Circles of Light
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).