CHESTERTON – Addressing the Eucharist as an essential part of a believer’s daily life, an internationally known priest, engaging radio host and television culinary expert, shared his understanding of the mystery of the highest source of spiritual nourishment with the faithful who gathered at St. Patrick Church on a Friday night.
More than 200 guests assembled for the Eucharistic revival Holy Hour presented by Father Leo Patalinghug on Oct. 7. The priest is a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Eucharistic Preacher and a member of the Voluntas Dei (The Will of God) consecrated religious community.
The priest, who has gained a stature in religious and secular media around the world, began his presentation with jokes about his diminutive height and recalled his childhood doubts about the Real Presence.
“It is most important to recognize that the God who made all things is right here in our presence,” Father Patalinghug said.
Learning how the Eucharist is spelled-out throughout the New Testament, Father Patalinghug said he first came to consider the reality of the Church’s teaching because of his parent’s strict, devotional faith.
“As a child, I would not have understood what we were doing. I’ve been a priest now for 22 years and I’m still learning the mysteries of the Eucharist,” he told the audience, during the first of four holy hours to be hosted in the next six months.
When Father Patalinghug’s family spent time after Mass praying before the tabernacle, his mother would say, “Be quiet, we are praying to Jesus in his house.”
A fidgety young Leo Patalinghug would ask “Where is Jesus?” and his mother would point to the tabernacle.
“Jesus lives in that box,” he said, doing his impression of a strong Filipino woman.
He looked at his siblings and said, “Jesus must be really short.”
Father Patalinghug now realizes he was pointed in the right direction. “It makes a lot of sense for Jesus to become small. That is his way,” he said.
“Just think of the first adoration ever – it was obviously when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, even though Jesus was only, as our modern thinkers would say, ‘just a cluster of cells,’” Father Patalinghug said.
“(Jesus) was just a child and (during his nativity) the Magi adored the Lord,” the priest chef said. “They did exactly what my mother was trying to teach me to do: give to Jesus what he deserves.”
Father Patalinghug’s unique background experiences – from his tenure as a martial arts instructor to award-winning break dancer – provided the St. Patrick audience a glimpse into how he earned the attention of media outlets such as Food Network and EWTN. He seamlessly wove insights into the sacrament of Holy Communion with humorous anecdotes and observations.
He narrowed down what believers can offer in the presence of the Lord to “three gifts.”
“First, be quiet. I think what Jesus is asking us to do is to just shut the faith up; he’s asking us to not pretend like we know everything, but to give him that silent night, holy night,” said Father Patalinghug.
He joked that Bishop Robert J. McClory, who sat in choir – observing on the other side of the sanctuary – was saying, “take your own advice,” to audience laughter.
“The second thing we can offer to Jesus is exactly what the Magi did: they offered their time,” Father Patalinghug said.
“Third, maybe (the Lord asks) for our imagination as well,” the EWTN host said. “It gives us a chance to let the action of the image take root.
“We’re all made in God’s likeness and image,” he said, but because of distractions and sin, “we don’t image Jesus very well.”
Father Patalinghug bemoaned a world that “lacks imagination,” where “everything is exposed to you – a couple clicks away on our phone or computer.”
The anxieties of our times, he said, can be presented to the Lord; we can “go crazy in front of Jesus.”
Failing to bring our needs, our praise and our silence before the Redeemer could spell spiritual disaster.
“If you don’t go to Jesus, I guarantee you the devil will be very happy to provide for you a fake version of what you’re hungering for,” he said, warning of forbidden fruit designed to be appealing.
Quiet adoration continued at St. Patrick with the Blessed Sacrament exposed from an ornate monstrance placed on the altar.
Then, soft, affirming musical selections performed by musician Patrick Williams, a collaborator in numerous ministries in dioceses across the U.S., carried into the evening, before the praying of the Divine Praises and reposition of the consecrated host.
St. Patrick parishioners Scott and Susan Postma accompanied their daughter Clara Portsma, 9, who patiently and attentively participated in the 90-minute event.
“I like it and feel really peaceful here,” said Clara Portsma, who has been writing in a spiritual journal with her parents’ encouragement.
Representing more of a senior’s view on maturing prayer life, Michele Dailey, a Nativity of Our Savior parishioner said spending time before the blessed sacrament was like making a local call to God, who, in a still soft voice, informed her evening’s prayers.
"It took me a long time to get into a productive habit in adoration. But I just kept at it, because I wanted that connection, I wanted to feel His presence,” Dailey said.
She continued, “I had five words that came to (me in prayer) tonight. They were: Lord, king, power, forgiveness and thankfulness.”
A friend of Bishop McClory since they both studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Father Patalinghug expressed his gratitude for the hospitality of the bishop and the pastor of St. Patrick, Father Jon Plavcan.
“I would be remiss to not thank Father Jon (Plavcan), pastor of this beautiful parish who cooked for me. And it was really, really good; I’m stealing his recipes.”
As much as a focus was placed on spiritual nourishment, Father Plavcan said he wanted to provide a satisfying meal for guests such as Father Patalinghug and Bishop McClory. He served a home-cooked meal of pumpkin butter pork tenderloin with roasted potatoes and Brussel sprouts. Cucumber and hummus started the dinner; pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting topped it off.
Father Patalinghug praised the “intentional efforts” of the Diocese of Gary to offer future Holy Hours in the months ahead. “What a gift!” he exclaimed.
Future holy hours will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 14 at St. Matthias, Crown Point; Feb. 8, 2023 at Holy Family LaPorte; and March 31, 2023 at St. Joseph, Hammond.