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Faith, Not Fields: A Journey Through Nebraska’s Heartland

Faith, Not Fields: A Journey Through Nebraska’s Heartland

The Blessed Sarament processes down a street in Nebraska. (photo: Jeffrey Bruno / National Catholic Register )

 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage passes through a community that lives in a part of the nation often overlooked.

What I learned about the Catholic Church:

It took me by surprise.

I grasped his extended hand,

A strong, heavily calloused hand,

And gazed into his smiling eyes as he said, “Peace be with you.”

The deep creases on his face told the story of 10,000 days laboring beneath the burning Nebraska sun;

His jeans, heavy leather belt and well-worn boots, the story of a farmer,

A man who worked the land.

As I glanced around, I witnessed the entire congregation embracing and smiling at each other …

Pilgrims stop to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament during the National Eucharistic Congress in Nebraska.
Pilgrims stop to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament during the National Eucharistic Congress in Nebraska.(Photo: Jeffrey Bruno )

 

This was indeed a sign of peace.

Christ’s peace.

A parish deeply devoted to Christ, enough to fill a church on an early Monday morning,

In true communion with each other and even with a stranger like me.

“Welcome to Nebraska,” I thought.

A lot can be learned by observing the actions revealed beyond one’s words:

Actions rarely lie and often reveal the deepest truths of a person or community.

 

The Eucharistic procession continues under a blue sky across Montana.
The Eucharistic procession continues under a blue sky across Montana.(Photo: Jeffrey Bruno )

 

What I learned about the Catholic Church in Nebraska,

A community that lives in a part of the nation often overlooked.

Is that it’s the basics, the simple things that matter:

Love of God with your whole heart, mind and soul …

And love of your neighbor as Christ loves them.

From the hospitality extended to me during my days there, to the purity, holiness and virtue I witnessed at the many Masses and processions I participated in …

If I were to sum up what I witnessed in one word, it would be this:

 Gratitude.

Gratitude for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament;

Gratitude for the lands that produce the abundant harvests that sustain them and us;

And Gratitude for the gift of life in all its forms, from what rises up from Earth to what’s born forth from the womb.

I don’t know many people who’ve ever been to Nebraska.

Some call it “flyover country.”

But in this state, a state often overlooked by the country, they have it right.

And that should serve as a lesson to us all.

I went to Nebraska to get a photograph of a procession going through a field.

It never happened.

But what I did get was the true story of what lies deep in the heart of the Nebraska heartland,

A story infinitely more important.

And that story is one of faith … not fields.

 

 

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