By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — The body of Christ, in rich diversity, processed with the Eucharist from Sacred Heart Cathedral on the hill to St. Anthony Catholic Church downtown June 19, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
As many as 200 adults and children, some carrying colorful banners and others carrying colorful umbrellas to block the hot sun, walked three-quarters of a mile in a prayerful, public witness to their faith. They stopped at stations outside the cathedral; at the Lincoln Center, a community resource center for the African-American community of the Quad Cities; and inside St. Anthony Church. They reflected in prayer, Scripture and song on the importance of the Eucharist and the call to be bread for the world.
Choirs from diverse Catholic communities — Hispanic, Vietnamese, Congolese and Filipino — alternated as they sang hymns of praise in their native languages. Spanish-speaking Catholics prayed the rosary, many wearing white polo shirts identifying them as St. Anthony Parish prayer group members. Several deacons and others carried baskets of bread loaves, donated by the faithful, for the feeding ministries at St. Anthony and the Lincoln Center. “The Eucharist commits us to the poor,” Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan director of liturgy, noted.
At the first station, outside the cathedral’s front door, a breeze knocked the monstrance off its table beneath a canopy that the Knights of Columbus anchored. “The fall damaged the monstrance’s latch. Later in the procession, the monstrance door popped open and the host fell out and was chipped. The fragment that broke off was reverently consumed,” Deacon Agnoli said. At the second station at the Lincoln Center, “we ended up using a large rubber band and hair ties to hold the door closed.”
That experience brought to mind the powerful image of Jesus falling on his way to Calvary for Dr. Tonia Rogers of St. Anthony Parish and her mother, O’delia Rogers. Afterwards, Tonia thanked Bishop Thomas Zinkula “for celebrating with us tonight the body and blood of Christ and walking him through the streets of Davenport as on Calvary. We were all there to love him. We were his Simons of Cyrene.”
The procession and the Mass that preceded it in the Davenport Diocese and in dioceses across the nation inaugurated a three-year Eucharistic Revival, an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Its mission is “To renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.” Its vision is “To inspire a movement of Catholics across the United States who are healed, converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist – and who are then sent on mission ‘for the life of the world’” (https://tinyurl.com/2p93v877).
Believe, celebrate and live
Bishop Zinkula presided at the Mass, concelebrated by 16 priests and assisted by seven deacons. In his homily, Bishop Zinkula focused on the theme of the Eucharistic Revival, which comes from Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis” (“Sacrament of Charity”): “The Eucharist is a mystery to be believed, a mystery to be celebrated and a mystery to be lived.”
The bishop explored the first mystery, belief in the Eucharist as a meal shared at table, and the reasons why the meal was such an important part of Jesus’ ministry. “A meal means sharing our life, sharing our very selves with others. Meals create and strengthen relations and often are times of reconciliation. They are a time to give thanks,” he said.
“How we approach that meal leads us to the next mystery — celebration,” the bishop continued, using examples of a formal banquet, a meal in a restaurant, a potluck supper, a trip to a fast food restaurant, and a family reunion. The family reunion “is a good image for the Eucharist,” he said. “It is a time to rest, pray, listen, talk, remember and eat favorite foods with old friends while at the same time welcoming new members. Family reunions provide opportunities for healing if family members are willing to set aside differences. That happens in our celebration of the Eucharist, as well.”
The first two mysteries lead to the third – living the sacrament of the Eucharist. “We become what we believe, receive and celebrate,” the bishop said. “When we eat regular food, it becomes us; when we eat the Eucharist, we become it. We become Christ. We are to take Jesus into the world, into our daily lives. We are to be Christ for others, see Christ in them and share Christ with them. At a recent Angelus, Pope Francis said, ‘We can evaluate our Eucharistic adoration according to how we take care of our neighbor like Jesus does. People hunger for food, but also for companionship, consolation, friendship, good humor, attention.’”
Bishop Zinkula informed the gathering that after Mass, “We will publicly witness to what we believe, celebrate and live – the real presence of God in the Eucharist, in the world and in every person, particularly those living on the periphery, those hurting and suffering the most.”
‘A melting pot of faith’
“I loved how God brought together all cultures,” Adela Rasso of St. Anthony Parish said after the celebration. “All of the cultures coming together are a melting pot of faith.” She participated with her husband, Ed and their son, Daniel, 5, and daughter Bianca, 8, who served as a candle bearer at Mass. Ed described the celebration as lovely because of “the diversity in the Catholic Church. Hopefully this will become a tradition here in the Davenport Diocese.”
Beth and Al Budelier participated with their five daughters, ages 4 to 14, with two in a double stroller that Al pushed back up the steep hill to the cathedral afterwards. Beth said it is important to make an effort to participate in the celebration of the source and summit of the Catholic faith. “It makes the faith come alive,” she said.
“We’re walking in downtown Davenport, living out our faith.” Al said the procession made him think about the Israelites carrying the Ark of the Covenant, a powerful symbol of their faith and the presence of God, in the desert.
Bridget Murphy, principal of Assumption High School in Davenport, participated in the Eucharistic procession with 10 of her 12 children and one of her nieces. Her husband and two older children had other commitments. “There’s nothing more important than the gift of Jesus Christ himself. We want to do anything we can to help our children understand and appreciate that.”
“It was a beautiful celebration of culture,” said Father Jeff Belger, priest director of the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City, who traveled to and from the celebration with the Congolese choir of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City.