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Day 27 — Imitating St. Anthony in Eucharistic Love and Wonder

PITTSBURGH, June 13 — The 27th day of the Seton Route’s pilgrimage to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis began with Mass at St. Patrick’s Church of Mary, Mother of God, Parish in McKeesport.


Seton Route Chaplain Father Roger Landry was the principal celebrant and homilist of the Mass. Pastor Father Terrence O’Connor, parochial vicar Father Adam Potter, Father Joseph Beck and Seton Route co-chaplain for this week Father Joseph Mary Deane, CFR.


At the beginning of Mass, Father O’Connor welcomed all of the pilgrims on the Seton Route and said how honored the parish is to be the first stop in the Diocese of Pittsburgh along the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.


In his homily, based on the readings from Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time (Year II) and the liturgical memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Father Landry focused on how the same Jesus we meet in the Holy Eucharist at Mass and in adoration spoke to us in the Gospel about the high standards he has for us as his disciples.


Jesus told us that unless our righteousness, our holiness, surpasses that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, the Jews with the reputation for being the most religiously observant of all of the children of Abraham, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus calls his disciples to be more righteous that those two groups by depending upon God rather than themselves, by interiorizing the law and avoiding not just external sins but also interior ones, and by linking everything we do to the love of God and love of neighbor.


While Jesus calls us to those high standards, he also provides the means. The greatest means is himself in Holy Communion.


Father Landry noted that there’s a clear Eucharistic application to what Jesus says next in the Gospel, when he speaks about the type of sacrifice God asks of us, which is reconciliation with those who have anything against us. Jesus prayed during the first Mass that his disciples would be one, just as the persons of the Blessed Trinity are united, and any division that we bring with us to the altar detracts from the gift God asks of us.


By and in the Eucharist, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus seeks to make us, as the Church prays in Eucharistic Prayer III, “one body, one spirit in Christ.” And if we say “Amen” to the priest’s saying, “the Body of Christ,” but don’t want or intend to live in communion with others, then we are not abiding in the sacrifice Christ made to gather all of the lost sheep.


Father Landry, Catholic chaplain at Columbia University and to the Thomas Merton Institute for Catholic Life as well as Ecclesiastical Assistant to Aid to the Church in Need USA, gave two illustrations for those who live according to God’s plan.


The first was the Prophet Elijah, who was the subject of the Old Testament Reading. Even though King Ahab, and especially his wife Queen Jezebel, had made themselves archenemies of the prophet, he was still good to them, informing Ahab that there would be rain after a drought of three-and-a-half years so that he could first eat and then get moving before the torrential rains prevented the travel of his chariot. Then afterward he girded his tunic and ran ahead of the chariot for 16 miles to Jezreel, to be close to the king in case he needed anything.


The second great witness, Father Landry noted, was St. Anthony, whom the Church liturgically remembers every June 13. He was a great reconciler, who in his decade of preaching in the various cities and towns of Italy and France, always sought to identify what were the sources of divisions so that he could bring the peace Christ, the Prince of Peace, wished, left and gave in the Upper Room during the first Mass. He sought to reconcile families, political parties, wounded business partners and so many other familial and social fissures.  


He did so because he got the clear consequences of living a Eucharistic life, which is a life of communion. He had a great love for Jesus in the great Sacrament of the Altar and preached about him with great faith and fire.


One of his great miracles happened after an atheist Jewish banker in Bourges, France, challenged him after hearing him declare that the Eucharist really is Jesus Christ and divine. Zacharie de Guillard said that he would starve his mule for three days and then bring him to the square and place before him a trough of oats while Anthony would have the Blessed Sacrament. If the mule would turn to the oats, then, Zacharie, said, it would show that the Eucharist was a hoax; if the mule would turn to what Anthony was holding in the monstrance and adore, then Zacharie said he would believe.


That’s what occurred, Father Landry recounted. The Lisbon-born Franciscan saint fasted as the mule was starved and on the third day, when Zacharie brought the mule, St. Anthony told the mule to adore his Creator, and the mule got down on his forelegs in adoration. The miracle was attested to by many and is historically sound: Zacharie not only converted, but built a Church on the site of the miracle that still exists — now incorporated into a more elaborate structure built three centuries later.


Father Landry finished by describing what was behind the altar in the stunningly beautiful Church of St. Anthony of Padua in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he served as pastor between 2005-2012. There was a 60-foot sculpture of the “Vision of St. Anthony,” where a few months before he died in 1231, Jesus appeared to him in a tree house built by a friend who was a count as a type of hermitage for Anthony. It appeared that the tree house was on fire and when the count ran to investigate, he saw that the light radiating from the house was coming from the saint’s embracing the baby Jesus who had appeared to him.


Father Landry said that those who built St. Anthony’s Church in New Bedford in the early 20th century wanted everyone coming to receive Holy Communion to grasp that they were receiving within them the same Jesus whom Mary, Joseph and Anthony had embraced as a baby in their arms — he only looks different. And they wanted to encourage them to receive him with a love that could transform them, help them grow through Jesus’ Eucharistic love into the surpassing holiness to which Jesus calls us.


After Mass, there was a Eucharistic Procession throughout the neighborhood. Father O’Connor carried the Blessed Sacrament. Pittsburgh auxiliary Bishop William Waltersheid accompanied the pilgrimage, which was attended by about 100 faithful. After returning to the Church after about 20 minutes, Father O’Connor imparted Eucharistic benediction. Father Landry then carried Jesus to the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s support van to drive from McKeesport into Pittsburgh proper, to the Church of the Resurrection, part of St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish, for a mile-long procession to St. Pius X Church, of the same parish.


After Father Fernando Torres, parish parochial vicar, incensed the Blessed Sacrament, he carried him in procession over the 45 minute journey to St. Pius X parish. He was joined along the route by Bishop Waltersheid, by pastor Father James Bachner, by Fathers Landry and Joseph Mary, othe clergy and a couple of hundred faithful.


Once at St. Pius X Parish, Father Torres incensed the Blessed Sacrament, imparted Eucharistic Benediction, and then left the monstrance on the altar for an hour of quiet adoration.


Later in the evening, the pilgrims brought the Blessed Sacrament from St. Pius X Church to St. Catherine of Siena Church, the third Church belonging to the parish, where there was a bilingual Holy Hour featuring silent adoration and hymns in which Father Torres gave a brief Spanish homily, in which he focused on the miracle of St. Anthony in Bourges that Father Landry had mentioned at Mass in McKeesport in the morning.

He said God wants us to have the same faith in Jesus Christ in the Eucharist as St. Anthony did, the same hunger for the nourishment he gives, the same desire to spend with time with him as he does with us. St. Thomas Aquinas said that in the Eucharist, God the Father has given us every blessing in his Son.

Then Father Daniel Waruszewski of the Diocese of Pittsburgh gave a brief reflection in English. He underlined that in the Eucharist, we see "how much the Lord loves us." In his love is peace, healing, renewal and transformation.

In response to the anxiety and fear in the world, Jesus comes to give us his peace, Father Waruszewski said. He gave a story from his college days about how he was so anxious his hands were trembling, but he heard Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament say, "Stertch out your hands," and he did, and he felt the warmth of his love, his healing and his peace, remedying his anxieties and fears.

He similarly the story of a mom with a scarred face and a son who was ashamed of her, but he didn't know that she got that scar because she saved his life in a fire. Jesus' scars — in his hands, his feet, his side, on his back and legs — are all ultimately for us, just like his Sacred Heart, which has been pierced, he said, to heal our broken hearts.

He invited people ot go to Jesus, to place themselves in his heart, to surrender to him and see what he does.

At the end of the Holy Hour, Father Torres imparted Eucharistic Benediction.


That was followed by a reception in the parish hall in which the Seton Route pilgrims were welcomed by the parish and introduced.


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