Saint Paul of the Cross and devotion to the Eucharist
"The desire to die as a martyr, especially for the Blessed Sacrament in some place where people do not believe, does not leave me." -St Paul of the Cross
Connected with Paul's love for Jesus in His Passion was his love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, which continues the mystery of the Passion at every Mass. Paul's close friend Rosa Calabresi puts it this way:
"From the devotion which he had towards the Passion of Jesus Christ, was born that other devotion towards the most holy Sacrament of the altar, in which is made a most special memory of the holy Passion of Jesus Christ. His devotion towards Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was very inspiring to behold, more like a Seraph than a man. He told me, moreover, with great fervor and love, that all his hope was grounded in the most holy Sacrament, that all his hopes were placed in It, that the most holy Sacrament was that which sustained him, that at times, when because of his sicknesses and depression he could not get out of his bed, his fervor and the desire which he had to celebrate the Mass filled him with fresh vigor. He told me with great impetus of spirit, 'Oh what a treasure is the most holy Sacrament! It is paradise on earth. Oh what a promise!'
In his Diary for Dec 8, 1720 Paul writes:
"At holy Communion I was particularly recollected, especially in a sorrowful and loving remembrance of the sufferings of my Jesus. This high favor which the good God grants me at such a time I know not how to explain because I cannot. You must know that in recalling the sufferings of my dear Jesus, sometimes when I have only recalled one or two,I have to stop because the soul can say no more and feels that it is melting away. It remains thus languishing with the greatest sweetness mingled with tears, with the sufferings of the Spouse infused into it; or to explain it more clearly it is immersed in the Heart and in the sorrows of its beloved Spouse, Jesus. Sometimes it understands them all, and remains thus in God, in this loving and sorrowful contemplation. It is very difficult to explain; it always seems to me to be something new?"
Again in his Diary on Wednesday, Jan 1, 1721 he writes:
“Through the infinite love of our dear God I was raised up in spirit to great recollection and many tears especially after holy Communion during which I felt keenly the sweetness of holy love. It seemed to me that I was melting away in God. When serving Mass, I had such a deep light on the great love which God displays towards me, and on my misery, my ingratitude, my whole life, that I did not venture even to raise my eyes to look upon the picture of Mary - and always with abundance of tears mingled with great sweetness especially on seeing my Spouse, Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament.”
During the century in which St Paul of the Cross lived, frequent reception of the Eucharist was not very common. Paul however was a very strong advocate of frequent Communion, even encouraging daily Communion amongst his friends and religious bretheren. At that time most people only received Communion once a year during Easter time. Because St. Paul encouraged frequent Communion this unfortunately won for him numerous enemies, especially among those who supported the heresy called Jansenism.
Like many of the saints, Paul of the Cross experienced some of the greatest graces of his life during holy Communion. For example, in the summer of 1720 after receiving holy Communion, Jesus appeared to St. Paul in a vision. In the vision, he saw himself clothed in a long black garment with a white Cross on his breast and below the Cross the holy name of Jesus was written in white letters. He writes, “shortly afterwords, I saw in spirit the black tunic presented to me with the holy name of Jesus and a Cross all in white. But the tunic was black. I pressed the tunic joyfully to my heart.” We can see in this early vision how Jesus was guiding and preparing Paul to eventually found the Passionist Congregation.
To Priests St. Paul writes:
"Do not neglect to make due preparation for the Holy Sacrifice; always make your thanksgiving; watch day and night over the interior tabernacle, that is, the heart of the worthy priest. He who acts thus will not fail to enkindle within himself the fire of divine love. Guard cautiously this living tabernacle, and keep always burning there the lamps of faith and charity. May it be ever adorned with virtues! Imitate the perfect dispositions of your Saviour. Since the Mass is the renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross, enter into the sentiments of compunction and of love which animated the Blessed Virgin, St. John, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus. The heart of the priest ought to be the sepulchre of Christ. As the tomb in which He was laid after death was new, so ought your heart be pure, animated with a lively faith, a firm confidence, an ardent charity, a fervent desire for the giory of God and the salvation of souls. The Mass is the most favorable occasion to speak with the eternal Father, because then we offer Him His only Son as a victim for our salvation. Before celebrating, reflect on the sufferings of your'Redeemer, commune peaceably with Him, even in the midst of dryness; carry to the altar the needs of the entire world."
In a letter to a spiritual daughter he writes:
"I exhort you, though you live in the world, to receive Communion often, but with
piety. Holy Communion is the most efficacious means of uniting one's self to God.
Always prepare yourself well for this sacred banquet. Have a very pure heart, and watch over your tongue, for it is on the tongue that the Sacred Host is laid. Carry Our Lord home with you after your thanksgiving, and let your heart be a living tabernacle for Jesus. Visit Him often in this interior tabernacle, offering Him your homage, and the sentiments of gratitude with which divine love will inspire you. Preserve carefully the sentiments of love with which you are filled after Communion."
Other short sayings on the Eucharist from his letters-
"Everyday make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and when the duties of your
state of life prevent you, visit Him in spirit."
"Do not let pass a single day without visiting God in the tabernacle; in His presence grieve for the irreverences that He receives from bad Christians, who repay His love with sacrileges and basest ingratitude. In reparation for so many outrages, the loving soul ought to offep herself as a victim, consume herself in the fire of divine love, offer her praises to Jesus on the altar, visit Him for those unhappy souls who fail to do so, visit Him especially at hours when nobody else gives Him homage."
"It is no time to speak to creatures when we are before the Eucharistic throne where dwells the Lord of lords, the Master of the world."
"The hermits of old, those great servants of God, received Communion rarely; but
because they prepared themselves carefully they received such special graces
that, in a short time, they arrived at perfection."
"May the Blessed Sacrament on all the altars of the world be praised and adored by all" -St Paul of the Cross