Faustina, Kateri, Dina Bélanger, Carlo Acutis, John Paul II — What 5 Holy People Teach Us About the Eucharist
These five saints and blesseds serve as models to bring the Holy Eucharist to full fruition in our lives as a preparation for the promised eternal wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7).
In his encyclical on hope, Spes Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that Jesus knows us, loves us, wants us and awaits us. Saints show that this is especially true in the Holy Eucharist.
The history of the Church is replete with saints who manifested a profound appreciation of the Eucharist. There is St. Juliana of Liège, whose devotion and vision helped institute the feast of Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.
There is St. Thomas Aquinas, whose Summa Theologiae addresses the mind, while his liturgical texts for Corpus Christi nourish the heart. St. Paschal Baylon, a Franciscan Brother, is the patron of Eucharistic Congresses. St. Peter Julian Eymard founded the Blessed Sacrament Fathers.
Five new saints and blesseds — four contemporary and one from early American history — teach us by their example: St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. John Paul II, St. Faustina Kowalska, Blessed Dina Bélanger and Blessed Carlo Acutis.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha
St. Kateri Tekakwitha was an Algonquin-Mohawk native American who was born in the Auriesville area of New York. Hers was the most feared tribe in that area.
The missionaries were successful when the area came under French control. She advanced quickly in the appreciation of the faith — so much so, that she was allowed to the sacraments earlier than the others. She suffered constant humiliations from the non-Christian members of the tribe and so moved to a totally native Catholic village near Montreal, Canada. She lived the faith intensely the four years after her baptism, including making a vow of virginity.
There were three pillars to her spiritual life: the Cross, the Eucharist and Our Lady’s Rosary. Her Eucharistic devotion was manifested by her always being at the door of the church when it opened, no matter the weather. She spent hours in adoration before the tabernacle. It was customary for the tribe to go on long hunting trips. She attended one, but spent much of her time meditating on a large cross she made. There were many deprivations experienced if one remained at the village during the hunt. She preferred to endure those rather than be deprived of the Eucharist.
Kateri died in 1680, at the age of 24. A few minutes after her death, the small pox scars on her face (from a childhood epidemic) disappeared, leaving radiantly clear skin. It is said that she appeared to several people, including her spiritual director who wrote her biography. She was canonized in 2012.
She shows that achieving mystical life is not dependent on material circumstances or educational levels. She proves what Jesus said in Matthew 11:25 — that it pleases God the Father to reveal the mysteries of faith to little ones, and not necessarily to the wise and learned.
Pope St. John Paul II
Everyone on the staff of St. John Paul II knew that the Mass was the center of his day. He would spend 10 minutes with those attending in preparation, and 10 minutes after in thanksgiving. It was apparent that he was physically there but consciously deeply in the presence of the Lord. His secretary said that he made about 20 visits to the Blessed Sacrament each day, usually lying prostrate in the shape of the cross.
All the organizers of his foreign trips knew that an impromptu visit to the Blessed Sacrament could delay the schedule for at least 20 minutes, so they were advised to make sure that he did not pass by a chapel on his way. During his visit to Baltimore in 1995, it so happened that the chapel of the cardinal’s residence was on the main hallway. The papal organizer emphasized that that door had to remain closed. It resembled all the other doors. St. John Paul passed by the closed door then stopped, turned around and went to that door. He went in for the usual 20 minutes and then wagged his finger at the papal organizer. It seemed that he had a sixth sense in regards to the Holy Eucharist.
He wrote several documents on the Eucharist, the main one being his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church). He wanted to renew the faith and devotion to the Eucharist as Presence, Sacrifice and Communion. He stated that each congregation attending Mass should be united in awe and thanksgiving for what they are participating in, and that Mary, Woman of the Eucharist, is our model. We should join him in praying, “Mary, lead us to the Holy Eucharist.”
St. Faustina Kowalska
St. Faustina was born in Poland in 1905 and died in 1935. She was the first saint canonized in 2000. The recipient of divine revelations about Divine Mercy in our times, she was directed to keep an account in a diary and promote a special image, a feast, a chaplet, a novena and a 3:00pm daily prayer dedicated to the Divine Mercy.
She experienced infused knowledge, as she notes in her diary concerning the Eucharist of the Last Supper, the first Mass:
“During this hour of prayer, Jesus allowed me to enter the Cenacle, and I was a witness to what happened there. However, I was most deeply moved when, before the Consecration, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and entered into a mysterious conversation with his Father. It is only in eternity that we shall really understand that moment. His eyes were like two flames; his face was radiant, white as snow; his whole personage full of majesty, his soul full of longing. At the moment of Consecration, love rested satiated — the sacrifice fully consummated. Now only the external ceremony of death will be carried out — external destruction; the essence [of it] is in the Cenacle. Never in my whole life had I understood this mystery so profoundly as during that Hour of Adoration. Oh, how ardently I desire that the whole world would come to know this unfathomable mystery!” (Diary 684).
Faustina added elsewhere:
“Oh, what awesome mysteries take place during Mass! A great mystery is accomplished in the Holy Mass. With what great devotion should we listen to and take part in this death of Jesus. One day we will know what God is doing for us in each Mass, and what sort of gift he is preparing in it for us. Only his divine love could permit that such a gift be provided for us. O Jesus, my Jesus, with what great pain is my soul pierced when I see this fountain of life gushing forth with such sweetness and power for each soul. While at the same time I see souls withering away and drying up through their own fault. O Jesus, grant that the power of mercy embrace these souls” (Diary 914).
St. Faustina reports having seen the red and pale rays spreading from the monstrance, while hearing Our Lord say, “Here I am the King of Mercy” — a strong motivation for our frequent adoration.
Blessed Dina Bélanger
Blessed Dina was born in Quebec in 1897, died in 1929 and was beatified in 1993.. Gifted with musical talent, she studied piano in New York. Upon her return home, she joined the Religious of Jesus and Mary. Her spiritual emphasis was the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. She was given in particular to understand Mary’s relationship to the Eucharist, as she recorded in her autobiography on June 4, 1928:
“Our Lord, God made man, showed me his adorable Heart in the sacred Host. … Both his Heart and the Host were perfectly united, so united with one another that I could not explain how I could distinguish between the two. From the Host, there emanated an immense number of rays of light. From his Heart there came forth a tremendous number of flames, issuing as if in dense floods.
“The Most Blessed Virgin was there, so close to Our Lord that she seemed to be absorbed by him, and yet I saw her as distinct from him. … All the light from the Host and the flames from the Heart of Jesus passed through the Immaculate Heart of the Most Blessed Virgin…
“Our Lord said to me: ‘My Heart is overflowing with graces intended for souls. Bring them to my Eucharistic Heart.’
“In addition, the Most Holy Virgin was drawing souls towards her so as to lead them to the Eucharistic Heart. Finally, I saw a countless multitude of angels around the Eucharistic Heart, a multitude also reaching as far as the eye could see. In their heavenly language, they repeated: ‘Glory to the immortal King of ages!’”
The rays from the Host can represent the graces of illumination of the mind, while the flames can represent the graces of ardent union of the heart. That this was not meant just for her but for all is indicated by Our Lord’s plea for us to bring souls to him for this purpose.
Blessed Carlo Acutis
This 15-year-old is quickly becoming universally popular. Born in 1991 in England of Italian parents, he died in 2006 in Italy from an aggressive leukemia. The personable Carlo showed all the characteristic interests of a boy, including soccer, photography and especially computers. Although an ordinary student, he had the genius of a university professor in that science. He was strongly pro-life and expressed it so. His life was directed by his Catholic faith even though his parents were non-practicing. (They gradually returned to the faith through his example.)
The Holy Eucharist was at the center of his life. It is reported that Carlo received Holy Communion every day after his First Holy Communion. He said that the Eucharist was his “highway to heaven.” Not just a way or road (via in Italian), with lights and stop signs, but a highway, unobstructed and direct to one’s destination.
His interest in the Eucharist led him to study all of the 126 known Eucharistic miracles in Europe. The family vacations were used to visits these sites. He applied his computer expertise to them and produced posters of each that are circulating around the world in various languages under the title The Vatican International Exhibit of Eucharistic Miracles. (A book of photos of the posters is available). All the churches in Assisi, his favorite city where he is enshrined, had Eucharistic adoration on the day he was beatified in October 2020, making it a Eucharistic city.
He shows that even youth can become Eucharistic evangelizers by using their talents for that purpose.
Saints as Stars
In his Angelus reflection on the Solemnity of the Epiphany 2008, Pope Benedict XVI pointed out:
“Men and women of every generation need on their pilgrim journey to be directed: what star can we therefore follow? ... The Church carries out the mission of the star for humanity. But something of the sort could be said of each Christian, called to illuminate the path of the brethren by word and example of life.”
We have seen this in the lives of these five saints.
This theme was included in his 2007 Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope). The concluding section focuses on “Mary, Star of Hope.” He says:
“The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light. … But to reach him we also need lights close by — people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us?”
This is in accord with St. John Paul II’s final section of his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, devoted to “Mary, Woman of the Eucharist.” There he elucidates her relationship to the Eucharist and our need to be united to her in that unique relationship. That is especially true since it has been reported that most Catholics, about 70%, do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
In his Eucharistic apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum Domine (Stay with us, Lord), St. John Paul II said:
“Let us deepen through adoration our personal and communal contemplation, drawing on aids to prayer inspired by the word of God and the experience of the mystics, old and new.”
These saints and blesseds are persons who, with the aid of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially wisdom and understanding, have penetrated deeply into the core of a mystery of faith.
It is obvious from their witness that the Holy Spirit is constantly developing Eucharistic saints for the edification of the Church.