A priest once had a parishioner who turned away from the faith. He was described as “one who became so impious and lawless that he scandalized even those who led bad lives.” This man developed an affliction in his lungs and was going to die. The priest visited him and sought to elicit some turning back toward God before he departed this earth. All the entreaties of the priest were met, however, with insults and blasphemies.
The priest was a good shepherd. He would not let go of his wayward son. So, he turned to a curate and told him to go to Paray-le-Monial and have prayers said for the dying man. Paray-le-Monial is a small village in the Burgundy region of eastern France. It is also the place where, from 1673-1675, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque received the revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The revelations were received while she was in adoration before Him in the Blessed Sacrament, where she spent hours on end, like a marble statue, with the revelations being unknown to those around her. It was here that the priest was sending the curate, to the Chapel of the Visitation, where the revelations occurred. There was a silver heart located there, next to the altar, where prayer petitions could be placed.
The curate left at once. He arrived the following day, along with other pilgrims to the holy place. Prayers were said and communions were offered for man dying many miles away.
The curate then returned to the dying man. He had brought with him a medal of the Sacred Heart. In a surprising turn, the dying man took the medal, attached it to a ribbon and placed it around his neck. He then asked to have his confession heard and insisted that it must be that very day. He confessed his sins, received the sacrament of Extreme Unction and went to the next life thanking the Lord for waiting for him and pardoning him after so much time spent in rejecting His ways.
Is this significant? It is nothing less than the saving of a soul. Is it surprising that the man changed so in his attitude? Other men never make such a change. Is it due in any way to the prayers said at the Chapel of the Visitation, where He was there to hear them in the tabernacle? The priest who related this story certainly thought so.
This Lent, let us try to imagine the infinite Love that resides in the Sacred Heart, such a love that it could forgive, in an instant, a life spent in rejecting it. Next time, you are in a church and see a tabernacle with the red candle burning near it, consider the Love that resides inside, the Love that grants eternal life, the Love that is present in each Eucharist.
(Adapted from an account in in Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament by Rev. Frederick A. Reuter.)
This series of stories, taken from distant persons centuries ago and from ordinary people living today, is meant to demonstrate the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But what of it? If we come to see Him really there, do we understand what it means? Do we center of the wonder of God being physically present before us and try to contemplate that alone, without understanding the real purpose of the Blessed Sacrament?
In the Catholic Church, there is an approved devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We must understand it to understand the purpose of the Blessed Sacrament. To do that, we turn to Christ Himself.
On June 16, 1675, during the octave of the feast of the Blessed Sacrament, Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque was praying in the Chapel of the Visitation in Paray-le-Monial, France. She was on her knees, offering homage to Her Lord in the tabernacle. The Lord appeared to her. This was the last of three revelations for which she is remembered, the first having occurred almost two years before.
In this visit, the Lord spoke about the ingratitude and irreverence of mankind. He spoke about the “coldness and contempt they have for Me in this sacrament of love.” The sacrament of love to which He was referring was the sacrament in the tabernacle before which she had started her praying, the Blessed Sacrament.
He also spoke about His Sacred Heart, “which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to satisfy its love.”
To understand the Blessed Sacrament is to understand it is Love.
It is the same Love that showed itself on the Cross. It is the same Love that is celebrated at each Mass, where the sacrifice of the Cross is honored and revered. It is the same Love that gave birth to the Blessed Sacrament at the Last Supper, so that we would remember Him after He died His human death.
He created us out of Love. He came to be among us out of Love. He now stays with us out of Love.
To understand the Blessed Sacrament is to understand it is Love.
Incidentally, Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque became St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Her fervent wish, before she died, was that all her writings would be burned, so that no trace could be left of her, so that no one would remember her. That wish was not granted and we do remember her. We remember her for her understanding that she was nothing, her knowing that He was everything and her desire to be so united with Him that nothing would be left of her.
Tomorrow, another little story will appear, tied to these events in 1673-75 but occurring many years later, telling another manifestation of His Love.
On February 5, 1876, a Forty Hours Devotion was begun in the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Dubna, Poland. When the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, rays of light began emanating from the monstrance. A figure of Christ then appeared in place of the white Host. It remained there for the entire forty hours.
Persons of every form of belief, whether out of devotion or curiousity, came to view this happening and afterwards gave testimony as to what they had seen. The parish priest was summoned before the director of police and questioned. The governor of the province ordered everyone not to speak of it or be imprisoned. The bishop for the diocese directed his people to accede to this order, for fear of the church being closed.
This is not unlike many other times in the history of the Church when it has suffered ridicule and persecution. Yet despite all, it has survived for 2,000 years. This Lent, let us pray that we too may always persevere in our faith and, despite any setbacks or challenges, continue to press forward, ever closer and closer to Him.
(Based on an account found in Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament by Rev. Frederick A. Reuter.)
There is a Carmelite monastery in Naga City, Philippines. Fr. Robert DeGrandis celebrated a healing Mass there once. During his homily, he instructed people to look at the Blessed Sacrament during the elevation and pray for healing as they prayed for other people.
One woman, Nena Bichara, did just that. She had been suffering for three years from an enlargement of her thyroid gland. The doctors had recommended surgery as the only course of action. During the elevation of the Eucharist, she prayed for others, and also asked for her condition to be healed. As she did, she says that she felt a power. She knew that she had been healed and told her son. He asked her to be quiet, so that others would not think she was crazy.
After the Mass, she went to her doctor and had an examination. No trace of her problem was found. Three months later, she visited another doctor. He too found nothing.
(Adapted from an entry in My Daily Eucharist by Joan Carter McHugh, containing an excerpt from Healing Through the Mass by Fr. Robert DeGrandis, SSJ.)
One day, a man went to Eucharistic Adoration and these words came to him, “What will You have of me?” They were a prayer directed to Jesus. As he repeated this prayer, it occurred to him that the way he had addressed the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament had changed. Years ago, when on the altar close to a priest performing consecration, he had thought, “So this is where it happens.” Then, when he first began going to Eucharistic Adoration, he used to say, “Jesus, can we talk?” Later, when first entering the church and gazing at the Eucharist, he would simply say, “My Lord and My God.” Now, it had become, “What will You have of me?”
The next day, he was again before the Blessed Sacrament. This time, a friend had come with him. As he knelt in front of the altar, looking up at the monstrance, he again thought, “What will You have of me?” As soon as he had gotten those words out, with his eyes wide open, he saw the entire monstrance become larger and move forward. In that motion, the center, the Eucharist, moved farther forward, as if the monstrance was puffing out. He wondered what this meant. Was he supposed to devote more toward the adoration of the Eucharist, perhaps by encouraging others to believe in it? Did it mean that Christ was coming forward to meet him, or did it mean that Christ wanted him to stretch as much as possible and that Christ wanted all of him? He did not know. He knew one thing, however. The impression that clearly came to him was that the Eucharist was alive, that Christ was really present and alive behind that white Host at which he had been gazing.
Afterwards, as they were leaving the area of the altar and walking back toward the rear of the church, his friend commented on the experience of being so close to the Eucharist, exposed in the monstrance. His words were that, “It is so moving.”
From a contributor in Mundelein, Illinois
The Church is like a lighthouse, alone, on a distant shore. The light it proclaims and shines forth is the Eucharist, the presence of God among us here on earth. As we approach it, some may shy away from the light and try to sail left. As they do, the shore curves away from them, into the gray mistiness. They sail and sail, but it curves and curves, with no end. They then may sail all the way back to the lighthouse and try to sail to the right of it. Again, the shore curves and curves, with no end. Only when they sail back to the lighthouse until they are in front of it, and then sail straight for it, will they be able to reach the shore, disembark and walk beneath the light above, to their home.
A Contributor, offering a view from time spent before the Blessed Sacrament
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, as it was formerly known, is located in Turin, Italy. It is located next to the chapel that houses the Shroud of Turin. The Cathedral itself once housed something quite sacred. For 131 years, from 1453 to 1584 it housed a large Consecrated Host, until that Host was ordered to be consumed by an order of the Holy See. As reported in an earlier posting (see the archives, 11-17-12), a wafer made from wheat flour begins to seriously deteriorate after only six months. This particular Host had remained intact for over a century.
There was a special history to that Host. It had come from the city of Exilles. Two soldiers had pillaged the church there and stolen various articles, including an ostensorioum that contained the Host. They travelled to Turin where they intended to sell their pilfered goods. They arrived in early evening, but in front of the Church of San Silvestro, their mule fell. All the goods packed on it were scattered to the ground, all the stolen goods, however, except the Host. It did not fall, but remained suspended in the air, emitting rays of light. People gathered and then Fr. Giovanni Galesio sent for Bishop Ludovico. He came along with a number of others. At the site, he fell to his knees in homage. Amid a solemn procession, the Host was transported to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist mentioned above.
The people in the area developed a name for the spectacle of light that had occurred. They called it the “Sun of Justice.” The Church of San Silvestro was given a new name as well. They called it “The Church of the Body of the Lord.” Hymns sung during Benediction services were also changed, in honor of the miracle.
Numerous documents have been preserved from the time that describe and refer to the event. Included among them are the statements of 10 laypeople who were among the first witnesses at the scene.
It is of course hard to believe that such an event occurred. It is also hard for many to believe the miracle of the sun at Fatima, unless perhaps you were one of the 70,000 who were there. This Lent, do not doubt that the ten witnesses, the priest, the Bishop and the townspeople of Turin all fell under some mass delusion, that they renamed their church to further a collective hoax or that hymns sung during times of reverence were based on deception. This Lent, as you look at the Host elevated at Mass, think of what it would have been like to have been in Turin, in 1453, at the time the mule stumbled.
(Based on an account found in Eucharistic Miracles, by Joan Carroll Cruz.)
Charles de Foucald was born into great wealth. He became selfish and lived a shocking way of life that provoked much gossip in Paris. He began, however, searching for something more. He used to enter St. Augustine Church saying repeatedly, “My God, if You exist, let me come to know You.” One particular day, as the priest elevated the Sacred Host, he was heard to say “My God, You are real!” After that, his life changed and he became devoted to the Eucharist.
What happened to him in that instant that was so transforming? What could change a man for life in one moment? It is, of course, the Lord, alive and present in His Sacrament. If any of us could truly feel His presence for a moment, how would that not change us.
(Based on an entry in My Daily Eucharist by Joan Carter McHugh and an excerpt there from Hidden Treasure, The Riches of the Eucharist by Louis Kaczmarek.)
Therese Neumann was a German woman, noted as a mystic and stigmatist. She lived from April 8, 1898 to September 18, 1962. Beginning in 1922, she reportedly consumed no solid food. Beginning in September, 1926, she reportedly consumed no beverages. For nourishment, she received only the Eucharist.
Reports of this led the Bishop of Regensburg to order an investigation. For 15 days, from July 14 -28, 1927, she was kept under watch, 24 hours a day, by four Franciscan nurses. They were supervised by Dr. Seidl from Waldsassen and Professor Ewald from Erlangen, who came in themselves to make random visits from time to time. The results of the observation were that, during the period in question, Ms. Neumann took no food or beverage.
Professor Ewald was an opponent of those who claimed there was some unscientific explanation for the phenomenon He admitted, however, that while she should have lost weight heavily, she weighed the same at the end of this time as at the outset.
After beginning her total fast from food and drink in 1926, Therese Neumann continued it until the time of her death, 36 years later.
Jesus said that He was the “bread of life,” and that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” For us, during this Lenten season, may we come to have a deeper faith in this and in His Presence among us.
Today we have a story to relive that comes to us from hundreds of years ago. Whenever the year for such a story is given, we are often prone to some degree of automatic suspicion. The people from such times were not as sophisticated as we are today. They would believe things that did not actually happen. Yet, as we have shown from many other stories reported previously on this site, there are events occurring today for which we have no earthy explanation.
With that in mind, we go to Assisi, Italy, in 1649. John Frederick, the Duke of Brunswick and Hanover had just been to Rome. He had asked for and received from Pope Innocent a letter of introduction to a convent there. At this convent, there was a renowned holy man the Duke wanted to meet. His name was Joseph of Copertino. The Duke was not Catholic. He was travelling with two counts. One was Catholic; the other belonged to a Protestant faith. At the time of their arrival, Joseph was saying Mass. No one had been informed of their coming, including Joseph.
Joseph was in the act of breaking the Host when the Duke and the two counts entered the church. Suddenly, he let out a deep sigh and put the Host down.
After Mass, the Duke asked the superior of the convent to seek out Joseph and inquire what had happened upon their arrival. The superior knew of Joseph’s reluctance to explain such things, but required him to respond under the rules of obedience. Joseph replied: “Ah, the strangers whom thou didst send to hear my Mass are of a hard heart and do not believe all that the Catholic Church teaches. On this account, the Lamb became hard in my hands this morning, and I could not break it.”
The Duke was struck by this reply, as one might imagine, and proceeded afterwards to converse with Joseph for some time. The next morning, the Duke attended Mass again. When he elevated the Host for adoration, a cross appeared on it. It was black. Also, as had been witnessed of Joseph on other occasions, he was raised in the air. He remained this way for a short period of time. At this second surprising event, the Duke cried out. He wailed that he had known peace in his own country, but that since coming here, all he had known was anguish and turmoil.
After Mass, the Duke conversed with Joseph again, at length. He wanted to do so still more, but Joseph told him to pray at the altar of St. Francis and engage in the practices of the friars that day. The Duke obeyed.
Later, before the Blessed Sacrament, the Duke exclaimed: “The King of the whole world is adored in this church. I acknowledge and believe all the Catholic Church acknowledges and believes.”
The next day, the Duke left for his home, but promised to come back the following year and make a public reparation for his sins. The Duke kept that promise.
Joseph of Copertino is a Catholic saint. He was canonized July 16, 1767.
This story has been preserved by those who were there and handed down to us because of the impact it caused among them. In the same way, there are stories being witnessed and told by those among us now that have caused an impact in their lives. They understand there are times when the inexplicable happens. They understand there are times when He who is Divine Mercy reaches down to us. They understand there are times when He does this because of His Love and His desire for us to approach closer. This Lent, let us not have a heart that is hard, like that which once belonged to the Duke. Let us have a heart that is open to the message of this story and the Love that caused it.
(Adapted from Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament, by Rev. Frederick A. Reuter.)