St. Peter Julian Eymard
In 1811, Peter was born in a small town in the diocese of Grenoble, France. He worked with his father making and repairing knives until he was eighteen. Peter spent his free hours studying. He taught himself Latin and received instruction in the faith from a helpful priest. In the back of Peter's mind was a longing to become a priest. When he was twenty, he began his studies at the seminary of Grenoble. Peter Julian became a priest in 1834 and served in two parishes during the next five years. The people realized what a gift he was to them. When Father Eymard asked his bishop's permission to join a new religious order called the Marists, the bishop gave his consent. Father Eymard served the Marists as spiritual director of the seminarians. In 1845, he became the superior of Lyons, France. But even though Father Eymard fulfilled many diligent responsibilities all his life, he is remembered especially for something else.
Father Eymard had a glowing love for the Holy Eucharist. He was very attracted to the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He loved to spend time daily in adoration. One feast of Corpus Christi (the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus), Father Eymard had a powerful religious experience. As he carried the sacred Host in procession, he felt the presence of Jesus like warmth from a fireplace. The Host seemed to surround him with love and light. In his heart, he spoke to the Lord about the spiritual and material needs of all people. He begged that the mercy and love of Jesus touch everyone as he had been touched through the Eucharist.
In 1856, Father Eymard followed an inspiration that he had prayed about for several years. With the approval of his superiors, he started a religious order of priest-adorers of the Holy Eucharist. They became known as the Priests of the Blessed Sacrament. Two years after the order of priests was begun, Father Eymard began an order of sisters, the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. Like the priests, these sisters had a special love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. They devoted their lives to adoration of Jesus. Father Eymard started parish organizations to help people be prepared to receive First Communion. He wrote several books on the Eucharist that were translated into different languages. The books are still available in English today.
Father Eymard lived at the same time in history as the saint we celebrate tomorrow, August 4-St. John Vianney. The two men were friends and each highly admired the other. Father Vianney said that Father Eymard was a saint and added, "Adoration by priests! How fine! I will pray for Father Eymard's work every day."
St. Peter Julian Eymard spent the last four years of his life in severe pain. He also suffered because of difficulties and criticism. But Father Eymard continued his life of adoring the Eucharist. His witness and his sacrifice helped many others find their call in his religious orders. He died on August 1, 1868, at the age of fifty-seven. Pope John XXIII proclaimed him a saint on December 9, 1962.
As Catholics, we believe in Jesus' sacramental presence in the Eucharist. How has this belief affected my life?