Jesus in me
"He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides
in Me and I in him" (John 6:57)
HOLY COMMUNION: JESUS IS MINE
In Holy Communion Jesus gives Himself to me and becomes
mine, all mine, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. One day St. Gemma
Galgani said to Jesus with artless simplicity, "I am Your
With Communion, Jesus enters my heart and remains
corporally present in me as long as the species (the appearance) of bread
lasts; that is, for about 15 minutes. The Holy Fathers teach that during
this time the angels surround me to continue to adore Jesus and love Him
without interruption. "When Jesus is corporally present within us,
the angels surround us as a guard of love," wrote St. Bernard.
He in me and I in Him
Perhaps we think too little about the sublimity of
every Holy Communion. Yet St. Pius X said that "if the angels could
envy, they would envy us for Holy Communion." And St. Madeleine
Sophie Barat defined Holy Communion as "Paradise on earth."
All the saints have understood by experience the divine
marvel of our meeting and our union with Jesus in the Eucharist. They have
understood that a devout Holy Communion means being possessed by Him and
possessing Him. "He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides
in Me and I in him" (John 6:57). On one occasion St. Gemma
Galgani wrote, "It is now night. Tomorrow morning is approaching, and
then Jesus will possess me and I will possess Jesus." It is not
possible to have a union of love which is deeper and more total: He in me
and I in Him; the one in the other. What more could we want?
"You envy," said St. John Chrysostom,
"the privilege of the woman who touched the vestments of Jesus, of
the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears, of the women of
Galilee who had the happiness of following Him in His pilgrimages, of the
Apostles and disciples who conversed with Him familiarly, of the people of
the time who listened to the words of grace and salvation which came forth
from His lips. You consider fortunate those who saw Him. . . . However,
come to the altar and you will see Him, you will feel Him [when received
in Communion], you will give Him holy kisses, you will wash Him with your
tears, you will carry Him within you like Mary Most Holy."
For this reason the saints desired and longed for Holy
Communion with ardent love; for example, St. Francis of Assisi, St.
Catherine of Siena, St. Paschal Baylon, St. Veronica, St. Gerard, St.
Margaret Mary Alacoque, St. Dominic Savio, St. Gemma Galgani. . . . It is
pointless to continue, for one would need to list all the saints.
For example, one night St. Catherine of Genoa dreamed
that the following day she would not be able to receive Holy Communion.
The sorrow that she experienced was so great that she cried unceasingly,
and when she woke up the next morning, she found that her face was all wet
from the tears she shed in her dream.
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus wrote a little
eucharistic poem, "Desires near the Tabernacle," in which, among
other beautiful things, she said, "I would like to be the chalice and
adore the Divine Blood therein. I can, however, in the Holy Sacrifice,
gather Him in me every morning. My soul is therefore dearer to Jesus, it
is more precious than vessels of gold." And how great was the
happiness of that angelic Saint when, during an epidemic, daily Communion
was given to her!
A day without the sun
St. Gemma Galgani one time was put to the test by a
confessor who forbade her to receive Holy Communion. "O Father,
Father," she wrote to her spiritual director, "today I went to
Confession and the confessor has said that I must stop receiving Jesus. O
my Father, my pen does not want to write any more, my hand trembles
violently, I cry." O dear Saint! Truly a seraph all on fire with love
for the Eucharistic Jesus.
For the angelic youth Aldo Marcozzi, a day without Holy
Communion was a day without the sun. In the winter mornings his mother
wanted him to take something hot before leaving for school. In doing so,
however, he would not be able to receive Holy Communion (since in those
times fasting was required from midnight, and not for only one hour as it
is today). The holy youth would then say to his mother with sorrow:
"Mother, you will have to render an account to God for the Communions
that you do not let me receive!" Another time a companion asked him
if he was not feeling well because he appeared a bit sad. "Today is a
bad day for me," replied Aldo, "because I have not been able to
Similarly, St. Gerard Majella, for a false slanderous
report from which he did not wish to defend himself, was punished by being
deprived of Holy Communion. The suffering of the Saint was such that one
day he refused to go to serve Holy Mass for a priest who was visiting,
"because," he said, "on seeing Jesus in the Holy in the
hands of the priest, I might not conquer a temptation to snatch a Host
from his hands." What a longing consumed this wonderful Saint! And
what a rebuke for us who, perhaps, are able to receive Holy Communion
daily with ease and do not. It is a sign that we lack the essential thing:
love. And perhaps we are so in love with earthly pleasures that we can no
longer appreciate the heavenly delights of union with Jesus in the Host.
"My son, how can you perceive the fragrance of
Paradise which comes forth from the tabernacle?" asked St. Philip of
a young man in love with the pleasures of the flesh, of dances and
amusements. The joys of the Eucharist and the satisfaction of the senses
are "opposed to each other" (Gal. 5:17), and the "sensual
man perceives not these things which are of the Spirit of God" (1
Cor. 2:14)—that is, he knows not the wisdom which comes from God.
St. Philip Neri loved the Eucharist so much that, even
when he was gravely ill, he received Holy Communion every day, and if
Jesus was not brought to him very early in the morning, he became very
upset and could not find any rest. "I have such a desire to receive
Jesus," he exclaimed, "that I cannot have peace while I
The same happened within our own time with Padre Pio of Pietrelcina;
for only holy obedience could make him wait until 4 or 5 A.M. to celebrate
Mass. Truly, the love of God is a "devouring fire" (Deut.
Jesus unites me to all
When Jesus is mine, the whole Church rejoices—the
Church in Heaven, in Purgatory and on earth. Who can express the joy the
angels and saints feel at every Holy Communion worthily received? A new
current of love enters Paradise and a new delight comes to the blessed
spirits every time a creature unites himself devoutly to Jesus to possess
Him and be possessed by Him. A Holy Communion is of much greater value
than an ecstasy, a rapture or a vision. Holy Communion transports the
whole of Paradise into my poor heart!
For the souls in Purgatory then, Holy Communion is one
precious personal gift which they can receive from us. Who can tell how
helpful Holy Communions are toward their liberation? One day St. Mary
Magdalene de’Pazzi’s dead father appeared to her and said that one
hundred and seven Holy Communions were necessary for him to be able to
leave Purgatory. When the last of the one hundred and seven was offered
for him, the Saint saw her father ascend to Heaven.
St. Bonaventure made himself an apostle of this truth
and spoke about it in vibrant tones: "O Christian souls, do you wish
to prove your true love towards your dead? Do you wish to send them a most
precious help and golden key to Heaven? Receive Holy Communion often for
the repose of their souls."
Finally, let us reflect that in Holy Communion we unite
ourselves not only to Jesus but also to all the members of the Mystical
Body of Christ, especially to the souls most dear to Jesus and most dear
to our heart. "Because the Bread is one," writes St.
Paul, "we, though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the
one Bread" (1 Cor. 10:17). It is in Holy Communion that we
realize fully the words of Jesus, "I in them. . . that they may be
perfect in unity" (John 17:23). The Eucharist renders us one,
even among ourselves, His members, "all one in Jesus" as
St. Paul says (Gal. 3:28). Holy Communion is indeed pure love of God and
neighbor. It is the true "feast of love," as St. Gemma Galgani
said. And in this "feast of love" the soul in love can exult
singing with St. John of the Cross, "Mine are the heavens and mine is
the earth. Mine are men; the just are mine and sinners are mine. The
angels are mine, and also the Mother of God—all things are mine. God
Himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me."
THE PURITY OF SOUL NECESSARY FOR HOLY COMMUNION
What is there to say about the great unity of soul with
which the saints managed to receive the Bread of angels? We know that they
had a great delicacy of conscience which was truly angelic. Aware of their
own wretchedness, they tried to present themselves to Jesus "holy
and immaculate" (Eph. 1:4), repeating with the publican, "O
God, be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13), and having
recourse with great care to the cleansing of Confession.
"Approach the Sacred Banquet," said St. John
Baptist de La Salle, "with the same dispositions that you would
desire to have in order to enter Heaven. One should not have less respect
in receiving Jesus than in being received by Him."
When St. Jerome was brought Holy Viaticum at the end of
his life, the Saint prostrated himself on the ground in adoration, and he
was heard to repeat with profound humility the words of St. Elizabeth and
those of St. Peter, "How is this, that my Lord should come to
me?" "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord"
(Luke 1:43; 5:8). And how many times was the angelic and seraphic St.
Gemma tempted not to receive Holy Communion, considering herself to be
nothing else than a vile "dunghill?"
They went to confession every day
Padre Pio of Pietrelcina used to repeat with
trepidation to his brethren, "God sees stains even in the angels.
What must He see in me!" For this reason he was very diligent in
making his sacramental Confessions. So too St. Teresa of Jesus, when she
was aware of having committed the least venial sin, would never receive
Holy Communion without first going to Confession.
"Oh, if we could only understand who is that God
whom we receive in Holy Communion, then what purity of heart we would
bring to Him!" exclaimed St. Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi.
For this reason St. Hugh, St. Thomas Aquinas, St.
Francis de Sales, St. Ignatius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Francis Borgia,
St. Louis Bertrand, St. Joseph of Cupertino, St. Leonard of Port Maurice
and many other saints went to Confession every day before celebrating Holy
St. Camillus de Lellis never celebrated Holy Mass
without first going to Confession, because he wanted at least "to
dust off" his soul. Once at sundown in a public square in Livorno,
before taking leave of a priest of the same religious order, foreseeing
that he would not have a priest to confess to on the following morning
before his Mass, the Saint paused, took off his hat, made the sign of the
Cross and went to Confession right there in the square to his confrere.
St. Alphonsus, St. Joseph Cafasso, St. John Bosco, St.
Pius X, and Padre Pio of Pietrelcina also went to Confession very often.
And why did St. Pius X wish to lower the age for first Holy Communion to
seven years, if not to allow Jesus to enter into the innocent hearts of
children, which are so similar to angels? And why was Padre Pio so
delighted when they brought him children five years old who were prepared
for first Holy Communion? St. John Bosco held that "when a child
knows how to distinguish between ordinary bread and the Eucharistic Bread
and is sufficiently instructed, one should not be too worried about his
age. We should want the King of Heaven to come and reign in his
Self-examination, repentance, purification
The saints applied to perfection the directive of the
Holy Spirit: "Let everyone first examine himself, and then eat of
that Bread and drink of that Chalice, because he who eats and drinks
unworthily, eats and drinks unto his own condemnation" (1 Cor.
To examine themselves, to repent, to accuse themselves
in Confession and to ask pardon of God, profiting even every day from the
Sacrament of Confession, was something natural for the saints. How
fortunate they were to be capable of so much! The fruits of sanctification
were constant and abundant because the pure soul who welcomes into herself
Jesus, "the Wheat of the elect" (Zach. 9:17) is like the
"good ground… which bears fruit in patience" (Luke 8:15).
St. Anthony Mary Claret illustrates this fact very
well: "When we go to Holy Communion, all of us receive the same Lord
Jesus, but not all receive the same grace nor are the same effects
produced in all. This comes from our greater or lesser disposition. To
explain this fact, I will take an example from nature. Consider the
process of grafting: the greater the similarity of one plant to the other,
the better the graft will succeed. In the same way, the more resemblance
there is between the person who goes to Communion and Jesus, so much the
better will the fruits of Holy Communion be." The Sacrament of
Confession is in fact the excellent means whereby the similarity between
the soul and Jesus is restored.
For this reason St. Francis de Sales taught his
spiritual children, "Go to Confession with humility and devotion. . .
if it is possible, every time you feel in your conscience any remorse of
Sacrilege—a horrible sin
In this regard it is well to recall the teaching of the
Holy Communion must be received only when one is in the
grace of God. Therefore, when one has committed a mortal sin, even if one
has repented of it and has a great desire to receive Holy Communion, it is
necessary and indispensable to go to Confession first before receiving
Holy Communion. Otherwise one commits a most grave sin of sacrilege, for
which Jesus said to St. Bridget, "There does not exist on earth a
penalty great enough to punish it sufficiently!"
St. Ambrose said that persons who commit this sacrilege
"come into church with a few sins, and leave it burdened with
many." St. Cyril wrote even more bluntly: "They who make a
sacrilegious Communion receive Satan and Jesus Christ into their hearts—Satan,
that they may let him rule, and Jesus Christ, that they may offer Him in a
sacrifice as a Victim to Satan."
Thus the Catechism of the Council of Trent (De Euch.,
v.i.) declares, "As of all the sacred mysteries . . . none can
compare with the. . . Eucharist, so likewise for no crime is there heavier
punishment to be feared from God than for the unholy or irreligious use by
the faithful of that which. . . contains the very Author and Source of
Instead, Confession made before Holy Communion to
render a soul already in the state of sanctifying grace purer and more
beautiful, is something precious even if not required. It is precious
because it clothes the souls with a more beautiful "wedding
garment" (cf. Mt. 22:12) in which to take its place at the table of
the angels. For this reason the most conscientious souls have always made
frequent use (at least once a week) of the sacramental cleansing of
absolution, even for venial sins.
If you want great purity of soul before receiving
Jesus, none is brighter than the purity obtained through a good
Confession, where the cleansing Blood of Jesus tenders the repentant soul
divinely resplendent and lovely. "The soul that receives the Divine
Blood becomes beautiful, for it is clothed in a more precious garment, and
it appears so resplendently aglow that, if you could see it, you would be
tempted to adore it," declared St. Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi.
Holy Communion with Mary
Oh, how much it pleases Jesus to be received by a soul
cleansed and clothed with His Divine Blood! And what affectionate delight
He takes when such a soul is a chaste virgin! For, remarks St. Albert the
Great, "the Eucharist came from the Paradise of Virginity"
(namely, Mary); and our Eucharistic Lord does not find such a paradise
except in virginity. No one can repeat with the Spouse of the Canticle of
Canticles, as can a virgin, at every Holy Communion: "All mine is my
true Love, and I am all His; . . . He goes out to pasture among the
lilies. . . and addresses His love to me" (Cant. 2:16-17).
One praiseworthy way of preparing for Holy Communion is
to invoke the Immaculate Virgin, to count on her to enable us to receive
Jesus with her humility, her purity and her love—praying rather that she
herself may come to receive Him in us. This pious practice is much
recommended by the saints, in particular St. Louis Grignon de Montfort,
St. Peter Eymard, St. Alphonsus de’ Liguori, and St. Maximilian Mary
Kolbe. "The best preparation for Holy Communion is that which is made
with Mary," wrote St. Peter Eymard. A delightful illustration is
given by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, picturing her soul as a little three or
four-year old girl whose hair and dress were in disarray, ashamed to
present herself at the altar rail to receive Jesus. However she appeals to
Our Lady, and "immediately," the Saint writes, "the Virgin
Mary occupies herself with me. She quickly replaces my dirty dress, ties
up my hair with a pretty ribbon and adds a simple flower. . . This is
enough to make me attractive and enables me to take my place without
embarrassment at the Banquet of the angels."
Let us try this method of preparation. We will not be
disappointed. We will be able to say what St. Gemma exclaimed in ecstasy,
"How beautiful it is to receive Communion with the Mother of
THANKSGIVING AFTER HOLY COMMUNION
The time of thanksgiving after Holy Communion is the
most ideal time for an intimate exchange of love with Jesus. Let it be a
love of total self-giving, thus returning Jesus’ love so wholeheartedly
that there is no longer two of us but one, so to speak, in soul and body.
Let it be a love that vivifies and unties—He in me and I in Him, so that
we may be consumed in the unity and uniqueness of His Love.
"You are my loving prey just as I am the prey of
Your immense charity," said St. Gemma to Jesus with tenderness.
St. John wrote, "Blessed are they that are
called to the wedding banquet of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:9). In truth,
in Eucharistic Communion rightly received, the soul realizes, in a
heavenly, virginal union, a nuptial love for the Spouse, Jesus, to whom
the soul can say with the most tender enthusiasm of the Bride in the
Canticle of Canticles: "Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His mouth"
Thanksgiving after Holy Communion is a small foretaste, while on earth,
of the love which will be experienced in Paradise. In Heaven, in fact, how
shall we love Jesus if not by being one with Him eternally? Dear Jesus,
sweet Jesus, oh how I ought to thank You for every Holy Communion that You
grant me! Was not St. Gemma right in saying that she would thank You in
Paradise for the Eucharist more than for anything else? What a miracle of
love to be so completely united with You, O Jesus!
Water, yeast, wax
A Father of the Church, St. Cyril of Alexandria, used
three analogies to illustrate the union of love with Jesus in Holy
Communion: "He who receives Communion is made holy and is divinized
in soul and body in the same way that water, set over a fire, begins to
boil… Communion works like yeast that has been mixed into dough so that
it leavens the whole mass… Just as by melting two candles together, one
piece of wax results, so, I think, one who receives the Flesh and Blood of
Jesus is by this Communion fused with Him, and the soul discovers that she
is in Christ and Christ is in her."
For this reason St. Gemma Galgani used to speak in awed
wonder of the eucharistic union between "Jesus who is All and Gemma
who is nothing." In an ecstasy she exclaimed, "What great
sweetness there is, O Jesus, in Communion! I want to live in Your embrace
and die in Your embrace." And Bl. Contardo Ferrini wrote, "Ah,
Holy Communion! Unspeakable heights for a human spirit to reach! What does
the world have that equals these pure, heavenly joys, these tastes of
One day also ponder fruitfully the relation of Holy
Communion to the Blessed Trinity. One day St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi
was kneeling with arms crossed among the novices after Communion. She
raised her eyes heavenward and said, "O sisters, if only we would
comprehend that while the Eucharistic Species remain within us, Jesus is
there, working in us inseparably with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, the whole Holy Trinity is present—" She could not finish
speaking because she became rapt in ecstasy.
At least a quarter of an hour
The saints chose, when possible, to set no time limit
on thanksgiving after Communion, which consequently might last for them at
least half an hour. St. Teresa of Jesus told her daughters, "Let us
entertain ourselves lovingly with Jesus and not waste the hour that
follows Communion. It is an excellent time to deal with God and put before
Him the matters that concern our soul… As we know that the good Jesus
remains within us until our natural warmth has dissolved the breadlike
qualities, we should take great care not to lose so beautiful an
opportunity to treat with Him and lay our needs before Him."
St. Francis of Assisi, St. Juliana Falconieri, St.
Catherine, St. Paschal, St. Veronica, St. Joseph of Cupertino, St. Gemma,
and many others, used almost always to fall into an ecstasy of love
immediately after receiving Holy Communion. As for its duration, only the
angels measured the time. So, too, St. Teresa of Avila nearly always went
into ecstasy right after receiving Holy Communion, and sometimes it was
necessary to carry her away bodily from the communion grille.
St. John of Avila, St. Ignatius Loyola, and St.
Aloysius Gonzaga used to make their thanksgiving on their knees for two
hours. St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi wanted it to continue without
interruption. It was necessary to constrain her so that she might take a
little nourishment. "The minutes that follow Communion," the
Saint said, "are the most precious we have in our lives. They are the
minutes best suited on our part for treating with God, and on His part for
communicating His Love to us."
St. Louis Grignon de Montfort used to remain after Holy
Mass for thanksgiving at least a half hour, and he would not permit any
need or assignment to serve as a reason for omitting it. He said, "I
would not give up this hour of thanksgiving even for an hour of
Let us, also, resolve to do everything possible so that
thanksgiving after Holy Communion last at least fifteen minutes and
nothing take precedence over it. These minutes during which Jesus is
physically present to our souls and within our bodies are heavenly minutes
in no wise to be wasted.
St. Philip and the candles
The Apostle, St. Paul wrote, "Glorify and bear
God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:20). There is no time in which these
words, taken literally, apply so well as during the time immediately after
receiving Holy Communion. How insensitive, then, for someone to receive
Communion and leave church at once as soon as Mass is over, or as soon as
he has received Our Lord! We may remember the example of St. Philip Neri,
who had two altar boys with lighted candles go to accompany a man who had
left the church right after his Communion. What a beautiful lesson! For
the sake of good manners, if for no other reason, when a person receives a
guest he pauses to give his attention to him and takes interest in him. If
this guest is Jesus, then we will only have reason to be sorry that His
bodily presence within us scarcely lasts fifteen minutes or a little more.
In view of this, St. Joseph Cottolengo personally used to oversee the
baking of hosts for Mass and Communion. To the sister assigned to this he
gave the following instruction: "Make the hosts thick so that I can
linger a long time with Jesus. I do not want the Sacred Species to be
And why did St. Alphonsus de’ Liguori fill the
chalice with wine almost to the brim? Only to possess Jesus longer within
Are we not perhaps acting contrary to the example of
the saints when we regard our period of thanksgiving as too long and
perhaps feel impatient to get it over with? But, oh how we should watch
ourselves here! For if it is true that at every Communion Jesus
"gives us a hundredfold for the hospitality we show Him," as St.
Teresa of Jesus declares, then it is also true that we must answer a
hundredfold for neglecting this hospitality. A confrere of Padre Pio of
Pietrelcina told how one day he went to Confession to the holy friar, and,
among other things, confessed to omitting his thanksgiving after Holy Mass
because, he said, some ministry impeded him. While Padre Pio was lenient
in judging the other faults, when he heard him confess this omission, his
countenance became stern and he said firmly, "Let us see to it that
our being unable is not just being unwilling. I always have to make my
thanksgiving; otherwise I pay dearly."
Let us give the matter serious thought and attention.
When it comes to something so very precious as this thanksgiving, let us
take to heart the Holy Spirit’s admonition, "Let not your share
of desired good pass you by" (Ecclus. 14:14). Blessed Contardo
Ferrini considered preparation for and thanksgiving after Holy Communion
so important that every day he would outline the points of reflection,
over which he would then linger, all engrossed and happy.
Thanksgiving with Our Lady
There is a special beauty in thanksgiving made in the
company of Our Lady of the Annunciation. Immediately after Holy Communion
we too carry Jesus within our souls and bodies, just as the All Holy Mary
did at the Annunciation. And we cannot adore and love Jesus better at that
moment than by uniting ourselves to the Mother of God, by making ours the
same sentiments of adoration and love she entertained for her Divine Son
Jesus enclosed within Her immaculate womb.
Our Lady is the heavenly bond that unites Jesus to us;
besides, she is the knot of love between Jesus and His creatures. Our
Lady, said the holy Curé of Ars, stays always, "between her Son and
us." When we pray to Jesus with her, when we adore Him and love Him
with the Heart of Our Lady, our every prayer and our every act of
adoration and of love become pure and precious. St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe
said that when we entrust something to the Immaculate, she, before
presenting it to Jesus, purifies it of every defect—makes it immaculate.
The holy Curé of Ars also remarked: "When our hands have touched
aromatic substances, these render fragrant all they touch; let us allow
our prayers to pass through the hands of Our Lady and she will make them
Let us make our thanksgiving after Holy Communion pass
through her Immaculate Heart; she will transform it into a most pure
canticle of adoration and love.
For this the meditated recitation of the Holy Rosary,
especially the joyful mysteries, as many saints teach us, can be helpful.
Who will ever, indeed, be able to know perfect the
Divinity of Jesus, adore Him, love Him and let himself be divinized, as
Our Lady was at the message of the Angel? Who will ever be able to bear
Jesus alive within himself and remain deeply united to Him in adoration
and love as Our Lady did in the Mystery of the Visitation? Who will ever
be able to be filled with Jesus, to beget Him, and present Him to others,
as did the Virgin Mother in the cave of Bethlehem?
Let us try this. We cannot but gain and benefit in
remaining united to Our Lady in order to love Jesus with her heavenly
BREAD TO MAKE STRONG AND VIATICUM FOR HEAVEN
In the life of St. Vincent de Paul we read that one
day, after having gathered his priests together, he asked them: "Have
you celebrated Mass?" "Yes," they all replied.
"Then," responded the Saint, "I can now tell you what this
entails. You must abandon your country, family, friends and go into exile
in a strange land in order to speak about God to the savages and
afterwards certainly die, miserably."
Immediately, all these priests, being filled with
Jesus, generously offered themselves for that dangerous mission to save
It should go without saying that for everyone Christ in
the Eucharist is the true Bread which makes them strong. It is the
Nourishment of heroes, the Sustenance of martyrs, and the Comfort to souls
in their last agony.
In order to encourage the faithful to receive Holy
Communion, St. Robert Bellarmine would preach against the errors of the
Protestants in this manner: "The bread of wheat that nourishes our
bodies is not prepared with so much labor only to be contemplated; it is
made to be eaten. Thus, the Bread of Life, the Bread of the angels, is not
offered only for our adoration and homage, but was given to us as food.
Let us go, then, and partake of this Food to nourish and fortify our
"I will refresh you"
In the Eucharist, Jesus repeats this affectionate
summons to us, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears: "Come
to Me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will refresh you"
(Mt. 21:28). For surely "the life of man on earth is a
warfare" (Job 7:1). Moreover, Jesus’ followers "shall
suffer persecution" (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12; Mt. 5:10); and it is true
that they that are Christ’s "have crucified their flesh with its
passions and concupiscences" (Gal. 6:34), and that we ought to
live as dead "with Christ to the elements of the world" (Col.
It is also true that with Jesus "I can do all
things in Him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13); for Jesus is "all"
(cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:17). In Holy Communion He makes Himself "all
mine." Then I can say with the Servant of God Louise M. Claret de la
Touche, "What need I fear? He who sustains the world is within me.
The Blood of a God circulates within my veins. Have no fear, O my soul.
The Lord of the universe has taken you into His arms and desires you to
find rest in Him."
In view of this St. Vincent de Paul was able to ask his
missionaries, "When you have received Jesus into your hearts, can any
sacrifice be impossible for you?" And St. Vincent Ferrer, during the
two years he had to suffer in prison as a victim of persecution, abounded
with exceeding great joy in all his tribulations (cf. 2 Cor. 7:4), because
he somehow managed to celebrate Holy Mass every day in spite of the
fetters, chains and darkness of the dungeon.
The same courage and joy filled St. Joan of Arc when
she was allowed to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist before mounting the
stake. When Jesus entered her dark prison, the Saint fell on her knees
amidst her chains, received Jesus, and was absorbed in deep prayer. As
soon as she was bidden to go forth to her death, she rose and began to
walk without interrupting her prayer. She mounted the stake and died amid
the flames, ever in union with Jesus, who remained in her soul and
Strength of the Martyrs
The whole history of the martyrs, from St. Stephen, the
protomartyr, to the angelic martyr, St. Tarcisius, and the martyrs of more
recent times, attests to the superhuman strength which the Eucharist
bestows in battle against the devil and against all the hellish powers
prowling about the world for the ruin of souls (cf. 1 Pet. 5:9).
To cite just one contemporary example, some years ago,
in communist China, some nuns were arrested, incarcerated with other
prisoners and forbidden even to pray. The guards observed their gestures,
their bodily posture, the expressions of their faces and the movements of
their lips in order to punish severely any violation. The poor sisters
yearned, above all, for one thing: the Eucharist. An old Christian lady
offered her services to the bishop to bring secretly to them consecrated
Hosts wrapped in a handkerchief. This is the successful stratagem she
employed. She presented herself to the prisoners and, in plain view of the
guards, she assumed the character of a person mad with rage, spewing a
torrent of insults against the nuns; but at the propitious moment she
slipped her little bundle to one of the nuns and left the prison,
promising the guards that she would return… to mock the sisters!
Remember, finally, the heavenly comfort and aid which Holy Communion
brings to the sick, and not merely to their souls, but to their bodies as
well, which on occasion are wonderfully healed. For example, with St.
Lydwina, St. Thérèse and Alexandrina da Casta, during the whole time the
Sacred Species remained within their bodies, their terrible physical
sufferings would marvelously cease. So, too, with St. Lawrence of Brindisi
and St. Peter Claver, while they were celebrating Holy Mass, all the pain
of the grievous ailments afflicting them would cease.