Perpetual Pilgrims: Prayer Partners Who Stand in Proxy for the Whole Church

June 14, 2024

For many, a comforting image of Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The gentleness that the image conveys, however, can lead us to forget the intensity of his love for the world—a love which led Jesus to give his life for us and which he described to his apostles as a fire: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Lk 12:49).

Bishop Cozzens, who has led the Eucharistic Revival, has made it clear again and again that the Eucharistic Revival is not a program, not a great celebration, and not an event that will get a lot of publicity. The Revival is a FIRE, pure and simple. At a conference in Baltimore last June, Cozzens described the kind of fire he believes the Church in the U.S. needs: “We want to enkindle the love of the fire of Jesus’ heart in people—that love which burns in Eucharist, that love which, when we really encounter it, transforms us and actually changes us into missionaries. This is the goal of the Eucharistic Revival.”

I can imagine that, for the Perpetual Pilgrims on the Eucharistic Pilgrimage, completing the journey to Indianapolis in mid-July will seem like a great feat. Right now, along the way, I’m sure it is a fascinating adventure. But in reality—underneath all of that—it is a FIRE. And I think they know that.

Pilgrims walking and praying on the Marian Route in Itasca State Park, MN
Pilgrims walking and praying on the Marian Route in Itasca State Park, MN

Taking Jesus to the Margins

The Pilgrims on the Serra Route left the crowd of several thousand in San Francisco for the diocese of Sacramento where they walked with Jesus more quietly, entering the lives and the pain of women and men and children who have been marginalized. These people weren’t following the Eucharist in procession along with the crowd; they were receiving Jesus as he came to them personally. These were the unhoused, migrants, mothers in need, farm workers, and prisoners.

Bishop Jaime Soto, with the Perpetual Pilgrims on the Serra Route, celebrated Mass and Benediction with the inmates in Folsom State Prison. Fr. Humberto Gomez, chaplain at the prison, said, “We are going to be part of this National Pilgrimae and Revival because Christ is coming into our house. And what is he offering to us? Sit at table with him.” Fr. Gomez believes everyone can change, be restored, and be healed. It is Jesus who heals us: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” we pray at Mass.

Sr. Elinor Gardner, O.P., Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia, shared how striking it was to join the Eucharistic Procession as it made its way through the streets of Corpus Christi. “We stopped in front of the correctional facility, and the priest holding the monstrance blessed the inmates. This in turn was a powerful reminder that in our works of mercy, it is Jesus who visits the sick and the imprisoned, who teaches and heals. He unites himself to us in Holy Communion and makes us emissaries in the world.”

Eucharistic procession on the Serra Route in Folsom, CA
Eucharistic procession on the Serra Route in Folsom, CA

Interceding for the Church and the Nation

All of us truly need Jesus, who offers us the invitation to “sit at table with him.” The Perpetual Pilgrims have committed themselves to be our “prayer partners” in a sense—intercessors who, as Tim Glemkowski said, “stand in proxy for the whole Church” in a powerful way.

Matthew Heidenreich, a Perpetual Pilgrim along the Marian Route, shared a feature of the “Monstrance-Mobile,” a vehicle specially fitted with a tabernacle and seats for the pilgrims so they can continue in prayer even as they are driven between places that are farther apart from each other. One interesting feature on the window is a QR code that people can scan to submit their special intentions directly to the Perpetual Pilgrims for their intercession in these next months of the Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Even people passing the van on the road can easily send their intentions to the pilgrims to carry with them.

For Danielle Schmitz, a pilgrim on the Marian Route, praying for others on pilgrimage with Jesus in the Eucharist is, in some mysterious way, similar to the intercession of the saints before the throne of God in heaven. “We get to just come right before him and lay at his feet the intentions of the nation and just ask him to hear them and to fulfill these prayers and desires in the ways that his perfect will wants to.”

Eucharistic procession on the Seton Route in New York City
Eucharistic procession on the Seton Route in New York City

Stoking the Flames of Revival

The fire Jesus longed for the earth to know is the fire of God’s love, with which he draws us into his life. It is the fire of the Spirit unleashed at Pentecost. It is the fire that burned in the hearts of the saints who have given their lives that Christ would be preached in every corner of the earth. It is the fire of the Eucharistic Revival and the fire that is beginning to leap up in the hearts of so many who already are being renewed and transformed through the Eucharist. As she reflected on her experience of the Eucharistic Pilgrimage, Sr. Elinor Gardner felt that “Most of all, it was simply a grace to be together as the Church—bishop, priests, seminarians, religious, and faith-filled men, women and children—walking together with Jesus. Is that not what the Church is called to do, at all times and in all places? In that way, I think every Eucharistic procession is an icon of the Church.”

Open-air trailer carrying the monstrance in a Eucharistic procession on the Juan Diego Route in Texas
Open-air trailer carrying the monstrance in a Eucharistic procession on the Juan Diego Route in Texas

Here are two ways you can connect with these intercessors on the Eucharistic Pilgrimage:

1) You can send the pilgrims your intercessions to carry with them in two months of prayer as they walk with Jesus across our country toward the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis.

2) You can offer your own sufferings through Christ to strengthen them on their pilgrimage. I know some elderly nuns who are offering their faltering steps down long hallways in union with the steps of the pilgrims. There are many ways in which we can become intercessors for these young people who are praying for us all.

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