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