Friday, June 6, 2014

D Day and Holy Communion

Taken from a beautiful print by Gil Cohen
"God and Country"
Today on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion I want to remember one of our former members, Colonel Gus Enskat. 

I first got to know Gus because he came to all my adult catechism classes and helped by taking care of the Bibles, pencils and study guides. He sat quietly in the back of the room and listened to all the classes and then helped me put everything away.

I knew Gus had been in the D-Day invasion. I also knew that he hit the beach as a sergeant but received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant. One evening Gus told a story about D-Day that I will never forget, and one that I've been telling every catechism class since.

We were studying Holy Communion, and I told the class that the Bible doesn't specify how often we should receive communion.  God's main concern is that we receive it often but always in a beneficial way. In Acts 20.7 it appears that the disciples "came together to break bread" regularly on the first day of the week. This points us to a weekly celebration of communion. But this description of the early church isn't necessarily a prescription for all Christians. Paul's concern about celebrating it with the right understanding and for the right reasons (1 Corinthians 10 & 11) tells us that there could be good reasons for waiting for communion if we need instructions or if we simply don't have our minds focused on it in the right way. Communion is about the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, and where there is the desire for that, there we will have Communion the way God intended it. 

I then said that there could be good reasons for celebrating communion even more than once a week. For example, if there were some huge disaster such as an earthquake, tornado or terrorist attack. With many people suffering and dying, I could definitely see us celebrating Communion often, perhaps daily.  At that point Gus, who normally never said anything in class, raised his hand. This was his reason for having communion often…

Gus told about how he and his fellow soldiers ran for cover on the beach while they were being showered with machine-gun fire. Many of them were killed in those first horrific minutes. Finding cover they began to reorganize and to fight back. Gus said that the next 72 hours were a blur. He remembered eating very little or sleeping. But the one thing he remembered the most was how much he and all the soldiers around him were praying… praying for their lives. This was 72 hours of not knowing whether or not you would be alive in the next fifteen minutes. Gus said there were chaplains with them. He couldn't remember for sure, but he thought that during those 72 hours he was able to receive Holy Communion at least two times. 

Gus was a living example of the good and proper use of Holy Communion. It is for our forgiveness, for our faith, for our life and salvation. We should receive it as often as we can for those reasons. 

Pictured below is one of the two chalices donated by another former member, Chaplain Ernie Wentzel which were used by the U.S. Army. 

Here is Gus' citation for the Bronze Star which earned later in August of 1944.

2nd Lieutenant
Unit:Company D31st Tank Battalion7th Armored Division "Lucky Seventh"U.S. Army (Company D, 31st Tank Battalion, 7th Armored Division "Lucky Seventh", U.S. Army)
Action:Second Lieutenant Gus W. Enskat (Army Serial Number 01019132), Infantry, Company "D", 31st Tank Battalion, United States Army, for distinguishing himself by heroic service in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States on 15 August 1944, in the area of Lèves, France. 2nd Lt. Enskat was leading his tank platoon on a mission when it was fired upon from highground commanding the road. He ordered his platoon to return the fire and succeeded in taking the hill. When firing had ceased, he dismounted, proceeded up the hill, and accepted the surrender of two officers and 48 enlisted men. After turning over his prisoners to other troops he and his platoon continued on its assigned mission. His determination to complete his mission regardless of the obstacles and his effective leadership is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Service.
Details:Headquarters, 7th Armored Division, General Orders No. 47 (13 September 1944).