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 five installments of this book appeared in issues number 4 to 8 of The Fatima Crusader. This is the sixth installment.
Father Stefano has been a priest for about twenty-eight 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 sixth 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.
Spiritual Communion is the reserve of Eucharistic Life and Love always available for lovers of the Eucharistic Jesus. By means of Spiritual Communion the loving desires are satisfied of the soul that wants to be united with Jesus, its dear Bridegroom. Spiritual Communion is a union of love between the soul and Jesus in the Host. This union is spiritual but nonetheless real, more real than the union between the soul and the body, “because the soul lives more where it loves than where it lives,” says St. John of the Cross.
Faith, Love and Desire
As is evident, Spiritual Communion assumes that we have faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. It implies that we would like Sacramental Communion, and it demands a gratitude for Jesus’ gift of this Sacrament. All this is expressed simply and briefly in the formula of St. Alphonsus: “My Jesus, I believe that You are really present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things, and I desire to possess Thee within my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. — (Pause) I embrace Thee as being already there and unite myself wholly to Thee. Never, never permit me to be separated from Thee. Amen.”
Spiritual Communion, as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori teach, produces effects similar to Sacramental Communion, according to the dispositions with which it is made, the greater or less earnestness with which Jesus is desired, and the greater or less love with which Jesus is welcomed and given due attention.
A special advantage of Spiritual Communion is that we can make it as often as we like — even hundreds of times a day — when we like — even late at night — and wherever we like — even in a desert, or up in an airplane.
It is fitting to make a Spiritual Communion especially when we are attending Holy Mass and cannot receive Our Lord sacramentally. While the priest is receiving his Holy Communion, our soul should share in it by inviting Jesus into our heart. In this way every Holy Mass we hear is a complete one, with the Offertory, the sacrificial Consecration, and Holy Communion.
The two chalices
Jesus Himself told St. Catherine of Siena in a vision how precious a Spiritual Communion is. The Saint was afraid that a Spiritual Communion was nothing compared to a Sacramental Communion. In the vision, Our Lord held up two ciboriums, and said, “In this golden ciborium I put your Sacramental Communions. In this silver ciborium I put your Spiritual Communions. Both ciboriums are quite pleasing to Me.”
And once Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, when she was absorbed in addressing yearning sighs to Him in the tabernacle, “I love so much a soul’s desire to receive Me, that I hasten to it each time it summons Me by its yearnings.”
It is not hard to see how much Spiritual Communion has been loved by the Saints. Spiritual Communion at least partly satisfied that ardent desire to be united to their Beloved. Jesus Himself said, “Abide in Me and I in you,” (John 15:4). And Spiritual Communion helps us stay united to Jesus, even when we are far from a Church. There was no other way to appease the fond yearning that burned in the hearts of the Saints. “O God, my whole soul longs for You. As a deer for running water, my whole soul thirsts for God,” (Ps. 41:2).
This is the loving sigh of the Saints. St. Catherine of Genoa exclaimed, “O dear Spouse (of my soul), I so strongly crave the joy of being with Thee, that it seems to me that if I were dead, I would come to life in order to receive Thee in Holy Communion.” Blessed Agatha of the Cross felt such an acute yearning to live always united to Jesus in the Eucharist, that she remarked, “If the Confessor had not taught me to make Spiritual Communion, I could not have lived.”
For St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds, likewise, Spiritual Communion was the only relief from the acute pain she felt when shut up at home far from her beloved Lord, especially when she was not allowed to receive Sacramental Communion. At such a time she went out on the terrace of her home and, looking at the Church, she tearfully sighed, “Happy are they who have received Thee today in the Blessed Sacrament, O Jesus. Blessed are the walls of the Church that guard my Jesus. Blessed are the priests, who are always near the most lovable Jesus.” Spiritual Communion alone was able to satisfy her a little.
During the day
Here is one of the counsels which Padre Pio of Pietrelcina gave to one of his spiritual daughters: “In the course of the day, when it is not permitted to you to do otherwise, call Jesus, even in the midst of all your occupations, with a resigned sigh of the soul and He will come and will remain always united with your soul by means of His grace and His holy love. Make a spiritual flight before the Tabernacle, when you cannot go there with your body, and there pour out the ardent desires of your spirit and embrace the Beloved of souls, better than if it had been permitted to you to receive Him sacramentally.”
Let us, too, profit by this great gift. During the times that we suffer trial or feel abandoned, for example, what can be more valuable to us than the company of our Sacramental Lord by means of Spiritual Communion? This holy practice can work with ease to fill our days with acts and sentiments of love, and can make us live in an embrace of love that depends just on our often renewing it so that we scarcely ever interrupt it.
St. Angela Merici was extremely fond of Spiritual Communion. Not only did she make it often and exhort others to do it, but she chose to leave it as an inheritance to her daughters, so that they might practice it ever afterwards.
What shall we say of St. Francis de Sales? Does not his whole life seem like a chain of Spiritual Communions? He made a resolution to make a Spiritual Communion at least every quarter of an hour. Blessed Maximilian M. Kolbe had the same resolve from the time of his youth. The Servant of God, Andrew Baltrami, has left us a short page of his personal diary, which is a little program for a life lived in uninterrupted Spiritual Communion with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. These are his words: “Wherever I may be I will often think of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I will fix my thoughts on the holy Tabernacle — even when I happen to wake up at night — adoring Him from where I am, calling to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, offering up to Him the action I am performing. I will install one telegraph cable from my study to the Church, another from my bedroom, and a third from our refectory; and as often as I can, I will send messages of love to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.” What a stream of divine affections must have passed over those precious cables!
Also during the night
The Saints were eager to make use of these and similar holy means in order to find an outlet for their overflowing hearts; for they never felt they had gone far enough in their endeavor to love. “The more I love Thee, the less I love Thee,” exclaimed St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, “because I would like to love Thee more, but I cannot. Oh enlarge, enlarge my heart.”
When St. Roch spent five years in prison because he had been judged to be a dangerous vagabond, in his cell he kept his eyes ever fixed at the window, praying in the meantime. The guard asked, “What are you looking at?” The Saint answered, “I am looking at the tower of the parish church.” The tower reminded him of a church, a tabernacle, and the Eucharistic Jesus, inseparably joined to his heart.
The holy Curé of Ars said to his flock, “At the sight of a church tower you can say: Jesus is there, for there a priest has celebrated Mass.” Blessed Louis Guanella, when he was traveling by train with pilgrimages to the various shrines, used to always advise pilgrims to turn their minds and hearts to Jesus every time they saw a church tower from the carriage window, “Every bell tower,” he would say, “indicates a church, where there is a Tabernacle, where Mass is said, and where Jesus stays.”
Let us take a lesson from the Saints. They would like to pass on some spark of the love burning in their hearts. Let us undertake to make many Spiritual Communions, especially during the busiest moments of the day. Then soon the fire of love will enter us. For something very consoling that St. Leonard of Port Maurice assures us of, is this: “If you practice the holy exercise of Spiritual Communion a good many times each day, within a month you will see yourself completely changed.” Hardly a month — clear enough, is it not?
Chapter Four — JESUS WITH ME
“I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world,” (Matt. 28:20).
Section One - The Real Presence
Section Two - Visits to Jesus
Section Three - Jesus I Adore Thee!
Section Four - Loving Jesus' House
The Real Presence
The Real Presence of Jesus in our tabernacles is God’s mystery, God’s Gift, God’s Love. During the Holy Mass at the time of the Consecration, when the priest pronounces Jesus’ divine words, “This is My Body … This is the chalice of My Blood,” (Matt. 26:26-27), the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. The substance of the bread and of the wine are no longer there, because they have been transformed — “transubstantiated” — into the divine Body and Blood of Jesus. The bread and wine keep only their appearances, to express the reality of food and drink, according to Jesus’ words, “My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink,” (John 6:56).
Behind the veil, the disguise, of the Host, and within the Chalice, there is the Divine Person of Jesus with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This is what is given to whoever receives Holy Communion, and is what continually remains in the consecrated Hosts placed in the tabernacle.
St. Ambrose wrote: “How is the change of bread into the Body of Christ brought about? It is by means of the Consecration. With what words is the Consecration accomplished? It is with the words of Jesus. When the moment arrives for accomplishing this sacred wonder, the priest ceases to speak as himself; he speaks in the person of Jesus.”
The words of Consecration are the most wonderful and awesome words that God has given to the Church. They have the power, through the priest, to transform a bit of bread and wine into our crucified God, Jesus! They achieve this wonderful, mysterious feat by a supreme power, which surpasses the power of the Seraphim and belongs only to God and to His priests. We should not wonder that there have been holy priests who suffered a great deal when they pronounced those divine words. St. Joseph of Cupertino, and in our time, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, appeared visibly weighed down with distress, and they managed only with difficulty and with pauses to complete the two formulas of Consecration.
The Father Guardian ventured to ask St. Joseph of Cupertino, “How is it you recite the whole Mass so well, and stammer at each syllable of the Consecration?”
The Saint answered, “The sacred words of the Consecration are like burning coals on my lips. When I pronounce them, I have to do it like one who has to swallow boiling hot food.”
It is through these divine words of Consecration that Jesus is on our altars, in our tabernacles, and in the Hosts. But how is it that all this comes about?
“How is it possible,” an educated Mohammedan asked a missionary bishop, “that bread and wine should become the Flesh and Blood of Christ?”
The bishop answered, “You were small when you were born. You grew big because your body changed the food you took into flesh and blood. If a man’s body is able to transform bread and wine into flesh and blood, then God can do it far more easily.”
The Mohammedan then asked: “How is it possible for Jesus to be wholly and entirely present in a little Host?”
The bishop answered, “Look at the landscape before you and consider how much smaller your eye is in comparison to it. Now within your little eye there is an image of this vast countryside. Can God not do in reality, in His Person, what is done in us by way of a likeness or image?”
Then the Mohammedan asked, “How is it possible for the same Body to be present at the same time in all your churches and in all the consecrated Hosts?”
The bishop said, “Nothing is impossible with God and this answer ought to be enough. But nature also answers this question. Let us take a mirror, throw it down on the floor and let it break into pieces. Every piece can carry the same image that the whole mirror formerly reproduced. Likewise, the self-same Jesus reproduces Himself, not as a mere likeness, but as a reality, in every consecrated Host. He is truly present in each One of Them.”
Eucharistic wonders are recorded in the lives of St. Rose of Lima, Blessed Angela of Foligno, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Philip Neri, St. Francis Borgia, St. Joseph of Cupertino, and many other Saints, whose senses perceived the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle and in the consecrated Hosts, as they saw Jesus with their own eyes or experienced His ineffable fragrance. We have also accounts of how St. Anthony of Padua once proved to an unbeliever the Real Presence by showing him a hungry mule kneeling before a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, in preference to devouring the basket of oats placed beside the monstrance. Also remarkable was an episode concerning St. Alphonsus M. Liguori when he received Holy Communion in his sickbed. One morning, as soon as he had received the host, he sighed aloud with tears, “What have you done: You have brought me a host without Jesus — an unconsecrated host!” The matter was investigated and it was learned that the priest who had said the Mass that morning had been so distracted that he had left out everything from the Memento for the Living to the Memento for the Dead in the Roman Canon, and had thereby completely omitted the consecration of the bread and wine. The Saint had detected the absence of Our Lord from the unconsecrated host!
Many other episodes taken from the lives of Saints could be mentioned. Likewise, instances of exorcism could be told where obsessed persons were delivered from the demon by means of the Eucharist. Also, one could cite those great witnesses of faith and love which are the Eucharistic Congresses and the celebrated Eucharistic shrines (such as those at Turin, Lanciano, Siena, Orvieto, and the shrine of St. Peter of Patierno), shrines that even today offer worthy, up-to-date testimony of astonishing events of the past confirming the Real Presence.
But outweighing all these factual histories and evidences, is the faith by which the truth of the Real Presence is assured and on which we must base our unwavering certainty that it is the truth. “Jesus is the Truth” (John 14:6), and He has left us the Eucharist as a mystery of faith for us to believe with our whole mind and our whole heart.
When the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, was brought Holy Viaticum, he rose up out of the ashes where he had been laid, got on his knees, and said, “I would not believe with greater assurance that He Whom I am to receive is the Son of the Eternal God, even if I had a clear enlightenment about it a thousand times clearer than that of faith.”
Mysterium fidei (Mystery of faith)
With these words Pope Paul VI chose to caption his encyclical on the Eucharist, simply because the divine realities have no source of truth and of certainty that ranks higher than theological faith. It was due to this faith that Saints merited to see Jesus in the Host, though they had wanted no further proof than what they had; namely, God’s word. Pope Gregory XV declared that St. Teresa of Jesus (whom he canonized) “saw Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in the Host so distinctly with the eyes of her spirit, that she said she did not begrudge the happy lot of the Blessed who behold the Lord face to face in Heaven.” And St. Dominic Savio once wrote in his diary, “I need nothing in this world in order to be happy. I only need to see Jesus in Heaven, Whom I now see and adore on the altar with the eyes of faith.”
It is with this faith that we ought to approach the Holy Eucharist and keep ourselves in that divine Presence, loving Jesus in this Sacrament and making others love Him.
Visits to Jesus
Jesus is in our tabernacles, and this fact we call the Real Presence. The same Jesus Who was sheltered by Mary Immaculate within Her virginal body, is in the little body of a white Host. The same Jesus Who was whipped, crowned with thorns, and crucified as a Victim for the sins of the world, remains in the ciborium in the Host as a Victim sacrificed for our salvation. The same Jesus Who rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, where He now is gloriously reigning at the right hand of the Father, resides on our altars, surrounded by a multitude of countless adoring Angels — a sight that Blessed Angela of Foligno beheld in a vision.
Thus Jesus is truly with us. “Jesus is there!” — The holy Curé of Ars could not finish repeating these three words without shedding tears. And St. Peter Julian Eymard exclaimed with joyful fervor, “There Jesus is! Therefore all of us should go visit Him!” And when St. Teresa of Jesus heard someone say, “If only I had lived at the time of Jesus … If only I had seen Jesus … If only I had talked with Jesus …,” she responded in her spirited way, “But do we not have in the Eucharist the living, true and real Jesus present before us? Why look for more?”