 2024 // Perspective

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage Brings Jesus to NYC

We stepped carefully down the labyrinth of gangplanks and docks in New York Harbor. A drizzling rain and clouds obscured the city’s magnificent skyline as we made for the boat.

I arrived in New York the day before to participate in this stretch of the Seton Route, one of the four legs of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Six dedicated young pilgrims, called “perpetual pilgrims,” are currently accompanying the Blessed Sacrament from New Haven, Connecticut, to Indianapolis. During Memorial Day weekend, the pilgrims joined events and processions throughout Manhattan.

On Monday, May 27, when I caught up with the pilgrimage, we made our way across Brooklyn in a joyful procession to the interest of local residents. Windows were occupied with onlookers and well-wishers as we processed with the Eucharist. We prayed, and we sang.

The last of the boroughs to receive the Blessed Sacrament during the Seton Route offered a warm welcome. The parishes where we stopped along Fourth Avenue enthusiastically greeted the procession – churches were full of the faithful who gathered to join in adoration.

But for me, the most moving part was the boat. Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn, whose joyful and fatherly presence throughout the day said more than any words, accompanied us to the pier. Waving gently goodbye, the perpetual pilgrims, their chaplains, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, and New York Auxiliary Bishops Gerardo J. Colacicco and Edmund Whalen loaded into a boat, and we headed out for Liberty Island.

On the boat, we held a Holy Hour. There we were, in New York Harbor – busy even on the misty holiday evening – singing hymns of praise to the Lord of the universe, present before us, hidden under the guise of bread.

As wild as it all sounds, it was all so fitting. How many times did Jesus pass along the shores of the Sea of Galilee with His disciples? As our boat was tossed by the waves of the larger ferries and cruise ships, I immediately thought of Jesus asleep in the boat, while the boat was tossed in the storm. I thought, too, of Jesus walking across the water and encouraging the disciples, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27). And I remembered Peter’s hesitant steps and his cry to Jesus when he began to sink: “Lord, save me!” (Mt 14:30).

Cardinal Dolan spoke movingly to us in an impromptu reflection he offered during our prayer on the boat. “As I look at Our Lord in the holy Eucharist,” the cardinal shared, “I think of Jesus looking out with mercy and with love, tenderness and compassion, on every person and place He’s passed these last days.”

It struck me at that moment: That’s the point of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Not only do we look on the Lord, but also He looks upon us. By bringing the Eucharist down streets and over bridges, on boats and across highways, we are calling Catholics across our land to encounter Jesus and to realize that, in meeting Him, we find true freedom.

There, at the base of the Statue of Liberty, Cardinal Dolan blessed New York City. At the foot of our nation’s greatest symbol of freedom, true freedom stood revealed. Only in Christ do we find the freedom for which our hearts long.

This is what we are proclaiming in the National Eucharistic Revival. The Lord is good. He is alive. He is at work in our lives. And His love alone will set us free!

Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, is a Dominican friar and the editor of Our Sunday Visitor.

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