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 seven installments of this book appeared in issues number 4 to 12 of The Fatima Crusader. This is the eighth 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 eighth 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.
Jesus, I Adore Thee!
When there is true love, and it mounts to a certain point, there is adoration. Great love and adoration are two distinct things; but, they form one whole. They become adoring love and loving adoration.
Jesus in the tabernacle is adored only by those who truly love Him, and He is loved in the highest manner by whoever adores Him.
The Saints, being far advanced in the practice of love, were faithful and ardent adorers of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Importantly, Eucharistic adoration has always been considered as the closest likeness we have to the eternal adoration which will make up our whole paradise. The difference lies only in the veil which hides the sight of that divine Reality of which faith gives us unwavering certainty.
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has been the fervent devotion of the Saints. Their adoration lasted hours and hours, sometimes whole days or nights. There “at Jesus’ feet”, like Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:39), keeping Him fond and intimate company, absorbed in contemplating Him, they surrendered their hearts in a pure and fragrant offering of adoring love. Hear what Brother Charles de Foucauld wrote before the tabernacle: “What a tremendous delight, my God! To spend over fifteen hours without anything else to do but look at You and tell You, ‘Lord, I love You!’ Oh, what sweet delight!”
All the Saints have been ardent adorers of the Holy Eucharist, from the great Doctors of the Church like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure, to Popes like St. Pius V and St. Pius X, priests like the holy Curé of Ars and St. Peter Julian Eymard, down to humble souls like St. Rita, St. Paschal Baylon, St. Bernadette Soubirous, St. Gerard, St. Dominic Savio and St. Gemma Galgani. These chosen ones, whose love was true, kept no count of the hours of fond adoration that they spent day and night before Jesus in the tabernacle.
Consider how St. Francis of Assisi spent so much time, often entire nights, before the altar, and remained there so devoutly and humbly that he deeply moved anyone who stopped to watch him. Consider how St. Benedict Labre, called the “Poor man of the Forty Hours”, spent days in churches in which the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly exposed. For years and years this Saint was seen in Rome making pilgrimages from church to church where the Forty Hours was being held, and remaining there before Jesus, always on his knees absorbed in adoring prayer, motionless for eight hours, even when his friends, the insects, were crawling on him and stinging him all over.
When someone wanted to do a portrait of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, there was a discussion about what posture to give him. The decision reached was to portray the saint in adoration before the altar, because Eucharistic adoration was characteristic of him and was most expressive of his holiness.
That favorite of the Sacred Heart, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, on the Holy Thursday, spent fourteen hours without interruption prostrate in adoration. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, on a feast of the Sacred Heart, remained in adoration twelve continuous hours. She had been so absorbed and attentive to Our Lord in the Eucharist that when a Sister asked her if she had liked the arrangement of flowers and draping that adorned the altar, she answered, “I did not notice. I only saw one Flower, Jesus, no other.”
After visiting the cathedral in Milan, St. Francis de Sales heard someone ask him, “Your Excellency, did you see what a wealth of marble there is, and how majestic the lines are?” The holy bishop answered, “What do you want me to tell you? Jesus’ presence in the tabernacle has my spirit so absorbed, that all the beautiful architecture escapes my notice.” What a lesson this reply is for us who go unthinkingly to visit celebrated churches as though they were museums!
As an example of the spirit of recollection during Eucharistic adoration, Blessed Contardo Ferrini, professor at the University of Modena, had a striking experience. One day, after he entered a church to visit Our Lord, he became so absorbed in adoration, with eyes fixed on the tabernacle, that he took no notice when someone robbed him of the mantle spread over his shoulders.
“Not even a bolt of lightning could distract her,” it was said of St. Mary Magdalen Postel, because she appeared so recollected and devout when adoring the Blessed Sacrament. On the other hand, once, during adoration, St. Catherine of Siena happened to raise her eyes toward a person passing by. Because of this distraction of an instant, the Saint was so afflicted that she wept for some time, exclaiming, “I am a sinner! I am a sinner!”
How is it that we are not ashamed of our behavior in church? Even before Our Lord solemnly exposed we so easily turn about to look to the right and left, and are moved and distracted by any trifle, without — and this is what is sad — without feeling any regret. Ah! The delicate, sensitive love of the Saints! St. Teresa taught that “in the presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament we ought to be like the Blessed in Heaven before the Divine Essence.” That is the way the Saints have behaved in church. The holy Curé of Ars used to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with such fervor and recollection that people became convinced he saw Jesus in person with his own eyes. People said the same of St. Vincent de Paul: “He sees Jesus there within (the tabernacle).” And they said the same of St. Peter Julian Eymard, the unmatched apostle of Eucharistic adoration. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, seeking to imitate him, was enrolled into his society of priest-adorers and for forty years kept a little image of St. Eymard on his desk.
Even After Death
It is noteworthy that the Lord seems to have favored certain Saints in singular fashion by enabling them to perform, after death, an act of adoration to the Blessed Sacrament. Thus, when St. Catherine of Bologna was placed before the Blessed Sacrament altar a few days after her death, her body rose up to a position of prayerful adoration. During the funeral Mass of St. Paschal Baylon, his eyes opened twice — at the elevation of the Host and at the elevation of the Chalice — to express his adoration of the Eucharist. When Blessed Matthew of Girgenti’s body was in the church for his funeral Mass, his hands joined in adoration toward the Eucharist. At Ravello, Blessed Bonaventure of Potenza’s body, while being carried past the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, made a devout head-bow to Jesus in the tabernacle.
It is really true that “Love is stronger than death” (Cant. 8:6), and that “He that eateth this Bread shall live forever” (John 6:59). The Eucharist is Jesus our Love. The Eucharist is Jesus our Life. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a heavenly love which enlivens us and makes us one with Jesus Victim, who “incessantly intercedes for us” (Heb. 7:25). We should be mindful that one who adores, makes himself one with Jesus in the Host as Jesus intercedes with the Father for the salvation of the brethren. The highest charity toward all men is to obtain for them the kingdom of heaven. And only in Paradise will we see how many souls have been delivered from the gates of hell by the Eucharistic adoration done in reparation by holy persons known and unknown. We must not forget that at Fatima the Angel personally taught the three shepherd children the beautiful Eucharistic prayer of reparation, which we ought to learn: “O most holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.” Eucharistic adoration is an ecstasy of love and it is the most powerful salvific practice in the apostolate of saving souls.
For this reason Saint Maximilian M. Kolbe, the great apostle of Mary, in each of his foundations, before providing even the cells of the friars, he wanted to provide the chapel in order to introduce at once perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. Once, when he was taking a visitor on a tour of his “City of the Immaculate Virgin” in Poland and they had entered the large “Chapel of Adoration,” with a gesture toward the Blessed Sacrament he said to his guest, “Our whole life depends on this.”
The Better Part
The stigmatized friar of Gargano, to whom crowds flocked from every quarter, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, after his long daily chore in the confessional, used to spend almost all the remaining day and night before the tabernacle in adoration, keeping company with the Madonna as he recited hundreds of Rosaries. Once the Bishop of Manfredonia, Msgr. Cesarano, chose Padre Pio’s friary for making an eight-day retreat. Each night the bishop got up at various times to go to the chapel, and each night at all these hours, he always found Padre Pio in adoration. The great apostle of Gargano was doing his work, unseen, throughout the world — and sometimes he was seen, in instances of bilocation — while he remained there prostrate before Jesus, with his Rosary in his hands. He used to tell his spiritual children, “When you want to find me, come near the tabernacle.”
Don James Alberione, another great apostle of our time, as a basis for his whole vast project, The Apostolate of the Press — “Societa Apostolata Stampa” — expressly provided adoration of the Holy Eucharist for the Sisters in his Congregation of Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, who had the unique and specific vocation to adore Our Lord solemnly exposed in the Holy Eucharist night and day.
Eucharistic Adoration is truly that “best part” of which Jesus spoke when chiding Martha for busying herself with “many things” that were secondary, overlooking the “one thing necessary” chosen by Mary, which was humble and affectionate adoration (Luke 10:41-42).
What should be the love and zeal, then, that we ought to have for Eucharistic adoration? If it is by Jesus that “all things subsist” (Col. 1:17), then, to go to Him, to stay beside him, to unite ourselves with Him, means to find, to gain, to possess that whereby we and the whole universe exist. “Jesus alone is all; anything else is nothing,” said St. Therese of Lisieux. To renounce, then, what is nothing for the sake of what is All, to consume our every resource and ourselves for the sake of Him Who is All, instead of for what is nothing — is this not indeed our true wealth and supreme wisdom? This was evidently the thinking of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina when he wrote, “A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent in sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”
What good reason we have to envy the Angels, as the Saints have done, because Angels ceaselessly remain stationed around the tabernacles!
Loving Jesus’ House
The real presence of our Divine Lord in our tabernacles has always been something immensely reverenced and respected by the Saints. Their loving care, so artless and pure, for the “things that belong to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:32) has been one of the most obvious indications of their great love that does not hold back anything, that considers everything to be of great importance, even a simple matter of the prescribed ceremonies, for which St. Teresa and St. Alphonsus declared themselves ready to sacrifice their lives.
Holiness and Decorum
And it is from the Saints that we must learn to love Jesus, surrounding with affectionate care the holy tabernacles, the altars and the churches, His “dwelling-place” (Mark 11:17). Everything must express decorum, everything must inspire devotion and adoration, even in the little things, even in details. Nothing will ever be too much when it concerns loving and honoring the “King of Glory” (Psalm 23:10). One thinks of a few old practices, for example, requiring that even perfumed water be used for the ablution of the fingers of the priest during Holy Mass.
Furthermore, Jesus chose to institute the Sacrament of Love in a respectable, beautiful place; namely, the Cenacle, which was a large dining hall with furniture and carpeting (Luke 22:12). The Saints have always shown whole-hearted zeal and resourcefulness in seeing to the beauty and tidiness of the house of God.
For example, during his apostolic travels, St. Francis of Assisi used to carry with him, or obtain, a broom to sweep the churches he found dirty. After preaching to the people, he used to address the clergy of the town and fervently urge them to be zealous for the worthy appearance of the Lord’s house. He had St. Clare and the Poor Clare Sisters prepare sacred linens for altars. In spite of his poverty, he used to obtain and send ciboria, chalices and altar cloths to poor, neglected churches.
We learn from the life of St. John Baptist de la Salle that that Saint wanted to see the chapel always clean and duly furnished, with the altar in perfect order and the sanctuary lamp always burning. Torn vestments and tarnished vessels were to him heartbreaking eyesores. He did not consider any expense too much when it came to providing for due worship of Our Lord.
St. Paul of the Cross wanted altar furnishings to be spotless. One day he sent back two corporals, one after the other, because he did not judge them to be clean enough.
Prominent among the kings who have loved the Eucharist is St. Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia. With his own hands he tilled the soil, sowed the wheat, harvested it, ground it, and sifted it. Then with the purest flour he made hosts for the Holy Sacrifice. And St. Radegunds, Queen of France, after she had become a humble religious, was happy to be able to grind with her own hands, the wheat chosen for Holy Mass, and she used to give them free to poor churches. Also noteworthy is St. Vincentia Gerosa, who took care of grapevines that supplied wine for Holy Mass. She cultivated and pruned them with her own hands, finding joy in the thought that these clusters that she had grown would become the Blood of Jesus.
What shall we say of the delicate conscience that the Saints had regarding the Blessed Sacrament? They had uncompromising faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in even the smallest visible fragment of a Host. With regard to this it is sufficient to have seen Padre Pio to see the conscientious care with which he purified the paten and the sacred vessels when he was at the altar. One could read the adoration on his face!
Once when St. Therese of Lisieux saw a small Particle of a Host on the paten after Holy Mass, she called the novices, and then carried the paten in procession into the sacristy with gracious, adoring comportment that was truly angelic. When St. Teresa Margaret found a Fragment of a Host on the floor near the altar, she broke into tears because she thought about the irreverence that might be shown to Jesus; and she knelt in adoration before the Particle until a priest came to take It and put It in the tabernacle.
Once when St. Charles Borromeo was distributing Holy Communion, he inadvertently dropped a Sacred Particle from his hand. The Saint considered himself guilty of grave irreverence to Jesus, and was so afflicted that for four days he had not the courage to celebrate Holy Mass, and as a penance he imposed an eight-day fast on himself!
What shall we say of St. Francis Xavier who at times when distributing Holy Communion felt so carried away by a sense of adoration toward Our Lord Who was in his hands, that he got on his knees and in that position continued giving Holy Communion? Did that not present a witness of faith and love worthy of Heaven?
Something else even more beautiful has been the thoughtful care of the Saints who were priests, in handling the Blessed Sacrament. Oh, how they would have liked to have the same virginal hands as the Immaculate Madonna! Something noteworthy regarding St. Conrad of Costanza was that his index fingers and thumbs used to shine at night on account of the faith and the love with which he used those fingers when holding the Most Sacred Body of Jesus. St. Joseph of Copertino, an angelic Saint renowned for his ecstasies and levitations, disclosed the refined manner of his devotion when he expressed a wish to have another pair of index fingers and thumbs so that they could be used solely for holding Jesus’ Most Holy Flesh. At times Padre Pio of Pietrelcina used to pick up the Sacred Host with his fingers with obvious difficulty, judging himself unworthy to allow his hands, which bore the stigmata, to have contact with the Host. (What shall we say of the painful levity with which attempts are made to introduce everywhere Communion in the hand instead of on the tongue? By comparison with the Saints — so humble, so angelic — do these people not easily present an image of presumptuous ruffians?)
Modesty of the Women
Another great concern of the Saints for the decorum of the church and for the salvation of souls, has been that of requiring modesty and decency of the women. A strict insistence on this particular point is constantly reaffirmed by all the Saints, from the Apostle, St. Paul (telling the woman to wear a veil so that her head will not be “as if she were shaven” (1 Cor. 11:5-6), to St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, etc., down to Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who would admit no halfway measures, but always insisted on modest dresses clearly below the knees. And how could it be otherwise? Blessed Leopold da Castelnuovo used to chase women out of church who were immodestly dressed, calling them “carne da mercato” (“flesh for sale”). What would he say today, when so many women are doing away with modesty and decency even in church? They are carrying on, even in sacred places, the old diabolical art of seducing men to lust, of which the Holy Spirit warns us (Ecclus. 9:9). But God’s justice will not let such great madness and depravity go unpunished. On the contrary, Saint Paul says, “for which things, the wrath of God is unleashed” (Col. 3:6). He is referring to sins of the flesh.
Likewise the Saints have always bidden us, by example and by word, to follow the beautiful practice on entering a church, of making the sign of the cross devoutly with holy water, genuflecting reverently, and before all else adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in company with the angels and Saints who keep watch around the altar. If we stop for prayer, we need to recollect ourselves with care to keep ourselves devout and attentive.