The foundational ministry of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament of preparing young workers for first communion continued until the end of Father Eymard’s life. The preparation of these children for communion and confirmation included several months of catechesis and a three-day retreat which Fr. Eymard typically led. In later years due to his many involvements, Fr. Eymard delegated the work to several of the Blessed Sacrament religious. Lay partners were involved in both the actual ministry and providing financial support.
A number of women, including a Madame d’Andigne, Mme. Fraguier and Mme. de Grandville were among the benefactors who supported Fr. Eymard and his lay associates, especially in providing food, clothing, and other material needs for these young people in need. Writing a thank you note to Mme. Fraguier in 1866, Fr. Eymard wrote about this work:
I don’t know how to thank you . . . What a beautiful work to help every year in the first communion of 150 workers who otherwise would probably never do so . . . What then would we have? Miserable members of society, and indifferent Christians who have received only baptism! But once they make their first communion, they have a point of departure for salvation, a step taken towards Christian marriage, a powerful motive to return to God.
December is historically a very important month in the life and legacy of Saint Peter Julian Eymard. In December of 1856, Father Eymard set up plans to inaugurate solemn adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the new chapel at the first house established in Paris. He wrote Marguerite Guillot on December 13:
On January 6, the feast of the Three Kings, the first day of the manifestations of our Lord, we shall have solemn exposition for the first time. How blessed is that day, so greatly desired! On that day, it seems to me our Lord will take possession of his family and of his house forever.
On December 5, 1910, a decree was declared to open the apostolic process for the canonization of Father Eymard. December 9, 1962, Pope John XXIII canonized Peter Julian Eymard at the end of the second session of the Second Vatican Council. Likewise it was in December of 1995 that Pope John Paul II inserted Saint Peter Julian Eymard’s feast in the liturgical calendar of the universal Church, to be observed on August 2. The Holy Father wrote in the words of the decree:
Font and fullness of all evangelization and striking expression of the infinite love of our divine Redeemer for humankind, the holy Eucharist clearly marked the life and pastoral activity of Peter Julian Eymard. He truly deserves to be called an outstanding Apostle of the Eucharist. In fact, his mission in the Church consisted in promoting the centrality of the eucharistic mystery in the whole life of the Christian community.