June 11, 2024 // FEATURE

Pilgrim Journeys Toward a Deeper Intimacy with God

As I’m writing this, I’m at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Wisconsin Rapids, located in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin. We had an eventful morning in Sparta, Wisconsin, with a beautiful (but windy) outdoor Mass in Spanish and a procession with the Latino community, followed by a delicious lunch of burritos and horchata. Bishop Mark Bartosic, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago, celebrated the Mass.

Since my last column, I’ve journeyed through six dioceses, visited dozens of parishes, and spent many, many hours in Eucharistic adoration, both in churches and in our van, which is retrofitted with a simple tabernacle and a secure stand for the monstrance.

While in prayer, I have often reflected on a question a reporter asked me after a long procession only a few days into our tour through the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota. The reporter asked, “How do you think this experience will shape your eventual [God-willing] priestly ministry?” At the time, the first thought that popped into my exhausted brain – after the pain in my feet – was rather trite. “Well, I guess I’ll be pretty good at organizing Eucharistic processions.” Thankfully, I didn’t say that! I gave an answer off the cuff, but such a good question deserves a more thoughtful answer.

We were able to have a half-day retreat at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota. Most of the morning was silent, other than morning prayer and Mass. After Mass, Father Rich Roemer, CFR, our chaplain for two weeks, asked us to ponder two questions: “What do you desire?” and “What does God desire of you?” I think the answer to these questions – and the one posed to me by the reporter in Duluth – are deeply related. In short, I think the answer is intimacy.

The etymology of intimacy is helpful to get at the crux of what I mean. It goes back to the Latin word intimus, which means “a close friend.” I desire to grow in intimacy with Christ in the Eucharist. I want to be a close friend of Him who takes away the sins of the world. There is no doubt, too, that Christ desires that closeness from each of us, and perhaps especially of His ordained ministers. I’ve been blessed to have had dinner with many bishops on this pilgrimage thus far, and each of them has exemplified a deep companionship with God. I want to be able to echo the declaration of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who spoke the words, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way?”

This mutual desire, this prayer for intimacy – a close friendship between the Lord and myself – is already in the process of being fulfilled during this pilgrimage. As a result, my priesthood [again, God-willing] will be richly Eucharistic. A book that I would recommend
to anyone discerning the priesthood is “Distributed Like Bread: Hans Urs von Balthasar Speaks to Seminarians,” by Jonathan Ciraulo, who is one of my professors at St. Meinrad Seminary. In this short book, Ciraulo summarizes von Balthasar’s life and thoughts on the priesthood. In a nutshell, the priest must be like an ordinary loaf of bread, which is taken, blessed, broken, and given to his people. The priest does not merely confect the Eucharist at each Mass, but lives Eucharistically. The only way the priest is able to do this is through the profound graces flowing from Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.

All of you continue to be in my prayers! I look forward to coming through our diocese in early July.

Pax Christi,
Mason Bailey

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