“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 6:56)
The Feast of Saint John Vianney is on August 4th, and so I bring to your attention a supernatural event that occurred in his life involving the Holy Eucharist. G.K. Chesterton (the writer, the critic, the convert) held on to his faith in an age of increasing skepticism because, among other things, “the objective occurrence of the supernatural.” He states: “If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favor of the supernatural.” He adds: “Looking impartially into certain miracles of medieval and modern times, I have come to the conclusion that they occurred…. I am forced…by a conspiracy of facts” to conclude “that miracles do happen.” Here, then, is an example of such a “supernatural occurrence” testified to by Saint John Vianney himself.
I have a book I bought a while ago entitled, The Little Catechism of The Cure of Ars, by St. John Vianney – one of the greatest of our saints! This man was an amazingly holy priest (he died in 1859 and was canonized in 1925). He holds the lofty honor – conferred by Pope Pius XI – of being the Patron Saint of parish priests.
In the book he tells a story about a parishioner of his who was having trouble believing the host really becomes the body of Jesus Christ at Mass. The parishioner said a sincere prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary asking her to help him believe. St. John Vianney then relates what happened as he was distributing communion:
“I do not say this happened to someone else, but that it happened to myself. At the moment this man came up to receive Holy Communion, the Sacred Host detached Itself from my fingers while I was still a good way off, and went off Itself and placed Itself upon the tongue of that man.”
See how Mary is so useful. She obtained this Eucharistic miracle from God so that our faith in Jesus would increase (just as she interceded at Cana, where water was changed into wine, a miracle foreshadowing the Eucharist!). She can do nothing but lead us to Jesus – that is her sole mission. What confidence she gives us in the amazing graces we receive at Holy Communion! Our great Pope, Saint John Paul II, reminds us in Ecclesia de Eucharista that our love of the Eucharist deepens by devotion to Mary. He states:
“If we wish to rediscover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary, Mother and model of the Church. In my Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, I pointed to the Blessed Virgin Mary as our teacher in contemplating Christ’s face, and among the mysteries of light I included the institution of the Eucharist. Mary can guide us towards this most holy sacrament, because she herself has a profound relationship with it. ***
If the Eucharist is a mystery of faith which so greatly transcends our understanding as to call for sheer abandonment to the word of God, then there can be no one like Mary to act as our support and guide in acquiring this disposition. In repeating what Christ did at the Last Supper in obedience to his command: “Do this in memory of me!” we also accept Mary’s invitation to obey him without hesitation: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). With the same maternal concern which she showed at the wedding feast of Cana, Mary seems to say to us: “Do not waver; trust in the words of my Son. If he was able to change water into wine, he can also turn bread and wine into his body and blood, and through this mystery bestow on believers the living memorial of his passover, thus becoming the ‘bread of life’.” (Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “Church of the Eucharist,” from nos. 53 and 54)
All of the wisdom and prudence in the Church tells us unhesitatingly that increased devotion to Mary, the mother, leads to increased love of Jesus, the son. And what can be more important in life than increasing our love for Jesus.
The greatness of our Lord’s Eucharistic presence is yet another motive for deepening our love for Him.
Saint John Vianney, pray for us!
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Image: Virgin by the Host, 1852, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (a public domain work of art in the U.S.A.)
Reference: The quotes from Chesterton are from his fantastic book, Orthodoxy.
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