Monday, August 4, 2014

A Bath of Love

At each and every Holy Mass the priest has the incomprehensible privilege of holding the Savior of the world in his hands on the altar.

Today on the liturgical calendar is the Memorial of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, often referred to as the Curé d’Ars. He shed many tears of joy during Mass especially when he was holding our Eucharistic Lord in his hands on the altar of Sacrifice during his thanksgivings and often long adorations. He said : “To celebrate Mass one ought to be a seraph! I hold our Lord in my hands. I move Him to the right, and He stays there, to the left, and He stays there! To know what the Mass is would be to die. Only in heaven shall we understand the happiness of saying Mass! Alas, my God, how much a priest is to be pitied when he does this as an ordinary thing!”

As he shed tears at Mass, perhaps the following will do the same to you dear readers:  It was on a Christmas night at Mass as he held the Sacred Host in his hands above the Chalice, and tears were flowing from his eyes when Saint Jean-Marie Vianney prayed in his heart, “My God, if I knew that I was to be damned, now that I hold You, I would not let You go again.”

And again, these astonishing words from this great saint: “In times of discouragement when, after the Consecration, I hold in my hands the most holy Body of our Lord, seeing myself to be only worthy of hell, I say to myself: ‘Ah, if only I could take Him with me! Hell would be sweet near Him; it would not be painful to stay there suffering for all eternity if we were there together. But then there would not be any more hell – the flames of love would extinguish those of justice.’”

Perhaps hell and thoughts of being damned crossed this great saint’s mind because of the frequency of Satan’s attacks on him physically, psychologically and emotionally. He was also verbally mocked by the evil one. This, of course, can be quite difficult to wrap our heads around; but even when the prince of lies confronts a man who has such an intimate union with the Truth, then the master of deceit must also speak the truth. This is what the devil said to the Curé d’Ars: “If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined.”

What nourishes such faith at Mass and the Blessed Sacrament is Adoration and prayer – daily prayer. How else could one fall in love with our Eucharistic Lord or as Saint Jean-Marie called prayer in his native French - “un bain d’amour” (a bath of love). The Curé d'Ars also referred to prayer as man’s noble task.  

One day during Eucharist Adoration, Jean-Marie Vianney was contemplating our Lord with an ecstatic smile. One of his companions, surprising him in this attitude, turned his eyes instinctively towards the Blessed Sacrament as though he expected to see something. He saw nothing, but the expression on the face of Saint Vianney had struck him so much that he said: “I believe the time will come when the Curé d'Ars will live only by the Eucharist.”

Saint Jean-Marie Vianney spent long hours in the confessional administering our Lord’s sacrament of mercy. The teaching of the Church is that we are to be in a state of grace in order to receive Holy Communion. The Holy Curé had strong words about unworthy Holy Communion: “How many have the temerity to approach the holy table with sins hidden and disguised in Confession? How many do not have that sorrow which the good God wants from them, and preserve a secret willingness to fall back into sin, and do not put forth all their exertions to amend? How many do not avoid the occasions of sin when they can, or preserve enmity in their hearts even at the holy table? If you have ever been in these dispositions in approaching Holy Communion, you have committed a sacrilege. It attacks the Person of Jesus Christ Himself, instead of scorning only His Commandments, like other mortal sins. The death of Jesus Christ on Calvary was violent and painful, but at least all were affected by it, and thus wishful to share the Savior’s sufferings. Here there is nothing of this: Jesus is insulted, outraged by a vile nothingness, and all keeps silence; everything appears insensible to His humiliations. May not this God of goodness justly complain, as on the tree of the Cross, that He is forsaken? My God, how can a Christian have the heart to go to the holy table with sin in his soul, there to put Jesus Christ to death?”

Nothing in this life pained Saint Jean-Marie Vianney more than unworthy Holy Communion. In fact, he was unable to speak about it without tears. He certainly made great efforts to help souls be without mortal sin by making himself available daily for such  long hours in the confessional.

Having an extraordinary relationship with the Blessed Sacrament, Saint Jean-Marie spent a long time in thanksgiving after Mass.

Our Lord invites us to His house and feeds us with “the living Bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:51). Jesus said: “If any man comes after Me, let him deny himself” (Matthew 16:24). This is a statement about priorities, that is, making Jesus the Center of our life.