Contents

Chapter 2

 

Chapter I
O Divine Eucharist!

JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST IS GOD AMONG US

When St. John Marie Vianney arrived at the remote little village of Ars, someone said to him sourly, "Here there is nothing to be done."

"Then, there is everything to be done," replied the Saint.

And he began immediately to act. What did he do? He rose at two o’clock in the morning and went to pray near the altar in the dark church. He recited the Divine Office, he made his meditation, and he prepared himself for Holy Mass. After the Holy Sacrifice, he made his thanksgiving. Then he remained at prayer until noon. He would be always kneeling on the floor without any support, with a Rosary in his hand and his eyes fixed on the tabernacle.

Things continued this way for a short time. Then he had to start changing his timetable; and things reached a point requiring radical changes in his program. The Eucharistic Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, little by little, drew souls to that poor parish, until the Church did not seem big enough to contain the crowds, and the confessional of the holy Curé became swamped with endless lines of penitents. He was obliged to hear confession for ten, fifteen, eighteen hours in a day!

How did such a transformation ever come about? There had been a poor Church, an altar long unused, an abandoned tabernacle, an ancient confessional, and a priest with no resources and little talent. How could such a wonderful change develop in that unknown village?

Padre Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo

We can ask the same question today regarding San Giovanni Rotondo, a town on Mt. Gargano, Italy. Until a few decades ago it was an obscure, unknown place amid the rough crags of a promontory. Today, San Giovanni Rotondo is a center of spiritual and cultural life and its reputation is international. Here, too, there had been an unpromising, sickly friar, an ancient, dilapidated little friary, a small neglected Church, with altar and tabernacle left ever alone to this poor friar, who wore out his beads and his hands in the untiring recitation of the Holy Rosary.

How did the change come about? What caused the wonderful transformation that came to Ars and to San Giovanni Rotondo, so that hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of persons have come to these places from every part of the earth?

Only God could work such transformations using, according to His ways, "those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something" (1 Cor. 1:28). It is all due to Him, to the divine and infinite power of the Eucharist, to the almighty force of attraction which radiates from every tabernacle, and which radiated from the tabernacles of Ars and San Giovanni Rotondo, reaching souls through the ministry of those two priests, true "ministers of the tabernacle" (Heb. 13:10) and "dispensers of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1).

The Emmanuel

Let us ask the question: What is the Eucharist? It is God with us. It is the Lord Jesus present in the tabernacles of our churches with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is Jesus veiled under the appearance of bread, but really and physically present in the consecrated Host, so that He dwells in our midst, works within us and for us, and is at our disposal. The Eucharistic Jesus is the true Emmanuel, the "God with us""(Mt. 1:23).

"The faith of the Church," Pope Pius XII teaches us, "is this: That one and identical is the Word of God and the Son of Mary who suffered on the Cross, who is present in the Eucharist, and who rules in Heaven."

The Eucharistic Jesus is here with us as a brother, as a friend, as spouse of our souls. He wishes to enter within us to be our Food for eternal life, our love, our support. He wants to make us part of His mystical Body in which He would redeem us and save us, and then take us into the kingdom of Heaven to settle us in an everlasting bliss of love.

With the Eucharist, God has truly given us everything. St. Augustine exclaimed: "Although God is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give."

When St. Peter Julian Eymard came to Paris, he was lodged in a very poor house in which many necessities were lacking. But when someone complained and another took pity on him, the Saint would respond, "The Blessed Sacrament is there. That is all that I need." When persons would approach him to obtain graces, help and comfort, the Saint would respond, "You will find all in the Eucharist: the warm words you want to hear, the knowledge and the miracles you need—yes, even the miracles."

"What more do you want"

To the Eucharist, then, we should go. To Jesus we should turn—to Jesus, who wishes to make Himself ours in order to make us His by rendering us "godlike." "O Jesus, Food of strong souls," St. Gemma Galgani used to say, "strengthen me, purify me, make me godlike." Let us receive the Eucharist with a pure and ardent heart. That is what the saints have done.

It should never be too much trouble for us to grow familiar with this unspeakable Mystery. Meditation, study and reflection on the Eucharist should have an important place each day on our timetable. It will be the time of our day richest in blessings.

It will do good to our soul and body. One reads in the life of St. Pius X that one day, when he was the parish priest of Salzano, he went on a visit to a sick altar boy. At that very moment the doctor also arrived and asked the sick boy how he was. The boy answered that on that day he was feeling better because he had been able to give a little instruction on the Eucharist to a few other boys.

At this response the doctor exclaimed with overtones of ridicule, "Oh! That’s nice. During my medical studies I never heard that a little Christian teaching could have such effects."

At this sour remark, the priest immediately intervened in defense of the youth and said to the doctor, "Oh, we see very well the effects of your science, doctor, and even a nearsighted person would see them well, too, because the cemetery is full of them…. But Christian doctrine fills up a place which only those who are intellectually shortsighted would not be able to see: Heaven!"

The Eucharist is the heavenly "leaven" (Mt. 13:33) which is capable of fermenting, in the human nature of every person, all spiritual and temporal goods. It is so great a good Itself that one cannot desire anything else greater. What, in fact, could one desire more, when within himself he has Jesus, living and real, the God-made-man, the Word made flesh and blood for our salvation and happiness?

On his deathbed St. Peter Julian Eymard gave this excellent reply to a religious who requested a final point for reflection: "I have nothing more to tell you. You already have the Eucharist. What more do you want?…."

KNOWING, LOVING, LIVING THE EUCHARIST

St. Peter Julian Eymard rightly said that "when a spark of the Eucharist is placed in a soul, a divine germ of life and of all the virtues is cast into that heart. This germ is sufficient of itself, so to say [to do much]."

In order to explore at least some of the immense riches stored up in the Mystery of the Eucharist, let us engage in a constant, unified exercise employing mind, heart and will.

An exercise of the mind

First, with the mind one meditates in an attentive, orderly way on the Eucharist. This may be done with books which lead us to personally uncover and deeply ponder this Mystery of Love. A simple little work rich in content is St. Alphonsus M. de’ Liguori’s Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In addition, there are the two precious little works by St. Peter Julian Eymard entitled, The Real Presence and Holy Communion.

We should, above all, turn to the school of St. Peter Julian Eymard, who was unequalled as an Apostle of the Eucharist. His vocation and mission was to lead all Christians to the Eucharist, to such an extent that people finally called him the "Priest of the Blessed Sacrament!"

When he founded the Congregation of Priests of the Blessed Sacrament, he offered his life for the eucharistic reign of Jesus. At that time he wrote these ardent words: "Here, dear Jesus, is my life. Behold me ready to eat stones and to die abandoned, just so that I may succeed in erecting a throne for Thee and give Thee a family of friends, a nation of adorers."

If we but knew the gifts of a God who is Love and who gives Himself to us as a Gift full of Love! "The Eucharist," said St. Bernard, "is that Love which surpasses all loves in Heaven and on earth." And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love: It signifies Love, It produces love."

A concrete instance which rivets our attention on this Love is that Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano (in the province of Abruzzi, Italy). There one venerates a consecrated Host which was transformed into living Flesh and which has been preserved in this state for more than a thousand years. The most recent chemical analyses of a particle of this Host verified the fact: it is indeed a piece of flesh which is still living and which is a part of a human heart. The Eucharist is indeed all one Heart!

One day an Arabian prince, Abd-ed-Kader, while passing through a street of Marseille with a French official, saw a priest who was carrying Holy Viaticum to a dying man. The French official stopped, uncovered his head, and knelt. His friend asked him the reason for this gesture.

"I adore my God, whom the priest is carrying to a sick person," replied the good official.

"How is it possible," the prince said, "for you to believe that God who is so great, makes Himself so little and lets Himself go even to the homes of the poor? We Mohammedans have a much higher idea of God."

The official answered, "It is because you have only an idea of the greatness of God; but you do not know His Love."

That is the answer. In confirmation of this, St. Peter Eymard declares, "The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but Heaven itself." Yet, how many of us Christians do not know the vast extent of the love contained in the Eucharist!

An exercise of the heart

Second, to explore the riches of the Eucharist, we use the heart. If every Christian must love Jesus Christ: "If any man love not Our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." (1 Cor. 16:22), love for the Eucharist must spring from the heart and be ever alive in us all.

Among all the saints, perhaps one of the greatest models is St. Peter Julian Eymard, in whom love for the Eucharist reached such an intensity as to transform itself into a love of madness. It is for this reason that he was called "the fool of the Blessed Sacrament."

Now even love needs exercise. The heart needs to be exercised to love the true God, to long for "The Author of Life" (Acts 3:15).

Holy Communion represents the loftiest point of this exercise of love, whose consuming flames unite the heart of a creature and Jesus. St. Gemma Galgani could exclaim in this regard, "I can no longer avoid thinking of how, in the wonderful greatness of His Love, Jesus makes Himself perceptible and shows Himself to His lowliest creature in all the splendors of His Heart." And what may we say about the exercise of the heart of St. Gemma, who desired to be a "tent of love" in which she would keep Jesus always with her? She longed to have a "little place in the ciborium" to be able to stay always with Jesus. She asked to become "a flaming ball afire with love" for Jesus.

When St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus had become quite ill, she dragged herself with great effort to Church to receive Jesus. One morning, after Holy Communion, she was in her cell, exhausted. One of the sisters remarked that she should not exert herself so much. The Saint replied, "Oh, what are these sufferings to me in comparison with one daily Holy Communion!"—Something not permitted everywhere in her times. She ardently pleaded with Jesus: "Remain within me, as You do in the tabernacle. Do not ever withdraw Your presence from Your little host."

When St. Margaret Mary Alacoque left the world and consecrated herself to God in the cloister, she made a private vow and wrote it in her blood, "All for the Eucharist; nothing for me." It is useless to attempt to describe the Saint’s burning love for the Eucharist. When she was not able to receive Holy Communion, she broke out in ardent expressions of love like these: "I have such a desire for Holy Communion that if I had to walk barefoot along a path of fire to obtain It, I would do so with unspeakable joy."

St. Catherine of Siena often said to her confessor: "Father, I am hungry. For the love of God give this soul her Food, her Lord in the Eucharist." She also confided: "When I am not able to receive my Lord, I go into the Church, and there I look at Him…. I look at Him again…. And this satisfies me."

During her long and painful illness, St. Bernadette one time expressed the happiness that she felt in times of sleeplessness, because then she was able to unite herself to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Referring to a little golden monstrance that was depicted on the curtain about her bed, she said, "His visit gives me the desire and strength to offer myself as a sacrifice, when I feel all alone and in pain."

This is called the "exercise of the heart."

The exercise of the will

Third, to find the riches of the Eucharist, one should exercise the will. One must do this by bringing the divine lessons of the Eucharist into his life. What good would it be to discover the infinite worth of the Eucharist as we ponder It and seek to love It at Communion time, if we do not proceed to live It?

The Eucharist teaches a love that goes beyond telling. It teaches total self-sacrifice, and an unequalled lesson in humility and self-effacement. It teaches patience and unrestricted dedication. But what do we draw from all this? We surely ought to achieve something, if we but reflect how Jesus has loved us and still lvoes us with such great generosity "even to the end?" (Jn. 13:1)

If we feel frail, we need to turn to Him, to speak to Him and not tarry about asking His help and support, for He is the very One who said, "Without Me you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5), while with the Eucharist not only are we capable of everything, but we also obtain what should amaze and move us, that is, our identification with Jesus, as St. Augustine tells us: "It is not a case of us transforming Christ into ourselves, as we commonly do with food; but it is Jesus who transforms us into Himself."

First of all, let us go before Him: "Come to Me…. and I will refresh you" (Mt. 11:28). Let us often visit Him, entering a Church every time we can and pausing a little while before the tabernacle, and put both our heart and body before Him! The saints were constantly eager to make visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, to make Holy Hours of adoration, spiritual Communions, ejaculatory prayers and earnest acts of love that come from the heart. How much profit they gained from this and how much good they passed on!

One day in Turin a friend, who was his companion from the university, asked Bl. Peter George Frassati, "Let us go and take an appetizer." Peter George took advantage of the occasion and replied, indicating to his friend the nearby Church of St. Dominic, "Of course. Let us go and take it in that café." Entering the Church, they prayed for a little while near the tabernacle; when they approached the offering box, Peter George said, "Here is the appetizer." And from the pockets of the two youths came alms for the poor!

Thinking of the Eucharist during his sermon, St. John Chrysostom once asked, "How can we make of our bodies a host?" and gave this answer: "Let your eyes look at nothing evil, and you have offered a sacrifice; let not your tongue speak unbecoming words, and you have made an offering; let not your hand commit a sin, and you have offered a holocaust."

Just recall the eyes of St. Colette, which were always lowered and recollected in sweet modesty. Why? She once gave the answer: "I have filled my eyes with Jesus, upon whom I have gazed at the elevation of the Host at Holy Mass, and I do not wish to replace Him with another image."

Let us think of the edifying reserve of the saints in speaking, controlling well the tongue which had been consecrated by contact with the Body of Jesus.

Recall the good works which souls, filled with a love imparted by the Eucharist, have accomplished because Jesus communicated to them His own sentiments of love for all of our fellow men, especially those most in need. Thus, St. Francis de Sales exhorted every soul to approach the Eucharist as much as possible, because "by adoring and partaking of His beauty, His Goodness and His purity in this Divine Sacrament, you will become all beautiful, good and pure."

Can we not also exercise our wills thus? Let us learn from the saints and start imitating their good works.

 

Contents

Chapter 2

 

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