May 16, 2017

St. Paschal Baylon, Saint of the Eucharist

Saint Paschal Baylon
Detail, Saint Paschal Baylon's vision of the Eucharist,
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, c. 1767, London.

Saint Paschal Baylon (1540 – 1592) was active during what is known as the Golden Age of the Church in Spain. Some of his contemporaries included Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis Xavier, and Saint Teresa of Avila, however it is doubtful that Paschal would have considered himself their equal. One of his most notable qualities was humility, which he lived in a manner that was exemplary, even in the Franciscan community to which he belonged. Great was his devotion.

Born in 1540 to poor Spanish parents, the future saint spent the first third of his life tending his father’s sheep, an occupation which gave him ample time to dedicate to prayer and meditation. In 1564, he would join the Friars Minor and, although encouraged to study for the priesthood, preferred instead to act as the community’s cook, gardener and doorkeeper. As the later, he was so generous to the poor in need of assistance, that his fellow friars had to encourage restraint.

Paschal had a particular devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He spent his spare moments in Eucharistic Adoration worshipping Christ. His wisdom became renown and many sought his counsel. Once, when traveling in France, he successfully defended the doctrine of the Real Presence being challenged by a local Calvinist preacher. Paschal was nearly killed by the largely Huguenot mob as a result.

Father Pius Parsch writes of a miraculous vision that Paschal received: "One day Paschal heard the bells of a convent announce the approaching consecration at Mass. Such an ardent longing for God overcame him that, prompted by yearning and love, he involuntarily cried out: "O God, most worthy of all adoration, please let me see You!" Hardly had he uttered the prayer when a glowing star appeared in the sky. As he watched, the heavens opened; the star disappeared and was replaced by a chalice with the Host, flanked by two adoring angels." Christian art portrays this vision to show his chief virtue, viz., love for the most holy Eucharist.

St. Paschal Baylon died of natural causes on May 17, 1592. His body was exposed for three days, during which time great multitudes of mourners witnessed many miracles affirming his sanctity. St. Paschal was beatified by Pope Paul V. in 1618, and canonized by Pope Alexander VIII. in 1690. He is the patron of Eucharistic congresses and Eucharistic associations. His feast day is May 17. O God, who did adorn blessed Paschal Your servant with a wonderful love for the holy Mysteries of Your Body and Blood: mercifully grant that we too may be worthy to receive the rich spiritual graces which he was gifted from You. Through Christ the Lord.

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