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"In Holy Communion Jesus gives Himself to me and
The Real Presence of Jesus in our tabernacles is God's mystery, 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. The bread and wine keep only their appearances, to express the reality of food and drink, according to Jesus' words, “My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink” (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 tabernacle.
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! They 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 Consecration.
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 Consecration?”
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 eye there is an image of this vast countryside. Can God not do in reality, in His Person, what is done in us by way of a likeness or image?”
Then the Mohammedan asked, “How is it possible for the same Body to be present at the same time in all your churches and in all the consecrated Hosts?”
The bishop said, “Nothing is impossible with God — and this answer ought to be enough. But nature also 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 Presence.
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 Vl 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 faith.”
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.
Francisco Marto, as he was taught by Our Lady of Fatima, often
knelt in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament to console Our Lord.
Jesus is in our tabernacles, and this fact we call the Real Presence. 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 of Foligno beheld in a vision.
Thus Jesus is truly with us. “Jesus is there!” — The holy Curé of Ars could not finish repeating these three words without shedding tears. And St. Peter Julian Eymard exclaimed with joyful fervor, “There Jesus is! Therefore all of us should go visit Him!” And when St. Teresa of Jesus heard someone say, “If only I had lived at the time of Jesus ... If only I had seen Jesus ... If only I had talked with Jesus ...,” she responded in 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 in 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.”
Let us see some examples from the Saints.
Saint Maximilian 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 young 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 favor.
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 trips, 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 simple devotion!
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 bedridden 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 say, “We must visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament a hundred thousand times a day.”
Let us learn from the Saints to love our visits to Jesus in the Eucharist. Let us 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 Curé 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 Pio of Pietrelcina, every evening, used to read with a tearful voice one of St. Alphonsus' Visits during the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament just before the Eucharistic Benediction.
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.”
Padre Pio was delighted when they brought him young children
who were prepared for First Holy Communion. Father Manelli, the
author of went to first Confession and First Communion
to Padre Pio at about the age of five. Jesus Our Eucharistic Love,
When there is true love, and it mounts to a certain point, there is 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 Curé 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. Benedict Labre, called the “Poor man of the Forty Hours”, spent days in churches in which the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly exposed. For years and years this Saint was seen in Rome making pilgrimages from church to church where the Forty Hours was being held, and remaining there before Jesus, always on his knees absorbed in adoring prayer, motionless for eight hours, even when his friends, the insects, were crawling on him and stinging him all over.
When someone wanted to do a portrait of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, there was a discussion 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 holiness.
That favorite of the Sacred Heart, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, on one Holy Thursday, spent fourteen hours without interruption prostrate in adoration. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, on a feast of the Sacred Heart, remained in adoration twelve continuous hours. She had been so absorbed and attentive to Our Lord in the Eucharist that when a Sister asked her if she had liked the arrangement of flowers and draping that adorned the altar, she answered, “I did not notice. I only saw one Flower, Jesus, no other.”
After visiting the cathedral in Milan, St. Francis de Sales heard someone ask him, “Your Excellency, did you see what a wealth of marble there is, and how majestic the lines are?” The holy bishop answered, “What do you want me to tell you? Jesus' presence in the tabernacle has my spirit so absorbed, that all the beautiful architecture escapes my notice.” What a lesson this reply is for us who go unthinkingly to visit celebrated churches as though they were museums!
As an example of the spirit of recollection during Eucharistic adoration, Blessed Contardo Ferrini, professor at the University of Modena, had a striking experience. One day, after he entered a church to visit Our Lord, he became so absorbed in adoration, with eyes fixed on the tabernacle, that he took no notice when someone robbed him of the mantle spread over his shoulders.
“Not even a bolt of lightning could distract her,” it was said of St. Mary Magdalene Postel, because she appeared so recollected and devout when adoring the Blessed Sacrament. On the other hand, once, during adoration, St. Catherine of Siena happened to raise her eyes toward a person passing by. Because of this distraction of an instant the Saint was so afflicted that she wept for some time, exclaiming, “I am a sinner! I am a sinner!”
How is it that we are not ashamed of our behavior in church? Even before Our Lord solemnly exposed we so easily turn about to look to the right and left, and are moved and distracted by any trifle, without — and this is what is sad — without feeling any regret. Ah! The delicate, sensitive love of the Saints! St. Teresa taught that “in the presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament we ought to be like the Blessed in Heaven before the Divine Essence.” That is the way the Saints have behaved in church. The holy Curé of Ars used to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with such fervor and recollection that people became convinced he saw Jesus in person with his own eyes. People said the same of St. Vincent de Paul: “He sees Jesus there within (the tabernacle).” And they said the same of St. Peter Julian Eymard, the unmatched apostle of Eucharistic adoration. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, seeking to imitate him, was enrolled into his society of priest-adorers and for forty years kept a little image of St. Eymard on his desk.
Even After Death
It is noteworthy that the Lord seems to have favored certain Saints in singular fashion by enabling them to perform, after death, an act of adoration to the Blessed Sacrament. Thus, when St. Catherine of Bologna was placed before the Blessed Sacrament altar a few days after her death, her body rose up to a position of prayerful adoration. During the funeral Mass of St. Paschal Baylon, his eyes opened twice — at the elevation of the Host and at the elevation of the Chalice — to express his adoration of the Eucharist. When Blessed Matthew of Girgenti's body was in the church for his funeral Mass, his hands joined in adoration toward the Eucharist. At Ravello, Blessed Bonaventure of Potenza's body, while being carried past the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, made a devout head-bow to Jesus in the tabernacle.
It is really true that “Love is stronger than death” (Cant. 8:6), and that “He that eateth this Bread shall live forever” (John 6:59). The Eucharist is Jesus our Love. The Eucharist is Jesus our Life. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a heavenly love which enlivens us and makes us one with Jesus Victim, who “incessantly intercedes for us” (Heb. 7:25). We should be mindful that one who adores, makes himself one with Jesus in the Host as Jesus intercedes with the Father for the salvation of the brethren. The highest charity toward all men is to obtain for them the kingdom of Heaven. And only in Paradise will we see how many souls have been delivered from the gates of hell by the Eucharistic adoration done in reparation by holy persons known and unknown. We must not forget that at Fatima the Angel personally taught the three shepherd children the beautiful Eucharistic prayer of reparation, which we ought to learn: “O most holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.” Eucharistic adoration is an ecstasy of love and it is the most powerful salvific practice in the apostolate of saving souls.
For this reason Saint Maximilian M. Kolbe, the great apostle of Mary, in each of his foundations, before providing even the cells of the friars, he wanted to provide the chapel in order to introduce at once perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. Once, when he was taking a visitor on a tour of his “City of the Immaculate Virgin” in Poland and they had entered the large “Chapel of Adoration,” with a gesture toward the Blessed Sacrament he said to his guest, “Our whole life depends on this.”
The Better Part
The stigmatized friar of Gargano, to whom crowds flocked from every quarter, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, after his long daily chore in the confessional, used to spend almost all the remaining day and night before the tabernacle in adoration, keeping company with the Madonna as he recited hundreds of Rosaries. Once the Bishop of Manfredonia, Msgr. Cesarano, chose Padre Pio's friary for making an eight-day retreat. Each night the bishop got up at various times to go to the chapel, and each night at all these hours, he always found Padre Pio in adoration. The great apostle of Gargano was doing his work, unseen, throughout the world — and sometimes he was seen, in instances of bilocation — while he remained there prostrate before Jesus, with his Rosary in his hands. He used to tell his spiritual children, “When you want to find me, come near the tabernacle.”
Don James Alberione, another great apostle of our time, as a basis for his whole vast project, The Apostolate of the Press — “Societa Apostolata Stampa” — expressly provided adoration of the Holy Eucharist for the Sisters in his Congregation of Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, who had the unique and specific vocation to adore Our Lord solemnly exposed in the Holy Eucharist night and day.
Eucharistic Adoration is truly that “best part” of which Jesus spoke when chiding Martha for busying herself with “many things” that were secondary, overlooking the “one thing necessary” chosen by Mary, which was humble and affectionate adoration (Luke 10:41-42).
What should be the love and zeal, then, that we ought to have for Eucharistic adoration? If it is by Jesus that “all things subsist” (Col. 1:17), then, to go to Him, to stay beside him, to unite ourselves with Him, means to find, to gain, to possess that whereby we and the whole universe exist. “Jesus alone is all; anything else is nothing,” said St. Thérèse of Lisieux. To renounce, then, what is nothing for the sake of what is All, to consume our every resource and ourselves for the sake of Him Who is All, instead of for what is nothing — is this not indeed our true wealth and supreme wisdom? This was evidently the thinking of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina when he wrote, “A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent in sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”
What good reason we have to envy the Angels, as the Saints have done, because Angels ceaselessly remain stationed around the tabernacles!
The real presence of our Divine Lord in our tabernacles has always been something immensely reverenced and respected by the Saints. Their loving care, so artless and pure, for the “things that belong to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:32) has been one of the most obvious indications of their great love that does not hold back anything, that considers everything to be of great importance, even a simple matter of the prescribed ceremonies, for which St. Teresa and St. Alphonsus declared themselves ready to sacrifice their lives.
Holiness and Decorum
And it is from the Saints that we must learn to love Jesus, surrounding with affectionate care the holy tabernacles, the altars and the churches, His dwelling place (Mark 11: 17). Everything must express decorum, everything must inspire devotion and adoration, even in the little things, even in details. Nothing will ever be too much when it concerns loving and honoring the “King of Glory” (Psalm 23:10). One thinks of a few old practices, for example, requiring that even perfumed water be used for the ablution of the fingers of the priest during Holy Mass.
Furthermore, Jesus chose to institute the Sacrament of Love in a respectable, beautiful place; namely, the Cenacle, which was a large dining hall, with furniture and carpeting (Luke 22:12). The Saints have always shown wholehearted zeal and resourcefulness in seeing to the beauty and tidiness of the house of God.
For example, during his apostolic travels, St. Francis of Assisi used to carry with him, or obtain, a broom to sweep the churches he found dirty. After preaching to the people, he used to address the clergy of the town and fervently urge them to be zealous for the worthy appearance of the Lord's house. He had St. Clare and the Poor Clare Sisters prepare sacred linens for altars. In spite of his poverty, he used to obtain and send ciboria, chalices and altar cloths to poor, neglected churches.
We learn from the life of St. John Baptist de la Salle that that Saint wanted to see the chapel always clean and duly furnished, with the altar in perfect order and the sanctuary lamp always burning. Torn vestments and tarnished vessels were to him heartbreaking eyesores. He did not consider any expense too much when it came to providing for due worship of Our Lord.
St. Paul of the Cross wanted altar furnishings to be spotless. One day he sent back two corporals, one after the other, because he did not judge them to be clean enough.
Prominent among the kings who have loved the Eucharist is St. Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia. With his own hands he tilled the soil, sowed the wheat, harvested it, ground it, and sifted it. Then with the purest flour he made hosts for the Holy Sacrifice. And St. Radgundes, Queen of France, after she had become a humble religious, was happy to be able to grind with her own hands, the wheat chosen for hosts for Holy Mass, and she used to give them free to poor churches. Also noteworthy is St. Vincentia Gerosa, who took care of grapevines that supplied wine for Holy Mass. She cultivated and pruned them with her own hands, finding joy in the thought that these clusters that she had grown would become the Blood of Jesus.
What shall we say of the delicate conscience that the Saints had regarding the Blessed Sacrament?
They had uncompromising faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in even the smallest visible fragment of a Host. With regard to this it is sufficient to have seen Padre Pio to see the conscientious care with which he purified the paten and the sacred vessels when he was at the altar. One could read the adoration on his face!
Once when St. Thérèse of Lisieux saw a small Particle of a Host on the paten after Holy Mass, she called the novices, and then carried the paten in procession into the sacristy with gracious, adoring comportment that was truly angelic. When St. Teresa Margaret found a Fragment of a Host on the floor near the altar, she broke into tears because she thought about the irreverence that might be shown to Jesus; and she knelt in adoration before the Particle until a priest came to take It and put It in the tabernacle.
Once when St. Charles Borromeo was distributing Holy Communion, he inadvertently dropped a Sacred Particle from his hand. The Saint considered himself guilty of grave irreverence to Jesus, and was so afflicted that for four days he had not the courage to celebrate Holy Mass, and as a penance he imposed an eight-day fast on himself!
What shall we say of St. Francis Xavier who at times when distributing Holy Communion felt so carried away by a sense of adoration toward Our Lord Who was in his hands, that he got on his knees and in that position continued giving Holy Communion? Did that not present a witness of faith and love worthy of Heaven?
Something else even more beautiful has been the thoughtful care of the Saints who were priests, in handling the Blessed Sacrament. O, how they would have liked to have the same virginal hands as the Immaculate Madonna! Something noteworthy regarding St. Conrad of Costanza was that his index fingers and thumbs used to shine at night on account of the faith and the love with which he used those fingers when holding the Most Sacred Body of Jesus. St. Joseph of Cupertino, an angelic Saint renowned for his ecstasies and levitations, disclosed the refined manner of his devotion when he expressed a wish to have another pair of index fingers and thumbs so that they could be used solely for holding Jesus' Most Holy Flesh. At times Padre Pio of Pietrelcina used to pick up the Sacred Host with his fingers with obvious difficulty, judging himself unworthy to allow his hands, which bore the stigmata, to have contact with the Host. (What shall we say of the painful levity with which attempts are made to introduce everywhere Communion in the hand instead of on the tongue? By comparison with the Saints — so humble, so angelic — do these people not easily present an image of presumptuous ruffians?)
Modesty of the Women
Another great concern of the Saints for the decorum of the church and for the salvation of souls, has been that of requiring modesty and decency of the women. A strict insistence on this particular point is constantly reaffirmed by all the Saints, from the Apostle, St. Paul (telling the woman to wear a veil so that her head will not be “as if she were shaven” (1 Cor. 11:5-6), to St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, etc., down to Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who would admit no halfway measures, but always insisted on modest dresses clearly below the knees. And how could it be otherwise? Saint Leopold da Castelnuovo used to chase women out of church who were immodestly dressed, calling them carne da mercato (“flesh for sale”). What would he say today, when so many women are doing away with modesty and decency even in church? They are carrying on, even in sacred places, the old diabolical art of seducing men to lust, of which the Holy Spirit warns us (Ecclus. 9:9). But God's justice will not let such great madness and depravity go unpunished. On the contrary, Saint Paul says, “for which things, the wrath of God is unleashed” (Col. 3:6). He is referring to sins of the flesh.
Likewise the Saints have always bidden us, by example and by word, to follow the beautiful practice on entering a church, of making the sign of the cross devoutly with holy water, genuflecting reverently, and before all else adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in company with the angels and Saints who keep watch around the altar. If we stop for prayer, we need to recollect ourselves with care to keep ourselves devout and attentive.
It is also well to draw as near as we can (observing fitting limits) to the altar of the Blessed Sacrament; for Blessed John Duns Scotus demonstrated that the physical influence of Jesus' Most Holy Humanity is more intense, the closer one is to His Body and Blood. (St. Gemma Galgani said that sometimes she could not draw nearer the Blessed Sacrament altar because such a fire of love burned in her heart that it would burn the clothing over her breast!)
Whoever saw St. Francis de Sales enter a church, bless himself, genuflect, and pray before the tabernacle, was obliged to put stock in the saying of the people that “that is the way the Angels and Saints do it in Heaven.”
Once a prince in his Scottish court told a friend, “If you want to see how the Angels in Heaven pray, go to church and watch how Queen Margaret prays with her children before the altar.” All hasty and distracted people ought to give serious reflection to these words of Blessed Louis Guanella: “We may never make the church into a hallway, or a courtyard or a highway, or a public square.” And St. Vincent de Paul sadly urged people that before the Blessed Sacrament they avoid making genuflections resembling the movements of marionette dolls.
May these examples and teachings of the Saints not prove fruitless for us.
We find in the Gospel a brief narrative which tells of a devoted act of love conspicuous for tastefulness and charm. It is the deed performed by St. Mary Magdalene in the house at Bethany, when she came to Jesus with “an alabaster box of precious ointment and poured it on His head” (Mt. 26:7). To provide our holy tabernacles with a setting of tastefulness and charm is a task we have always entrusted to those attractive, fragrant creatures which are flowers. In this use of them the Saints have been second to none. When the Archbishop of Turin one day chose to drop in for a visit in the Church of the Little House of Providence, he found it so lovely, with the altar adorned and fragrant with flowers, that he asked St. Joseph Cottolengo, “What feast are you celebrating today?” The Saint answered, “We have no feast today; but here in the church it is always a feast day.”
St. Francis of Jerome had the task of growing flowers for the Blessed Sacrament altar, and sometimes he made them grow miraculously so that Jesus would not be left without flowers.
“A flower for Jesus” — a beautiful custom! Let us not forgo this gracious gesture of love for Jesus. There may be a small weekly expense, but Jesus will repay it “a hundredfold,” and our flowers on the altar will express, by their beauty and fragrance, our presence of love beside Jesus.
As a further point of interest in this regard, St. Augustine tells of a pious custom of his day. After Holy Mass there was a holy competition among the faithful to obtain flowers that had been used on the altar. They would take them home and keep them as relics, because they had been on the altar next to Jesus and were there during His divine sacrifice. Also, St. Jane Frances de Chantal was diligent about always bringing fresh flowers to Jesus; and as soon as those by the tabernacle began to wilt, she took them to her cell to keep at the foot of her crucifix. Ah, what love these practices witnessed!
Let us learn from and imitate the examples of the Saints.
God Asks for Adoration and Reparation
When the Angel of Peace appeared to the three children at Fatima, he taught them to make Acts of Reparation for offenses that were being committed against God in the world. He taught them to make Acts of Adoration of the Holy Trinity and of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in order to make reparation for sins, and to give Glory to God. He taught them the following prayer:
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly. I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for all the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.”