Chapter 3

Contents

Chapter 5

 

Chapter IV
Jesus with me

THE REAL PRESENCE

The Real Presence of Jesus in our tabernacles is a Divine Mystery.  During Holy Mass at the moment of the Consecration, when the priest pronounces Jesus’ divine words, “This is My Body. . . .  This is the chalice of My Blood” (Mt. 26:26-27), the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus.  The substances of bread and of wine are no longer there, because they have been changed—“transubstantiated”—into the Divine Body and Blood of Jesus.  The bread and wine keep only their appearances, to express the reality of food and drink, according to Jesus’ words, “My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink” (Jn. 6:56).

Beneath the veil of the Host, therefore, and within the Chalice, is the Divine Person of Jesus with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, who gives Himself to whoever receives Holy Communion, and remains continually in the consecrated Hosts placed in the tabernacle.

The most amazing words 

St. Ambrose wrote: “How is the change of bread into the Body of Christ brought about?  It is by means of the Consecration With what words is the Consecration accomplished?  With the words of Jesus.  When the moment arrives for working this sacred wonder, the priest ceases himself to speak; he speaks in the person of Jesus.”

The words of the Consecration are the most wonderful and awesome words that God has given to the Church.  They have the power, through the priest, to transform a bit of bread and wine into our crucified God, Jesus  They achieve this wonderful, mysterious feat in virtue of that supreme power surpassing the power of the Seraphim, a power which belongs only to God and is shared by His priests.  We should not wonder that there have been holy priests who suffered a great deal when they pronounced those divine words.  St. Joseph of Cupertino, and in our time, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, appeared visibly weighed down with distress.  Only with difficulty and with pauses did they manage to complete the two formulas of Consecration.

His Father Guardian ventured to ask St. Joseph of Cupertino, “How is it during the entire Mass you pronounce the words so well, but stammer at each syllable of the Consecration?”

The Saint answered, “The most sacred words of the Consecration are like burning coals on my lips.  When I pronounce them, I am like someone trying to swallow boiling hot food.”  It is through these divine words of the Consecration that Jesus is on our altars, in our tabernacles, in the Hosts.  But how does all this happen?

“How is it possible.” An educated Mohammedan asked a missionary bishop, “that bread and wine should become the Flesh and Blood of Christ?”

The bishop answered, “You were tiny when you were born.  You grew big because your body transformed the food you ate into your flesh and blood.  If a man’s body is able to change bread and wine into flesh and blood, then God can do this far more easily.”

The Mohammedan then asked, “How is it possible for Jesus to be wholly and entirely present in a little Host?”

The bishop answered, “Look at the landscape before you and consider how much smaller your eye is in comparison to it.  Yet, within your little eye there is an image of this vast countryside.  Can God not do in reality, in His Person, what is done in us by way of a likeness or image?”

Then the Mohammedan asked, “How is it possible for the same Body to be present at the same time in all your churches and in all the consecrated Hosts?”

The bishop said, “Nothing is impossible with God—and this answer ought to be enough.  But nature also indicates how to answer this question.  Let us take a mirror, throw it down crashing on the floor and breaking into pieces.  Each piece will multiply the image which the whole mirror previously had reflected but once.  So, too, the selfsame Jesus reproduces Himself, not as a mere likeness, but in truth, in every consecrated Host.  He is truly present in each One of Them.”

They were aware of the Real Presence

Eucharistic wonders are recorded in the lives of St. Rose of Lima, Bl. Angela of Foligno, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Philip Neri, St. Francis Borgia, St. Joseph of Cupertino, and many other saints, who sensibly perceived the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle and in the consecrated Hosts, seeing Jesus with their own eyes or enjoying His indescribable fragrance.

Well known is the episode in the life of St. Anthony of Padua when he once proved the Real Presence to an unbeliever by showing him a hungry mule kneeling before a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, in preference to devouring the basket of oats placed beside the monstrance.

Let us recall what happened to St. Catherine of Siena.  One day, a priest who did not believe in the special gifts of the Saints responded to a request to bring Holy Communion to St. Catherine when she was sick, but with a host that was not consecrated.  At the entrance of the priest, the Saint did not make a move, as she was accustomed to do, in order to adore the Eucharistic Jesus, but instead, fixed her eyes on the priest and reproved him openly for the deception and for the sin of idolatry in which he wanted her to fall. 

The same thing happened to Bl. Anna Maria Taigi who, when receiving Holy Communion, was intentionally given an unconsecrated host.  The holy woman instantly realized the deception and experienced a never-ending sadness, which she confided to her confessor.

Equally remarkable was an episode in the life of St. Alphosus Maria de’ Liguori when he received Holy Communion in his sickbed.  One morning, as soon as he had received the host, he sighed aloud with tears, “What have you done?  You have brought me a host without Jesus—an unconsecrated host!”  An investigation was undertaken and it was learned that the priest who had celebrated Mass that morning had been so distracted that he had left out everything from the Memento for the Living to the Memento for the Dead in the Roman Canon, and so had completely omitted the consecration of the bread and wine.  The Saint had detected the absence of Our Lord from the unconsecrated host!

Many other episodes taken from the lives of the saints could be mentioned.  For instance, cases of exorcism could be recounted where obsessed persons were delivered from the demon by means of the Eucharist.  So, too, one might list those great manifestations of faith and love that are the eucharistic congresses and the celebrated eucharistic shrines (such as those at Turin, Lanciano, Siena, Orvieto, and the shrine of St. Peter of Patierno), shrines which to the very present have preserved the testimonials to astonishing events of the past in confirmation of the Real Presence.

The Sanctuary of Lanciano (in Abruzzi, Italy), in particular, is unique of its kind among the world’s eucharistic sanctuaries and deserves to be better known throughout the entire world.  There the marvelous presence of a Host transformed into live Flesh and preserved in this condition for many centuries can be contemplated.  It is a visible miracle which amazes and moves hearts (see Appendix I).

“Mystery of faith”

But outweighing all these events and testimonials, is the faith by which the truth of the Real Presence is assured and on which we must base our unwavering certainty that it is so.  Jesus is the Truth” (Jn. 14:6), and He has left us the Eucharist as a mystery of faith for us to believe with our whole mind and our whole heart.

When the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, was brought Holy Viaticum, he rose up out of the ashes where he had been laid, got on his knees, and said, “Even if there were to exist a light a thousand times more brilliant than the light of faith, I would not believe with greater certainty that He whom I am about to receive is the Son of the eternal God.”

“Mysterium fidei” (Mystery of faith): with these words, Pope Paul VI chose to caption his encyclical on the Eucharist, simply because for divine realities there exist no genuine, certain sources of knowledge higher than theological faith.  Precisely on account of this faith, the saints merited to see Jesus in the Host, though they had wanted no further proof than what they had, namely, God’s word.  Pope Gregory XV declared that St. Teresa of Jesus (whom he canonized) “saw Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in the Host, so distinctly with the eyes of her spirit that she said she did not envy the happy lot of the Blessed who behold the Lord face to face in Heaven.”  And St. Dominic Savio once wrote in his diary: “To be happy nothing is lacking for me in this world; I lack only the vision in Heaven of that Jesus, whom with the eyes of faith I now see and adore on the altar.”

It is with this faith that we ought to approach the Holy Eucharist and keep ourselves in that Divine Presence, loving Jesus in this Sacrament and making others love Him.

VISITS TO JESUS

With the Real Presence Jesus is in our tabernacles.  The same Jesus who was sheltered by Mary Immaculate within Her virginal womb, is, as it were, enclosed in the little cavity formed by the species of a consecrated white Host.  The same Jesus who was whipped, crowned with thorns, and crucified as a Victim for the sins of the world, remains in the ciborium as the Host immolated for our salvation.  The same Jesus who rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, where He is now gloriously reigning at the right hand of the Father, resides on our altars, surrounded by a multitude of countless adoring angels—a sight that Bl. Angela of Foligno beheld in a vision.

Staying with whom one loves

And so, Jesus truly is with us.  “Jesus is there!”  The holy Cure of Ars could not finish repeating these three words without shedding tears.  And St. Peter Julian Eymard exclaimed with joyful fervor, “There Jesus is!  Therefore all of us should go visit Him!”  And when St. Teresa of Jesus heard someone say, “If only I had lived at the time of Jesus. . . . If only I had seen Jesus. . . . If only I had talked with Jesus. . . .,” she responded in a lively manner, “But do we not have in the Eucharist the living, true and real Jesus present before us? Why look for more?”

The saints certainly did not look for more.  They knew where Jesus was, and they desired no more than the privilege of keeping inseparable watch with Him, both in their affections, and by bodily presence.  Being ever with our beloved—is this not one of the primary demands of true love?

Indeed it is, and, therefore, we know that visits to the Blessed Sacrament and Eucharistic Benediction were the secret—yet evident—yearnings of the saints.  The time of paying a visit to Jesus is wholly the time of love—a love which will continue in Paradise, since love alone “does not come to an end” (1 Cor. 13:8).  St. Catherine of Genoa made no blunder when she said: “The time I have spent before the tabernacle is the best spent time of my life.”  But let us consider some examples from the saints.

Ten visits a day

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, apostle of the Immaculate, used to make an average of ten visits a day to the Blessed Sacrament—a practice he began as a young student.  When the school was in session, during the intervals between class hours, he would hasten to the chapel and thus in the mornings he managed to make five visits to Jesus.  During the rest of the day he made five more visits.  One of these, during the afternoon walk he always considered a compulsory stop.  It was in a church (in Rome) where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed.  Similarly, St. Robert Bellarmine during his youth, when on his way to and from school, used to pass a church four times.  Thus, four times a day he would stop and pay a visit to Jesus.

How often does it happen that we pass by a church without entering?  Are we perhaps that thoughtless and unfeeling?  The saints hoped they would find a church along the road they were taking; whereas, we are quite indifferent, even if churches should stand right before us.  Venerable J. J. Olier wrote: “When there are two roads which will bring me to some place, I take the one with more churches so as to be nearer the Blessed Sacrament.  When I see a place where my Jesus is, I could not be happier, and I say, ‘You are here, my God and my All.’”

The angelic youth, St. Stanislaus Kostka, took advantage of every free moment to hurry off to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  When he simply could not go in person, he would turn to his Guardian Angel and tell him quietly, “My dear Angel, go there for me.”  And what a truly angelic idea!  Why can we not make such a request?  Our Guardian Angel would be quite glad to comply.  In fact, we could not ask him to do us a nobler and more agreeable favor.

Similarly, the angelic St. Bernadette advised a young fellow sister: “When you pass before a chapel and do not have time to stop for a while, tell your Guardian Angel to carry out your errand to Our Lord in the tabernacle.  He will accomplish it and then still have time to catch up with you.”

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez was a doorkeeper.  His duties often took him by the chapel door, and then he would never fail at least to look in and give Our Lord a loving glance.  When he left the house and when he returned, he always visited Jesus to ask His blessing.

St. Augustine has left us an account about his mother, St. Monica, which tells how, every day, besides attending Mass, she went twice to visit Our Lord, once in the morning and once in the evening.  Another holy mother of seven children, Bl. Anna Maria Taigi, used to do the same.  And St. Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia, used to travel frequently, day and night, even in the dead of winter, to visit the Blessed Sacrament in churches.

Close to the “hidden Jesus”

Here is another delightful example from a royal house.  St. Elizabeth of Hungary, when she was a little girl and used to play about the palace with her companions, would always pick a spot near the chapel so that every now and then, without being noticed, she might stop by the chapel door, kiss the lock, and say to Jesus, “My Jesus, I am playing, but I am not forgetting You.  Bless me and my companions.  Good-bye!”  How one loves!

Francesco, one of the three small shepherds of Fatima, was a little contemplative, who had an ardent love for visiting the Blessed Sacrament.  He wanted to go often and stay in church as long as he could in order to be near the tabernacle close to the “hidden Jesus,” as he called the Eucharist in his childlike, profound way of speaking.  When sickness confined him to bed, he confided to his cousin, Lucia, that his greatest pain was not being able to go visit the “hidden Jesus” so as to bring to Him all his kisses and his love.  Here we have a little boy teaching us how to love!

We may add that St. Francis Borgia used to make at least seven visits to the Blessed Sacrament every day.  St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi used to make thirty-three visits a day at one period of her life.  Blessed Mary Fortunata Viti, a humble Benedictine nun of our times, used to do the same.  Blessed Agatha of the Cross, a Dominican tertiary, succeeded in making a hundred visits a day, going from her residence to a church.  Finally, what shall we say of Alexandria da Costa, who, when bedridden for many years, did nothing but fly with her heart to visit all the “holy tabernacles” in the world?

Perhaps these examples astonish us and might strike us as exceptional, even among saints.  But that is not the case.  Visits to the Blessed Sacrament are acts of faith and love.  Whoever has the greater faith and love, feels more strongly the need of being with Jesus.  And what did the saints live by if not by faith and love?

Jesus always waits for us

A missionary bishop in India tells of having found a Christian village in which all the inhabitants had constructed their houses with the door facing the church.  When they were not able to go to church, they would remain at their own doors and gaze with love at the house of the Lord.  Why?  Because this is the law of love: to work at achieving union with the one loved.

One day a resourceful catechist said to his young pupils, “If an angel were to come to you from Heaven and tell you, ‘Jesus in person is in such and such a house and is waiting for you,’ would you not at once leave everything in order to hasten to Him?  You would interrupt any amusement or anything else that occupied you; you would count yourself fortunate to be able to make a little sacrifice in order to go and be with Jesus.  Now be sure, and do not forget, that Jesus is in the tabernacle, and He is always waiting for you, because He wants to have you near and desires to greatly enrich you with His graces.”

How greatly, how highly, have the saints valued the physical presence of “Jesus in person” in the tabernacle and Jesus’ desire to have us near Him?  So greatly, so highly, as to make St. Francis de Sales say, “We must visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament a hundred thousand times a day.”

Let us learn from the saints to love our visits to Jesus in the Eucharist.  Let us go to Him.  Let us remain longer than usual with Him, talking with Him affectionately about what is in our heart.  He will fondly look upon us and draw us to His Heart.  “When we speak to Jesus with simplicity and with all our heart,” said the holy Cure of Ars, “He acts as a mother who holds her child’s head with her hands and covers it with kisses, and caresses.”

If we do not know how to make visits to the tabernacle which include heart-to-heart talks, we should obtain the beautiful, matchless booklet of St. Alphonsus entitled Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Unforgettable is the only word to describe the way Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, every evening, used to read with a tearful voice one of St. Alphonsus’ Visits during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament just before the Eucharistic Benediction.

At least one visit a day

Let us begin and be faithful in making at least one visit a day to Our Lord who awaits us anxiously with love.  St. John Bosco exhorts: “Never omit the daily visit to the most Blessed Sacrament, be it ever so brief.  It is enough if it be constant.”

Next, let us try to increase these visits according to our ability.  And, if we have no time to make long visits, let us make “Little Visits.”  Let us enter church whenever we can and kneel down for a few moments before the Blessed Sacrament, saying affectionately, “Jesus, You are here.  I adore You.  I love You.  Come into my heart.”  A “Little Visit” is something simple and short, but, oh so profitable!

St. John Bosco, with the great heart of a Saint, encourages us still more: “Do you want the Lord to give you many graces?  Visit Him often.  Do you want Him to give you few graces?  Visit Him rarely.  Do you want the devil to attack you?  Visit Jesus rarely in the Blessed Sacrament.  Do you want him to flee from you?  Visit Jesus often.  Do you want to conquer the devil?  Take refuge often at the feet of Jesus.  Do you want to be conquered by the devil?  Forget about visiting Jesus.  My dear ones, the Visit to the Blessed Sacrament is an extremely necessary way to conquer the devil.  Therefore, go often to visit Jesus and the devil will not come out victorious against you.”

Finally, let us always remember these consoling words of St. Alphonsus M. de’Liguori: “You may be sure that of all the moments of your life, the time you spent before the Divine Sacrament will be that which will give you more strength during life and more consolation at the hour of your death and during eternity.”

When one loves truly and loves greatly, one begins to adore.  Great love and adoration are two distinct things; but, they form a whole.  They become adoring love and loving adoration.  Jesus in the tabernacle is adored only by those who truly love Him, and He is loved in an eminent manner by whoever adores Him.

The saints, the artists and experts of love, were faithful, ardent adorers of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Importantly, eucharistic adoration has always been considered the closest likeness we have to the eternal adoration in which will consist the whole of our Paradise.  The difference lies only in the veil that hides the vision of that Divine Reality of which faith gives us unwavering certainty.

“At the feet of Jesus”

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has been the great passion of the saints.  Their adoration lasted hours and hours, sometimes whole days or nights.  There “at Jesus’ feet” like Mary of Bethany (Lk. 10:39), in loving union with Him, absorbed in contemplating Him, they surrendered their hearts in a pure and fragrant offering of adoring love.       

Let us listen to St. Peter Julian Eymard who would fervently exclaim: “May I serve as a footstool, O Lord, at Your Eucharistic Throne!”  Listen to what Br. Charles de Foucauld wrote before the tabernacle: “What a tremendous delight, my God!  To spend over fifteen hours without having anything else to do but look at You and tell You, ‘Lord, I love You!’ Oh, what sweet delight…!”

All the saints have been ardent adorers of the Holy Eucharist, from the great Doctors of the Church like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure, to Popes like St. Pius V and St. Pius X, priests like the holy Cure of Ars and St. Peter Julian Eymard, down to humble souls like St. Rita, St. Paschal Baylon, St. Bernadette Soubirous, St. Gerard, St. Dominic Savio, St. Gemma Galgani…, all the saints were ardent adorers of the Eucharist.  These chosen ones, whose love was true, kept no count of the hours of fond adoration they spent day and night before Jesus in the tabernacle.

Consider how St. Francis of Assisi spent so much time, often entire nights, before the altar, and remained there so devoutly and humbly that he deeply moved anyone who stopped to watch him.  Consider how St. Benedict Labre, called the “poor man of the Forty Hours,” spent days in churches in which the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly exposed.  For years and years this Saint was seen in Rome making pilgrimages from church to church where the Forty Hours was being held, and remaining there before Jesus, always on his knees absorbed in adoring prayer, motionless for eight hours, even when his friends, the insects, were crawling on him and stinging him all over.

Once when it was proposed to do a portrait of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a discussion ensued about the posture in which to paint him.  Eventually, the Saint was portrayed in adoration before the altar, because eucharistic adoration was the most distinctive characteristic of his sanctity.

That favored soul of the Sacred Heart, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, one Holy Thursday, spent fourteen hours without interruption prostrate in adoration.  St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, on a feast of the Sacred Heart, remained in adoration twelve continuous hours, absorbed and, as it were so magnetized to Our Lord in the Eucharist that when a Sister asked her if she had liked the arrangement of flowers and drapings adorning the altar, she answered, “I did not notice them.  I only saw one Flower, Jesus, and no other.”

After visiting the cathedral in Milan, St. Francis de Sales heard someone ask him, “Your Excellency, did you see what a wealth of marble there is, and how majestic the lines are?”  The holy bishop answered, “What do you want me to tell you?  Jesus’ presence in the tabernacle has my spirit so absorbed, that all the artistic beauty escapes my notice.”  What a lesson this reply is for us who thoughtlessly go to visit famous churches as though they were museums!

Maximum recollection

A good example of the spirit of recollection during eucharistic adoration is the striking experience which Bl. Contardo Ferrini, professor at the University of Modena, had.  One day, after he entered a church to visit Our Lord, he became so absorbed in adoration, with eyes fixed on the tabernacle, that he took no notice when someone robbed him of the mantle spread over his shoulders.  “Not even a bolt of lightening could distract her,” it was said of St. Mary Magdalene Postel, because she speared to recollected and devout when adoring the Blessed Sacrament.  On the other hand, once, during adoration, St. Catherine of Siena happened to raise her eyes toward a person passing By.  Because of this distraction of an instant the Saint was so afflicted that she wept for some time, exclaiming, “I am a sinner!  I am a sinner!”

How is it that we are not ashamed of our behavior in church?  Even before Our Lord solemnly exposed we so easily turn about to look to the right and left, and are moved and distracted by any trifle, without feeling—and this is what is terrible—any sorrow or regret.  Ah!  The delicate, sensitive love of the saints!  St. Teresa taught that “in the presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament we ought to be like the Blessed in Heaven before the Divine Essence.”  That is the way the saints have behaved in church.  The holy Cure of Ars used to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with such fervor and recollection that people became convinced he saw Jesus in person with his own eyes.  People said the same of St. Vincent de Paul: “He sees Jesus there within (the tabernacle).”  And they said the same of St. Peter Julian Eymard, the incomparable apostle of eucharistic adoration.  He found a devout imitator in Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who was enrolled among the Priest-adorers and for forty years kept a little image of St. Eymard on his desk.

Even after death

It is noteworthy that the Lord seems to have singularly favored certain saints by enabling them to perform, after death, an act of adoration to the Blessed Sacrament.  Thus, when St. Catherine of Bologna was laid out before the Blessed Sacrament altar a few days after her death, her body rose up to a position of prayerful adoration.  During the funeral Mass of St. Paschal Baylon, his eyes opened twice, i.e. at the elevation of the Host and at the elevation of the Chalice, to express his adoration of the Eucharist.  When Bl. Matthew Girgenti’s body was in the church for his funeral Mass, his hands joined in adoration toward the Eucharist.  At Ravello, Bl. Bonaventure of Potenza’s body, while being carried past the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, made a devout head-bow to Jesus in the tabernacle.

It is really true that “Love is stronger than death” (Cant. 8:6), and that “He that eats this Bread shall live forever” (John 6:59).  The Eucharist is Jesus our Love.  The Eucharist is Jesus our Life.  Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a heavenly love which enlivens us and makes us one with Jesus, the Victim, “always living to make intercession for us” (Heb. 7:25).  We should be mindful that one who adores, makes himself one with Jesus in the Host as Jesus intercedes with the Father for the salvation of the brethren.  This is the highest charity toward all men: to obtain for them the kingdom of heaven.  And only in Paradise will we see how many souls have been delivered from the gates of Hell by eucharistic adoration done in reparation by holy persons known and unknown.  We must not forget that at Fatima the Angel personally taught the three shepherd children the beautiful eucharistic prayer of reparation, which we also ought to learn:  “O most holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He is offended.  And through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.”  Eucharistic adoration is an ecstasy of love and it is the most powerful salvific practice in the apostolate of saving souls.

For this reason St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, the great apostle of Mary, in each of his foundations, before providing even the cells of the friars, wanted the chapel to be constructed first in order to introduce at once perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (exposed).  Once, when he was taking a visitor on a tour of his “City of the Immaculate” in Poland and they had entered the large “Chapel of Adoration,” he said to his guest with a gesture toward the Blessed Sacrament, “Our whole life depends on this.”

“The better part”

The stigmatized friar of the Gargano, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, to whom crowds flocked from every quarter, after his long daily hours in the confessional, used to spend almost all the remaining day and night before the tabernacle in adoration, keeping company with Our Lady as he recited hundreds of Rosaries.

Once the Bishop of Manfredonia, Msgr. Cesarano, chose Padre Pio’s friary to make an eight-day retreat.  Each night the bishop got up at various times to go to the chapel, and each night despite the different hours, he always found Padre Pio in adoration.  The great apostle of the Gargano was working throughout the world unseen—and sometimes seen, as in instances of bilocation—while he remained there prostrate before Jesus, with his Rosary in his hands.  He used to tell his spiritual children, “When you want to find me, come near the tabernacle.”

Fr. James Alberione, another great apostle of our time, expressly placed as the foundation for his entire dynamic work, The Apostolate of the Press (Societa Apostolata Stampa), adoration of the Holy Eucharist.  Thus, his Congregation of Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, were given the single, specific vocation of adoring Our Lord solemnly exposed in the Holy Eucharist night and day.

Eucharistic adoration is truly that “best part” of which Jesus spoke when chiding Martha for busying herself with “many things” that were secondary, overlooking the “one thing necessary” chosen by Mary: humble and affectionate adoration (Lk. 10:41-42).

What should be the love and zeal, then, that we ought to have for eucharistic adoration?  If it is by Jesus that “all things subsist” (Col. 1:17), then, to go to Him, to stay with Him, to unite ourselves with Him means to find, to gain, to possess that by which we and the whole universe exist.  “Jesus alone is All; anything else is nothing,” said St. Therese of Lisieux.

To renounce, then, what is nothing for the sake of what is All, to consume our every resource and ourselves for the sake of Him who is All, rather than for what is nothing—is this not indeed our true wealth and highest wisdom?

This was the way St. Peter Julian Eymard argued when he said, “A good hour of adoration before the most Blessed Sacrament brings about greater good for all than visiting all the marble churches, than venerating all the tombs (of the saints).”  This was also evidently the thinking of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina when he wrote, “A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”

What good reason we have for envying the angels, as the saints have done, because angels ceaselessly remain stationed around the tabernacles!

LOVING JESUS’ HOUSE

The Divine Real Presence of Jesus in our tabernacles has always been the object of immense reverence and respect by the saints.  Their loving care, so sincere and pure, for the “things that belong to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:32) has been one of the clearest indications of their great love that did not hold back anything, that considered everything to be of great importance, even a simple matter of the prescribed ceremonies, for which St. Teresa and St. Alphonsus declared themselves ready to sacrifice their lives.

Holiness and decorum

And it is from the saints that we must learn to love Jesus, surrounding with affectionate care the holy tabernacles, the altars and the churches, His “dwelling-place” (Mk. 11:17).  Everything must breathe a sense of decor1um, e1very1thing must inspire devotion and adoration, even in the little things, even in details.  Nothing will ever be too much when it concerns loving and honoring the “King of Glory” (Ps. 23:10).  Think how of old it was customary, for example, that even the water used for the ablution of priest’s fingers during Holy Mass be perfumed.

Furthermore, Jesus chose to institute the Sacrament of Love in a respectable, beautiful place, namely, the Cenacle, a large dining hall with furniture and carpeting (Lk. 22:12).  The saints have always shown whole-hearted zeal and resourcefulness in seeing to the beauty and tidiness of the house of God, because, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, it is necessary to take care first of the real Body of Jesus, then of His Mystical Body.

For example, during his apostolic travels, St. Francis of Assisi used to carry with him, or obtain, a broom to sweep the churches he found dirty.  After preaching to the people, he used to address the clergy of the town and fervently urge them to be zealous for the worthy appearance of the Lord’s house.  He had St. Clare and the Poor Clares prepared sacred linens for altars.  In spite of his poverty, he used to obtain and send ciboria, chalices and altar cloths to poor, neglected churches.

When St. Peter Julian Eymard had to begin eucharistic adoration in a poor abandoned house, the grief he experienced was so great as to make him exclaim even afterwards: “Oh, how dearly it costs me to house Jesus so poorly!”

We learn from the life of St. John Baptist de la Salle that the Saint wanted to see the chapel always clean and duly furnished, with the altar in perfect order and the sanctuary lamp always burning.  Dirty altar cloths, torn vestments and tarnished vessels hurt his eyes and much more his heart.  He did not consider any expense too great when it came to providing proper worship of Our Lord.  St. Paul of the Cross wished altar furnishings and sacred objects to be so spotless that one day he sent back [to the sacristy] two corporals, one after another, because he did not judge them to be clean enough [for Mass].

Prominent among the kings who have loved the Eucharist is St. Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia.  With his own hands he tilled the soil, sowed the wheat, harvested it, grounded it, and sifted it.  Then with the purest flour he made hosts for the Holy Sacrifice.  And St. Radegunde, Queen of France, after she had become a humble religious, was happy to be able to grind with her own hands the wheat selected to make the hosts for Holy Mass, and she used to give them free to poor churches.  Also noteworthy is St. Vincentia Gerosa, who cared for the grapevines which supplied wine for Holy Mass.  With her own hands she cultivated them, pruned them, rejoicing in the thought that these clusters she had grown would become the Blood of Jesus.

With the hands of Our Lady

What shall we say about the delicacy of the saints in regard to the Eucharistic Species?  They had uncompromising faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in even the smallest visible fragment of a Host.  It suffices merely to have seen Padre Pio to realize with what conscientious care he purified the paten and the sacred vessels at the altar.  Adoration could be read on his face!

Once when St. Therese of Lisieux saw a small Particle of a Host on the paten after Holy Mass, she called the novices, and then carried the paten in procession into the sacristy with a gracious and adoring comportment that was truly angelic.  When St. Teresa Margaret found a fragment of a Host on the floor near the altar, she broke into tears because she realized what irreverence might be shown to Jesus; and she knelt in adoration before the particle until a priest came to take It and put It in the tabernacle.

Once when St. Charles Borromeo was distributing Holy Communion, he inadvertently dropped a Sacred Particle from his hand.  The Saint considered himself guilty of grave irreverence to Jesus, and was so afflicted that for four days he had not the courage to celebrate Holy Mass, and, as a penance, he imposed an eight-day fast on himself!

What shall we say of St. Francis Xavier who at times when distributing Holy Communion felt so carried away by a sense of adoration toward Our Lord who was in his hands, that he got on his knees and in that position continued giving Holy Communion?  Did that not present a spectacle of faith and love worthy of Heaven?

Something still more beautiful has been the thoughtful care of the saints, who were priests, in handling the Blessed Sacrament.  Oh, how they would have liked to have the same virginal hands as the Immaculate!  The index fingers and thumbs of St. Conrad of Constance used to shine at night on account of the faith and the love which inspired the use of those fingers to hold the most Sacred Body of Jesus.  St. Joseph of Cupertino, the ecstatic saint who flew like an angel, revealed the exquisite delicacy of his love for Jesus when he expressed a desire to have another pair of index fingers and thumbs so that they could be used solely for holding Jesus’ most Holy Flesh.  At times Padre Pio of Pietrelcina quite plainly experienced great difficulty in placing the Sacred Host between his fingers, judging himself unworthy to allow his hands, which bore the stigmata, to have contact with the Host.  (What may be the final assessment of the practice, now introduced nearly everywhere, of receiving Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue?  By comparison with the saints—so humble, so angelic—do not the reasons adduced in justification seem less than weighty, at times painfully so, and does not the custom itself as often carried out tend to suggest a presumptuous thievery?)

Modesty of women

In view of the decorum of churches and the salvation of souls, the saints were greatly concerned about modesty and decency on the part of the women.  A strict insistence on this particular point is a constant in the lives of all the saints, from the Apostle, St. Paul [telling the woman to wear a veil so that she may not need to have her head appear “as if she were shaven’: (1 Cor. 11:5-6)], to St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, etc., down to Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who would permit no halfway measures, but always insisted on modest dresses clearly below the knees.  And how could it be otherwise?  St. Leopold of Castelnuovo used to chase women immodestly dressed out of church, calling them “carne da mercato” (flesh for sale).  What would he say today, when so many women are abandoning modesty and decency even in church?  They are carrying on, even in sacred places, the old diabolical art of seducing men to lust, of which the Holy Spirit warns us (Ecclus. 9:9).  But God’s justice will not let such great madness and filth go unpunished.  On the contrary, St. Paul says, “for these things (the sins of the flesh) the wrath of God comes upon the children of unbelief” (Col. 3:6).

In the same way the saints have always exhorted us, by example and by word, to follow the beautiful practice on entering a church, of making the sign of the Cross devoutly with holy water, genuflecting reverently, and before all else adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in company with the angels and saints who keep watch around the altar.  If we stop for prayer, we need to recollect ourselves with care to keep ourselves devout and attentive.

It is also well to draw as near as we can (observing fitting limits) to the altar of the Blessed Sacrament; for Bl. John Duns Scotus has shown that the physical influence of Jesus’ most Holy Humanity is more intense, the closer one is to His Body and Blood.  (St. Gemma Galgani said that sometimes she could not draw nearer the Blessed Sacrament altar because any closer the fire of love burning in her heart would reach a temperature high enough to set on fire the clothing over her breast!)

The nail on the hat

Whoever saw St. Francis de Sales enter a church, bless himself, genuflect, and pray before the tabernacle, would have to admit that the people were right in saying: “that is how it is being done by the angels and saints in heaven.”

Once a prince of the Scottish court told a friend, “If you want to see how the angels in heaven pray, go to church and watch how Queen Margaret prays with her children before the altar.”  All hasty and distracted people ought to pay serious attention to these words of Bl. Louis Guanella: “We may never turn the church into a hallway, or a courtyard or a street, or a public square.”  And, in sadness, St. Vincent de Paul exhorted people that before the Blessed Sacrament they avoid making genuflections like marionettes.

May these examples and teachings of the saints not prove fruitless for us.

An amusing episode from the life of St. Philip Neri will help us to recall and keep this resolution.

One day, the Saint immediately stopped a man who was passing hurriedly in front of a church and asked him, “Sir, what is that nail doing there?”

“What nail?” replied the man, amazed.

“Yes, that nail there, on your hat. . . .”

The man removed his hat, looked at it again and again. . . .: there was no nail.

“Excuse me,” said St. Philip again with kindness, “there seems to be a nail firmly affixing your hat to your head.  That is why you never uncover your head when passing before a church.”

The man understood, and from then on he never neglected to take off his hat whenever he passed by a church.

“Happy are you, flowers. . .”

We find in the Gospel the brief account of a devoted act of love all gracious and fragrant.  It is the deed performed by St. Mary Magdalene in the house of Simon the Leper at Bethany, when she approached Jesus with “an alabaster box of precious ointment and poured it on His head” (Mt. 26:7).  To surround our holy tabernacles with an atmosphere of pleasing fragrance is a role we have always entrusted to those lovely, fragrant creatures—the flowers.

St. Alphonsus M. de’Liguori, in a brief strophe, sang thus of his joy and his envy for the flowers that surround the tabernacles with perfume and consume themselves entirely for Jesus: “Happy are you, flowers, who, night and day/ beside my Jesus always stay/ nor ever going away, until,/ your whole life through, you shall have always been together!”  And also in the care taken to decorate the tabernacles with flowers, the saints have been second to none.  When the Archbishop of Turin one day chose to make a visit in the church of the Little House of Providence, he found it so lovely, with the altar adorned and fragrant with flowers, that he asked St. Joseph Cottolengo, “What feast are you celebrating today?”  The Saint answered, “We have no feast today; but here in the church it is always a feast day.”

St. Francis di Geronimo had the task of growing flowers for the Blessed Sacrament altar, and sometimes he made them grow miraculously so that Jesus would not be left without flowers.

“A flower for Jesus”—a beautiful custom!  Let us not deprive ourselves of this gracious gesture of love for Jesus.  It may be a small weekly expense, but Jesus will repay it a “hundredfold,” and our flowers on the altar will express, by their beauty and fragrance, our loving presence beside Jesus.

But there is still more to be gleaned from this practice and it is reflected in what St. Augustine tells us about a pious custom of his day.  After Holy Mass the faithful competed to obtain flowers that had been used on the altar.  They would take them home and keep them as relicts, because they had been on the altar next to Jesus during His Divine Sacrifice.  So, too, St. Jane Frances de Chantal was most diligent in always bringing fresh flowers to Jesus; and as soon as those by the tabernacle began to wilt, she would take them to her cell to keep at the foot of her crucifix.  See what one does when one loves!

Let us learn from this and do in like manner.

 

 

Chapter 3

Contents

Chapter 5

 

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