First Published in 1868.
TAN Books and Publishers
On Visiting Jesus Christ In the Blessed Sacrament
"WHERE is the new-born King of the Jews?" inquired the three Magi of Herod, king of Jerusalem. "Where is He?" they repeat in their great desire to find Him. "We have seen His star in the East, and we have come to adore Him. Ah, tell us where He is; we desire so much to see Him; we have made so long a journey in order to become acquainted with Him!" What a joy must it not have been for these three holy kings to learn that the Saviour of the world was born in Bethlehem; with what speed must they not have gone thither to find out their true King, Who had caused the wonderful star to appear which led them to His abode.
Beloved Christians, you have heard and read this incident among the many wonderful events in the life of our God and Saviour. On hearing or reading the account, you have perhaps even earnestly desired to have lived at the time of the Apostles in order that you might have had the happiness of seeing your Lord and Saviour. But you ought to know that you are happier now than if you had lived at the time of the Apostles, for you might have been obliged to travel very far and make many inquiries to find out the place of His abode. But now there is no need of traveling far or of making many inquiries to find Him. He is, as we know by faith, in our churches, lot far from our homes. The Magi could find Him in one place only; we can find Him in every part of :he world, wherever the Blessed Sacrament is kept. Are we then not happier than those who lived at the time of our Saviour Himself? Yes, we are happier than they; no faithful soul can doubt it. But can we lay also that we know how to avail ourselves of this happiness?
Alas! How many are there perhaps who must confess that up to this day they have never visited Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, resembling Jutta, the niece of the Empress, St. Cunegunda, [scroll down the page when you get there] of whom it is related that she stayed at home, without any plausible reason, while the Blessed Sacrament was exposed in the church. St. Cunegunda, inflamed with holy indignation at this indifference, gave her niece a severe slap in the face. The Lord, in punishment of Jutta's indifference toward Him, allowed the print of Cunegunda's fingers to remain indelibly stamped on her face. This was a lifelong monitor for her. Such a monitor, however, is not given to everyone to remind him of his duty towards Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; I will therefore set forth some reasons which ought to induce every faithful soul to show for the future more fervor, gratitude and love for her Divine Saviour by often visiting Him in this mystery of love, and by asking of Him graces, not only for herself, but especially for all those who are cold and indifferent towards the excessive love and patience of their God hidden under the sacramental species.
If there be one consideration which, more than all others, ought to induce you often to visit Jesus Christ in the church, it is the thought of the excessive love which He bears to us in this adorable mystery of His love. "It is my delight to be with the children of men," says our Divine Saviour in Holy Writ. Oh, what great condescension it would be for a king to invite a poor man to come to his palace and to keep company with him! But Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven and earth, says: "Come all ye that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you." (Matt. 11:28).
Ought we not to look upon it as a great grace and favor to be invited into His presence? Surely, we ought to find our delight in His company since He is delighted to be in ours. We ought to go to Him frequently and say to Him: "My Jesus, why dost Thou love me so much? What good dost Thou see in me that Thou art so enamored of me? Hast Thou already forgotten the sins by which I have offended Thee so grievously? Oh, how can I love anything else than Thee, my Jesus and my All? No one has ever done so much to make me happy as Thou hast done, O amiable, O most amiable Jesus! Never let me love anything but Thee."
If you had a friend who always wished you well and who had promised to help you in all your wants and who would even take great pleasure in the opportunity of bestowing a benefit upon you, you would undoubtedly be acting ungratefully if you did not have recourse to him in your necessities. But where, I ask, can you find a better, a more faithful, or a more liberal friend than Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament-----One Who more sincerely wishes you well, One Who consults more your advantage and happiness, One Who grants your petitions with greater readiness and pleasure? Ought you not, then, to feel drawn to go after your King and best Friend in order to show your gratitude to Him?
What would you say if a rich man should come and take up his abode in the neighborhood of a poor beggar for no other purpose than to make it more easy for the poor man to receive from him relief in all his necessities? What would you say of such a lord? "Oh!" you would exclaim, "how good, how exceedingly good he is! He deserves to be honored, esteemed, praised and loved by all men. How happy is the poor man who has such a lord for his friend!"
But while in fact none of the rich of this world has ever gone so far in love to the poor, Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven and earth, has gone so far in His love for us poor sinners; He takes up His abode in our churches for the convenience of each one of us. Oh how happy we are! Would to God that each of us availed himself of this happiness by frequently visiting Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Thus at least the Saints have ever shown their gratitude. St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, as we read in her life, visited Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament thirty times a day. The Countess of Feria, a fervent disciple of the venerable Father Avila and afterwards a nun of the Order of Poor Clares, was called the Spouse of the Blessed Sacrament, from her fervent and lengthened visits to it. Being once asked what she did during the many hours which she spent before its Sacred Presence, she replied: "I could remain there for all eternity! Is there not there the very essence of God, which is the food of the blessed? Good God! They ask what we do before Thee? What is there that we do not do? We love, we praise, we give thanks, we entreat. What does a beggar do in the presence of a rich man? What does the sick man do when he sees his physician? Or one who is thirsty at a running spring? Or a starving man at a plentiful table?"
St. Elizabeth of Hungary was accustomed, even in her childhood, often to visit Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. If she found the church closed, she would affectionately kiss the lock of the door and the walls of the church for love of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.
St. Alphonsus, being unable on account of his advanced age to walk to the church, had himself carried thither in a chair in order to pay his accustomed visit to his beloved Saviour.
Father Louis la Nusa, a great missionary of Sicily, was, even when a young student in the world, so much attached to Jesus Christ that it seemed as if if he could hardly tear himself from the presence of his beloved Lord on account of the great delight he found there, and being commanded by his director not to remain before the Blessed Sacrament longer than an hour at a time, when that period had elapsed, it was as great a violence to him to separate from the bosom of Jesus as for an infant to tear itself from its mother's breast. The writer of his life says that when he was forced to leave the church, he would stand looking at the altar and turning again and again as if he could not take leave of his Lord, Whose presence was so sweet and so consoling.
Father Salesio, of the Society of Jesus, felt consolation in even speaking of the Blessed Sacrament. He never could visit it often enough. When summoned to the gate, when returning to his room, or passing from one part of the house to another, he made use of all these opportunities to repeat his visits to his beloved Lord, so that it was remarked that scarcely an hour of the day elapsed without his visiting Him. Thus at length he merited the grace of Martyrdom at the hands of heretics while defending the Real Presence in the Most Holy Sacrament.
Oh, how do these examples of the Saints confound us, who have so little love for Jesus Christ and are so negligent in visiting Him! But someone may say, "I have too much to do; I am busy; I cannot find time." Dear Christian, do not say, "I have too much to do," but say, "I have too much love and affection for the goods of this world and too little love for Jesus Christ." You find time to eat and to drink; you find time to rest and to sleep; you find time to talk and to laugh; time to amuse yourself; time for all your temporal affairs; time even to sin. And how is it that you find time for all these things? It is because you like them.
If you appear but seldom before Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, it is an evident sign that you love Him but little. Love Him a little more, and you will find time to visit Him. Do not say, "I am busy." The Saints, too, were very busy, perhaps more so than you are, and yet they found time enough to visit their Lord. Do you imagine that you have more to think of than St. Wenceslaus, King of Poland, or St. Louis, King of France? And yet because they tenderly loved Jesus Christ their King, they found time every day to pay a visit to Him. Be sure, if you do not visit Jesus Christ at all, or if you visit Him but seldom, your love and affection for Him are not great. I repeat then once more: Love your Lord and God in the Blessed Sacrament a little more, and I am sure you will be found oftener before the altar. Again, do not say, "I have too much to do." It is for this very reason that you should feel obliged to visit your Saviour. For the laboring and heavy laden are invited by Jesus Christ to come to Him: "Come to Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you." "Instead of being kept away from Me by your numerous toils and labors," He seems to say to you, "you should rather feel drawn to Me, in order to speak to Me about them. Come and tell Me all your troubles, recommend to Me all your affairs, and I will bless them that they may succeed."
The Saints understood this well; they knew and were persuaded that on God's blessing depends everything; they knew that if God did not bless their temporal affairs, they would not succeed, nay, that they would even be injurious and hurtful to their souls. Whenever St. Vincent de Paul had to transact any important business, he would go before the Blessed Sacrament and recommend the affair to Jesus Christ, beseeching Him confidently to give it His blessing, and after having performed it, he went again to the church to thank Jesus Christ for its success. Before the Blessed Sacrament St. Francis Xavier, too, found strength for his toils in India. While his days were passed in saving souls, he passed much of the night in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
St. John Francis Regis used to do the same; and if he found the church closed, he would console himself by kneeling at the door, even in the cold and wet, that he might, at least at a distance, pay his homage to his sacramental Consoler. When any affliction befell St. Francis of Assisi, he went immediately to communicate it to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The Blessed Bertha of Oberried in Alsace, being one day asked by one of her sisters in religion how she could discharge so many distracting duties without prejudice to her piety, replied: "Whenever I am entrusted with an office, I go to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. He is my Comforter, my Lord and best Counselor, and I do carefully what He inspires me to do. He governs me, and it is by Him that I govern those whom He has confided to me."
Do you, O Christian, understand this language? Do you understand how the blessing of Heaven is to be obtained upon your affairs and undertakings? Oh, were you to visit Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament only for a quarter of an hour each day, from how many trials and hardships would you be delivered; from how many accidents, misfortunes, temptations and attacks of the devil would you be preserved; how few sins would you commit; and how much more consolation and peace of heart would you enjoy!
"How true it is," you would exclaim, "what Jesus Christ has said: 'Seek first the Kingdom of God, and the rest will be added unto you.' " "Ah," you would say, "since I have been in the habit of going to church every day, I labor only half as much as before, and yet I have more success than when I used to labor day and night by the sweat of my brow."
Instead then of spending your time in idle, useless talk, in games and amusements, go to church and pray there for a while, in order to draw down the blessing of Heaven upon you and your whole family.
Rest assured that you will experience what so many holy souls have experienced while before the Blessed Sacrament, namely, that you will feel a thousand times happier in the company of Jesus Christ than in the most delightful company of men. Men can only afford you vain consolations, but Jesus Christ has His hands full of lasting consolations and divine graces, which He is ready to pour out upon your soul, if you present yourself before Him.
One day as Frederic IV, King of Prussia, was passing through the Rhenish Province, a certain cow-herd approached the Royal carriage and commenced playing as artistically as he could on his rude horn. The King, admiring the simplicity and token of honor of the cow-herd, presented him with a piece of money to repay him for the loyalty he had exhibited towards his Sovereign. Now if this earthly prince so readily rewarded this slight act of honor, how much more readily will not Our Lord pour out His graces upon all those who come to honor Him in the Blessed Sacrament, for ever so short a time.
Our Lord manifested this readiness to Blessed Balthasar Alvarez when once kneeling before the altar. He showed Himself in the Sacred Host as a little child with His hands full of precious stones, saying: "If there were only some one to whom I might distribute them." Are you, then, in temporal want? Go to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; He can and He will help you. St. Peter of Alcantara one day, seeing his brethren in religion destitute of bread and without the means of procuring it, orderedthem to go and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. No sooner had they done so, than the bell was rung at the door, and the janitor, on opening the door, instead of seeing some person there, as he expected, found a large basket of white bread, which Jesus Christ had sent them, probably by His angels. When the soldiers of the Emperor Frederic II were in the act of scaling the walls of Assisi, in order to sack the city, St. Clare went before the Blessed Sacrament and prayed there in the following manner: "O Lord, shall then Thy servants be delivered up into the hands of the infidels?" "No," said Jesus Christ to her, "I have always protected you and will continue to do so." At the same moment, some of the soldiers took to flight, being struck with an inward terror; others fell down from the walls, while others became suddenly blind.
Maximilian I, Emperor of Austria, having ascended the steep mountains in the neighborhood of Innsbruck to so great a height that he could neither venture to descend again nor could anyone come to his aid, cried out to the people below to bring the Blessed Sacrament as near to him as possible, in order (as in his great peril he was unable to receive It) that he might at least honor It as well as he could by adoring It and recommending himself to Jesus Christ from the rock above. Accordingly, the Blessed Sacrament is carried thither; the Emperor adores It with most profound respect and great devotion and implores Jesus Christ to help him. What happens? No sooner had the Emperor commenced to pray to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament than he saw a beautiful youth behind him, probably his guardian angel, who led him safely down among the most frightfully steep rocks by a path hitherto unperceived, and when the Emperor was about to reward him, he suddenly disappeared. (Dauroltius, c. 3, tit. 37).
Many similar facts occur in Church history and in the lives of the Saints. Now if Jesus Christ is so ready to help us in our temporal wants, how much more readily will He bestow spiritual graces and favors upon our souls. Whence did St. Thomas Aquinas draw all that knowledge which enabled him to write so learnedly on every subject of our holy religion? Was it not from the fervent prayers which he used to pour out in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament whenever he had a difficulty in understanding or explaining a point? Whence have so many pious souls obtained strength to resist every kind of temptation? Was it not from the frequent visits which they paid to Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament? Father Thomas Sanchez, who was in the habit of visiting the church five times a day and eight times on Thursdays, used to exclaim whenever he was tempted: "Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, help me"; and no sooner had he pronounced these words than his temptation ceased. One day a young man said to a priest of our Congregation: "When the devil assails me with bad thoughts and impure representations and I command him in the Name of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament to leave me, he instantly withdraws from me."
And again, when God sent forth missionaries to convert sinners, heretics, infidels, whither did they go to obtain their conversion? Certainly to that place where He resides who can change all hearts, how hardened soever they may be. We read in the life of St. Francis de Sales, that nine hundred heretics presented themselves to him to abjure their heresy after he had prayed with the faithful during the Forty Hours' Devotion. A few days after, having prayed with the people most humbly and fervently for the same object, a great many heretics of the suburbs of Focigni came to abjure their heresy. Their example was followed by three hundred more of the parish of Belevaux and three hundred of the parish of St. Sergues. Therefore, one of the best means to convert sinners is to recommend them to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
You have heard and read that there have been Saints who burned so ardently with the fire of Divine love that they often trembled in their whole body and that the objects which they touched bore the impress of this fire of divine love. This we read in the lives of St. Philip Neri, St. Catherine of Genoa and St. Wenceslaus, King of Poland. The last loved Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with so much fervor that, with his own hands, he gathered the wheat and the grapes and made the hosts and the wine which were to be used in the Mass. He often went at night, even in winter, to visit the church in which the Blessed Sacrament was kept. At such times the flames of Divine love were burning so ardently in his soul that they communicated to his body a sensible warmth and melted the snow under his feet. He turned this gift on one occasion to a charitable account. His servant who accompanied him by night suffered much from the severity of the cold; whereupon, the holy man ordered him to follow closely and tread in his footsteps. He did so, and no longer felt the coldness of the snow.
Now, where did the Saints obtain this inestimable gift of the love of God? Do you think perhaps in conversation with men? Oh no; it was from conversing frequently with Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The oftener and the longer they conversed with Him, the more they felt their hearts inflamed with Divine love. How were so many souls enlightened to see and to know the vanity of this world? How did they find strength and courage to leave all the comforts of their homes, and 'to lead a holy, mortified, poor and despised life?
Whence this great grace? It was derived from their frequent conversations with Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Listen to what St. Alphonsus, Bishop of St. Agatha in Italy, that great lover of the Blessed Sacrament, says about this: "Nowhere have holy souls made more admirable resolutions than here at the feet of their hidden God. Out of gratitude to my Jesus, veiled in this great Sacrament, I must declare that it was through this devotion, visiting Him in His tabernacles, that I withdrew from the world where, to my misfortune, I had lived until the age of twenty-six. Happy will you be if you can separate yourself from it earlier than I did and give yourself wholly to that Lord who has given Himself wholly to you. I repeat it, you will be happy, not only in eternity, but even in this life. Believe me, all else is folly-----banquets, plays, parties, amusements-----these are enjoyments full of bitterness and remorse; trust one who has tried them and who weeps that he did so?"
I assure you that the soul, by remaining with any degree of recollection before the Blessed Sacrament, receives more comfort from Jesus than the world with all its pleasures and pastimes can ever afford. What delight to be before the altar with faith-----and with even a little tender love-----and to speak familiarly to Jesus, Who is there to hear and grant the prayers of those who visit Him, to implore pardon for our sins, to lay our wants before Him as one friend does before another whom he fully trusts, to beg for His grace, His love, His paradise. Above all, what a heaven to make acts of love to this Lord who remains on the altar, praying to His Eternal Father for us and burning with love toward us! In a word, you will find that the time you spend devoutly before this divine Sacrament will be the most useful of your life and that which will most console you in death and for eternity. You will gain more perhaps in a quarter of an hour's prayer before the Blessed Sacrament than in all the other spiritual exercises of the day. God does indeed grant, in every place, the petitions of those who pray to Him; He has promised to do so: "Ask, and it shall be given you." (Matt. 7:7). But in the Most Holy Sacrament, Jesus dispenses favors more abundantly to those who visit Him. But of what use are mere words? "Taste and see."
To this little exhortation I can add nothing more consoling, nothing more encouraging or more persuasive. I will but repeat once more His words: "Taste and see." Go often with devotion to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and after a while you will experience the truth of what St. Alphonsus has said; nay, perhaps it may even be given to you to feel transports of joy and gladness such as the Saints have experienced in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and to exclaim in the fullness of consolation with the blessed Gerard (a lay-brother of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer): "Lord, let me go, let me go" . . . or with St. Francis Xavier: "It is enough, Lord, it is enough" . . . or with St. Aloysius Gonzaga: "Withdraw from me, O Lord, withdraw from me." But, most assuredly, there is one hour when the remembrance of the visits you have paid to the Blessed Sacrament will give you indescribable pleasure-----the hour of your death. And if you never, at any other time, feel remorse for neglecting this great duty, certainly you will feel it when your soul has left the body and you know how near you have been to Jesus Christ on earth. Oh, with what shame and confusion will you not be covered when Jesus will say to you: "I was a stranger and you received Me not." I was so near to you and you visited Me not. You have treated Me as an outcast; you have not conversed with Me nor asked graces of Me; you have left Me alone; you have thought of Me but seldom, or not at all. How confused, I say, will you feel at such a well-deserved reproach! Save yourself this shame and confusion; resolve from henceforth daily to spend some time, say half an hour or a quarter of an hour at least in church in the presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament.
And at the hour of death He will say to you: "I was indeed a stranger to many lukewarm Christians, but not to you; you came to visit Me; you kept company with Me on earth; you shall, from henceforth, enjoy My Presence in Heaven forever and ever."