Pilgrims journey to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, EWTN

On May 2, 56 Catholic men and women from South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina embarked on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, home of the Eternal Word Television Network, and the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in northern Alabama. They left St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Simpsonville, SC with the prayers and support of Father Herbert Conner, and Father Hayden Vaverek, pastor and administrator of the parish.  
Upon arrival at the monastery in Irondale, the pilgrims began their three-day journey with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament followed by Holy Mass, celebrated by Father Anthony Mary of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word. At lunch, they were delightfully surprised by a visit from the former Bishop of Charleston, the Most Reverend Robert J. Baker, and now Bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham. Bishop Baker welcomed many familiar faces as he spoke personally to each pilgrim and gave them his blessing.
The day continued with a healing service, led by Father Mark Mary (Life on the Rock), during which the priest blessed each person individually with an ornate monstrance containing the Most Blessed Sacrament. The service was a powerful reminder of God’s infinite grace and the hope to be found in Christ’s promise to us of eternal life. A tour of the EWTN studios at the end of the day provided visitors with an inside look at the “network of miracles.” Officially established on August 15, 1981 as the result of the persistent and prayerful work of Mother Angelica, EWTN is responsible for broadcasting Catholic radio and television programs throughout the United States and in many countries around the world. “Someone is monitoring programming at EWTN twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week so that the right signal is sent out,” Brother Louis told his listeners, “just as Mother Angelica and her sisters are adoring the Blessed Sacrament twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and praying that the right signal gets to each of our hearts and causes conversions.”
The second day of the pilgrimage was spent at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama. Designed by Mother Angelica to house her Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, the Shrine is, also, to be “a place where people can come and rest their souls, renew their faith, and give themselves an opportunity to receive the graces and the peace, the forgiveness and the Mercy that only God can give.” Even the stormy weather couldn’t dampen their spirits as the pilgrims approached the Shrine through the white-picket-fence-lined four hundred acres of rolling hills and farm land belonging to the monastery.  
The grand piazza with the statue of the Child Jesus, extending His heart to everyone who enters there, is magnificent. The view just inside the great doors of the church is simply breathtaking. Marble floors lead to a stunning altar and intricately carved reredos adorned in twenty-four-carat-gold-leaf, and, in the center, you see Him. Enclosed in a spectacular monstrance of nearly eight feet, Our Lord – body, blood, soul and divinity under the appearance of bread – is exposed for adoration, high above the exquisite tabernacle. The beautiful voices of the nuns, who remained hidden behind the grille of their enclosure, resonated throughout the church as they sang each hymn of the Mass. It was as though angels were singing for Jesus. The Liturgy was celebrated in Latin, ad orientem, and the Brother servers prostrated themselves before the altar during the consecration. This temple and this Eucharistic Liturgy are, truly, worthy of the King of kings!
Following the Mass, pilgrims had the opportunity to meet with Sister Mary St. Clare (from the Greenville area) who described a typical day in the cloister to them, explaining that the adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is the center of her life and that of her sisters. Father Joseph Mary, Father Provincial of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, then led a second healing service in which he reiterated what the pilgrims had heard throughout their journey: We have all been given the incomparable gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us; Christ’s immeasurable love for us manifests itself in the Holy Eucharist through which he pours out His grace to strengthen us; even were we to lose everything, we would still have hope in Christ – the very message that Pope Benedict XVI brought to the United States during his recent visit.  
When the last pilgrim’s confession had been heard, all departed with renewed spirits and carrying with them a glorious image of the Shrine now surrounded by radiant sunshine and brilliant blue skies. The next morning they would tour the Ave Maria Grotto of Saint Bernard Abbey and assist at a beautiful Mass at the Abbey church before returning home. Though this particular pilgrimage would end, the pilgrimage through life would continue and a new journey would begin – one of increased faith; one of ever greater appreciation for the immense blessing of the Holy Eucharist, instituted by Christ Himself that He might remain with us until He comes again. It must be a journey of hope, of healing, of sacrifice, and of sharing the love of Christ with others.  
Submitted by Sarah Hodges of St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville.