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Our holy Catholic Faith teaches us, and we are bound to believe, that in the consecrated Host Jesus Christ is really present under the species of bread. But we must also understand that He is thus present on our altars as on a throne of love and mercy, to dispense graces, and there to show us the great love which he bears for us, by being pleased to dwell night and day hidden in our very midst.
It is well known that Holy Mother Church instituted the feast of Corpus Christi with a solemn Octave, and that She celebrates it with beautiful Processions and frequent Expositions of this Most Holy Sacrament, in order that men may thereby be moved to gratefully acknowledge and honor this loving Presence and dwelling of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar, by their devotions, acts of thanksgiving, and the tender affection of their souls. O God! How many insults and outrages has this amiable Redeemer had to endure, even daily, in this Blessed Sacrament on the part of those very men for whose love He remains upon their altars on earth! Of this He indeed complained to His dear handmaid, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, as her biographer relates. One day, as she was in prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament, Jesus showed her His Heart on a throne of flames, crowned with thorns, and surmounted by a Cross, and thus addressed her: "Behold that Heart which has loved men so much, and which has spared Itself nothing; and has even gone so far as to consume Itself, thereby to show them Its love; but in return the greater part of men only show Me ingratitude, and this by the irreverence, tepidity, sacrileges, and contempt which they offer Me in this Sacrament of Love; and that which I feel the most acutely is, that they are hearts consecrated to Me." Jesus then expressed His wish, that the first Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi should be dedicated as a particular feast in honor of His adorable Heart; and that on that day all souls who loved Him should endeavor, by their homage, and by the affections of their souls, to make amends for the insults which men have offered Him in this Sacrament of the Altar. At the same time He promised abundant graces to all who should thus honor Him.
We can thus understand what Our Lord said of old by His prophet, that His delight is to be with the children of men (Prov. 8:31); since He is unable to tear Himself from them even when they abandon and despise Him. This also shows us how agreeable all those souls are to the Heart of Jesus Who frequently visit Him, and remain in His Company in the churches in which He dwells, under the sacramental species. He desired St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi to visit Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament thirty-three times a day; and this beloved spouse of His faithfully obeyed Him; and in all her visits to the altar approached it as near as she possibly could, as we read in her life.
But let all those devout souls who often go to spend their time with the Most Blessed Sacrament speak; let them tell us the gifts, the inspirations which they have received, the flames of love which are there enkindled in their souls, the paradise which they enjoy in the presence of this hidden God.
The servant of God and great Sicilian missionary Father Louis La Nusa, was, even in his youth and as a layman, so enamored of Jesus Christ, that he seemed unable to tear himself from the Presence of his beloved Lord. Such were the joys which he there experienced, that his spiritual director commanded him, in virtue of obedience, not to remain there for more than an hour at a time, lest his other obligations be neglected. The time having elapsed, he showed in obeying (says his biographer), that in tearing himself from the bosom of Jesus Christ, he had to do himself just as much violence as a child that has to detach itself from its mother at a time of great fear; and when he had to do this, we are told that he remained standing with his eyes fixed on the altar, making repeated inclinations, as if he knew not how to quit his Lord, Whose Presence was so sweet and gracious to him.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga experienced a like contradiction, and whenever his duties caused him to pass by the chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament and finding himself drawn, so to speak, by the sweet attractions of his Lord, and almost forced to remain there, he would, with the greatest effort, tear himself away, saying, with an excess of tender love: "Depart from me, O Lord, depart!"
There it was also that St. Francis Xavier found refreshment in the midst of his many labors in India; for he employed his days in toiling for souls, and his nights in the Presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament. St. John Francis Regis did the same thing; and sometimes finding the church closed, he endeavored to satisfy his longings by remaining on his knees outside the door, exposed to the rain and cold, that at least at a distance he might attend upon his Comforter concealed under the sacramental species. St. Francis of Assisi used to go to communicate all his labors and undertakings to Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament.
Tender indeed was the devotion of St. Wenceslaus, Duke of Bohemia, to the Most Holy Sacrament. This holy King was so enamored of Jesus there present, that he not only gathered the wheat and grapes, and made the hosts and wine with his own hands, and then gave them to be used in the Holy Sacrifice, but he was accustomed, even during the winter, to go at night to visit the church in which the Blessed Sacrament was kept. These visits enkindled in his beautiful soul such flames of Divine love, that their ardor imparted itself even to his body, and took from the snow on which he walked its usual cold; for it is related that the servant who accompanied him in these nightly excursions, having to walk through the snow, suffered much from the cold. The holy King, on perceiving this, was moved to compassion, and commanded him to follow him, and only to step in his footprints; he did so, and never afterwards felt the cold.
We read of many other examples of the tender affection with which souls inflamed with the love of God loved to dwell in the Presence of the Most Holy Sacrament. But you will find that all the saints were enamoured of this most sweet devotion; since, indeed it is impossible to find on earth a more precious gem, or a treasure more worthy of all our love, than Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament. Certainly, amongst all devotions, after that of receiving the Sacraments, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament holds the first place, is the most pleasing to God, and the most useful to ourselves. Do not then, O devout soul, refuse to begin this devotion, and forsaking the conversation of men, dwell each day, from this time forward, for at least half or quarter of an hour, in some church, in the Presence of Jesus Christ under the sacramental species. Even more pleasing to Him is an entire hour in His Presence, as He has pleaded of us: "Could you not watch one hour with Me?"
"Taste and see how sweet is the Lord." (Psalm 33:9) Only try this devotion, and by experience you will see the great benefit that you will derive from it. Be assured that the time you will thus spend with devotion before this most Divine Sacrament will be the most profitable to you in life, and the source of your greatest consolation in death and throughout eternity. You must also be aware, that in a mere quarter of an hour's prayer spent in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, you will perhaps gain more than in all he other spiritual exercises of the day. It is true, that in every place God graciously hears the petitions of those who pray to Him, having promised to do so: "Ask and you shall receive"; yet the disciple tells us that Jesus dispenses His graces in greater abundance to those who visit Him in the Most Holy Sacrament. Blessed Henry Suso used also to say that Jesus Christ hears the prayers of the faithful more graciously in the Sacrament of the Altar than anywhere else. And where, indeed, have holy souls made their most beautiful resolutions, but prostrate before the Most Holy Sacrament? Who knows but that you also may, one day, in the presence of the tabernacle, finally make the resolution to give yourself entirely to God?
I feel myself bound, at least out of gratitude to my Jesus in the Holy Sacrament, to declare, that through the means of this devotion of visiting the Most Blessed Sacrament, which I practised, though with so much tepidity and in so imperfect a manner, I abandoned the world, in which, unfortunately, I lived until I was six-and-twenty years of age. Fortunate indeed will you be if you can detach yourself from it at an earlier period, and give yourself without reserve to that Lord Who has given Himself without reserve to you. I repeat, that indeed you will be blessed, not only in eternity, but even in this life. Believe me, all is folly: worldly celebrations, theaters, parties of pleasure, amusements -- these are the goods of the world, but goods which are filled with the bitterness of gall and with sharp thorns. Believe me, who have experienced this and now weep over it. Be also assured that Jesus Christ finds means to console a soul that remains with a recollected spirit before the Most Blessed Sacrament, far beyond what the world can do with all its pastimes and pleasures. Oh, how sweet a joy it is to remain with faith and tender devotion before an altar, and converse familiarly with Jesus Christ, Who is there for the express purpose of listening to and graciously hearing those who pray to Him; to ask His pardon for the displeasures which we have caused Him; to represent our needs to him, as a friend does to a friend in whom he places all his confidence; to ask Him for His graces, for His love, and for His Kingdom; but above all, oh, what a Heaven is it there to remain making acts of love towards that Lord, Who is on the very altar praying to the Eternal Father for us, and is there burning with love for us. Indeed, it is that love which detains Him there, thus hidden and unknown, and when He is even despised by ungrateful souls! But why should we say more? "Taste and see."
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