PROVIDENCE — Father David Mary Engo, O.F.M., delivered an Advent mission at St. Pius V Parish in Providence centering on the theme of the Eucharist. The Dec. 5 presentation was one of the Advent-related events organized by the Diocesan Committee of the Eucharistic Revival Initiative.
Father Engo, a priest of the Franciscan Order, served as the founder and superior of a Franciscan community in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana, and later a hermit at a Franciscan community in the Diocese of Helena in Montana. Most recently, he served at the Sycamore Tree Retreat Center in the Diocese of Helena. Father Engo is a popular public speaker known for his fiery sermons in which he enthusiastically presents the core teachings of the faith.
The night’s events began with Eucharistic Adoration. Father Engo, St. Pius V pastor Father James Mary Sullivan, O.P., and those assisting processed to the singing of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” After the opening prayers, Father Engo read from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 6, verses 41 through 71, which constitute part of the famous “Bread of Life” discourse.
After the reading of the Gospel, Father Engo spent most of the next hour presenting an impassioned sermon in which he analyzed the basic theological, philosophical and spiritual underpinnings and implications of the Eucharist and the Mass.
“It is a joy to be here with you for the Eucharistic Revival,” Father Engo began. “I have to say, of all the dioceses I know of, this is the only one to kick it off with such a wonderful event. What a gift,” he continued.
Father Engo introduced his lecture by recalling a personal story in which he took a pilgrimage to Rome. While praying outside of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti church in Rome, he noticed a child sitting near him crying. When he initiated a conversation with the child, the child told him that he was overwhelmed by the beauty of the city of Rome.
Over the course of the conversation, Father Engo discovered that the child was from a Baptist congregation in the United States that regularly took a pilgrimage to Rome to study the history of Christianity. As the conversation progressed, the child’s friends, family and fellow congregants joined the child, and began to ask Father various questions on the Catholic faith. The conversation ended with the pastor of the Baptist church telling Father Engo that the one Catholic doctrine that he could not come to terms with was the Catholic belief in the Real Presence.
Summarizing his response to the pastor, Father Engo said, “We began to read through John chapter 6, where Jesus says over and over again, ‘Amen, amen I say to you, My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.’ … People knew when Jesus was speaking figuratively, and when he was speaking literally. This is one of those occasions where Jesus is speaking literally, and the people understood that He meant it literally.”
Father Engo went on to note how this was shown in the fact that, as John 6 progressed, many of those present were confused at Jesus’ words, and stopped following Jesus, and yet Jesus did not soften or recant His teachings.
Turning to the words of Jesus in the Last Supper — “This is My Body, this is My Blood” — Father Engo noted, “The word that Jesus used [for] ‘is’ is not an ‘is’ like ‘This is a microphone’ or ‘This is a podium.’ It wasn’t a statement of fact. Jesus was actually using the command form of the verb. He was commanding the bread to become His Body, He was commanding the chalice to become His blood. … By His authority as the Second Person in the Trinity, in His Power and His Might, He commanded the bread and wine to become His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.”
Father Engo continued by noting how Jesus’s words in the Last Supper were followed by the words, “Do this in memory of Me.”
In this, he stated, Jesus was giving the Apostles the authority to do what He did in the Last Supper. “Jesus tells the Apostles, ‘Do this.’ Do what? Take bread, take wine, and command it to become My Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. As the Son of God, He takes His Power, His Authority, and He bestows that Power and Authority on the Apostles to do something only God can do.”
“This was their ordination night. They were made priests of the New Covenant that night,” Father Engo said, commenting on the significance of the first Holy Thursday. “What the Apostles were commanded to do, we priests still do to this very day,” he continued, noting how the priest, in celebrating Mass, is acting in persona Christi, and thus Jesus acts in and through every priest to make Himself present in the Eucharist.
Father Engo went on to claim that, because Christ is present in the Eucharist, there is a close connection between the Eucharist and God’s larger plan of salvation. In the Eucharist, the priest would “offer the Sacrifice of Jesus to the Father,” thereby making the Eucharist a “re-presentation of Calvary, the perpetuation of Calvary” that allows all the faithful “throughout time and space to stand at the foot of Calvary,” and thus every part of the Mass is meant to symbolically point towards our participation in the core element of God’s plan of salvation.
“This is what the Church has given us. This is what we have believed for 2,000 years,” Father Engo said. “Ever since Our Lord spoke it…the Catholic Church has believed that the Eucharist is truly and really the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.”
He noted how, despite the spiritual profoundness of the Eucharist, these truths have not always been properly communicated to the faithful, and this has led to the current decline in Church attendance. The best way to counteract this is to rediscover the true meaning of the Eucharist.
“We don’t go [to church] for the preaching. We don’t go for the music. We as Catholics, we go to Mass because we know for a fact that the Mass is not a show. It’s not for us to be entertained. We know that the Mass is the offering of God the Son to God the Father. It is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” Father Engo said.
“Each and every time we come to receive Holy Communion, He [Christ] forms an intimate union with us, and He dwells within us,” he concluded. “How beautiful of Our Lord, that though He had to ascend to heaven, to the Father’s Right Hand, He didn’t want to leave us, He wanted to remain with us always, and God being God, found a way to do that. He remains with us always in the gift of His Holy Presence in the Eucharist.
“One of the great things about the Eucharistic Revival is being able to hear from priests and preachers, not just from our own diocese, but from across the United States,” said Father Philip Dufour, the coordinator of the Diocesan Committee on the Eucharistic Revival. “We are very blessed to have Father David Mary with us today.”
“From his talk this evening, we saw the wealth of knowledge and experience he has in speaking about the Eucharist. But, most of all, what was communicated was the passion in which he spoke so beautifully in the Presence of Our Lord and about Our Lord,” Father Dufour continued.
“Tonight’s event was amazing, said Paige Bertuch, a member of the Diocesan Eucharistic Revival Committee. “I loved how he spoke about reverence. As someone who didn’t practice Catholicism my whole life, and who found it recently, I think Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist is beautiful, and deserves the reverence that he was calling for all of us, and all the priests, to act with.”
As part of the Eucharistic Revival, a special monthly Mass will take place in honor of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Pius V Church, Providence, at noon on Thursday, January 19, followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, confessions at 7 p.m., and benediction at 8 p.m. Father Albert P. Marcello III, will serve as the celebrant and homilist. Father Marcello is a tribunal judge of the Diocese of Providence, administrator pro tem for providing sacramental and liturgical ministry at St. Martha Parish, East Providence, and also chaplain at Rhode Island Hospital.
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