Saint Peter Julian Eymard loved the priesthood and he loved the Eucharist. In fact, there are three stained-glass windows in a chapel that bears his name in his hometown of La Mure d’Isère, a small town in southeastern France, that beautifully make this point.
The first window memorializes a popular story from Saint Eymard’s childhood. It depicts in vibrant and cheerful colors Peter Julian as a child with his ear pressed to the tabernacle. The story behind the image recounts how young Peter Julian wandered away from home one day. His older sister Marianne anxiously went to find him. She had an inkling that he might be in church, and when she entered the church, she was startled to find him sitting on the altar with his ear pressed to the tabernacle. When she asked him what he was doing he famously responded, “I am near Jesus, and I am listening to him.”
The second stained-glass window depicts young Peter Julian studying Latin while working in his father’s shop. Here we see him engrossed in his study while work goes on behind him. Although his father was reticent to give him permission to go to the seminary to study for the priesthood, Peter Julian nevertheless held out hope that he would one day become a priest. So, he taught himself Latin to help make that dream come true.
The third window, which is placed prominently behind the altar and is often bathed with light, is of Peter Julian Eymard in liturgical attire holding a monstrance. Here we see these two great loves come together in a celebratory depiction of Saint Eymard. Saint Eymard the priest and Saint Eymard the “apostle of the Eucharist.”
In fact, it was during a Corpus Christi procession in Lyon, France that Saint Eymard seemed to make this profound connection and began to ponder founding a religious order dedicated to the Eucharist. He later wrote of this experience:
On May 25, 1845, Corpus Christi, I had the special privilege of carrying the Blessed Sacrament at St Paul’s, and my soul derived great benefit from it. It was penetrated by faith and love of Jesus in his divine Sacrament. Those two hours seemed but a moment to me. I laid at the feet of our Lord: the Church, France, Catholics, the Society (of Mary), myself. What sighs, what tears! My heart felt crushed as in the winepress! How I could have wished at that moment to have all hearts in my heart! The zeal of Saint Paul!
This is what I promised our Lord. Since the beginning of this month I have felt a great attraction towards our Lord, never have I experienced it so strongly. This attraction inspires me in my preaching, in my spiritual counselling, to bring all the world to the knowledge and love of our Lord; to preach nothing but Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Eucharistic!
Saint Peter Julian Eymard
(Notes personnelles, AP.SS., O. 4, p 309,
translated by Donald Cave, SSS)
As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) this June 6th may we experience such eucharistic love and zeal! May our ministries be nourished by God’s infinite love manifested in the Eucharist. And may our apostolates help build up the eucharistic body of Christ among us.
John Christman, SSS