By Will Peterson

In June, we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. This weighty feast day gives us the opportunity to give thanks for the body of Christ as we launch into the National Eucharistic Revival.

First and foremost, we give thanks for the real presence of Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. Christ himself makes it abundantly clear what it is, or rather, who it is, that we receive in the Blessed Sacrament: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51).

We have the Bread of Life. What more could we desire?

And yet, our Lord presented this supreme gift to a community of apostles, so we also give thanks for the body of Christ that is the community of the church. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “And he (God) put all things beneath Christ’s feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way” (Eph 1:22-23). Our church is the community in which, to quote St. Augustine, “we become what we receive.” Thus, there is nowhere more fitting for us to express our gratitude for the body of Christ than at Mass,

As someone who leads an apostolate for Catholic pilgrimage, I often get asked which one pilgrimage journey is my favorite. Easy answers recount long, arduous pilgrimages between California missions, or through the Wisconsin farmland that leads us to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion, where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a local girl.

My favorite pilgrimage, however, is the one I make each time I attend Mass.

The pilgrimage is not only spiritual but a true physical pilgrimage toward Christ. As I walk up from my pew to participate in Communion, I pray with my whole being — I give praise with each step I take, for God made me, body and soul. I come forward, publicly demonstrating my belief in the Real Presence. During the brief journey from my pew, I lift my intentions, my struggles, my desires to God. God receives them and lifts his Son before me, allowing me to receive the Eucharist, the Bread of angels, the Bread of Life.

That movement is crucial. As the 20th century Trappist and spiritual writer Thomas Merton once wrote, “The geographic pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out of an inner journey … One can have the one without the other. It is best to have both.” Our physical journey to receive Christ during the Mass teaches and prepares us to spiritually journey toward the heavenly Jerusalem.

Do I believe that a long, arduous pilgrimage tracing the steps of St. Junipero Serra between the Missions in California, or a pilgrimage in Philadelphia between the tombs of St. John Neumann and St. Katharine Drexel — two canonized saints entombed mere miles from one another — will bear much spiritual fruit? Indeed, I do. Anytime we can step away from the everyday to seek the intercession of the saints at a holy site, the church and the world benefit.

Yet, I pray first and foremost that in this time of National Eucharistic Revival, and especially in the month of the solemnity of Corpus Christi, we all might mindfully make the crucial pilgrimage of thanks and praise to receive the Eucharistic Christ at Mass.

We then go out into the world, becoming what we have received.


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