Chapter 2

Contents

Chapter 4

 

Chapter III
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 master."

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 receive Jesus."

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 wait."

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. 4:24).

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 Mass.

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 soul."

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. 11:28-29).

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 mortal sin."

Sacrilege—a horrible sin

In this regard it is well to recall the teaching of the Church.

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 holiness."

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 Paradise!"

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" (Cant. 1:1).

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 eternal glory!"

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 Paradise."

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 quickly consumed."

And why did St. Alphonsus de’ Liguori fill the chalice with wine almost to the brim? Only to possess Jesus longer within his body.

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 fragrant."

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 Heart!

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 souls.

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 souls."

"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. 2:20).

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 immolated body.

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.

 

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