Jesse Romero tells a story. He tells several stories about the Real Presence. One is simple, but poignant.
Romero was a cop in Los Angeles. One day, he spotted a 16-year-old boy “tagging” a building. He is spray painting gang markings on it. Romero arrests him and is taking him to the police station. The boy is in the back seat pleading for some leniency. He is out on probation. An arrest means he will probably be locked up for a year.
Romero decides to introduce him to his “best friend.” He takes the boy to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. As they enter, the boy has an actual look of fear on him. The candles, the stained glass, the statues, the darkened atmosphere all combine to instill a sense of foreboding. The boy is out of his element and in someplace uncommon to him. Romero takes him to the altar. They have perpetual adoration in this church, and Jesus is exposed in the monstrance day and night.
As he points to the Eucharist, Romero asks the boy if he knows who that is. The boy answers, “Jesus.” Romero asks if the boy knows about Him. He answers that his grandmother would talk about Him. Romero tells him that this is his “best friend.”
After being there some short while, the boy tells Romero that he has “never felt so loved.”
They leave and the boy’s life is not the same. He does not stay in the gang. He grows up, becomes a successful businessman, gets married, has two children. He is living a life for which we were meant.
Should we take him at his word? Had he “never felt so loved?” It is, of course, a curious thing to say, that one feels love, kneeling before a simple piece of bread. More likely, he just imagined it, coaxed himself into thinking it. Those who have never experienced anything like this will certainly say so. Others, who have felt the peace, the warmth, the acceptance from being in His Presence, will think otherwise.
This Lent, we too can feel loved. We can place ourselves in His Presence and let Him reach out to us. All we have to do is let Him. All we have to do quiet our minds and let Him.
(This story comes from an account given by Jesse Romero on a CD entitled Life-Changing Stories of the Eucharist, published by Lighthouse Catholic media.)
A healing service was being held in Hawaii by Fr. Kelvin and Sister Briege McKenna. Sister McKenna was praying at the microphone while Fr. Kelvin processed down an aisle with a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament. They told the people to focus on Him as they prayed for healing.
One of those in the audience was a Mormon girl. She did not understand the teachings on the Eucharist but knew that the Catholics believed it was the physical presence of God.
As she looked at the Eucharist, she asked Jesus to ease the pain in her hands. She felt something come from the Sacred Host and go through her body. Walking out of the church, she nudged the Catholic friend who had come with her. She asked her friend to look at her hands. When they had come to the service, her hands were deformed. Now, they were healed.
Should we refuse to believe that this happened? Should we believe that someone who was not Catholic and who did not seek fame or notoriety on a reality show would lie about such an incident? Should we believe that this happening had nothing to do with the Sacred Host being carried in front of this girl?
This Lent, let us not refuse to believe. Let us trust in the mercy and goodness of Jesus, among us.
(Adapted from an account in My Daily Eucharist by Joan Carter McHugh, containing an excerpt from Miracles Do Happen by Sister Briege McKenna, OSC.)
For Easter one year, the mayor of Petrosa invited a priest from a nearby monastery to say Mass. The priest was a man later called St. Peter of Alcantara. Peter was well-known in the area and, when word spread that he was going to celebrate Easter Mass, many people came. Due to the size of the crowd, the Mass had to be held outdoors.
As Peter began the second half of the Mass, the part devoted to the celebration of the Eucharist, a storm arose. Despite the thunder and lightning, Peter remained calm. Rains poured down upon the surrounding fields, but the area in which the Mass was held remained dry. The entire area was also noticeably quiet, as quiet as if they had been inside a church. After the Mass ended, those assembled all gave thanks. They knew they had been a witness to something extraordinary.
How would it be to see the rain but not hear it as should sound? Would not we also tell others something extraordinary happened, something extraordinary during the celebration of His Presence.
This Lent, let us celebrate His Presence among us.
(Based on an account in Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament by Rev. Frederick A. Reuter, K.C.B.S.)
“When I had begun the Holy Sacrifice, I received many graces and pious emotions and gentle tears, which lasted long. As the Mass continued, many inspirations confirmed what I had resolved; and when I raised the Sacred Host, I felt as it were an inward suggestion, and a powerful impulse never to abandon Our Lord, in spite of all obstacles; and this was accompanied by a new delight and fresh impressions. This … lasted the whole time, even after Mass and throughout the day.”*
The man who uttered these words was St. Ignatius of Loyola. Brought up as a solder he went through a period of reflection when recovering from a cannon ball wound. He discovered that there was a joy related to Jesus different from all other joys. He changed his vocation, became a priest and founded the Jesuit Order. That was almost 500 years ago. The Jesuit Order has survived all this time. In fact, it has now yielded a Pope of the Church, the first time it has ever done so.
This Lent, let us consider these words of St. Ignatius. Let us ask what he felt and what he was given to understand, in His Presence, when he experienced a “new delight” and certain “fresh impressions.” By seeking to be closer to Him, let us also come to feel the joy that is different from all others.
*Taken from the entry for January 25 in My Daily Eucharist by Joan Carter McHugh, containing an excerpt from The Spiritual Journal of St. Ignatius of Loyola by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Jeanne Tulasne suffered from spinal tuberculosis. By the age of 19, it had caused the destruction of 2 or 3 spinal vertebrae, marked curvature of the dorsolumbar spine, a bone abscess in the left thigh, muscular atrophy and clubfoot. These symptoms were certified by her doctor on August 7, 1897.
On September 8, 1897, she participated in a Blessed Sacrament Procession at Lourdes, France. The Archbishop of Tours, her own diocese, carried the monstrance. Suddenly, she felt cured. She rose from the couch in which she had been lying, to the astonishment and cries of the crowd around her.
She was examined the next day at the Medical Bureau of Verifications. She was re-examined the next year. The doctors confirmed the cure as complete, sudden and lasting. In 1906, the Archbisop, Mgr Rene Francois Renou, appointed a Canonical Commission. It recognized the cure as miraculous. Afterwards, the Archbishop himself stated that the miraculous cure happened “when the Blessed Sacrament was carried past her.”
Since 1858, there have been 67 cures that have been confirmed as miraculous. They are the ones where the evidence is beyond question. The case of Jeanne Tulasne is one of them.
It may still be said, however, that her case is no reason to believe. It may be said that her prior diagnosis, with 5 pronounced conditions, made only one month before, was mistaken. It may be that her cure was caused by some mental or natural power of her own, which is neither known nor explicable. It may be that the timing of her cure, contrary to testimony from the time, had no correlation to the procession with the Blessed Host.
It may also be, however, that the Lord Himself is present in the Blessed Eucharist, as He told us.
This Lent, let us know and be comfortable with His Presence among us. Let us not approach or receive Him with doubt. Let us speak to Him as we would if we could see Him in person. He is, in fact, there before us.
At age 15, Maureen Digan, contracted lymphedema. It is a disease that causes pain and complications resulting from the failure of lymph fluid to drain. From age 15 to 20, she had 50 operations. She was in and out of hospitals over a 10-year period, during stays lasting from 1 week to 12 months. At 19, she had spinal surgery that left her paralyzed from the waist down for 2 years. At age 20, she had her first amputation.
In March of 1981, she travelled from Roslindale , Massachusetts to the tomb of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, which is located just outside Cracow, Poland. She had come at the urging of her husband, who hoped that she might be healed through prayer there. She herself did not believe in miracles. As she prayed at the tomb, she somewhat cavalierly said to the Saint, “OK Faustina, then do something.”
She then thought that she was having a nervous breakdown. The pain ended and her swelling went down. She stuffed tissues into her shoes so that people would not notice the lack of swelling. She stopped taking all her medications.
Four independent physicians had all agreed that her disease was incurable and that it never went into remission. Still, she was healed.
St. Faustina was a Catholic nun who lived from 1905 to 1938. Strictly due to her vows of obedience, she wrote a book that is now famous and known, simply, as her “Diary.” It formed the basis for a devotion to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, which she describes as an endless reservoir in which all, absolutely all, may trust.
She relates that in one revelation, on November 19, 1937, He said: “My great delight is to unite myself with souls. Know, My daughter, that when I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not even pay attention … Oh, how sad I am that souls do not recognize Love! They treat Me as a dead object.”*
This Lent, let us not treat the Eucharist as a dead object. Let us be a delight for Him. Let us be open to the graces He wishes to give us.
*Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, par. 1385.
“Carrigan noticed a transformation in the celebrant during the consecration. He seemed to take on physical sufferings. Although he knew nothing at the time of Padre Pio’s stigmata, Carrigan noticed that the Capuchin leaned on the altar, first on one elbow and then on the other, as if he were trying to relieve the pain in his feet. At the words of the Consecration, he seemed to have difficulty in speaking the words, ‘Hoc est enim corpus meum.’ (“This is my body.”) Carrigan recalled Pio shouted the words, hesitating and biting them off ‘as if he were in physical pain.’ When he reached for the chalice, he jerked his hand back violently, ‘as if the pain were so great he could not grasp it.’ His facial muscles were twitching and tears were rolling down his cheeks. Occasionally, he jerked his head to one side or the other, as if he were suffering blows to the neck and head.”*
This is a description of the first time that Bill Carrigan saw a Mass said by St. Pio of Pietrelcina. It was 1943, in a place called San Giovanni Rotundo, near Naples, Italy. He had taught psychology before the war at Catholic University, in Washington, D.C. Now, he was travelling with the Fifteenth Army, U.S. Air Force, as a member of the Red Cross. He would come to write a story later, about many soldiers whose lives had changed dramatically after coming to see the enigmatic friar.
Many miracles are attributed to Padre Pio. He was said to have gifts of bilocation, healing and being able to read souls, among others. Carrigan himself, although he remained skeptical of them, possessed several boxes of stories relating miraculous events involving Padre Pio. In 2008, more than forty years after his death, Padre Pio’s body was exhumed and placed on public display. Videos showing its condition can be seen on Youtube. His face is lifelike.
This Lent, let us not doubt, nor recoil, from the great suffering Christ endured during His Passion for all of us. Let us know it through the communication with Him exhibited by His humble servant, Padre Pio. Let us know it was borne out of Love, Love of God for us.
*C. Bernard Ruffin, Padre Pio: The True Story (Huntington, IN, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1991) p.258.
From 409 to 431, Pontius Meropius Anicius Paulina was bishop of Nola, in southern Italy. The man later became known as St. Paulinus.
One day, the Bishop came upon a beggar who asked him for alms. The beggar had a withered hand and the Bishop asked him about it. The beggar then spoke of having a kindly mother, to whom he had been disobedient since his early childhood. He had spent almost all of the money she had and then asked for the last of it. When she refused, he struck her and she died as a result of the blow. This took place on the night before Holy Thursday. On Easter Sunday, having hid her body, he came forward at Mass and received Holy Communion.
As he did, the hand with which he had struck his mother stiffened and, amid terrible pains, became withered. He cried out so that his cries attracted the attention of the whole congregation. Stunned and embarrassed, he quickly fled.
Since then, he wandered about, with his deformed hand serving as a constant reminder of his terrible deed and his profanation of the Eucharist. He lamented to the Bishop that he could bear the physical hardship well enough, but it was the expectation of Hell that tormented him.
St. Paulinus told him, “There is in the Heart of Jesus, whom you have so grievously offended, enough compassion and mercy to pardon you.” He then told the beggar to make an earnest confession and to again receive the Eucharist, although this time, with respect and reverence. Having previously thought there was no hope for him, the man was instantly renewed by the knowing confidence of the Bishop in his proclamation of such mercy.
He did as the Bishop suggested, made a forthright confession and then went again to Communion. As he received the Lord, he again felt a power in his hand. This time, however, his withered hand was restored. He was cured.
This Lent, let us know at St. Paulinus and St. Faustina attest, that there is mercy beyond our comprehension for all who honestly seek it. Let us approach Him with reverence and respect. Let us be grateful and rejoice.
(Adapted from an account in Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament by Rev. Frederick A. Reuter, K.C.B.S.)
It made him happy to see a group of his friars around the altar in adoration. When he showed guests about Niepokalanow, at times Germans from the highest ranks of society, he either began or ended the visit in the chapel to greet, as he explained, the Master of the house. Indicating the religious adoring the most Blessed Sacrament, he would say: “There is the most important work department in the friary.”
This is a simple story showing the faith and reverence of St. Maximillian Kolbe, a priest who would later give his life in a Nazi concentration camp. He gave it rather than lost it, because he willingly took the place of another man who was about to be killed.
This Lent, the next time we are at Mass, let us look at the elevated Host and imagine what St. Maximillian would think. Let us contemplate it as if we had such faith as his.
(Opening paragraph taken from Our Daily Eucharist, by Joan Carter McHugh, and an excerpt there from For the Life of the World, Saint Maximillian and the Eucharist, by Jerzy Domanski, OFM Conv.)
In his classic work, Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales refers to the Real Presence as: “the most holy, sacred and Sovereign Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Eucharist,—the very centre point of our Christian religion, the heart of all devotion, the soul of piety;—that Ineffable Mystery which embraces the whole depth of Divine Love, by which God, giving Himself really to us, conveys all His Graces and favours.”*
When such words of a saint are considered alone, almost 400 years after they were written, there may seem little to commend them. Since the man is not here to elaborate on them himself, is there anything in his life that can add context and credibility to them?
We could look, perhaps, to the following incident. On a certain Holy Thursday, the anniversary of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament by the Lord Himself, a priest was celebrating his first Mass. His name was Andre Fremiot, and the Mass was taking place in Dijon, France. St. Francis was present and assisted at the Mass. As he was to receive Holy Communion, he advanced forward on his knees. When he did, rays of light were seen encircling his head. They were especially brilliant at the moment he received the Eucharist. As the priest celebrating his inaugural Mass came from a family of some distinction, many of his relatives were there and witnessed this event.
This is but one incident. Perhaps another would help us believe. If so, one is available. Moving forward a few years, we come to an evening when St. Francis was working on the very book referenced above, Introduction to the Devout Life. He had collapsed while writing and his brother, Louis, entered the room. Above the head of Francis, he saw a ball of fire from which several flames descended. They danced around Francis and touched his garments, without burning them. When Francis was later able to speak, his brother asked him to describe what had happened. He did, but made his brother promise never to tell anyone.
These are but two incidents. Perhaps a third would persuade still more. If so, we can go to a chapel in Belley, France, shortly before the death of St. Francis. Here, he said a Mass for some sisters belonging to the Order of the Visitation. Once again, he was seen being surrounded by light.**
These are but three instances in the life of this devout man. There are miracles and other instances that are not being mentioned, due to constraints of space.
For St. Francis de Sales, as first stated above, the Eucharist was nothing less than the Real Presence of the Lord here on earth. This Lent, let the light that endowed his writing still speak to us. Let us truly appreciate the sacrifice made for us on the Cross and the Love that impels Him to remain here with us.
*Francis de Sales, St., Introduction to the Devout Life (Grand Rapids, MI, Christian Classics Ethereal Library) http://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/devout_life.html, Part II, Chapter 14)
** Accounts of the events in the life of St. Francis based on St. Francis de Sales by Louise Stacpoole-Kenny (Rockford, IL, Tan Books, 2002).