Most Blessed Sacrament
FR. STEPHANO MANELLI
Imprimatur: 1973, Naples, Italy
Thanksgiving After Holy Communion, Part 3
Take Care of the Soul First
But most consoling of all is the Christian's final Holy Communion, which is called Viaticum; that is, food for the journey from this life to the next. Oh, what great importance the Saints attached to our receiving It in good time and with the best dispositions!
When St. Dominic Savio was sent home because of a grave illness, the doctor held out good hopes of his recovery. But the holy youth called his father and said, "Father, it will be a good thing if I deal with the heavenly Doctor. I want to go to Confession and receive Holy Communion."
When St. Anthony Claret's declining health began to cause serious concern, two physicians were called in for advice. Noticing this, the Saint realized the gravity of his illness and said, "I understand, but first let us think about the soul and then the body." And he wanted to receive the Sacraments at once. after that was done, he sent for the two physicians and told them, "Now do what you want to do."
First the soul, and then the body. Is it possible that we do not appreciate this? Often we are so unthinking that we concern ourselves a great deal about getting the doctor in to tend to the sick person, whereas we get around to summoning the priest only at the last minute when the patient is, perhaps, too far gone to receive the Sacraments with full awareness, or cannot even receive them at all. Oh how foolish, how unwise we are! How can we escape being answerable, if, by failing to call the priest on time, we put a dying person's salvation in jeopardy and deprive him of the support and great help that he could receive in his last moments?
The Eucharist is the highest guarantee pledging true life to the Christian who dwells in this poor land of exile. "Our bodies," writes St. Gregory of Nyassa, "when united to Christ's Body, gain a beginning of immortality, because they are united to Immortality." When the body's short life is failing, we look to Jesus, Who is eternal Life. He is given to us in Holy Communion in order to be the true and enduring Life of our immortal souls and to be the Resurrection of our mortal bodies: "He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has life everlasting" (John 6:55). "He who eats this Bread shall live forever" (John 6:59), because "I am the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11: 25) .
Ah! What a great grace Holy Viaticum is! When the holy Cure of Ars was dying and heard the ringing of the bell that announced the arrival of Holy Viaticum, he was moved to tears, and said, "How can we not weep when Jesus is coming for the last time to us with so much love?"
Yes, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is Love that has become my food, my strength, my life, my heart's craving. Every time I receive Him, during life or at the time of death, He makes Himself mine in order to make me His. Yes, He is all mine and I am all His --- the one in the other, the one belonging to the other (cf. John 6:57). This is the fullness of Love for the soul and for the body, on earth and in Heaven.
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