Nurturing the Love of the Eucharist in Families

THE MYSTERY OF THE EUCHARIST: Special Section — Lessons From Mother Teresa, Padre Pio and the Sacred Heart

St. Pio and Teresa of Calcutta inspire devotion to the Eucharist within the domestic church.
St. Pio and Teresa of Calcutta inspire devotion to the Eucharist within the domestic church. (photo: Daniel Ibanez & Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA)

Parenthood opens a deeper dimension to our faith. By experiencing the love for our child, we glimpse the love of the Father for his Son and God’s love for us, knowing it is but a shadow of the divine reality.

Catholics draw closer to that love by understanding that, through his sacrifice, Jesus gave us the gift of his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.

The Catholic Church has always taught that Jesus becomes truly present in the bread and wine during the consecration of the Eucharist at Mass. For confirmation, doubters need only investigate some of the astounding Eucharistic miracles throughout history that defy science today.

In an interview with the Register, Msgr. John Esseff, a priest in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and one of the oldest exorcists in the country at age 91, shared some of the influences in his own devotion to the Eucharist to help parents nurture that same love within their families.

“Parents should teach their children that their first encounter with Jesus was when they were baptized,” he said. “That is the moment they became united with him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they became children of God. Through the Eucharist, we continue to unite ourselves with Jesus.”


St. Teresa of Calcutta

Three of his own most treasured lessons on the Eucharist came by way of St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio and Msgr. Esseff’s ardent devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Msgr. Esseff was a spiritual director of Mother Teresa and often traveled with her. Wherever she went, she insisted on having a priest with her to be able to attend Mass and receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

“Mother Teresa once told me,” Msgr. Esseff said, “‘Sometimes we don’t realize that Jesus looks at us with such intensity of love that he says: ‘I burn with love for you.’ His eyes are so filled with the fire of divine love for us. He hungers and thirsts for our love.’”

Another time, Msgr Esseff said that Mother Teresa told him, “Tell your pastor to place the Eucharist on the altar so that we can see and adore the Eucharist. Through adoration, the power of the Eucharist comes into us.”


Padre Pio

Early in Msgr. Esseff’s priesthood, he traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, to meet Padre Pio, who had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. (St. Pio died Sept. 23, 1968.) “When I met him, I said, ‘I just don’t understand why you have those holes in your hands and your feet and side,’” he said. “That was before I went to his Mass. I never would have said that after I saw him offer Mass.”

As Padre Pio said Mass, Msgr. Esseff witnessed the blood flowing from his hands. “Every time Padre Pio offered Mass, he would bleed from his hands and his feet and side,” Msgr. Esseff said. “When he said, ‘This is my body … this is my blood,’ he was in union with Jesus.”

Although it does not usually happen that a priest bleeds during the consecration, Msgr. Essef said that Padre Pio’s stigmata, especially during the Mass, was a revelation of how real Christ’s sacrifice and presence is to us today.

Msgr. Esseff also attributes his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with deepening his devotion to the Eucharist.


Sacred Heart of Jesus

In 1675, Jesus began appearing to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation sister in France. He appeared to her multiple times while she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. St. Margaret Mary received messages from Jesus about his burning love and the importance of the Eucharist.

“Then he revealed to me all the unspeakable marvels of his pure love and the excess of love he had conceived for men from whom he had received nothing but ingratitude and contempt. “This is more grievous to me,” he said, “than all that I endured in my passion.”

Jesus told St. Margaret Mary that he wanted to be honored under the devotion of his heart and he asked the faithful to receive him in the Eucharist frequently, especially on the first Friday of the month, and to observe a Holy Hour of devotion to him. Jesus also asked for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to be celebrated on the Friday following Corpus Christi, in reparation for the ingratitude of men for the sacrifice of Christ.

“When Jesus appeared, he came out of the Eucharist and revealed his Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary,” Msgr. Esseff said. “He not only rolled back his robe but rolled back his flesh and took out his heart and said, ‘Behold the heart that has loved so much and received so little love in return.’ He principally wants us to love him in the Eucharist. He showed his heart, and it was so filled with love for us that it is on fire. Now, the Holy Eucharist is the food that keeps that love alive.”

Patti Armstrong writes from North Dakota.