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THE REAL PRESENCE The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST

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Our Lady and the Eucharist

Gerald Francis

It is no accident that when there is a decline in Marian devotion Eucharistic devotions also suffer. When the Protestant revolt divided Christendom in Europe, it eventually disregarded the belief in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist and abolished the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the central act of Christian worship. But first Mary was put down a s being a rather unnecessary accessory in the plan of redemption. The truth is that Mary's whole role in the Church is to lead us to her Divine Son. Neglect her; then the surest, quickest and easiest way to her Divine Son is cancelled out. Ignore the Woman of Faith and our faith in the Real Presence will falter and fail as it has among our Protestant separated brethren, and now even among many Catholics who obviously do not believe that God is present in the Eucharist since they show our Lord little or no respect and reverence.

The inseparable bond that exists between Mary and the Eucharist is brought out in many ways. But for the sake of simplicity, let us lightly touch upon three major categories, namely, the Church, the lives of the Saints and the Marian shrines.

Pope Paul VI on Mary and the Eucharist

It was Pope Paul VI who declared Mary the Mother of the Church at the close of the Second Vatican Council, who visited her shrine at Fatima in 1967 and continuously exhorted Catholics to pray her Rosary. He also published the great Encyclical on the Holy Eucharist, "Mysterium Fidei". On the last page of that Encyclical he wrote this beautiful tribute to our Blessed Mother showing the unbroken link that has to exist between her and Christ who is physically present in the Eucharist: He wrote: "May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary from whom Christ Our Lord took the flesh which under the species of bread and wine 'in contained, offered and consumed,' may all the saints of God, especially those who burned with a more ardent devotion to the Divine Eucharist, intercede before the Father of mercies so that from this same faith in and devotion toward the Eucharist may result and flourish a perfect unity of communion among all Christians."

This Pope, who made such strenuous effort in bringing about Christian community and union among all Christian sects, placed his trust and confidence for this union in Mary Immaculate and the Sacrament of unity, the Eucharist. This is but one quote from one Pope. One would be hard pressed to find a single Pope who would, at the same time, be dedicated to our Lady and have little or no devotion to the Eucharist and vice versa. Mary and the Eucharist are intricately linked in the mind of the highest authority of the Catholic Church, the Papacy.

In the prayer life of the Church we see this close connection. In the Litany of Loreto our Lady is called the Ark of the covenant. Now the Ark of the covenant in the Old Testament was where God took up his abode. Mary is the Ark of the new covenant which is no less than the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity who took up His abode in Mary's womb for nine months. She was thus the first tabernacle of our Lord.

Perhaps the inseparable bond between Mary and the Eucharist is no better seen than in the lives of the Saints. These heroic men and women, who lived the Christ-life to the fullest and were perfectly attuned to the action of the Holy Spirit, were without exception devoted to the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. One particular Saint comes to mind because of his outstanding devotion to the Eucharist. In fact he founded a special Order to promote Eucharistic Adoration. St. Peter Julian Eymard, before he founded his Order, belonged to a Society that was especially dedicated to Mary in her Immaculate Conception. It was towards the end of his life that he asked his spiritual sons and daughters to address Mary and venerate her under the title of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. Thus Mary would be intricately linked with our Lord's Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. She who first conceived Jesus by faith in her heart gave Him the immaculate dwelling place where His humanity developed. And now she is nurturing our faith so that we can grow in our love and devotion to that mystery of faith, the Eucharist. Commenting on this role of our Lady in our own personal sanctification, St. Peter said: "The more you allow Mary to work within you through your Communions, the more will Christ be glorified."

Another outstanding incident in the lives of the Saints is that famous dream which St. John Bosco had in 1862. He saw a prophetic naval battle symbolizing the conflict the Church would have in our day with the forces of evil. As the bark of Peter was being buffeted on all sides by enemy ships in a tremendous naval battle, two immense stone columns rose from the sea. And the bard of Peter anchored itself safely between these two columns. Atop one of these columns was the statue of Mary, and inscribed below it were the words, "Help of Christians." Atop the other column was a large host with the inscription below it, "Salvation of Believers." As the bark of Peter anchored itself to these two columns, the ships that were assaulting it were either destroyed or lost their ability to assault the bark of Peter. At the base of one of these columns were two numerals, 19 and two dashes which would indicate that this great victory of the forces of Christ would be realized sometime in the 20th Century through devotion to Mary Immaculate and our Lord present in the Eucharist.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Though it is a bit early to canonize Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, there are many who consider her a Saint. In her talks in the United States the heart of her message seemed to be centered on the Eucharist and our Lady. It is there two pillars which she pointed out that are the mainstay of her Order and have given such phenomenal success to the work of tending to the poorest of the poor. Every day for one hour her nuns adore our Eucharistic Lord exposed on the altar. They also try to live their lives in joyful imitation of the Mother of God reciting many Rosaries as they walk through the streets of Calcutta seeking out the homeless, the unwanted and the lepers to take them into their home for the dying. Blessed Mother Teresa said that it is our Lady who protected her sisters from any harm whatsoever, even in some of the world's most dangerous cities and neighborhoods. The dedication and sacrifice that is required of her religious community is beautifully summarized in their motto, "To be eaten up by the people." How did she and her religious endure such great sacrifice daily and consistently? Blessed Mother Teresa's own words give us the answer:
"It is labor; it is not only work-it is hard labor. But we wouldn't be able to do it unless we had Mass and Holy Communion in the morning. I remember when the Prime Minister of Yemen asked for our Sisters to come there. I made only one condition: I can give you the Sisters only if you allow a priest to come. For without Jesus I cannot send them. He accepted. So now after 800 years there is Mass and Holy Communion in Yemen. There is a tabernacle in an area surrounded by Moslems who previously had not a sign of Christianity. Now there is a living God amongst them. I know I wouldn't be able to work one week if it were not for that continual force coming from Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
All of us know that unless we believe and can see Jesus in the appearance of bread on the altar, we will not be able to see Him in the distressing disguise of the poor. Therefore these two loves are but one in Jesus."

Marian Shrines are Eucharistic Shrines

But perhaps nowhere is the close link between Mother and Son, Immaculate Virgin and Eucharistic Christ, more apparent than in the Marian shrines that are found throughout the world. When our Lady came for the first time in her many modern-day apparitions at Rue du Bac in Paris in 1830, she told St. Catherine Laboure to come to the foot of the altar where great graces would be bestowed on all who ask for them. Our Lady asked that a church be built on the site of her apparitions at Lourdes, which of course indicates that she wanted the Eucharistic Sacrifice to be celebrated there as well as Christ's Presence in the tabernacle. In every one of Mary's great sanctuaries Mary is not venerated in isolation. She brings all the pilgrims to the foot of the altar where they may gain great graces from her Divine Son.

This is particularly true at Fatima and Lourdes, as it is at these great Marian sanctuaries that there are large processions in which the Eucharist is carried, and in which a bishop as a rule blessed the sick. On these occasions tremendous miraculous cures are brought about, both physical and spiritual. Just to mention one physical cure out of tens of thousands that have taken place over the years: Mary Tessier was desperately ill with tuberculosis peritonitis when she was brought to Lourdes. She had been confined to bed for three years and was in constant pain and hemorrhaging, and the doctors gave her no hope whatsoever. She was cured during the procession of the Blessed Sacrament, and her cure has been accepted by the Medical Bureau in Lourdes.

At Fatima it is a well-known fact that an Angel of Peace came first to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia in 1916. He prepared the way for the later apparitions of Mary Immaculate. When he appeared the third time in dazzling beauty before the three seers, he held in his left hand a chalice, and in his right over the chalice, a host form which drops of blood could be seen falling into the chalice. Leaving the host and the chalice suspended in mid-air, he prostrated himself touching the ground with his forehead. Then he said the following prayer three times:

"Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I adore you profoundly. I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for all the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I pray for the conversion of poor sinners."
The Angel then rose and took the chalice and host into his hands. He communicated the host to Lucy, the contents of the chalice he gave to Jacinta and Francisco, saying: "Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their sins and console your God."

How seriously Francisco took these words to heart is illustrated in the remaining years of his life. When the seers were sent to school, Francisco realizing that he had but a short time to live, did not have any desire to go to school, but told his sister and cousin to go ahead and he would remain in church where he could make reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is offended. So penetrated was Francisco with the love of what he called "the hidden God," that he often spent many hours on his knees in silent adoration before the tabernacle.

Communion of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart

To better grasp the close relationship between Our Lady of Fatima and the Eucharist, we have but to remind ourselves of the fact that one of the conditions our Lady asked for to bring about world peace was the five first Saturday Masses and Communions of reparation to her Immaculate Heart. It is also true that at Fatima, the night before these great feast days on the 13th of each month from May through October, the people arrive early in the evening and spend the whole night as a rule in prayer before the Eucharistic Lord. It is providential that the feast day of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament which was originally set by St. Peter Julian Eymard for May 8th was transferred to May 13th, the anniversary date of the first apparition of our Lady at Fatima.

From this very cursory summary showing the intimate and all embracing relationship between our Lady and our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, we can readily see that one cannot have one without the other. To reverse the trend of diminution of faith in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, there has to be a return of true devotion to Mary Immaculate. When Catholics anchor their faith on these two indestructible, inseparable pillars-the Eucharist and our Lady-then the enemy will be defeated and a great calm will descend upon both the Church and the world.

Copyright © Immaculata Magazine
Used with permission.

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