VATICAN CITY—Holy men and women throughout the ages have received Christ in the Eucharist and have allowed him to permeate their lives, said speakers at a Vatican conference.

“The attachment to and love for Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist” is common to many of the men and women proclaimed saints by the Catholic Church, said Archbishop José Saraiva Martins.

The archbishop, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, presided over a Dec. 6-7 symposium on the role of the Eucharist in the lives of the saints.

The presentations included the development of eucharistic spirituality throughout the centuries and examples of how the Eucharist nourished the holiness of some of the Church's greatest saints.

Archbishop Saraiva and other speakers also highlighted how the Eucharist, the center of the Catholic Church's sacramental and communal life, has influenced contemporary men and women, including Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Saints are men and women who have allowed Jesus to live in them and to transform them, the archbishop said.

For many of the Church's saints, he said, “the Eucharist was the fulcrum, the center of their lives as Christians, and the commandment to love God and love one's neighbor were interdependent and harmoniously fused.”

While some saints' devotion to the Eucharist was seen in the hours they spent in contemplation and adoration, “attachment to the Eucharist is not limited to a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord present under the appearance of bread,” Archbishop Saraiva said.

For many saints, he said, the reality of Jesus present in the Eucharist “led them to share his way of living and loving and, therefore, to truly be like the bread that was broken in order to be distributed to those in need.”

The archbishop pointed to Blessed Katharine Drexel, U.S. founder of a religious order serving Native Americans and blacks, as one of the holy men and women who experienced the Eucharist as a call to serve.

Blessed Drexel, he said, told members of her order that after receiving Communion they should go out to meet Jesus again in the poor.

Carmelite Father Jesús Castellano Cervera, president of Rome's Teresianum Pontifical Theological Faculty, described the connection between the Eucharist and mysticism in saints such as John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola.

For Catholics, “the Eucharist is the summit of the experience of mystery,” he said. “The Eucharist renews and increases that communion with Christ begun at baptism so that Christ lives in us and we live in him.”

For some saints the experience is one of mysticism, a strong and profound spiritual experience of a tangible presence of Christ, he said.

But, Father Castellano said, it is more common for saints — and for Catholics in general — to demonstrate the “mysticism of the presence,” or the prayer that goes “from adoration to service, from contemplating the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist to recognizing Christ in their brothers and sisters.”

Because of this, the Carmelite said he did not hesitate to classify St. Charles de Foucauld and Mother Teresa of Calcutta as singular mystics of our time. (From combined wire services)