JESUS, OUR EUCHARISTIC LOVE
by Father Stefano Manelli, O.F.M., Conv., S.T.D.
We are publishing Father Manelli’s book in serial form in our magazine. The first four installments of this book appeared in Issues number 4 to 7 of The Fatima Crusader. This is the fifth installment.
Father Stefano has been a priest for about twenty-five years, and is the Superior of the Friary he founded. His religious community, inspired by Blessed Maximilian Kolbe’s idea of the “City of the Immaculate”, tries to follow ever more closely the ideals and rule of St. Francis of Assisi. The printing facilities and radio station of Father Manelli’s “Casa Mariana” (House of Mary) continue to expand and are used exclusively to make Jesus and Mary better known and loved. Father’s Casa Mariana has expanded so much recently that they sent four missionaries to the Philippines to start a Casa Mariana there. Father Manelli, who has his Doctorate in Sacred Theology, is well known in Italy. His book, Jesus, Our Eucharistic Love has gone through at least five editions in Italy and over 100,000 copies have been printed. Although some of his other works have been published elsewhere in English, this is the first time that this very solid and devout work has been published in North America. Father was pleased to give us permission to publish his work in English as he looks forward to being able to reach even more souls through the mass media to bring them, through Mary, to the sweet yoke of Christ.
We are happy to present this our fifth installment of his book and we hope you will like it, as those who have already read Jesus, Our Eucharistic Love attest that it is a very powerful and edifying piece of literature.
|Benediction at the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima. Many of the miraculous physical cures that take place at Fatima today occur during the Blessing of the sick with the Blessed Sacrament. The Message of Fatima encourages greater devotion to the Holy Eucharist.|
• The Bread of the Strong and Viaticum for Heaven
It ought not to be necessary to say that for everybody, Christ in the Eucharist is the true Bread to make them strong. It is the nourishment to make men heroic, to sustain martyrs, and to bring strength and peace to souls in their last agony.
In the Eucharist, Jesus repeats to us, who suffer and moan in this valley of tears, this affectionate summons, “Come to Me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you,” (Matthew 11:28). For certainly “The life of man upon earth is a warfare,” (Job 7:1). Moreover, Jesus’ followers “shall suffer persecution”, (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 5:10); and it is true that they that are Christ’s “have crucified their flesh with its passions and concupiscences”, (Galatians 5:24), and that we ought to live as dead “with Christ to the elements of the world,” (Colossians 2:20).
It is also true that with Jesus “I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13); for Jesus is “all”, (cf. John 1:3; Colossians 1:17). In Holy Communion He makes Himself “all mine.” I can, then, say with the Servant of God, Luisa M. Claret de la Touche, “What need I fear? He Who sustains the world is within me. The Blood of a God circulates within my veins: Have no fear, O my soul. The Lord of the Universe has taken you up into His Arms and wants you to find rest in Him.”
Hence, St. Vincent de Paul was able to ask his missionaries, “When you have received Jesus into your hearts, can any sacrifice be impossible for you?” And St. Vincent Ferrer, during the two years he had to suffer in prison as a victim of persecution, exceedingly abounded with joy in all his tribulations (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:4), because he managed to be able to celebrate Holy Mass every day in spite of his fetters and chains and the darkness of his dungeon. The same fortitude and joy was given to St. Joan of Arc when she was allowed to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist before going to her execution at the stake. When Jesus entered her dark prison, the Saint fell on her knees, and, wearing her chains, received Jesus, and became absorbed in prayer. As soon as she was bidden to go forth to her death, she rose and made her journey without interrupting her prayer. She proceeded to the stake and died amid the flames, ever in union with Jesus, Who remained in her soul and in that body which was sacrificed.
Strength of the Martyrs
The whole history of the martyrs, from St. Stephen, the protomartyr, to the angelic martyr, St. Tarcisius, and the more recent martyrs, is a story of the super-human strength which the Eucharist bestows on them as they do battle against the devil and against all the hellish powers that operate in the world (cf. 1 Peter 5:9).
Remember, also, the heavenly comfort and help which Holy Communion brings to the sick, and not merely to their souls, but to their bodies also, which sometimes become wonderfully healed. It used to happen, for example, to St. Lidwina and to Alexandrina da Costa, that during the whole time the Sacred Species remained within their bodies, their terrible physical sufferings would marvelously cease. It likewise happened to St. Lawrence of Brindisi and St. Peter Claver, that all the pains of the serious ailments that had been tormenting them, would cease when they were celebrating Holy Mass.
Take Care of the Soul First
But most consoling of all is the Christian’s final Holy Communion, which is called Viaticum; that is, food for the journey from this life to the next. Oh, what great importance the Saints attached to our receiving It in good time and with the best dispositions!
When St. Dominic Savio was sent home because of a grave illness, the doctor held out good hopes of his recovery. But the holy youth called his father and said, “Father, it will be a good thing if I deal with the heavenly Doctor. I want to go to Confession and receive Holy Communion.”
When St. Anthony Claret’s declining health began to cause serious concern, two physicians were called in for advice. Noticing this, the Saint realized the gravity of his illness and said, “I understand; but first let us think about the soul, and then the body.” And he wanted to receive the Sacraments at once. After that was done, he sent for the two physicians and told them, “Now do what you want to do.”
First the soul, and then the body. Is it possible that we do not appreciate this? Often we are so unthinking that we concern ourselves a great deal about getting the doctor in to tend to the sick person, whereas we get around to summoning the priest only at the last minute when the patient is, perhaps, too far gone to receive the Sacraments with full awareness, or cannot even receive them at all. Oh how foolish, how unwise we are! How can we escape being answerable, if, by failing to call the priest on time, we put a dying person’s salvation in jeopardy and deprive him of the support and great help that he could receive in his last moments?
The Eucharist is the highest guarantee pledging true life to the Christian who dwells in this poor land of exile. “Our bodies,” writes St. Gregory of Nyssa, “when united to Christ’s Body, gain a beginning of immortality, because they are united to Immortality.” When the body’s short life is failing, we look to Jesus Who is eternal Life. He is given to us in Holy Communion in order to be the true and enduring Life of our immortal souls and to be the Resurrection of our mortal bodies: “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has life everlasting,” (John 6:55). “He who eats this Bread shall live forever,” (John 6:59), because “I am the Resurrection and the Life”, (John 11:25).
Ah! What a great grace Holy Viaticum is! When the holy Cure of Ars was dying and heard the ringing of the bell that announced the arrival of Holy Viaticum, he was moved to tears, and said, “How can we not weep when Jesus is coming for the last time to us with so much love?”
Yes, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is Love that has become my food, my strength, my life, my heart’s craving. Every time I receive Him, during life or at the time of death, He makes Himself mine in order to make me His. Yes, He is all mine and I am all His — the one in the other, the one belonging to the other (cf. John 6:57). This is the fullness of Love for the soul and for the body, on earth and in Heaven.
• Every Day With Him
Jesus is in the tabernacle for my sake. He is the Food of my soul. “My Flesh is food indeed and My Blood is drink indeed,” (John 6:56). If I want to nourish myself spiritually and be fully supplied with life, I must receive Him. “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you,” (John 6:54). St. Augustine informs us that the Catholic people in his diocese in Africa called the Eucharist by the word “Life”. When they were to go to Holy Communion, they would say, “We are going to the Life.” What a wonderful way of expressing it!
To keep my supernatural powers and energies — my supernatural life — in good health, I must nourish them. The Holy Eucharist is exactly what is needed for this, for It is the “Bread of life”, (John 6:35), the “Bread that has come down from Heaven,” (John 6:59), which bestows, replenishes, preserves and increases the spiritual energies of the soul. St. Peter J. Eymard ventured to say, “Communion is as necessary for us to sustain our Christian vitality, as the vision of God is necessary to the angels, to maintain their life of glory.”
Every day I ought to nourish my soul, just as every day I feed my body in order to give it physical vitality. St. Augustine teaches, “The Eucharist is a daily Bread that we take as a remedy for the frailty we suffer from daily.” And St. Peter J. Eymard adds, “Jesus has prepared not just one Host, but One for every day of our life. The Hosts for us are ready. Let us not forfeit even One of Them.”
Jesus is that Host, that Victim of love, Who is so sweet and so healthful to the soul, as to move St. Gemma Galgani to say, “I feel a great need to be strengthened anew by that Food so sweet, which Jesus offers me. This affectionate therapy that Jesus gives me every morning unstiffens me and draws to Him every affection of my heart.”
For the Saints, daily Communion fulfills an imperative need for Life and Love, corresponding to Jesus’ divine desire to give Himself to be every soul’s Life and Love. We should not forget that Holy Thursday was the day for which Jesus had “longed” (cf. Luke 22:15). Hence, the holy Cure of Ars said emphatically, “Every Consecrated Host is made to burn Itself up with love in a human heart.” And St. Therese of Lisieux wrote to another Sister, “It is not in order to occupy a golden ciborium that Jesus every day comes down from Heaven, but it is to find another heaven, namely, our soul, in which He takes His delight,” and when a soul well able to do so does not want to receive Jesus into its heart, “Jesus weeps.” “Therefore,” continues St. Therese, “when the devil cannot enter with sin into a soul’s sanctuary, he wants the soul to be at least unoccupied, with no Master, and well removed from Holy Communion.” It should surely be evident that we are here concerned with a snare of the devil; for only the devil can be interested in keeping us away from Jesus. May we be on our guard, then. We should try not to fall victim to the devil’s deceptions. “Endeavor not to miss any Holy Communion,” St. Margaret Mary Alacoque advises: “We can scarcely give our enemy, the devil, greater joy than when we withdraw from Jesus, Who takes away the power the enemy has over us.”
Daily Communion is a daily wellspring of love, of strength, of light, of joy, of courage, of every virtue and every good. “If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink,” Jesus said (John 7:37). He alone is the “Fountain of water springing up unto life everlasting,” (John 4:14). How can there be anyone who is in the state of Sanctifying Grace not want, or who finds it hard, to go to this divine “table of the Lord?” (1 Corinthians 10: 21)
The great Lord Chancellor of England, St. Thomas More, who died a martyr because of his resistance to schism, used to hear Mass every morning and receive Holy Communion. Some friends tried to persuade him that this care was not suitable for a layman heavily engaged in so many affairs of state. “You present all your reasons, and they rather convince me the more that I should receive Holy Communion every day,” he said. “My distractions are numerous, and with Jesus I learn to recollect myself. The occasions of offending God are frequent, and I receive strength every day from Him to flee from them. I need light and prudence to manage very difficult affairs, and every day I can consult Jesus in Holy Communion. He is my great Teacher.”
Someone once asked the celebrated biologist, Banting, why he cared so much about daily Communion. “Have you ever reflected,” he answered, “what would happen if the dew did not fall every night? No plant could develop. The grass and flowers could not survive the evaporations and the dryness that the day’s heat brings in one way or another. Their cycle of energies, their natural renewal, the balance of their lymphatic fluids, the very life of plants requires this dew…” After a pause, he continued: “Now my soul is like a little plant. It is something rather frail that the winds and heat do battle with every day. So it is necessary that every morning I go get my fresh stock of spiritual dew, by going to Holy Communion.”
St. Joseph Cottolengo recommended to the physicians of his House of Divine Providence that they hear Mass and go to Communion before undertaking their difficult surgeries. This was because, as he said, “Medicine is a great science, but God is the great Physician.” Blessed Joseph Moscati, the celebrated physician of Naples, used to be very regular about this, and go to unbelievable lengths (at the cost of enormous inconvenience, especially in view of the frequent trips he had to make) to avoid missing daily Communion. If on any day it was quite impossible to receive Communion, he had not the courage that day to make his doctor’s calls; for he said, “Without Jesus I do not have enough light to save my poor patients.”
Oh, the ardent love the Saints have for daily Holy Communion! And who can properly describe it? St. Joseph Cupertino, who did not fail to receive his beloved Lord every day, once ventured to say to his brothers in religious life, “Be sure that I will depart into the next life on the day that I cannot receive the Pecoriello (the Great Lamb)” as he affectionately and devotedly called the Divine Lamb. And, in fact, it took a severe illness to prevent him from receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist one day; and that was the day of his death!
When St. Gemma Galgani’s father was worried about his daughter’s health, he criticized her for setting out too early every morning to go to Mass. His criticism drew this answer from the Saint: “But Father, as for me, I become ill if I don’t receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.”
When St. Catherine of Genoa learned of the interdict put on her city, carrying a prohibition against Mass and Holy Communion, she went on foot every day to a remote Sanctuary outside Genoa in order to go to Communion. When she was told that she was overdoing things, the Saint replied, “If I had to go miles and miles over burning coals in order to receive Jesus, I would say the way was easy, as if I were walking on a carpet of roses.”
This should teach a lesson to us who may have a Church within a short walk, where we can go at our convenience to receive Jesus into our hearts. And even if this should cost us some sacrifice, would it not be worth it?
But there is yet more to this, if we reflect that the Saints would have wanted to receive Communion not just once, but several times a day.
Full Ciborium, Empty Breadboxes
Let us go forward! We should not apologize for doing something so holy as receiving daily Communion, to which every blessing for soul and body is attached.
Blessings for the Soul
As for blessings for the soul, St. Cyril of Alexandria, Father and Doctor of the Church, wrote: “If the poison of pride is swelling up in you, turn to the Eucharist; and that Bread, Which is your God humbling and disguising Himself, will teach you humility. If the fever of selfish greed rages in you, feed on this Bread; and you will learn generosity. If the cold wind of coveting withers you, hasten to the Bread of Angels; and charity will come to blossom in your heart. If you feel the itch of intemperance, nourish yourself with the Flesh and Blood of Christ, Who practiced heroic self-control during His earthly life; and you will become temperate. If you are lazy and sluggish about spiritual things, strengthen yourself with this heavenly Food; and you will grow fervent. Lastly, if you feel scorched by the fever of impurity, go to the banquet of the Angels; and the spotless Flesh of Christ will make you pure and chaste.”
When people wanted to know how it came about that St. Charles Borromeo kept chaste and upright in the midst of other youths who were loose and frivolous, this was his secret: frequent Holy Communion. It was this same St. Charles who recommended frequent Communion to the young St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who became the Saint of angelic purity. Assuredly, the Eucharist proves to be “the wheat of the elect and wine which sprouts forth virgins,” (Zachariah 9:17). And St. Philip Neri, a priest thoroughly familiar with young people, remarked, “Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to the Blessed Virgin are not simply the best way, but in fact the only way to keep purity. At the age of twenty nothing but Communion can keep one’s heart pure … Chastity is not possible without the Eucharist.” This is most true.
Blessings for the Body
And what of the blessings that the Holy Eucharist brings for the body? St. Luke said of Our Lord, “Power went forth from Him and healed all,” (Luke 6:19). How many times at Lourdes has this not again proved true of Our Savior in the Eucharist? How many bodies have been healed by this kind Lord, veiled within the white Host? How many people, who were suffering from sickness or from poverty, have there not been who have received, with the Eucharistic Bread, the bread of health, of strength, and aid for other needs?
One day St. Joseph Cottolengo noticed that a number of patients in his House of Providence had not chosen to receive Holy Communion. The ciborium remained full. Now that same day the pantry ran out of bread for the forthcoming meal. The Saint, setting the ciborium on the altar, turned and very animatedly made this expressive statement: “Full ciborium, empty bread boxes!”
This bore out a truth. Jesus is the fullness of life and love for my soul. Without Him, all else is empty and arid. With Him I have limitless reserves every day for every good, purity and joy.