|THE REAL PRESENCE
|CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST
Jesu! Whom for the present veild I see,
What I so thirst for, Oh, vouchsafe to me:
That I may see Thy countenance unfolding,
And may be blest Thy glory in beholding. (1)
It is the property of the Blessed Eucharist to produce in him who receives it worthily, marvelous effects which transform the soul and in some way deify it. In this manner the Apostle St. Peter, speaking of the great and precious promise made to us by God, among which foremost is the Blessed Eucharist, says that God made them, in order that, "by these we may be made partakers of the divine nature." (2)
All these wonderful effects were foreshadowed in various figures and types of the Old Testament, for example, in the tree of life planted in the midst of Paradise (3) ; in the sacrifice which Abraham, at God's bidding, was about to offer in the person of his son Isaac (4) ; in the bush which Moses saw was aflame, without being consumed (5) ; in the manna, with which God fed his chosen people in the desert(6) ; in the ark of the Covenant, made of setim wood and containing manna (7) ; in the loaves of proposition (8) ; in the bread baked under the ashes and given by an angel to Elias for his viaticum (9), and also in other figures and types ordained by God to make us know one or the other of the marvelous effects produced in the soul of the worthy receiver of this Sacrament.
The holy Council of Florence, enumerating the effects of the Blessed Eucharist in our souls, establishes a most appropriate comparison between the material food of our bodies and this spiritual nourishment of our souls. As the material food, when taken by a healthy person, preserves and augments the life of the body, restores its forces and refreshes it from its fatigues; so this spiritual Bread, when received with good dispositions, first; maintains the life of grace in the soul; next, it augments this precious gift of God; thirdly, it restores the soul to a state of spiritual fervor which the commission of venial sin is apt little by little to diminish; fourthly, it consoles and gladdens the heart of man in the midst of the many sorrows and contradictions of life.(10)
Thus did the manna, formed by angelic power at the command of God, sustain and comfort the Hebrew people in the desert for forty years until they reached the Promised Land.
The Book of Wisdom has beautiful words on this subject (11) : "Thou didst feed Thy people with the food of angels, and gavest them bread from heaven prepared without labor; having in it all that is delicious, and the sweetness of every taste. For Thy sustenance showed Thy sweetness to Thy children, and serving every man's will, it was turned to what every man liked."
In a like manner, this heavenly food preserves intact in our souls the life of grace and makes us grow in strength and virtue; it rekindles in us the flame of divine charity and infuses in our hearts those spiritual consolations of which we have special need in the hard pilgrimage of life.
Of the four effects we have now mentioned, the two last belong more particularly to the Blessed Eucharist, that is, fervor of devotion and spiritual consolation.
In fact, it is the effect of all the sacraments to give us sanctifying grace, which sustains us in the trials of life, unites us more intimately to God and thus keeps us from being overcome by the attacks of our enemies. But this Sacrament, because it is the formal pledge of divine love toward us, has for its special effect to excite in us the fervor of charity and consequently to inebriate the soul of man with a spiritual sweetness and make him divine, by transforming him in Christ by love, as St. Thomas beautifully teaches (12).Hence St. Paul would say (13) : "I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me."
These, then, are the wonderful effects of the Blessed Eucharist in our souls. We may now see how a priest, whose life is wedded to this August Sacrament, may proceed to secure these same effects in his heart.
We may easily understand how precious and advantageous a thing is spiritual fervor by considering the harm which its enemy, tepidity, causes in the soul "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of My mouth." (14)
Tepidity, the classical name for which is acidia, is a state of spiritual languor invading the soul and causing it to waver between good and evil, virtue and vice. It weakens every energy and makes us work with negligence, without love, by habit or necessity, not through an actual impulse of charity.
This state of mind and heart in a Christian soul is particularly displeasing to God, it being opposed to His own property, which is that of being a fire ever burning with love for us. It is also harmful to the soul, inasmuch as it causes our spiritual actions to be performed in a slackening manner, thus depriving them of supernatural reward, when they do not rather expose us to punishment. Besides, it creates in the soul, little by little, a state of spiritual sleepiness which easily degenerates into mortal lethargy.
Hence it is, that spiritual tepidity often proves, in a certain sense, more dangerous to the soul than coldness itself. For, the first state is usually accompanied by interior vanity and false self-confidence; nay, it is often easier for a sinner to rise from the mire of sin, than for a tepid soul to rid itself of that torpor in which it lies.
All Christians are apt indeed to contract that dangerous illness of tepidity, owing to the weight of the flesh and the incessant temptations of the devil. A priest, however, though the minister of that God who says of Himself that He is a consuming fire (15), is, strange to say, not less exposed to this spiritual ailment than the simple faithful. The reason seems to be, on the one hand, the frequency of the acts of religion which he is called upon to exercise in virtue of his sacred ministry, frequency often breeding negligence; on the other, the company, obligatory, or spontaneously sought, of vain and worldly people. The duty of confessor, too, though a most holy and laborious office, is apt to induce in him, if he is not careful, a diminution of the horror of sin. For, by dint of hearing penitents rehearsing the story of their lax and perhaps sensual lives, he may, if he is not careful, easily be brought to look too benignly upon the evil of sin and to consider that, after all, it should be no great wonder should he himself fall into those defects of which his penitents have accused themselves.
Such being the dangers to which a priest is exposed, he must endeavor to watch carefully over his actions, not allowing himself to perform in a routine-like manner his sacerdotal duties, both private and public. Thus a tepid priest, while reciting the Divine Office or celebrating holy Mass, will easily yield to distractions or disregard the ceremonies of the Church. His language will betray rather a secular than a religions turn of mind. He will overlook selecting his readings, utilizing his time or mortifying his senses. In a word, he will allow his whole life to take on a tone of mundanity equally displeasing to God and man.
An antidote against the dangerous state of tepidity is, for the priest, a special devotion to the Blessed Eucharist. Once this August Sacrament is made to form the center of his life, it will prove to him an efficacious remedy against the many occasions of sin and a means of keeping alive the fire of spiritual fervor.
For, to maintain in our souls the fervor of spiritual life, three things are necessary: first, a lively faith; second, a constant disposition of mind and heart not to displease God; third, a readiness to do in all things the most just, most high and most amiable will of our heavenly Father.
Now, precisely a tender devotion toward the Blessed Eucharist, cultivated by the priest in such a way that it may form the center and life of his soul, supplies him with an efficacious means of keeping alive the spirit of faith, of warding off sins and imperfections and being habitually disposed to accomplish the holy will of God.
As regards faith, there can indeed be no better school to exercise this fundamental virtue than that of the Blessed Eucharist. For this divine Sacrament is, in a most excellent manner, the mystery of faith, mysterium fidei, a wonderful synthesis of all the divine operations.
An act of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar is equivalent to actually believing in the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation and Redemption, the spiritual life of the soul and its immortal destiny. If such an act is often and thoughtfully repeated, it may prove a powerful means to keep alive the fervor of devotion in the soul. It is an answer to the hesitations of sense, a total submission of the intellect to Him who is substantial and eternal Truth.
And though sense no change discerns,
Only be the heart in earnest,
Faith her lesson quickly learns. (16)
Moreover, the Blessed Eucharist, being the Sacrament of God's charity to man, possesses the virtue of destroying and consuming venial sins. Hence a priest whose mental eye and innermost affections are habitually turned to this August Sacrament finds therein a powerful and continual warning to guard himself from undue thoughts, words and deeds in order not to sadden his Eucharistic Spouse but rather "please Him to whom he hath engaged himself." (17) He makes it a point that the "odor of his life be," as the Roman Pontifical beautifully puts it, "a source of consolation and joy for the Church of Christ." (18)
Finally, when a priest reflects that the Blessed Eucharist is the most excellent of all divine gifts, a gift consisting of the very Person of the Giver (19), he has no difficulty in offering himself with all his faculties and affections to God, being ready in all things to do what is most pleasing to His Majesty, in which disposition of mind the perfection of devotion consists.
We see, then, how advantageous a thing it is for a priest to lead a Eucharistic life which gives to all his actions a divine impress. Such a priest gladdens the Heart of God, edifies the Church and secures for himself an eternal reward.
The apex of Christian perfection consists, as we have said, in a perfect conformity of our will to the holy will of God. But a serious obstacle to this happy disposition of our hearts is to be found, among other things in an unruly desire of honors and dignities, and to this danger the priest may be exposed no less than the ordinary faithful. The reason is, that the very splendor which surrounds ecclesiastical dignities and is, as it were, a reflection of the very glory of Our Lord, whom the prelates of the Church represent, is apt to rouse in him a disorderly wish to obtain these dignities.
It may be, then, that some vain desire may creep into the hearts of even virtuous and holy priests, which may make them strive after the higher degrees of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. On the other hand, the devil and the world are ever ready to second such sentiments of occult ambition: the former, by suggesting the idea that one may thereby serve God better and do greater good for souls; the latter, by exalting the personal merits of the priest, thus leading him to esteem himself above what he is in reality.
Now, such thoughts, though perhaps not sinful, are apt to disturb that peace of heart so necessary for the display of spiritual life and the full development of the fervor of charity. The soul, then, agitated thus by thoughts of ambition, finds itself like a ship in a great tempest and is brought to a standstill in the path of perfection.
To ward himself against such a temptation and thus keep his soul in a state of perfect peace necessary to make progress in the spiritual life, the Eucharistic priest will have recourse to the Blessed Sacrament, which may truly be called the school of humility. He will consider how Jesus Christ, present on the altar, "did not glorify Himself that He might be made a high priest; but He that said unto Him: Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten Thee."(20) Hence he does nothing to put himself forward, but lets the holy will of God be perfectly accomplished in him.
Moreover, being conscious of the great power with which the sacred ordination has invested him, of consecrating the body and blood of Christ, he rests satisfied with this dignity, without ambitioning other honors which might perhaps ennoble him in the eyes of the world, but which, of themselves, could not make him more acceptable to the divine Majesty.
Further, he will consider how the great Lord of heaven and earth, hidden under the sacramental species, though on coming into this world, he might have been surrounded by honors and applause, yet chose to "endure the cross, despising the shame." (21) Hence the Eucharistic priest will drive far from himself and suppress in his heart every motion of ambition, choosing rather a state of humility and contempt than one of exaltation and glory. And, reflecting on the state of abjection in which our amiable Redeemer has reduced Himself in this Sacrament, he will disregard and despise himself, abandon all self-esteem, and account himself mere dust, as he is. Divine grace will than be favorable to him, and heavenly light will be near to his heart. (22)
To conclude, once the priest of Jesus Christ places at the basis of his good resolutions that of never ambitioning ecclesiastical dignities, he will experience a great peace of mind and heart which will spur him on wonderfully in the path of perfection. The pagan poet Horace seems to have had an intuition of this truth, when, inspired as it were by a Christian sentiment, he wrote (23):
Frigida curarum fomenta relinquere posses,
Quo te caelestis sapientia duceret, ires.
A heartfelt devotion toward the Blessed Eucharist has for its proper effect not only to keep alive in the priest's soul the fervor of devotion by warding off from it the dangerous illness of tepidity; but also it instills in his heart a spiritual consolation, a celestial peace, which refreshes and comforts him on the sad pilgrimage of life.
Though this supernatural consolation does not take away the sting of sorrow, it nevertheless softens the wounds inflicted by it, by pouring on the open sores a sweet balm which strengthens the suffering soul and enables it to bear the most cruel afflictions. In the meantime it infuses in the heart the certain hope of seeing one day these very pains changed into so many sources of happiness and joy.
The presence of an object we love is that which causes joy in us. If this object is infinitely good it may so gladden our heart as to assuage every sorrow. Now, we possess in the Blessed Eucharist Jesus Christ in person, true God and true Man. As God, He is indivisibly united with the Father and the Holy Ghost. As Man, He is the masterpiece among the works of the Most High. For a sorrowing heart, therefore, the Eucharist is an inexhaustible source of lasting consolation.
The martyrs understood this when, in the squalor of their hard and infected prisons, their one wish was to receive this Bread of life which the deacons brought to them, covered under a white linen cloth. This was their supreme comfort. They had the certainty of dying soon either in the amphitheater under the mortal bites of wild beasts or bent under the axe of executioners. But they deemed it a joy to suffer for their sacramental Lord and a gain to die for Him. (24)
We have said that devotion to the Blessed Eucharist, however intense it may be, does not of itself suppress that sense of pain which is a natural consequence of all sorrow, whether bodily or spiritual. It would be a mistake to imagine that by recalling to mind the person of Our Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar or by possessing Him really present in our hearts, the acute thorns which so torment us will come to lose their prickle. Indeed, the fact of our fostering a tender devotion to the most Blessed Eucharist will not of itself prevent biting tongues from cruelly tearing away our fame; neither will it bring a direct remedy for our poverty or ill health. Notwithstanding all our love for this great Sacrament, such troubles will continue to afflict us as long as God allows them to last. But by receiving the Bread of Angels with devotion, or piously recalling to mind the presence of Jesus in this Sacrament, we shall feel ourselves relieved and comforted, to the point of saying with St. Paul (25): "I am filled with comfort: I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation."
In very truth, a Eucharistic soul abounds with joy in its tribulations not only on account of the hope of seeing the present thorns changed into roses, or because it knows that sorrow is the seed of glory, but particularly because it possesses in itself that incomparable good which is Jesus Christ, our most sweet Lord, who not only knows our miseries and shares our afflictions, but also is for us more amiable and precious than all the torments of hell.
For this reason, then, it behooves every priest to cultivate in his heart a tender devotion to the Blessed Eucharist. Such a devotion will procure him those heavenly consolations and that spiritual joy which will enable him to bear the sorrows of life.
In reality, the life of every good priest must resemble that of his Master. It is encompassed with briars and his path is strewn with thorns.
By receiving the sacred ordination, a priest, as we read in the Imitation of Christ (26), has not lightened his burden, but he is now bound with a straiter band of discipline, so that ordination itself does not protect him from the sorrows and afflictions of life.
First of all, his Eucharistic heart cannot but feel grieved at seeing his sweet Lord continually offended by men, a thing which is made evident to him in the tribunal of penance, when he has to listen to the sad rehearsal of so many grievous sins that are daily committed by men. No wonder, then, that the holy parish priest of Ars would exclaim with tears in his eyes: "No one, in this world, is more miserable than a priest is, whose lot is to see our good Lord offended, His holy name blasphemed, His commandments violated and His love continually outraged." He would also often say: "How sad this life is! When I first came to Ars, had I foreseen the sufferings which lay in store for me, I would have died of apprehension on the spot"
Besides, the Catholic priest in some countries has to suffer poverty, the stipend he receives being insufficient to secure for him the necessaries of life or at least to allow him to live in a manner becoming his dignity. In some places, too, where the Catholic religion is persecuted, the priestly office, notwithstanding its hierarchical rank, the long studies it supposes, the superior moral and intellectual refinement it brings along with it, is often held in disrepute by a society wholly bent on the acquisition of material or worldly preferments and quite unable to appreciate ideals of a higher and nobler order.
There is also for priests a source of sorrows unknown to most laymen.
In some places, where parishioners are indifferent or unbelievers, the priest is apt to be looked upon with suspicious if not hateful eye. Each step of his is watched and his actions are maligned. His zeal is deemed rashness; his modesty, hypocrisy; his benignity, weakness; his freedom in denouncing vice, excessive severity; his care in administering his own property, sordid avarice.
At times, his instructions are an occasion for criticism though, perhaps, he takes great care in preparing them. Some find them too long and monotonous, others too sublime and lacking in actuality. Sometimes the charity he uses toward some poor family in his parish is put down to partial feeling. If the town is divided and he remains, as he should, impartial, he is accused of not having the interests of the population at heart. If he deems it his duty, for supernatural motives, to favor one party rather than the other, the other half of the population stands up against him
What, then, shall we say of the sorrow a priest experiences who, wholly bent on procuring the good of his flock and the glory of God, witnesses, in the very heart of his parish, the erection of some baneful institution calculated to destroy those seeds of goodness, virtue and honesty which he had sought to spread among his people? Then comes spontaneously to his lips the cry of Elias who, being persecuted by the impious queen Jezebel, let himself fall to the ground, exclaiming (27): "It is enough for me, Lord, take away my soul: for I am no better than my fathers."
There are yet other and more acute sorrows of various forms, which, at times, God so allowing, torment the priest's heart: sorrows not even suspected by the world and known to Him alone, whose representative he is on earth.
Now, such being the contradictions to which the priest of God is exposed by reason of his very office, where shall he find that necessary courage to bear them, if not in a heartfelt devotion to his Eucharistic Lord, to the Friend of his heart, whose alter ego he is?
Let, then, the pious and devout priest cultivate a Eucharistic life with special care. He will not fail to experience, in the midst of his sorrows, that sweet consolation which will enable him to continue in his holy vocation with joy and courage, without ever going astray from the right path of justice, virtue and meekness.
It will not be out of place, here, to mention some of the most painful afflictions which, God permitting, press heavily at times upon a priest's heart, and for the bearing of which a special comfort may be found in a tender devotion to the Blessed Eucharist.
First, there is ingratitude. A priest, in conformity with the spirit of his sacred ministry and moved by supernatural motives, may specially have benefited a certain person who, instead of showing gratitude, makes use of those same benefits, whether material, intellectual or moral, to cause his benefactor some prejudice in his fame, substance or social position. This sort of affliction is no less painful to the heart of a priest than it is to that of a loving but ill-requited parent. For the chords of fatherly love are no less delicate in the spiritual than in the material order.
Sometimes the enemies of our holy religion, having sworn to ruin a good and holy priest, choose for this purpose the deadly weapon of detraction and calumny. 'They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent: The venom of asps is under their lips." (28) With great art do they compose the woof of slander in order to defame the most holy priestly life in the eyes of the public. The annals of the Church and the lives of saints are full of examples of calumnies woven with devilish art against the servants of God and especially against the ministers of the sanctuary.
Another source of bitter affliction for a priest is when, without any fault of his, he has differences with his brother priests, or with his superiors or inferiors in the hierarchical order. The holiness of the ecclesiastical state is no safeguard against such cases, due, for the greater part, to misunderstanding or divergence of views, although these may bear the stamp of righteousness on both parts. Again, numerous examples of such personal divergences abound in the lives of good and virtuous men, of those even whom we honor on the altar.
We should not omit to mention here another kind of underhand, persistent, devilish persecution, such as some sworn enemies of religion, maybe some apostate Christian, organize against honest and holy priests, guilty only of not joining their ranks and preferring to keep their faith entire and their clerical garb undefiled rather than buy honors and riches at the price of treason. Against such priests, courageously rejecting every compromise with Satan, there arises, at times when one least expects it, an implacable hatred, woven with the shuttle of black calumny or bloody vengeance in the dark abodes of secret societies.
A Catholic priest, desirous of valiantly meeting the persecutions to which we have now alluded, will have recourse to his great Friend, our Eucharistic Lord, and seek in His loving Heart that consolation and comfort of which he so feels the need. Grieved by the ingratitude of persons benefited by him, harassed by the slanders directed against his sacred person, afflicted by the opposition of persons loved and venerated, he will betake himself in spirit, if he cannot in body, before the holy Tabernacle and pour out his sorrowing heart into that of his Master. He will remember that Jesus knows, in a measure infinitely greater, the pains which now so cruelly afflict his own heart. He will then beseech his loving Lord to grant him the patience necessary to bear these sufferings in a Christian manner, that is, with patience and joy. And Jesus, Who is ever more ready to grant us favors than we are to ask for them, will pour the balm of consolation into those wounds, changing them into precious gems destined to shine forever with extraordinary splendor in heaven.
Oh, how useful it is for a priest to foster in his heart a Eucharistic life! This it is, which will keep alive in him the fervor of his vocation, secure for him many merits and make him enjoy a refreshing peace in the midst of the most bitter tribulations. Truly, we may apply to this beautiful devotion these words of the Book of Wisdom (29): "All good things come to me together with her, and innumerable riches through her hands."
What we say of the devotion a priest should have toward the Blessed Eucharist regards not only the first years of his ministry, but also his more mature age, when greater yet is his need of spiritual help.
In fact, those contradictions to which we just now alluded, those great sorrows which at times press heavily on the priest's heart and embitter his life, are often not spared him in his maturer years. On the contrary, the case is not infrequent when these pains grow in intensity as old age advances. Not only the memory of sorrows keenly felt or injustice suffered is, for the priest, a source of affliction, but also the waning of physical strength marks the beginning of new ailments which grow as years roll on. The sorrows of old age are vividly described in this text of Ecclesiastes (30). "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the time of affliction come, and the years draw nigh of which thou shalt say: They please me not."
It is painful to read in the lives of some saints how much they have had to suffer, even in extreme old age, when they might instead have expected to enjoy a well-deserved rest, surrounded by the affection and veneration of all. We can hardly refrain from tears when hearing of the hardships to which St. Joseph Calasanctius was exposed when, already eighty years of age, one of his spiritual sons so ill treated and calumniated him as to cause him to be deposed from the office of superior of that Religious Order which he himself had founded. Not less pitiful was the case of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, who, having also passed eighty years of age, was betrayed by one of his sons, who introduced a split in the Congregation founded by him, and thereby ceased to be recognized as superior by a notable portion of the Institute.
History shows us many personages, illustrious for virtue and learning, either driven into hard exile, as St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom, or calumniated and obliged to fly into solitude, like St. Jerome; or, again, overcome by afflictions and spiritual pains, which have no equal except in the pains of hell, such as we know priests of saintly lives, liked the Blessed Eymard, to have suffered at the end of their lives.
We may observe here how these great afflictions do not usually come to man in his youth, when not only the trials themselves, but also the mere vision of these trials would frighten him and even perhaps lead him to despair. It is only later, when he has been strengthened by divine grace and the exercise of virtue, that God allows him to be visited by greater sorrows. Then the illusions of youth fall away one by one, and he sees clearly the nothingness of earthly goods and the emptiness of human consolations. Thus he detaches his heart from the things of this earth and remains more closely united to God our last end and the only good worthy to be loved by us. It is especially in the advanced period of his life that the priest ought to seek strength and comfort from that inexhaustible source of mercy which wells out of the adorable Heart of Jesus hidden under the Eucharistic species, As the veil that hides from him his sacramental Lord grows thinner and more transparent with the passing years, so should his love and devotion toward the Blessed Eucharist grow warmer and stronger.
In the contemplation of this Sacrament of Love the pious priest, bent already under the weight of years, will make to his sweet Eucharistic Lord, who has loved him so much and suffered so much for him, the sacrifice of his own life, asking of Him the grace of final perseverance, which is the only good worth having in this life. He will than experience in his heart a growing desire of seeing face to face that God, infinitely good, great and holy, at whose altar he has so often stood and who, in the heavenly country, "renews the youth" of his elect "like the eagle's (3l).
However, in order that the priest of God, in the extreme years of his life may enjoy the wonderful effects of this Sacrament more abundantly and with greater relish, it is necessary that he should accustom himself in time of youth to practise this beautiful devotion with unction and assiduity, endeavoring to live a truly Eucharistic life.
In connection with the devotion which priests should have, especially in the later years of their lives, toward the Blessed Eucharist, mention may be made here of a great Pope who, a little over a century ago, died in exile, replenished with gall and bitterness, a victim of the unworthy treatment which a cruel revolution inflicted upon him.
This was Pius VI, who was driven by force from his city of Rome and led from place to place in the midst of unheard of privations and ill treatments as far as Valence, in Dauphiné where he finally died. Now, it was precisely in his devotion to the august Sacrament of the Altar that this pope-martyr found the supernatural strength to bear with unflinching patience the sufferings and privations which he had to suffer in his old age at the hands of fierce persecutors.
As he could not himself celebrate holy Mass, he would hear with great devotion that said by his chaplain every morning, receiving at the same time the Eucharistic food. Moreover, he would always carry, hanging at his neck, a silver pyx containing the sacred particle, which he often adored with fervor and which was for him a continual source of consolation. Thus, in the decline of life he found, in his devotion to the Blessed Eucharist, strength and comfort which enabled him to go up his Calvary in the company of his Lord.
Another more recent Pontiff, who also bore the name of Pius, that is, Pius IX, found too in the Blessed Eucharist a source of special inspiration and comfort in a moment of great tribulation.
In 1848 the Pontifical States, and especially the city of Rome, became the theater of a most violent revolution, to the extent that the Pope was meditating to leave for a time the Eternal City where his stay had become intolerable and his life was unsafe. It was then that a fact connected with the Blessed Eucharist caused the Supreme Pontiff to determine upon flight.
This fact was the sending, on the part of a poor priest of France, through the Bishop of Valence, the priest's Ordinary, of that same pyx which Pius VI had carried in his sorrowful exile. Pius IX saw in the gift which was being made to him then, as it were a divine warning to put into execution the design he had formed to leave the turbulent city, awaiting better times. In fact, he departed from Rome on that same day and repaired to Gaeta, where he sought hospitality from the king of Naples, who welcomed with filial devotion the much harassed Father of Christendom.
We may imagine rather than describe how, during that memorable flight and the subsequent sojourn in Gaeta, the sorrowing heart of the great Pontiff was comforted by the thought of the most Blessed Eucharist, which he carried with him.
When back in his city of Rome after two years' absence, he would always, on the feast of Corpus Christi, preside over the great procession which winds round the square of St. Peter's. His devotion toward the August Sacrament was so great, that, according to the testimony of bystanders, he looked more like a seraph than a man, so deeply absorbed was he in an ecstasy of love.
Imitating these great Pontiffs, every Catholic priest, when heavily pressed by sorrow, anxiety or tribulation, will have recourse with confidence to the Most Blessed Eucharist. There will he find comfort in the manifold afflictions of life and receive the sweet confidence to conquer the obstacles to his true happiness. There he will be sustained by hope of contemplating one day face to face that same Jesus whom he now sees with the eyes of faith under the sacramental veils and adores with all the faculties of his soul.
In a special manner, the pious priest, living in the habitual thought of Jesus present in the Eucharist, will begin with generosity, continue with constancy and achieve with happy success the work of reforming his heart, a work of assimilation of his own affections with the affections of the Heart of his most sweet Lord. By often remembering the Eucharistic life of our Eucharistic Redeemer, a life so humble and yet so perfect and admirable, the Catholic priest will acquire, little by little, those beautiful virtues of humility, meekness and sincere charity which will make his heart a less untrue copy of the Heart of his divine Master, of which these same virtues are characteristic.
V. Jesus, meek and humble of Heart,
R. Make our hearts like unto Thy Heart.
Copyright © 2005 by Rev. Alexis H. M. Lepicier, O.S.M.
Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association
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