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Come with me

Fr. Ted Trinko, IVE
Seton Shrine and Lourdes Grotto

(10/2) As you all know, Emmitsburg is a very blessed location. Throughout the whole history of the United States of America, only three native born individuals (including the Native American St. Kateri Tekakwitha) have been canonized, and one of them is buried here in Emmitsburg. In all of America there are approximately 70 National Shrines, and two of them are in this town whose population barely exceeds 3000. Now it would be natural to see these sites as a sort of religious version of Gettysburg insofar as they are historically important on account of what happened at them; but this perspective falls very short of the reality.

The Seton Shrine and the Lourdes Grotto are not merely places to visit and remember what once took place or what they once were. They are not simply nice parks with spectacular views or beautiful buildings made of stone. No, a journey to one them is primarily an answer to a call, a response to a voice which beckons. And behind that voice which makes itself felt within us, there is a Person who waits; His name is Jesus Christ. Sometimes He calls us through those closest to Him such as His Blessed Mother or His faithful daughter Elizabeth Seton. But these associates of His always redirect us to Him.

We can ask, "What did you go out into the wilderness to behold?" (Lk 7:24). Why do we climb that mount? Why do we descend into that valley known as Josephís? Whether we knew it or not, we are in search of Someone who we desperately need. For without Him, we are like branches pruned from the vine that whither and are fit for nothing more than to be cast into the fire to be burned (cf. Jn 15:6).

When our boilers break in the winter, we are desperately in need of a mechanic. When our houses are on fire, we desperately need firefighters. When our bodies have been traumatized by a car crash, we are desperately in need of a medic. And when we separate ourselves from Him by sinning, we are desperately in need of something that can bring us back to Him.

The supernatural union between us and our God which was bestowed upon us at Baptism is not infallibly kept regardless of our actions. Rather, like a marriage which needs to be chosen anew every single day lest the love which unites it together whither away, so too does our union with God need to be re-elected every day. To say that we were linked permanently to God at baptism without the possibility of separating ourselves from Him thereafter is to say that man is not free to choose. Our freedom as human beings is one of Godís greatest gifts to man. However, it is also our greatest burden since we so often use it to choose that which evil instead of the good.

But this liberty, once abused to choose what is wrong, does not cease to exist, and we always have the opportunity to return to the good. After we have freely broken away from God by sin, we can freely reunite ourselves to Him. This is one of the principle reasons to make a pilgrimage: to reunite to Him whom we have lost; to come back into His fold which we wandered from; to reconcile ourselves with He who we offended. How is this accomplished? Through the forgiveness of sins. And this takes place in the sacrament of Reconciliation, in the confessional.

It is not revealed in scripture why Jesus decided to institute this sacrament (Jam 5:16), why He chose to give men the power to forgive sins (Jn 20:23), why He gave His Church on earth power over eternal realities (cf. Mt 16:18-19; 18:18). But thanks be to God that He did! We need it so urgently as St. John reminds us, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn 1:8). Hence, the confession of sins has been a practice of the Church since the time of the apostles as we read in The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: "thou shalt confess thy transgressions in the Church." We have truly all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) and so all of us must be reconciled to Him (2 Cor 5:20) in the very sacrament of Reconciliation.

This forgiveness of God offered in the sacrament is unlimited. There is nothing which has been done or could be done which canít be forgiven. For the voice of a mere man might be heard, but it is the power of God acting through that human instrument which guarantees the forgiveness of absolutely every evil deed done. "God above confirms what priests do here below" said St. John Chrysostom. He who chose to redeem mankind as a man, continues to save men through men.

Once the sins have been confessed and that absolution received, we "set out a new life, a new existence itself." What more could we hope of from a pilgrimage? A good confession works a spiritual resurrection in our souls and brings us back into Godís household like the prodigal son who "was dead and is now alive again; was lost, and is found" (Lk 15:24). After the son was reincorporated into his Fatherís household, there was a great joy and everyone came together to celebrate his return. So too, in heaven, there is great rejoicing every time one of us emerges from the confessional with a cleansed soul (cf. Lk 15:7).

Hence, we can see why these shrines are no mere commemorative landmarks, for in them we do not only look to the past but are also revitalized for the future in a very real way. A pilgrimage to them could be an opportunity to receive forgiveness for our sins and the spiritual nourishment of the Eucharist which we need for our earthly pilgrimage.

It is He who is calling you to come away with Him to a quiet place to rest your weary hearts in his presence (Mk 6:31). He calls to you from the tabernacle with that soft red candle flickering at its side like an anxious heart. In the depths of the church is a pulsating heart which beckons you. I pray that you will answer the call.

May God bless you all

Seton Shrine mass schedule:
Mon-Fri - Confession and Adoration beginning at 12:15 p.m. until Eucharistic Benediction at 1:15 p.m.. Mass at 1:30 p.m.
Sunday - Confession and Adoration from 12:15 to 1:15. Mass at 1:30 p.m.

Grotto mass schedule:
Saturday and Sunday - Confessions at 11 a.m. followed by Mass at 12 p.m.