By Megan Erbacher
The Message editor
There is an expression that familiarity breeds contempt, Bishop Joseph M. Siegel told a crowd of nearly 1,800 Catholic faithful gathered at the Old National Events Plaza in downtown Evansville on Jan. 13.
In the case of the Eucharist, Bishop Siegel explained it may not be contempt, but perhaps complacency, taking it for granted, as we so often do with the most precious persons and gifts we have. He said we need the Diocese of Evansville Eucharistic Congress and the National Eucharistic Revival in July in Indianapolis to remind us of the precious gift we receive in Holy Communion.
On Jan. 13, Bishop Siegel served as the main celebrant and homilist of the closing Mass of the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress. Bishop Siegel also led the Eucharistic Procession for the Congress. The goal of the day, “A Revival for Your Heart; Life for Your Soul,” was to provide an opportunity to grow deeper in our love, knowledge and appreciation of our Lord and share in His life with us in the Eucharist.
Father Tyler Tenbarge was Master of Ceremonies for the Eucharistic Congress. He serves as Director of Vocations for the diocese, Director of the Propaedeutic Program, and Chaplain and Director of the Father Deydier House in Evansville. Father Alex Zenthoefer, diocesan Vicar General and rector of St. Benedict Cathedral in Evansville, served as a featured speaker, as well as Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry Jeremy Goebel.
Morning speakers included Monsignor James Shea, Dr. Edward Sri, Dr. Andrew and Sarah Swafford, as well as musicians John Michael Talbot and PJ Anderson.
In an interview with OSV News, Father Tyler said he felt inspired to invite participants to kneel in quiet prayer while the Eucharist was exposed in a monstrance “to just listen to the Lord’s voice for a moment.”
During this time, he observed how God can speak intimately to individuals, even amid a large crowd.
“There was not a rustle of a jacket or anything for three minutes straight,” he said. “When I stood back up to kind of get us going again, I felt like I was disrupting something important.”
During his homily, Bishop Siegel said the bread we receive is more than just a symbol of Jesus. When we take the Holy Eucharist into ourselves, the bishop said, we are brought into communion with the great and inexplicable love of God.
To receive the Eucharist is to receive the very life of the Risen Jesus Himself, Bishop Siegel explained, to enter into the deepest union with God possible this side of heaven.
But what we receive, we are then called to share, Bishop Siegel said, for the Eucharist is a mystery to be lived.
The Diocesan Congress and Eucharistic Revival are moments of great opportunity for renewal and evangelization, Bishop Siegel noted, and he prays, enlivened by the Blessed Sacrament, that we stand ready with renewed vigor, confidence, and faith to be His missionary disciples.
It is time to form ourselves more and more with a love for and understanding of the Eucharist and our Catholic faith, Bishop Siegel said, so we might help reconcile those who no longer practice their faith, and effectively evangelize those who haven’t known Christ or His family the Church.
Father Alex Zenthoefer spoke about the great scandal of Christianity: that God became so much like us that he could be “overlooked, ignorable, lost in a crowd.”
This is why, he explained, “that the day of the first encounter with Christ across the Jordan in Bethany begins with an announcement from John the Baptist: ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”
Christ looks like us but he is greater than us, Father Alex said, he is the one we have all been waiting for.
“It’s why we say those words at every Mass,” he said. “So that there is not a lack of understanding, so that we are not confused, thinking that this might be a symbol. It IS the Lamb of God. And we need to receive him so that we can know him so that we can announce his presence when we see him.
“This is why there is a great urgency for this Eucharistic Revival because the Lord of the Universe, the One through whom all things were made, is present in the world and people do not know. It is perhaps the greatest tragedy of all time.”
This is not the time for fear or for shame,” Father Alex encouraged.
“This is the time of the witness,” he said. “It is the time to testify to what the Lord is doing in our lives and to live our humanity as an aspiration to greatness.
“We are not asked to be experts on the Eucharist, but witnesses of what we have learned from our own failure and the healing Christ has offered. This is why our work is primarily one of knowing him and of deepening our union with Him.”
Goebel spoke on how Mary can lead us closer to her son in the Eucharist. Goebel said Mary's entire purpose is to lead us to Jesus. Her role can be most clearly seen in the first line of the Magnificat, he explained, as she states, "My soul magnifies the Lord" (Luke 1:46).
Goebel talked about a piece inside the monstrance called a "luna," which means "moon" in English. The luna is there to hold the host in place so that all can see Christ in the Eucharist more clearly. In the same way, Mary's role was to carry and nurture Christ so that all could come to know Him.
“Mary's path to Christ is the safest and quickest path that we can take to her Son,” he said. “Her role is to lead us along the path to Jesus, staying with us in our trials and joys. True devotion to Mary will not lead you astray.
“Mary lived a Eucharistic life because she spent her entire life loving, adoring and serving the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Anywhere that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, Mary is there in adoration.”