THE MOST BLESSED SACRAMENT
Fr. Stephano Manelli, O.F.M.
"The devotion to the Eucharist," St. Pius X, the Pope of the Eucharist,
said, "is the most noble, because it has God as its object; it is the
most profitable for salvation, because It gives us the Author of Grace;
it is the sweetest, because the Lord is Sweetness Itself."
The devotion to the Eucharist, together with the devotion to the
Blessed Mother, is a devotion of Paradise, because it is the devotion
which the Angels and Saints of Heaven also have. "There is a school in
Heaven," the mystic, St. Gemma Galgani, used to say, "and there one has
only to learn how to love. The school is in the Cenacle; the Teacher is
Jesus; the matter taught is His flesh and His Blood."
The Eucharist is Love Itself, identical to Jesus. Therefore, it is the
Sacrament of Love, the Sacrament that overflows with charity. It truly
contains the true, living Jesus --- the God Who "is Love," (John 4:8)
Who loved us "unto the end." (John 13:1)
All expressions of love, even the highest and the most profound, are
verified in the Eucharist. Thus, it is a Love that is crucified, a
Love that unites, a Love that adores, a Love that contemplates, a Love
that prays, a Love that delightfully satisfies.
The Eucharistic Jesus is a Love that is crucified in the Most Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass, in which He renews the immolation of Himself for
us. In sacramental and spiritual communion He is a Love that unites,
making Himself one with the person who receives Him. He is a Love that
adores in the holy tabernacle, where He is present as a holocaust of
adoration to the Father. He is a Love that contemplates in His
encounter with souls who love to be "at His feet," like Mary of
Bethany. (Luke 10:39) He is a Love that prays in "always living to make
intercession for us" before the Father. (Hebrews 7:25) He is a Love
that delightfully satisfies in the heavenly exhilarations of nuptial
union with His favored spouses, (virgins of both sexes); whom He draws
to Himself in an exclusive Love, as He drew to Himself St. John the
Evangelist, the virgin Apostle and the only one who "leaned on His
breast" in the Cenacle. (John 21:20)
"To be possessed by Jesus and to possess Him --- that is the perfect
of Love," wrote St. Peter Julian Eymard. The Eucharist achieves this
"perfect reign of Love" in all, who are pure of heart, approach the
Holy Tabernacle and unite themselves to Jesus in the Host with
humility and love. In the Eucharist, Jesus sacrifices Himself for us,
He gives Himself to us, He remains among us with infinite humility and
"For One in such a lofty position to stoop so low is a marvel that is
staggering," exclaimed the Seraphic Father, St. Francis. "What
sublime humility and humble sublimeness, that the Lord of the Universe,
the Divine Son of God, should so stoop as to hide Himself under the
appearance of bread for our salvation! Behold the humble way of God,
my brothers. Therefore, do not hold yourselves to be anything of
yourselves, so that you may be entirely acceptable to One Who gives
Himself entirely to you".
And St. Alphonsus Liguori adds with his usual affectionate tenderness,
"My Jesus! What a lovable contrivance this holy Sacrament was --- that
would hide under the appearance of bread to make Yourself loved and to
be available for a visit by anyone who desires You!"
May some remembrance of the priest, who every day gives us Jesus, and
the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus our God and all priests, be
always in our affections toward the Most Holy Sacrament; for the
Eucharist, Our Lady, and the priest are inseparable, just as Jesus,
and St. John the Evangelist were inseparable on Calvary.
Let us learn all this in the school of the Saints. They lived in a way
that was ardent and sublime, as true seraphims of Love for the
Eucharist. These are the ones, as Vatican II declares (Lumen Gentium
n. 50), who are the "most safe path" to the Eucharistic God of Love.
Eucharistic Jesus Is God Among Us
When St. John Mary Vianney arrived at the obscure little village of
someone said to him with bitterness, "Here there is nothing to do."
"Therefore, there is everything to do," replied the Saint.
And he began immediately to act. What did he do? He arose at 2:00 A.M.
in the morning and went to pray near the altar in the dark church. He
recited the Divine Office, he made his meditation and he prepared
himself for Holy Mass. After the Holy Sacrifice, he made his
then he remained at prayer until Noon. He would be always kneeling on
the floor without any support, with a Rosary in his hand and his eyes
fIxed on the Tabernacle.
Things continued this way for a short time. But then ... he had to
changing his timetable; and things reached a point requiring radical
changes in his program. The Eucharistic Jesus and the Blessed Virgin
Mary, little by little, drew souls to that poor parish, until the
Church did not seem big enough to contain the crowds, and the
confessional of the holy Curate became swamped with endless lines of
penitents. The holy Curate was obliged to hear confessions for ten,
fifteen and eighteen hours a day! How did such a transformation ever
come about? There had been a poor Church, an altar long unused, an
abandoned tabernacle, an ancient confessional and a priest of little
talent with no means to do anything. How could these things achieve
a remarkable change in that obscure village?
We can ask the same question today regarding San Giovanni Rotundo, a
town in Gargano, Italy. Until a few decades ago it was an obscure,
unknown place amid the rough crags of a promontory. Today, San Giovanni
Rotundo is a center of spiritual and cultural life and its reputation
is international. Here, too, there had been an unpromising, sickly
friar, an ancient, dilapidated little Friary, a small neglected Church,
with altar and tabernacle left ever alone to this poor friar, who wore
out his beads and his hands in the untiring recitation of the Holy
Rosary. How did the change come about? What caused the wonderful
transformation that came to Ars and to San Giovanni Rotundo, so that
hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of persons have come there
from every part of the earth?
Only God could work such transformations using, according to His
ways, "the things that are not to bring to naught the things that are."
(1 Cor. 1:28) It is all due to Him, to the Divine and infinite power
of the Eucharist, to the almighty force of attraction which radiates
from every tabernacle, and which radiated from the tabernacles of Ars
and San Giovanni Rotunda, reaching souls through the ministry of those
two priests, true "Ministers of the Tabernacles" and "dispensers of the
mysteries of God." (1 Cor. 4:1)
Let us ask the question: What is the Eucharist? It is God among us. It
is the Lord Jesus present in the tabernacles of our churches with His
Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is Jesus veiled under the appearance
of bread, but really and physically present in the consecrated Host, so
that He dwells in our midst, works within us and for us, and is at our
disposal. The Eucharistic Jesus is the true Emmanuel, the "God with
us." (Matt. 1:23)
"The faith of the Church," Pope Pius XII teaches us, "is this: That one
and identical is the Word of God and the Son of Mary Who suffered on
the Cross, Who is present in the Eucharist, and Who rules in Heaven."
The Eucharistic Jesus is here with us as a brother, as a friend, as
spouse of our souls. He wishes to enter within us to be our food for
eternal life, our love, our support. He wants to make us part of His
mystical Body in which He would redeem us and save us, and then take us
into the kingdom of Heaven to settle us in an everlasting bliss of
With the Eucharist, God has truly given us everything. St. Augustine
exclaimed: "Although God is all-powerful, He is unable to give more;
though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly
rich, He has not more to give."
To the Eucharist, then, we should go. To Jesus we should turn --- to
Jesus, Who wishes to make Himself ours in order to make us His by
rendering us "godlike." "Jesus, Food of strong souls," St. Gemma
Galgani used to say, "strengthen me, purify me, make me godlike." Let
us receive the Eucharist with a pure and ardent heart. This is as the
Saints have done. It should never be too much trouble for us to grow
familiar with this unspeakable mystery. Meditation, study and
reflection on the Eucharist should have an important place each day on
our timetable. It will be the time of our day richest in blessings.
Knowing, Loving, Living the Eucharist
In order to explore at least some of the immense riches
stored up in
the Mystery of the Eucharist, let us undertake an exercise which, while
one and constant, uses the mind, the heart and the will.
First, it uses the mind. Here one meditates in an attentive, orderly
way on the Eucharist This may be done with books which lead us to
personally uncover and deeply ponder this Mystery of Love. A simple
booklet which is rich in content is St. Alphonsus M. de Liguori's
"Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and
to the Blessed Virgin Mary."
there are the two precious booklets by St. Peter Julian Eymard
entitled, "The Real Presence"
We should, above all, turn to the school of St. Peter Julian Eymard,
who was unequalled as an Apostle of the Eucharist. His vocation and
mission was to lead all Christians to the Eucharist. When he founded
the Congregation of Priests of the Blessed Sacrament, he offered his
life for the Eucharistic reign of Jesus. At that time he wrote these
ardent words: "Here, dear Jesus, is my life. Behold me ready to eat
stones and to die abandoned, just so that I may succeed in erecting a
throne for Thee and give Thee a family of friends, a nation of
If we but knew the gift of God Who is Love and Who gives Himself to us
as a Gift full of Love! "The Eucharist," said St. Bernard, "is that
love which surpasses all loves in Heaven and on earth." And St. Thomas
Aquinas wrote: "The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love: It signifies
Love, it produces Love." One day an Arabian prince, Abd-ed-Kader, while
passing through the streets of Marseille with a French official, met a
priest who was carrying Holy Viaticum to a dying man. The French
official stopped, uncovered his head, and knelt. His friend asked him
the reason for this gesture.
"I adore my God, Whom the priest is carrying to a sick person,"
replied the good official.
"How is it possible," the prince said, "for you to believe that God Who
is so great, makes Himself so little and lets Himself go even to the
homes of the poor? We Mohammedans have a much higher idea of God."
The official answered, "It is because you have only an idea of the
greatness of God; that you do not know His Love."
In confirmation of this, St. Peter Eymard declares, "The Eucharist is
the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing
more but Heaven itself." Yet, how many of us Christians do not know the
vast extent of the love contained in the Eucharist.
Second, to explore the riches of the Eucharist, we use the heart. If
every Christian must love Jesus Christ ("If any man love not our Lord
Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." 1 Cor. 16:22). Love for the
Eucharist must spring from the heart and be ever alive in us all. Now
even love needs exercise. The heart needs to be exercised to love the
true God, to long for "The Author of Life." (Acts 3:15).
Holy Communion represents the loftiest point of this exercise of
love, Whose consuming flames unite the heart of a creature and Jesus.
St. Gemma Galgani could exclaim in this regard, "I can no longer avoid
the thought that in the wonderful scope of His Love, Jesus makes
Himself perceptible and shows Himself to His lowliest creature in all
the splendors of His Heart." And what may we say about the "exercises"
of the heart of St. Gemma, who desired to be a "tent of love" in which
she would keep Jesus always with her? She longed to have a "little
place in the ciborium" to be able to stay always with Jesus. She asked
that she could become "a flaming ball afire with love" for Jesus.
When St. Therese of the Child Jesus had become quite ill, she dragged
herself with great effort to Church to receive Jesus. One morning,
after Holy Communion, she was in her cell, exhausted. One of the
Sisters remarked that she should not exert herself so much. The Saint
replied, "Oh, what are these sufferings to me in comparison with one
Holy Communion?" Her sweet complaint was that she could not receive
Holy Communion every day. (It was not permitted in her times.) She
ardently pleaded with Jesus: "Remain within me, as You do in the
Tabernacle. Do not ever withdraw Your presence from Your little Host."
When St. Margaret Mary Alacoque left the world and consecrated
herself to God in the cloister, she made a private vow and wrote it in
her blood, "All for the Eucharist; nothing for me." It is useless to
attempt to describe the Saint's burning love for the Eucharist. When
she was not able to receive Holy Communion, she broke out in ardent
expressions of love like these: "I have such a desire for Holy
Communion that if I had to walk barefoot along a path of fire to obtain
It, I would do so with unspeakable joy."
St. Catherine of Siena said often to her confessor: "Father, I am
hungry; for the love of God give this soul her food, her Lord in the
Eucharist." She also confided: "When I am not able to receive my Lord,
I go into the Church, and there I look at Him ... I look at Him again
... and this satisfies me."
This we call "exercise of the heart."
Third, to find the riches of the
Eucharist, one should exercise the will. One must do this by bringing
the Divine lessons of the Eucharist into his life. What good would it
be to discover the infinite worth of the Eucharist as we ponder It and
seek to love It at Communion time, if we do not then proceed to live
The Eucharist teaches a love that goes beyond telling. It teaches total
self-sacrifice, and an unequalled lesson in humility and
self-effacement. It teaches patience and unrestricted dedication. But
what do we draw from all this? We surely ought to achieve something!
Can we continue to be indifferent and do nothing when Jesus has loved
us and still loves us with this great generosity "even to the end?"
(John 13:1) If we feel frail, we need to turn to Him, to speak to Him
and not tarry about asking His help and support, for He is the very One
Who said, "Without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) First of all let
us go before Him: "Come to Me ... and I will refresh you." (Matt. 11
:28) Let us often visit Him, entering a Church every time we can and
pausing a little while before the tabernacle, and put both our heart
close to Him and our body before His! The Saints were constantly eager
to make visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, to make Holy Hours of
adoration, spiritual communions, ejaculatory prayers and earnest acts
of love that come from the heart. How much profit they gained from this
and how much good they passed on!
One day in Turin a friend, who was his companion from the University,
asked Peter George Frassati, "Let us go and take an appetizer." Peter
George took advantage of the occasion and replied, indicating to his
friend the nearby Church of St. Dominic, "But, of course, let us go and
take it in that cafe." Entering the Church, they prayed for a little
while near the tabernacle; then they neared the offering box, Peter
George said, "Here is the appetizer." And, from the pockets of the two
youths came alms for the poor!
Thinking of the Eucharist during his sermon, St. John Chrysostom asked
one time, "How can we make of our bodies a host?" And he himself
replied, "Let your eyes look at nothing evil, and you have offered a
sacrifice; let not your tongue offer unbecoming words and you have made
an offering; let not your hand commit a sin and you have offered a
Just recall the eyes of St. Colette, which were always lowered and
recollected in sweet modesty. Why? She once gave the answer: "My eyes,
I have filled with Jesus upon Whom I have fixed them at the Elevation
of the Host at Holy Mass and I do not wish to replace Him with any
Let us think of the reserve and edification of the Saints in speaking,
using with exactness the tongue which had been consecrated by contact
with the Body of Christ Jesus.
Recall the good works which souls, filled with love by the Eucharist,
have accomplished because Jesus communicated to them His Own
sentiments of love to all the brothers, especially the most needful.
Can we not also exercise thus our will? Let us learn from the Saints
and begin to continue their good works.
Holy Mass is the Sacrifice of the Cross
Only in Heaven will we understand what a Divine marvel the Holy Mass
is. No matter how much we force ourselves and no matter how holy and
inspired we are, we cannot but stammer on this Divine work which
transcends men and Angels.
One day Padre Pio of Pietrelcina had been asked, "Father, please
explain the Holy Mass to us." "My children," replied Padre Pio, "how
can I explain it to you? The Mass is infinite like Jesus ... ask an
Angel what a Mass is and he will reply to you in truth, 'I understand
what it is and why it is offered, but I do not, however, understand how
much value it has.' One Angel, a thousand Angels, all of Heaven, know
this and think like this."
St. Alphonsus of Liguori came to affirm, "God Himself cannot bring
about an action more holy and greater than the celebration of one
Holy Mass." Why? Because the Holy Mass is, one could say,
the synthesis, because the Holy Mass can be said to sum up the
Incarnation and Redemption and contains the Birth, Passion and the
Death of Jesus, mysteries which God accomplished for our sakes. The
second Vatican Council teaches, "At the Last Supper, the night in which
He was betrayed, Jesus initiated the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body
and Blood, in order to continue the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout
the centuries until His return." (Sacrosantum Concilium, The
Constitution on the Liturgy, n. 47) St. Thomas Aquinas, in an
enlightening passage, wrote, "The celebration of the Holy Mass is as
valuable as the death of Jesus on the Cross."
For this reason,. St. Francis of Assisi said, "Man should tremble,
the world should vibrate, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the
Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest."
Indeed, inasmuch as it renews the Sacrifice of Jesus' passion and
death, the Holy Mass, even taken alone, is great enough to restrain
Divine justice. St. Teresa of Jesus said to her daughters, "Without the
Holy Mass what would become of us? All here below would perish, because
that alone can hold back God's arm." Without it the Church certainly
would not last and the world would become hopelessly lost. "It would be
easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do so without
the Holy Mass," said Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. He was following St.
Leonard of Port Maurice
who had said, "I believe that if there were
Mass, the world would by now have sunk into the abyss under the weight
of its wickedness. The Mass is the powerful support which sustains
Wonderful are the saving effects which every Sacrifice of the Mass
produces in the souls of those who participate. It obtains sorrow and
pardon for sins; it lessens the temporal punishment due to sins; it
weakens the influence of Satan and the untamed impulses of our flesh;
it strengthens the bonds of our union in the Body of Christ; it
protects us from danger and disaster; it shortens the punishment of
Purgatory; it obtains for us a higher degree of glory in Heaven. "No
human tongue," said St. Laurence Justinian, "can enumerate the favors
that trace back to the Sacrifice of the Mass. The sinner is reconciled
with God; the just man becomes more upright; sins are wiped away; vices
eliminated; virtue and merit gain growth and the devil's schemes are
And so St. Leonard of Port Maurice did not tire of exhorting the
crowds which listened to him, "O you deluded people, what are you
doing? Why do you not hasten to the churches to hear as many Masses as
you can? Why do you not imitate the Angels who, when a Holy Mass is
celebrated, come down in squadrons from Paradise and take their
stations about our altars in adoration to intercede for us?"
If it is true that we all have need of graces for this life and for the
next, nothing can win them from God like the Holy Mass. St. Philip Neri
used to say, "With prayer we ask graces from God; in the Holy Mass we
constrain God to give them to us." The prayer offered during Holy Mass
engages our whole priesthood, both the ministerial priesthood even
apart from that of the individual priest at the altar and the
common priesthood of all the faithful. In Holy Mass our prayer is
united with Jesus' prayer of agony as He sacrifices HimSelf for us. In
a special way during the Canon, which is the heart of the Mass, the
prayer of all of us becomes also the prayer of Jesus, present amongst
us. The two Mementoes of the Roman Canon during which the living and
the dead are remembered, are precious moments for us to present our
petitions. Also, in those supreme moments when Jesus in the priest's
hands undergoes His Passion and Death, we can beg for our own needs
and we can recommend both living and deceased persons who are dear to
us. Let us take care to profit by this. The Saints held this to be very
important, and when they recommended themselves to the prayers of
priests, they asked them to remember them above all during the
It will particularly be at the hour of our death that the Masses
have devoutly heard will bring us our greatest consolation and hope,
and one Mass heard during life will be more profitable than many
Masses heard by others in our behalf after our death.
Our Lord told St. Gertrude, "You may be sure that regarding one who
devoutly assists at Holy Mass, I will send him as many of My Saints to
comfort him and protect him during the last moments of his life as
there will have been Masses which he has heard well."
How consoling! The Holy Cure of Ars had reason to say, "If we knew the
value of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, how much greater effort we
would put forth in order to assist at it!" And St. Peter Julian Eymard
exhorted, "Know, O Christian, that the Mass is the holiest act of
Religion. You cannot do anything to glorify God more nor profit your
soul more than devoutly assisting at It, and assisting as often as
For this reason we must consider ourselves fortunate every time we have
an opportunity to attend a Holy Mass; and in order not to lose the
opportunity, we should never withhold ourselves because of some
sacrifice, especially on Sundays and holy days.
Let us remember St. Maria Goretti, who, to go to Sunday Mass traveled
on foot, a journey of 15 miles going and returning home. We should
think of Santina Campana, who went to Mass while she had a high fever.
Think of Saint Maximilian M. Kolbe, who offered Holy Mass when his
health was in such pitiful condition that one of his brothers in
religion had to support him at the altar so that he would not fall. And
how many times Padre Pio of Pietrelcina celebrated Holy Mass while he
was bleeding and had a fever!
In our own daily lives, we ought to rank the Holy Mass ahead of any
other good; for, as St. Bernard says, "One merits more by devoutly
assisting at a Holy Mass than by distributing all of his goods to the
poor and traveling all over the world on pilgrimage." And it cannot be
otherwise, because nothing in the world can have the infinite value of
one Holy Mass.
We ought to prefer Holy Mass all the more to mere amusements that
waste our time and bring no profit to our soul. St. Louis IX, King of
France, attended several Masses every day. A minister of the government
complained, remarking that he could devote that time to the affairs of
the kingdom. The saintly king remarked, "If I spent twice the time in
amusements, like hunting, no one would have any objection."
Let us be generous and willingly make sacrifices so as not to lose so
great a good. St. Augustine said to his Christians, "The steps that
one takes as he travels to hear Holy Mass are counted by an Angel; and
then one will be given a high reward by God in this life and in
eternity." The Cure of Ars adds, "How happy is that guardian Angel who
accompanies a soul to Holy Mass!"
Holy Communion: Jesus is Mine
In Holy Communion Jesus gives Himself to me and becomes
mine, all mine,
in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Thus, one day, St. Gemma Galgani said candidly to Jesus, "I am Your
master." With Communion, Jesus enters my heart and remains corporally
in me as long as the species (the appearance) of bread lasts; that
is, for about 15 minutes. During this time, the Holy Fathers teach
that the Angels surround me to continue to adore Jesus and love Him
without interruption. "When Jesus is corporally present within us, the
Angels surround us as a guard of love," wrote St. Bernard.
Perhaps we think too little about the sublimity of every Holy
Communion, and yet, St. Pius X said that "If the Angels could envy,
they would envy us for Holy Communion." And St. Madeleine Sophie Barat
defined Holy Communion as "Paradise on earth."
All the Saints have understood by experience the Divine marvel of the
meeting and the union with Jesus in the Eucharist. They have
understood that a devout Holy Communion means to be possessed by
Him and to possess Him. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My Blood
abides in Me and I in him" (John 6:57). One time St. Gemma Galgani
wrote, "It is now night, tomorrow morning is approaching and then
Jesus will possess me and I will possess Jesus." It is not possible to
have a union of love more profound and more total: He in me and I in
Him; the one in the other. What more could we want?
"You envy," said St. John Chrysostom, "the opportunity of the woman
who touched the vestments of Jesus, of the sinful woman who washed
His feet with her tears, of the women of Galilee who had the
happiness of following Him in His pilgrimages, of the Apostles and
disciples who conversed with Him familiarly, of the people of the
time who listened to the words of grace and salvation which came forth
from His lips. You call happy those who saw Him ... But, come to the
altar and you will see Him, you will touch Him, you will give to Him
holy kisses, you will wash Him with your tears, you will carry Him
within you like Mary Most Holy."
For this reason the Saints have desired and longed for Holy Communion
with ardent love; for example, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of
Siena, St. Paschal Baylon, St. Veronica, St. Gerard, St. Margaret Mary
Alacoque, St. Dominic Savio, St. Gemma Galgani ... it is pointless to
continue because one would really need to list all the Saints.
For example, it happened one night to St. Catherine of Genoa, that she
dreamed that the following day she would not be able to receive Holy
Communion. The sorrow that she experienced was so great that she
cried unceasingly, and when she woke up the next morning she found that
her face was all wet from the tears she shed in her dream.
St. Theresa of the Child Jesus has written a little Eucharistic Poem,
"Desires near the Tabernacle," in which, among other beautiful things,
she said, "I would like to be the chalice, there where I would adore
the Divine Blood. I can however in the Holy Sacrifice, gather It in me
every morning. My soul is therefore more dear to Jesus, it is more
precious than vessels of gold." And what was not the happiness of the
angelic Saint when, during an epidemic, daily Communion was conceded to
St. Gemma Galgani, one time was put to the test by a confessor who
forbade her to receive Holy Communion. "O Father, Father," she wrote to
her spiritual director, "today I went to Confession and the confessor
has said that I must stop receiving Jesus. O my Father, my pen does not
want to write more, my hand shakes strongly, I cry." Dear Saint! Truly
a seraphim all on fire with love for the Eucharistic Jesus.
Similarly, St. Gerard Majella, for a false and slanderous report from
which he did not wish to defend himself, was punished by being deprived
of Holy Communion. The suffering of the Saint was such that one day he
refused to go to serve Holy Mass for a priest who was visiting,
"because," he said, "on seeing Jesus in the Host in the hands of the
priest, I would not be able to resist taking by force the Host from his
hands." What longing consumed this wonderful Saint! And what a rebuke
for us who, perhaps, are able to receive Holy Communion daily with ease
and we do not do it. It is a sign that we lack the essential: love. And
perhaps we are so in love with earthly pleasures that we can no longer
appreciate the heavenly delights of union with Jesus in the Host.
"Child, how can you feel the fragrance of Paradise which diffuses
Itself from the Tabernacle?" asked St. Philip of a young man in love
with the pleasures of the flesh, of dances and amusements. The joys of
the Eucharist and the satisfaction of the senses are "opposed to each
other" (Gal. 5:17) and the "sensual man perceives not these things
which are of the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:14). This is wisdom which
comes from God.
St. Philip Neri loved the Eucharist so much that, even when he was
gravely ill, he received Holy Communion every day, and if Jesus was not
brought to him very early in the morning he became very upset and he
could not find rest in any way. "I have such a desire to receive
Jesus," he exclaimed, "that I cannot give myself peace while I wait."
The same thing took place in our own time to Padre Pio of Pietrelcina,
since only obedience could make him wait until 4 or 5 a.m. to celebrate
Mass. Truly, the love of God is a "Devouring Fire" (Deut. 4:24).
When Jesus is mine, the whole Church exalts, the Church in Heaven, in
Purgatory and the Church on earth. Who can express the joy of the
Angels and Saints at every Holy Communion devoutly received? A new
current of love arrives in Paradise and it makes the blessed spirits
vibrate every time that a creature unites himself to Jesus to possess
Him and be possessed by Him. A Holy Communion is of much greater value
than an ecstasy, a rapture or a vision. Holy Communion transports the
whole of Paradise into my poor heart!
For the Souls in Purgatory then, Holy Communion is the dearest personal
gift which they can receive from us. Who can say how much Holy
Communions are helpful in their liberation? One day St. Mary Magdalene
of Pazzi's dead father appeared to her and he said that one hundred and
seven Holy Communions were necessary for him to be able to leave
Purgatory. In fact, at the last of the one hundred and seven Holy
Communions offered for him, the Saint saw her father ascend into
St. Bonaventure made himself an apostle of this truth and he spoke of
it in vibrant tones, "O Christian souls, do you wish to prove your true
love towards your dead? Do you wish to send them the most precious help
and golden key to Heaven? Receive Holy Communion often for the repose
of their souls."
Finally, let us reflect that in Holy Communion we unite ourselves not
only to Jesus but also to all the members of the Mystical Body of
Christ, especially to the souls most dear to Jesus and most dear to our
heart. It is in Holy Communion that we realize fully the words of
Jesus, "I in them ... that they may be perfect in unity" (John 17:23).
The Eucharist renders us one, even among ourselves, His members, "all
one in Jesus" as St. Paul says (Gal. 3:28). Holy Communion is truly all
love of God and neighbor. It is the true "feast of love," as St. Gemma
Galgani said. And in this "feast of love" the soul in love can exult
singing with St. John of the Cross, "Mine are the heavens and mine is
the earth, mine are men, the Just are mine and sinners are mine. The
Angels are mine, and also the Mother of God, all things are mine. God
Himself is mine and for me because Christ is mine and all for me."
The Purity of Soul Necessary for Holy Communion
What is there to say about the great purity of soul with which the
Saints approached to receive the Bread of Angels? We know that they had
a great delicacy of conscience which was truly angelic. Aware of their
own misery, they tried to present themselves to Jesus "holy and
immaculate," (Eph. 1:4) repeating with the Publican, "O God, be
merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13), and having recourse with great
care to the cleansing of Confession.
When St. Jerome was brought Holy Viaticum at the end of his life, the
Saint prostrated himself on the ground in adoration and he was heard to
repeat with profound humility the words of St. Elizabeth and those of
St. Peter, "How is this, that my Lord should come to me?" "Depart from
me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8). And how many times was
the angelic and seraphic St. Gemma tempted to not receive Holy
Communion, holding herself to be nothing else than a vile "dunghill?"
Padre Pio of Pietrelcina used to repeat with trepidation to his
brethren, "God sees blights even in the Angels. What must He see in
me!" For this reason he was very diligent in making his sacramental
"Oh, if we could only understand Who is that God Whom we receive in
Holy Communion, then what purity of heart we would bring to Him!"
exclaimed St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi. For this reason St. Hugh, St.
Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. Ignatius, St. Charles
Borromeo, St. Francis Borgia, St. Louis Bertrand, St. Joseph Cupertino,
St. Leonard of Port Maurice and many other Saints went to Confession
every day before celebrating Holy Mass.
St. Camillus de Lellis never celebrated Holy Mass without first going
to Confession, because he wanted at least "to dust off" his soul. Once,
at sundown in a public square in Livorno, before taking leave of a
priest of the same religious order, foreseeing that he would not have a
priest to confess to on the following morning before his Mass, paused,
took off his hat, made the Sign of the Cross and went to Confession
right there in the square to his confrere.
Also, St. Alphonsus, St. Joseph Cafasso, St. John Bosco, St. Pius X
and Padre Pio of Pietrelcina went to Confession very often. And why did
St. Pius X wish to lower the age for First Holy Communion to seven
years, if not to allow Jesus to enter into the innocent hearts of
children, which are so similar to Angels. And why was Padre Pio so
delighted when they brought him children five years old who were
prepared for First Holy Communion?
The Saints applied to perfection the directive of the Holy Spirit, "Let
everyone first examine himself, and then eat of that Bread and drink of
that Chalice; because he who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and
drinks unto his own condemnation" (l Cor. 11:28-29).
To examine themselves, to repent, to accuse themselves in Confession
and to ask pardon of God, and in this way even every day profit from
the Sacrament of Confession, was something natural for the Saints. How
fortunate they were to be capable of so much! The fruits of
sanctification were constant and abundant because the purity of soul
with which each Saint welcomed into himself Jesus, "The Wheat of the
elect," (Zach. 9:17) was like the good ground" ... which brings forth
fruit in patience" (Luke 8:15).
St. Anthony Mary Claret illustrates this fact very well: "When we go to
Holy Communion, all of us receive the same Lord Jesus, but not all
receive the same grace nor are the same effects produced in all. This
comes from our greater or lesser disposition. To explain this fact, I
will take an example from nature. Consider the process of grafting, the
more similar the one plant is to the other, the better the graft will
succeed. Likewise, the more resemblance there is between the one that
goes to Communion and Jesus, so much the better will the fruits of Holy
Communion be." The Sacrament of Confession is in fact the excellent
means whereby the similarity between the soul and Jesus is restored.
For this reason St. Francis de Sales taught his spiritual children, "Go
to Confession with humility and devotion ... if it is possible, every
time that you go to Holy Communion, even though you do not feel in your
conscience any remorse of mortal sin."
In this regard it is well to recall the teaching of the Church. Holy
Communion must be received only while one is in the grace of God.
Therefore, when one has committed a mortal sin, even if one has
repented of it and has a great desire to receive Holy Communion, it is
necessary and indispensable to confess oneself first before receiving
Holy Communion, otherwise one commits a most grave sin of sacrilege,
for which Jesus said to St. Bridget, "there does not exist on earth a
punishment which is great enough to punish it sufficiently!"
St. Ambrose said that persons who commit this sacrilege "come into
church with a few sins, and leave it burdened with many." St. Cyril
wrote something yet stronger: "They who make a sacrilegious Communion
receive Satan and Jesus Christ into their hearts --- Satan, that
they may let him rule, and Jesus Christ, that they may offer Him in
sacrifice as a Victim to Satan." Thus the Catechism of the Council of
Trent (De Euch., v. i) declares: "As of all the sacred mysteries ...
can compare with the ... Eucharist, so likewise for no crime is there
heavier punishment to be feared from God than for the unholy or
irreligious use by the faithful of that which ... contains the very
Author and Source of holiness."
On the other hand, Confession made before Holy Communion to render a
soul already in the state of Sanctifying Grace more pure and more
beautiful, is something precious even though not required. It is
precious because it clothes the soul with a more beautiful "wedding
garment" (cf. Matt. 22:12) with which it may take its place at the
table of the Angels. For this reason the most conscientious souls
have always made frequent use (at least once a week) of the sacramental
cleansing of absolution, even for venial sins. If you want. great
purity of soul in order to receive Jesus, no purity shines brighter
than that which one obtains when he makes a good confession, where the
cleansing Blood of Jesus renders the repentant soul divinely bright and
beautiful. "The soul that receives the Divine Blood becomes beautiful,
as being clothed in a more precious garment, and it appears so
beautifully aglow that if you could see it you would be tempted to
adore it," declared St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi.
Holy Communion with Mary
Oh, how much it pleases Jesus to be received by a soul
clothed with His Divine Blood! And what affectionate delight He takes
when such a soul is a chaste virgin! For "the Eucharist came from the
Paradise of Virginity" (namely, Mary), said St. Albert the Great; and
our Eucharistic Lord does not find such a paradise except in virginity.
No one can repeat, quite like a virgin, with the Spouse of the Canticle
of Canticles at every Holy Communion: "All mine is my true Love, and I
all His; ... He goes out to pasture among the lilies ... Come back, my
heart's Love" (Cant. 2:16-17).
One praiseworthy way of preparing for Holy Communion is to invoke the
Immaculate Virgin, to count on Her to enable us to receive Jesus with
Her humility, Her purity and Her love --- praying rather that She
may come to receive Him in us. This pious practice is much recommended
by the Saints, in particular St. Louis Grignon de Montfort, St. Peter
Eymard, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe. "The
best preparation for Holy Communion is that which is made with Mary,"
wrote St. Peter Eymard. A delightful illustration is given by St.
Therese of Lisieux, picturing her soul as a little three or four-year
old girl whose hair and dress were in disarray, ashamed to present
herself at the altar rail to receive Jesus. However, she appeals to the
Madonna, and "immediately," the Saint writes, "the Virgin Mary occupies
Herself with me. She quickly replaces my dirty dress, ties up my hair
with a pretty ribbon and adds a simple flower ... This is enough to
me attractive and enables me to take my place without embarrassment
at the banquet of the Angels."
Let us try this method of preparation. We will not be disappointed.
We will be able to say what St. Gemma exclaimed in ecstasy, "How
beautiful it is to receive Communion with the Mother of Paradise!"
Thanksgiving After Holy Communion, Part 1
The time of Thanksgiving after Holy Communion is the most ideal
for an intimate exchange of love with Jesus. Let it be a love of total
self-giving thus returning Jesus' love so wholeheartedly that there is
no longer two of us but one, so to speak, in soul and body. Let it be a
love that vivifies and unites, --- He in me and I in Him, so that we
be consumed in the uniqueness and unity of His love.
"You are my loving prey just as I am the object of Your immense
charity," said St. Gemma to Jesus with tenderness.
St. John wrote, "Blessed are they that are called to the wedding
banquet of the Lamb" (Apoc. 19:9). In truth, in Eucharistic Communion
rightly received, the soul realizes, in a heavenly virginal union, a
nuptial love for the Spouse, Jesus, to Whom the soul can say with the
most tender enthusiasm of the Bride in the Canticle of Canticles: "Let
Him kiss me with the kiss of His mouth" (Cant. 1:1).
Thanksgiving after Holy Communion is a small foretaste, while on earth,
of the love which will be experienced in Paradise. In Heaven, in fact,
how shall we love Jesus if not by being one with Him eternally? Dear
Jesus, sweet Jesus, oh how I ought to thank You for every
Holy Communion that You grant me! Did not St. Gemma have good reason to
say she would thank You in Paradise for the Eucharist more than for
anything else? What a miracle of love to be so completely united with
You, O Jesus!
Water, Yeast, Wax
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Father of the Church, used
three illustrations to show the union of love with Jesus in Holy
Communion: "He who receives Communion is made holy and Divinized in
and body in the same way that water, set over a fire, becomes boiling.
... Communion works like yeast that has been mixed into dough so that
leavens the whole Mass: ... Just as by melting two candles together you
get one piece of wax, so, I think, one who receives the Flesh and Blood
of Jesus is fused together with Him by this Communion, and the soul
finds that he is in Christ and Christ is in him."
For this reason St. Gemma Galgani used to speak in awed wonder of the
Eucharistic union between "Jesus Who is All and Gemma who is nothing."
In an ecstasy she exclaimed, "What great sweetness there is, O Jesus,
in Communion! I want to live in Your embrace and die in Your embrace."
And Blessed Contardo Ferrini wrote, "Ah, Holy Communion! unspeakable
heights for a human spirit to reach! What does the world have that
equals these pure, heavenly joys, these tastes of eternal glory?"
There is another value Holy Communion has that deserves our
reflections, and it is in reference to the Blessed Trinity. One day St.
Mary Magdalene di Pazzi was kneeling with arms crossed among the
novices after Communion. She raised her eyes heavenward and said, "O
Sisters, if only we would comprehend the fact that while the
Eucharistic Species remain within us, Jesus is there and working in us
inseparably with the Father and the Holy Spirit and therefore the whole
Holy Trinity is there---" She could not finish speaking because she
became wrapt in ecstasy.
Remain at Least Fifteen Minutes
The Saints chose, when it was possible,
to set no time limit for thanksgiving after Communion, which would last
at least a half hour. St. Teresa of Jesus told her daughters, "Let us
detain ourselves lovingly with Jesus and not waste the hour that
follows Communion. It is an excellent time to deal with God and put
Him the matters that concern our soul. ... As we know that good Jesus
remains within us until our natural warmth has dissolved the bread-like
qualities, we should take great care not to lose such a beautiful
opportunity to treat with Him and lay our needs before Him."
St. Francis of Assisi, St. Juliana Falconieri, St. Catherine, St.
Paschal, St. Veronica, St. Joseph Cupertino, St. Gemma, and many
others, used to almost always go into a loving ecstasy immediately
after Holy Communion. As for the duration, only the angels measured the
time. Also St. Teresa of Avila nearly always went into ecstasy right
after receiving Holy Communion, and sometimes it was necessary to
carry her away bodily from the Communion grille.
St. John of Avila, St. Ignatius Loyola, and St. Aloysius Gonzaga used
make their thanksgiving on their knees for two hours. St. Mary
Magdalene di Pazzi wanted it to continue without interruption. It was
necessary to constrain her so that she might take a little nourishment
"The minutes that follow Communion," the Saint said, "are the most
precious we have in our lives. They are the minutes best suited on our
part for treating with God, and on His part for communicating His love
St. Louis Grignon de Montfort used to remain for Thanksgiving after
Holy Mass at least a half hour, and he would not let there be any worry
or engagement that could make him omit it. He said, "I would not give
up this hour of Thanksgiving even for an hour of Paradise."
Let us also then make the following resolutions: That we will so
organize our time and our lives that we will remain in Thanksgiving
after Holy Communion for at least fifteen minutes; and further
resolve to allow nothing to stop us from taking this time for
Thanksgiving. These minutes in which Jesus is physically present to our
souls and within our bodies are heavenly minutes that we should by no
Thanksgiving After Holy Communion, Part 2
St. Philip and the Candles
The Apostle, St. Paul, wrote, "Glorify and bear God in your body"
Cor. 6:20). There is no time in which these words, taken literally,
apply so well, as during the time immediately after receiving Holy
Communion. How unfeeling it is, then, for someone to receive Communion
and leave the church at once as soon as Mass is over, or as soon as he
has received Our Lord! We may remember the example of St. Philip Neri,
who had two altar boys with lighted candies go to accompany a man who
had left the church right after his Communion. What a beautiful lesson!
For the sake of good manners, if for no other reason, when a
person receives a guest, he pauses to give his attention to him and
takes interest in him. If this guest is Jesus, then we will only have
reason to be sorry that His bodily presence within us scarcely lasts
fifteen minutes or a little more. In view of this, St. Joseph
Cottolengo used to personally oversee the baking of hosts for Mass and
Communion. To the sister assigned to this he gave the following
instruction: "Make the hosts thick so that I can linger a long time
with Jesus. I do not want the Sacred Species to quickly dissolve."
Are we not perhaps acting contrary to the example of the Saints when we
regard our period of Thanksgiving as too long and perhaps feel
impatient to get it over with? But, oh how we should watch ourselves
here! For if it is true that at every Communion Jesus "gives us a
hundredfold for the hospitality we show Him," as St. Teresa of Jesus
declares, then it is likewise true that we must answer a hundredfold
for neglecting this hospitality. A fellow Capuchin of Padre Pio of
Pietrelcina told how one day he went to Confession to the holy friar,
and among other things, confessed omitting his Thanksgiving after Holy
Mass because, he said, some ministry made him unable. While Padre Pio
was lenient in judging the other faults when he heard him confess this
omission, he grew more serious, and, with a stern look, he said firmly
"Let us see to it that our being unable is not just being unwilling. I
always have to make my Thanksgiving; otherwise I pay dearly."
Let us give the matter serious thought and attention. When it comes to
something so very precious as this Thanksgiving, let us take to heart
the Holy Spirit's admonition, "Let not your share of desired good pass
you by" (Ecclus. 14:14).
Thanksgiving with the Madonna
There is a special beauty in a
Thanksgiving made in Mary's company in honour of Her Annunciation.
Right after Holy Communion we carry Jesus within our souls and bodies,
just as the Blessed Virgin Mary did when She had received the message
of the Angel. We cannot find a better way to adore and love Jesus at
that time than by making our dispositions agree with those of the
Mother of God, making our own the same sentiments of adoration and
love that She had toward Her Divine Son Jesus enclosed under Her
Immaculate Heart. It can be helpful in achieving this, to recite
meditatively the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. Let us try it. We
cannot fail to profit by becoming united this way with the Madonna in
order to love Jesus with Her Heavenly Heart.
The Bread of the Strong and Viaticum
It ought not to be necessary to say that for everybody, Christ in the
Eucharist is the true Bread to make
It is the nourishment
to make men heroic, to sustain Martyrs, and to bring strength and peace
to souls in their last agony.
In the Eucharist, Jesus repeats to us, who suffer and moan in this
valley of tears, this affectionate summons, "Come to Me, all you that
labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you" (Matt. 11:28).
certainly, "The life of man upon earth is a warfare" (Job 7:1).
Moreover, Jesus' followers "shall suffer persecution" (cf. 2 Tim.
3:12; Matt. 5:10); and it is true that they that are Christ's "have
crucified their flesh with its passions and concupiscences" (Gal.
5:24), and that we ought to live as dead "with Christ to the elements
of the world" (Col. 2:20).
It is also true that with Jesus "I can do all things in Him Who
strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13), for Jesus is "all" (cf. John 1:3; Col.
1:17). In Holy Communion He makes Himself "all mine." I can, then, say
with the Servant of God, Luisa M. Claret de la Touche, "What need I
fear? He Who sustains the world is within me. The Blood of a God
circulates within my veins: Have no fear, O my soul. The Lord of the
Universe has taken you up into His Arms and wants you to find rest in
Hence, St. Vincent de Paul was able to ask his missionaries, "When you
have received Jesus into your hearts, can any sacrifice be impossible
for you?" And St. Vincent, during the two years he had to suffer
in prison as a victim of persecution, exceedingly abounded with joy in
all his tribulations (cf. 2 Cor. 7:4), because he managed to be able to
celebrate Holy Mass every day in spite of his fetters and chains and
the darkness of his dungeon. The same fortitude and joy was given to
St. Joan of Arc when she was allowed to receive Jesus in the Holy
Eucharist before going to her execution at the stake. When Jesus
entered her dark prison, the Saint fell on her knees, and, wearing her
chains, received Jesus, and became absorbed in prayer. As soon as she
was bidden to go forth to her death, she rose and made her journey
without interrupting her prayer. She proceeded to the stake and died
amid the flames, ever in union with Jesus, Who remained in her soul and
in that body which was sacrificed.
Strength of the Martyrs
The whole history of the Martyrs, from St.
Stephen, the protoMartyr, to the angelic Martyr, St. Tarcisus, and the
more recent Martyrs, is a story of the super-human strength which the
Eucharist bestows on them as they do battle against the devil and
against all the hellish powers that operate in the world (cf. 1 Pet.
Remember, also, the heavenly comfort and help which Holy Communion
brings to the sick, and not merely to their souls, but to their bodies
also, which sometimes become wonderfully healed. It used to happen, for
example, to St. Lidwina and to Alexandria Da Costa, that during the
whole time the Sacred Species remained within their bodies, their
terrible physical sufferings would marvelously cease. It likewise
happened to St. Lawrence of Brindisi and St. Peter Claver, that all the
pains of the serious ailments that had been tormenting them, would
cease when they were celebrating Holy Mass.
Thanksgiving After Holy Communion, Part 3
Take Care of the Soul First
But most consoling of all is the Christian's final Holy
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
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
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,
one belonging to the other (cf. John 6:57). This is the fullness of
for the soul and for the body, on earth and in Heaven.
Every Day With Him, Part 1
Jesus is in the tabernacle for my sake. He is the Food of my soul. "My
Flesh is food indeed and My Blood is drink indeed" (John 6:56). If I
want to nourish myself spiritually and be fully supplied with life, I
must receive Him, "Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of
the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you"
(John 6:54). St. Augustine informs us that the Catholic people in his
diocese in Africa called the Eucharist by the word "Life." When they
were to go to Holy Communion, they would say, "We are going to the
Life." What a wonderful way of expressing it!
To keep my supernatural powers and energies --- my supernatural life
good health, I must nourish them. The Holy Eucharist is exactly what
is needed for this, for It is the "Bread of Life" (John 6:35), the
"Bread that has come down from Heaven" (John 6:59), which bestows,
replenishes, preserves and increases the spiritual energies of the
soul. St. Peter J. Eymard ventured to say, "Communion is as necessary
for us to sustain our Christian vitality, as the vision of God is
necessary to the Angels, to maintain their fife of glory."
Every day I ought to nourish my soul, just as every day I feed my body
in order to give it physical vitality. St. Augustine teaches, "The
Eucharist is a daily Bread that we take as a remedy for the frailty
we suffer from daily." And St. Peter J. Eymard adds, "Jesus has
prepared not just one Host, but One for every day of our life. The
Hosts for us are ready. Let us not forfeit even One of Them."
Jesus is that Host, that Victim of love, Who is so sweet and so
healthful to the soul, as to move St. Gemma Galgani to say, "I feel a
great need to be strengthened anew by that Food so sweet, which Jesus
offers me; This affectionate therapy that Jesus gives me every morning
unstiffens me and draws to Him every affection of my heart."
For the Saints, daily Communion fulfills an imperative need for Life
and Love, corresponding to Jesus' Divine desire to give Himself to be
every soul's Life and Love. We should not forget that Holy Thursday was
the day for which Jesus had "longed" (cf. Luke 22:15). Hence, the holy
Cure of Ars said emphatically, "Every Consecrated Host is made to
burn Itself up with love in a human heart." And St. Therese of Lisieux
to another Sister, "It is not in order to occupy a golden ciborium that
Jesus every day comes down from Heaven, but it is to find another
heaven, namely, our soul, in which He takes His delight; and when a
soul well able to do so does not want to receive Jesus into its heart,
Jesus weeps." "Therefore, continues St. Therese, "when the devil
cannot enter with sin into a soul's sanctuary, he wants the soul to be
at least unoccupied, with no Master, and well removed from Holy
Communion." It should surely be evident that we are here concerned with
a snare of the devil; for only the devil can be interested in keeping
us away from Jesus. May we be on our guard, then. We should try not
to fall victim to the devil's deceptions. "Endeavor not to miss any
Holy Communion," St. Margaret Mary Alacoque advises; "We can scarcely
give our enemy, the devil, greater joy than when we withdraw from
Jesus, Who takes away the power the enemy has over us."
Daily Communion is a daily wellspring of love, of strength, of light,
of joy, of courage, of every virtue and every good. "If anyone thirst,
let him come toMe and drink,"' Jesus said (John 7 :37). He alone is the
"Fountain of water springing up unto life everlasting" (John 4:14). How
can there be anyone who is in the state of Sanctifying Grace not want,
or who finds it hard, to go to this Divine "table of the Lord" (1 Cor.
The great Lord Chancellor of England, St. Thomas More, who died a
Martyr because of his resistance to schism, used to hear Mass every
morning and receive Holy Communion. Some friends tried to persuade him
that this care was not suitable for a layman heavily engaged in so many
affairs of state. "You present all your reasons, and they rather
convince me the more that I should receive Holy Communion every day,"'
he said. "My distractions are numerous, and with Jesus I learn to
recollect myself. The occasions of offending God are frequent, and I
receive strength every day from Him to flee from them. I need light and
prudence to manage very difficult affairs, and every day I can consult
Jesus in Holy Communion. He is my great Teacher."
Someone once asked the celebrated biologist, Banting, why he cared so
much about daily Communion. "Have you ever reflected," he answered,
"what would happen if the dew did not fall every night? No plant could
develop. The grass and flowers could not survive the evaporations and
the dryness that the day's heat brings in one way or another. Their
cycle of energies, their natural renewal, the balance of their
lymphatic fluids, the very life of plants requires this dew."' After
a pause, he continued: "Now my soul is like a little plant. It is
something rather frail that the winds and heat do battle with every
day. So it is necessary that every morning I go get my fresh stock of
spiritual dew, by going to Holy Communion."
St. Joseph Cottolengo recommended to the physicians of his House of
Divine Providence that they hear Mass and go to Communion before
undertaking their difficult surgeries. This was because, as he said,
"Medicine is a great science, but God is the great Physician." Blessed
Joseph Moscati, the celebrated physician of Naples, used to be very
regular about this, and go to unbelievable lengths (at the cost of
enormous inconvenience, especially in view of the frequent trips he had
to make) to avoid missing daily Communion. If on any day it was quite
impossible to receive Communion, he had not the courage that day to
make his doctor's calls; for he said, "Without Jesus I do not have
enough light to save my poor patients."
Oh, the ardent love the Saints have for daily Holy Communion! And who
can properly describe it? St. Joseph Cupertino, who did not fail to
receive his beloved Lord every day, once ventured to say to his
brothers in religious life, "Be sure that I will depart into the next
life on the day that I cannot receive the Pecoriello (the Great Lamb)"
as he affectionately and devotedly called the Divine Lamb. And, in
fact, it took a severe illness to prevent him from receiving Our Lord
in the Eucharist one day; and that was the day of his death!
When St. Gemma Galgani's father was worried about his daughter's
health, he criticized her for setting out too early every morning to go
to Mass. His criticism drew this answer from the Saint: "But Father, as
for me, I become ill if I don't receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist."
When St. Catherine of Genoa learned of the interdict put on her city,
carrying a prohibition against Mass and Holy Communion, she went on
every day to a remote Sanctuary outside Genoa in order to go to
Communion. When she was told that she was overdoing things, the Saint
replied, "If I had to go miles and miles over burning coals in order to
receive Jesus, I would say dIe way was easy, as if I were walking on a
carpet of roses."
This should teach a lesson to us who may have a Church within a short
walk, where we can go at our convenience to receive Jesus into our
hearts. And even if this should cost us some sacrifice, would it not
be worth it?
But there is yet more to this, if we reflect that the Saints would
have wanted to receive Communion not just once, but several times a
Every Day With Him, Part 2
Full Ciborium, Empty
Let us go forward! We should not apologize for doing something so
holy as receiving daily Communion, to which every blessing for soul and
body is attached.
Blessings for the Soul
As for blessings for the soul, St. Cyril of Alexandria, Father
Doctor of the Church, wrote: "If the poison of pride is swelling up in
you, turn to the Eucharist; and that Bread, Which is your God humbling
and disguising Himself, will teach you humility. If the fever of
selfish greed rages in you, feed on this Bread; and you will learn
generosity. If the cold wind of coveting withers you, hasten to the
Bread of Angels; and charity will come to blossom in your heart. If you
feel the itch of intemperance, nourish yourself with the Flesh and
Blood of Christ, Who practiced heroic self-control during His earthly
life; and you will become temperate. If you are lazy and sluggish about
spiritual things, strengthen yourself with this heavenly Food; and
you will grow fervent. Lastly, if you feel scorched by the fever of
impurity, go to the banquet of the Angels; and the spotless Flesh of
Christ will make you pure and chaste."
When people wanted to know how it came about that St. Charles Borromeo
kept chaste and upright in the midst of other youths who were loose
and frivolous, this was his secret: frequent Holy Communion. It was
this same St. Charles who recommended frequent Communion to the
young St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who became the Saint of angelic purity.
Assuredly, the Eucharist proves to be "the wheat of the elect and wine
which sprouts forth virgins" (Zach. 9:17). And St. Philip Neri, a
priest thoroughly familiar with young people, remarked, "Devotion to
the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to the Blessed Virgin are not simply
the best way, but in fact the only way to keep purity. At the age of
twenty nothing but Communion can keep one's heart pure ... Chastity is
not possible without the Eucharist." This is most true.
Blessings for the Body
And what of the blessings that the Holy
Eucharist brings for the body? St. Luke said of Our Lord, "Power went
forth from Him and healed all" (Luke 6:19). How many times at Lourdes
has this not again proved true of Our Savior in the Eucharist? How many
bodies have been healed by this kind Lord, veiled within the white
Host? How many people, who were suffering from sickness or from
have there not been who have received, with the Eucharistic Bread, the
bread of health, of strength, and aid for other needs?
One day St. Joseph Cottolengo noticed that a number of patients in his
House of Providence had not chosen to receive Holy Communion. The
ciborium remained full. Now that same day the pantry ran out of bread
for the forthcoming meal. The Saint, setting the ciborium on the altar,
turned and very animatedly made this expressive statement: "Full
ciborium, empty bread boxes!"
This bore out a truth. Jesus is the fullness of life and love for my
soul. Without Him, all else is empty and arid. With Him I have
reserves every day for every good, purity and joy.
Spiritual Communion, Part 1
Spiritual Communion is the reserve of Eucharistic Life and
available for lovers of the Eucharistic Jesus. By means of Spiritual
Communion the loving desires are satisfied of the soul that wants to be
united with Jesus, its dear Bridegroom. Spiritual Communion is a union
of love between the soul and Jesus in the Host. This union is spiritual
but none-the-less real, more real than the union between the soul and
the body, "because the soul lives more where it loves than where it
lives," says St. John of the Cross.
Faith, Love and Desire
As is evident, Spiritual Communion assumes that we have faith in the
Real Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. It implies that we would like
Sacramental Communion, and it demands a gratitude for Jesus' gift of
this Sacrament. All this is expressed simply and briefly in the formula
of St. Alphonsus:
"My Jesus, I believe that You are really present in the most Blessed
Sacrament. I love Thee above all things, and I
desire to possess Thee within my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee
sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. --- (pause) I
embrace Thee as being already there and unite myself wholly to Thee.
Never, never permit me to be separated from Thee. Amen."
Spiritual Communion, as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori
teach, produces effects similar to Sacramental Communion, according
to the dispositions with which it is made, the greater or less
earnestness with which Jesus is desired, and the greater or less love
with which Jesus is welcomed and given due attention.
A special advantage of Spiritual Communion is that we can make it as
often as we like --- even hundreds of times a day --- when we like ---
late at night --- and wherever we like --- even in a desert, or up in
It is fitting to make a Spiritual Communion especially when we are
attending Holy Mass and cannot receive Our Lord sacramentally. While
the priest is receiving his Holy Communion, our soul should share in it
by inviting Jesus into our heart. In this way every Holy Mass we hear
a complete one, with the Offertory, the sacrificial Consecration, and
The Two Chalices
Jesus Himself told St. Catherine of Siena in a vision how
Spiritual Communion is. The Saint was afraid that a Spiritual
Communion was nothing compared to a Sacramental Communion. In the
vision, Our Lord held up two ciboriums, and said, "In this golden
ciborium I put your Sacramental Communions. In this silver ciborium 1
put your Spiritual Communions. Both ciboriums are quite pleasing to
And once Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, when she was
absorbed in addressing yearning sighs to Him in the tabernacle, "I
love so much a soul's desire to receive Me, that I hasten to it each
time it summons Me by its yearnings."
It is not hard to see how much Spiritual Communion has been loved by
the Saints. Spiritual Communion at least partly satisfied that ardent
desire to be united to their Beloved. Jesus Himself said, "Abide in Me
and I in you" (John 15:4). And Spiritual Communion helps us stay united
to Jesus, even when we are far from a Church. There was no other way
to appease the fond yearning that burned in the hearts of the
Saints. "O God, my whole soul longs for You. As a deer for running
water, my whole soul thirsts for God" (Ps. 41:2).
This is the loving sigh of the Saints. St. Catherine of Genoa
exclaimed, "O dear Spouse (of my soul), I so strongly crave the joy of
being with Thee, that it seems to me that if I were dead, I would come
to life in order to receive Thee in Holy Communion." Blessed Agatha
of the Cross felt such an acute yearning to live always united to
Jesus in the Eucharist, that she remarked, "If the Confessor had not
taught me to make Spiritual Communion, I could not have lived."
For St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds, likewise, Spiritual Communion
was the only relief from the acute pain she felt when shut up at home
far from her beloved Lord, especially when she was not allowed to
receive Sacramental Communion. At such a time she went out on the
terrace of her home and, looking at the Church, she tearfully sighed,
"Happy are they who have received Thee today in the Blessed Sacrament,
O Jesus. Blessed are the walls of the Church that guard my Jesus.
Blessed are the priests, who are always near the most lovable Jesus."
Spiritual Communion alone was able to satisfy her a little.
Spiritual Communion, Part 2
During the day
Here is one of the counsels which Padre Pio of Pietrelcina gave
of his spiritual daughters: "In the course of the day, when it is not
permitted to you to do otherwise, call Jesus, even in the midst of all
your occupations, with a resigned sigh of the soul and He will come and
will remain always united with your soul by means of His grace and His
holy love. Make a spiritual flight before the Tabernacle, when you
cannot go there with your body, and there pour out the ardent desires
of your spirit and embrace the Beloved of souls, better than if it had
been permitted to you to receive Him sacramentally.
Let us, too, profit by this great gift. During the times that we suffer
trial or feel abandoned, for example, what can be more valuable to us
than the company of our Sacramental Lord by means of Spiritual
Communion? This holy practice can work with ease to fill our days with
acts and sentiments of love, and can make us live in an embrace of love
that depends just on our often renewing it so that we scarcely ever
St. Angela Merici was extremely fond of Spiritual Communion. Not only
did she make it often and exhort others to do it, but she chose to
leave it as an inheritance to her daughters, so that they might
practice it ever afterwards.
What shall we say of St. Francis de Sales? Does not his whole life seem
like a chain of Spiritual Communions? He made a resolution to make a
Spiritual Communion at least every quarter of an hour. Saint Maximilian
M. Kolbe had the same resolve from the time of his youth. The Servant
of God, Andrew Baltrami, has left us a short page of his personal
diary, which is a little program for a life lived in
uninterrupted Spiritual Communion with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
These are his words: "Wherever I maybe I will often think of Jesus in
the Blessed Sacrament. I will fix my thoughts on the holy Tabernacle
--- even when I happen to wake up at night --- adoring Him from where I
calling to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, offering up to Him the
action I am performing. I will install one telegraph cable from my
study to the Church, another from my bedroom, and a third from our
refectory; and as often as I can, I will send messages of love to Jesus
in the Blessed Sacrament." What a stream of divine affections must have
passed over those precious cables!
Also During the Night
The Saints were eager to make use of these and
similar holy means in order to find outlet for their overflowing
hearts; for they never felt they had gone far enough in their endeavor
to love. "The more I love Thee, the less I love Thee," exclaimed St.
Frances Xavier Cabrini, "because I would like to love Thee more, but I
cannot. Oh enlarge, enlarge my heart."
When St. Roch spent five years in prison because he had been judged to
be a dangerous vagabond, in his cell he kept his eyes ever fixed at the
window, praying in the meantime. The guard asked, "What are you looking
at?" The Saint answered, "I am looking at the tower of the parish
church." The tower reminded him of a church, a tabernacle, and the
Eucharistic Jesus, inseparably joined to his heart.
The holy Cure of Ars said to his flock, "that the sight of a church
you can say: Jesus is there, for there a priest has celebrated Mass."
Blessed Louis Guanella, when he was traveling by train with
pilgrimages to the various shrines, used to always advise pilgrims to
turn their minds and hearts to Jesus every time they saw a church tower
from the carriage window, "Every bell tower," he would say, " indicates
a church, where there is a Tabernacle, where Mass is said, and where
Let Us Take a Lesson from the Saints
They would like to pass on some
spark of the love burning in their hearts. Let us undertake to make
many Spiritual Communions, especially during the busiest moments of the
day. Then soon the fire of love will enter us. For something very
consoling that St. Leonard of Port Maurice assures us of, is this: "If
you practice the holy exercise of Spiritual Communion a good many times
each day, within a month you will see yourself completely changed."
Hardly a month --- clear enough, is it not?
The Real Presence
The Real Presence of Jesus in our tabernacles is God's
Gift, God's Love. During the Holy Mass at the time of the
Consecration, when the priest pronounces Jesus' Divine words, "This is
My Body. ..This is the chalice of My Blood" (Matt. 26:26-27), the bread
and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. The substance of the bread
and of the wine are no longer there, because they have been transformed
--- "transubstantiated" --- into the Divine Body and Blood of Jesus.
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" (John 6:56).
Behind the veil, the disguise, of the Host, and within the Chalice,
there is the Divine Person of Jesus with His Body, Blood, Soul, and
Divinity. This is what is given to whoever receives Holy Communion, and
is what continually remains in the consecrated Hosts placed in the
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? It is with the words of Jesus. When the
moment arrives for accomplishing this sacred wonder, the priest
ceases to speak as himself; he speaks in the person of Jesus."
The words of 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!
achieve this wonderful, mysterious feat by a supreme power which
surpasses the power of the Seraphim and belongs only to God and to 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, and they managed only
with difficulty and with pauses to complete the two formulas of
The Father Guardian ventured to ask St. Joseph of Cupertino, "How is it
you recite the whole Mass so well, and stammer at each syllable of the
The Saint answered, "The sacred words of the Consecration are like
burning coals on my lips. When I pronounce them, I have to do it like
one who has to swallow boiling hot food."
It is through these Divine words of Consecration that Jesus is on our
altars, in our tabernacles, and in the Hosts. But how is it that all
this comes about?
"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 small when you were born. You grew big
because your body changed the food you took into flesh and blood. If a
man's body is able to transform bread and wine into flesh and blood,
then God can do it 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. Now within your little
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
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
The bishop said, "Nothing is impossible with God and this answer ought
to be enough. But nature also answers this question. Let us take a
mirror, throw it down on the floor and let it break into pieces. Every
piece can carry the same image that the whole mirror formerly
reproduced. Likewise, the self-same Jesus reproduces Himself; not as a
mere likeness, but as a reality, in every consecrated Host. He is
truly present in each One of Them."
Eucharistic wonders are recorded in the lives of St. Rose of Lima,
Blessed Angela of Foligno, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Philip Neri, St.
Francis Borgia, St. Joseph of Cupertino and many other Saints, whose
senses perceived the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle and in
the consecrated Hosts, as they saw Jesus with their own eyes or
experienced His ineffable fragrance. We have also accounts of how St.
Anthony of Padua once proved to an unbeliever the Real Presence 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. Also remarkable was an episode concerning St.
Alphonsus M. 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!" The matter was investigated and it was
learned that the priest who had said the 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 had thereby
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 Saints could be mentioned.
Likewise, instances of exorcism could be told where obsessed persons
were delivered from the demon by means of the Eucharist. Also, one
could cite those great witnesses of faith and love which 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 that even today offer worthy, up-to-date
testimony of astonishing events of the past confirming the Real
But outweighing all these factual histories and evidences, 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 the truth. "Jesus is the
Truth" (John 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, "I would not believe with greater assurance that He Whom I am
to receive is the Son of the Eternal God, even if I had a clear
enlightenment about it a thousand times clearer than that of faith."
Mysterium fidei (Mystery of faith)
With these words Pope Paul VI chose
to caption his encyclical on the Eucharist, simply because the Divine
realities have no source of truth and of certainty that ranks higher
than theological faith. It was due to this faith that 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 begrudge the happy lot of the Blessed who behold the Lord
face to face in Heaven." And St. Dominic Savio once wrote in his diary,
"I need nothing in this world in order to be happy. I only need to see
Jesus in Heaven, Whom I now see and adore on the altar with the eyes of
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, Part 1
Jesus is in our tabernacles, and this fact we call the Real
The same Jesus Who was sheltered by Mary Immaculate within her
virginal body, is in the little body of a 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 in the Host as a Victim
sacrificed for our salvation. The same Jesus Who rose from the dead
and ascended into Heaven, where He now is gloriously reigning at the
right hand of the Father, resides on our altars, surrounded by a
multitude of countless adoring Angels --- a sight that Blessed Angela
Foligno beheld in a vision.
Thus Jesus is truly 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
Jesus ...," she responded in her spirited way, "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 seek for more. They knew where Jesus was,
and they desired no more than the privilege of keeping inseparable
company with Him, both in their affections, and by bodily presence.
Being ever with our beloved --- is this not one of the primary things
true love calls for? Indeed it is; and, therefore, we know that visits
to the Blessed Sacrament and the Eucharistic Benediction were the
secret yet evident loves of the Saints. The time of paying a visit to
Jesus is wholly the time of love --- a love we will resume practicing
Paradise, since love alone "does not come to an end" (1 Cor. 13:8). St.
Catherine of Genoa made no blunder in saying, "The time I have spent
before the tabernacle is the best spent time of my life."
Visits to Jesus, Part 2
Let Us See Some Examples from the
Saint Maximilan M. Kolbe,
apostle of the Immaculate Virgin, used to make an average of ten
visits a day to the Blessed Sacrament --- a practice he began as a
student. During the school year, during the intervals between classes,
he would hasten to the chapel so that in the mornings he managed to
make five visits to Jesus. During the rest of the day he made five more
visits. Among these, one was what he considered always a compulsory
stop during the afternoon walk. It was in a church (in Rome) where the
Blessed Sacrament was exposed.
Also, 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? Are we perhaps
rather thoughtless and callous? The Saints hoped they would meet a
church along the road they were taking; whereas, we are quite
indifferent, even if we find churches before us. Ven. J.J. Olier wrote:
"When there are two routes to get me to a certain place, I take the
one on which I meet more churches, in order to be nearer the Blessed
Sacrament. When I see a place where my Jesus is, I am so happy, and I
say, 'You are here, my God and my All.' "
St. Alphonsus Rodrigues was a door-keeper. His duties often took him by
the chapel door; and then he would never fail to at least look in to
give Our Lord a loving glance. When he left the house and when he
returned, he always visited Jesus to ask His blessing.
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 make it, he would turn to his Guardian Angel and tell
him quietly, "My dear Angel, go there for me." And what a truly angelic
assignment! 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 favour.
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 used to do the same, Blessed Anna Maria
Taigi. And St. Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia, used to make frequent
day and night, even in the rigors of winter, to visit the Blessed
Sacrament in churches.
Here is another happy example in a royal family. When St. Elizabeth of
Hungary was a little girl and used to play about the palace with her
companions, she 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. I will see You again." What
Francisco, one of the three little shepherds of Fatima, was a little
contemplative, and he 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, Lucy, that his
greatest pain was not being able to go visit the "hidden Jesus" to take
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 was
making thirty-three visits a day during 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 bed-ridden for many years, was continually making flights in her
heart to visit all the "Holy Tabernacles" in the world?
Perhaps these examples astonish us and might seem to us 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?
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 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
"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 make these visits. Let us linger 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 does
like 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
. Something unforgettable is the way Padre
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.
Let us get started and be faithful in making at least one visit a day
to Our Lord Who is fondly waiting. Then let us try to increase these
visits according to our ability. And, if we have no time to make long
visits, let us make "stop-ins," that is, let us enter the church every
time we can and kneel down for a few moments before the Blessed
Sacrament, saying affectionately, 'Jesus, Thou art here. I adore Thee.
I love Thee. Come into my heart." This is something simple and short,
but, oh, so profitable! Let us always remember these consoling words
of St. Alphonsus: "You may be sure that of all the moments of your
life, the time you spend 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."
JESUS, I ADORE THEE!
When there is true love, and it mounts to a certain point, there
adoration. Great love and adoration are two distinct things; but, they
form one 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 the highest manner by whoever adores Him.
The Saints, being far advanced in the practice of love, were faithful
and ardent adorers of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Importantly,
Eucharistic adoration has always been considered as the closest
likeness we have to the eternal adoration which will make up our whole
Paradise. The difference lies only in the veil which hides the sight of
that Divine Reality of which faith gives us unwavering certainty.
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has been the fervent devotion of the
Saints. Their adoration lasted hours and hours, sometimes whole days or
nights. There "at Jesus' feet" like Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:39),
keeping Him fond and intimate company, absorbed in contemplating Him,
they surrendered their hearts in a pure and fragrant offering of
adoring love. Hear what Brother Charles de Foucauld wrote before the
tabernacle: "What a tremendous delight, my God! To spend over fifteen
hours without 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 and St. Gemma Galgani. These chosen ones, whose love was
true, kept no count of the hours of fond adoration that 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.
Benethct 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.
When someone wanted to do a portrait of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, there was
a thscussion about what posture to give him. The decision reached was
to portray the Saint in adoration before the altar, because Eucharistic
adoration was characteristic of him and was most expressive of his
That favorite of the Sacred Heart, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, on one
Holy Thursday, spent fourteen hours without interruption prostrate in
"My heart feels as if it were being drawn by a superior force each
morning just before uniting with Him in the Blessed Sacrament. I have
a thirst and hunger before receiving Him that it's a wonder I
don't the of anxiety. I was hardly able to reach the Divine Prisoner in
celebrate Mass. When Mass ended I remained with Jesus to
render Him thanks. My thirst and hunger do not diminish after I have
Him in the Blessed Sacrament, but rather, increase steadily.
Oh, how sweet was the conversation I held with Paradise this morning.
The heart of Jesus and my own, if you will pardon the expression,
fused. They were no longer two hearts beating but only one.
disappeared as if it were a drop in the ocean."