by Father Stephano Manelli, O.F.M., Conv., S.T.D.
We are publishing Father Manelli’s book in serial form in our magazine. The first three installments of this book appeared in Issues number 4, 5 and 6 of The Fatima Crusader. This is the fourth installment.
Father Stephano has been a priest for about twenty-five years, and is the Superior of the Friary he founded. His religious community, inspired by Blessed Maximilian Kolbe’s idea of the “City of the Immaculate”, tries to follow ever more closely the ideals and rule of St. Francis of Assisi. The printing facilities and radio station of Father Manelli’s “Casa Mariana” (House of Mary) continue to expand and are used exclusively to make Jesus and Mary better known and loved. Father’s Casa Mariana has expanded so much recently that they sent four missionaries to the Philippines to start a Casa Mariana there. Father Manelli, who has his Doctorate in Sacred Theology, is well known in Italy. His book, Jesus, Our Eucharistic Love has gone through at least five editions in Italy and over 100,000 copies have been printed. Although some of his other works have been published elsewhere in English, this is the first time that this very solid and devout work has been published in North America. Father was pleased to give us permission to publish his work in English as he looks forward to being able to reach even more souls through the mass media to bring them, through Mary, to the sweet yoke of Christ.
We are happy to present this our fourth installment of his book and we hope you will like it, as those who have already read Jesus, Our Eucharistic Love attest that it is a very powerful and edifying piece of literature.
|Padre Pio was delighted when they brought him young children who were prepared for First Holy Communion. Father Manelli, the author of Jesus, Our Eucharistic Love went to First Confession and First Communion to Padre Pio at about the age of five.|
The Purity of Soul Necessary for Holy Communion
What is there to say about the great purity of soul with which the saints approached to receive the Bread of Angels? We know that they had a great delicacy of conscience which was truly angelic. Aware of their own misery, they tried to present themselves to Jesus “holy and immaculate,” (Eph. 1:4) repeating with the Publican, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13), and having recourse with great care to the cleansing of Confession.
When St. Jerome was brought Holy Viaticum at the end of his life, the Saint prostrated himself on the ground in adoration and he was heard to repeat with profound humility the words of St. Elizabeth and those of St. Peter, “How is this, that my Lord should come to me?” “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” (Luke 5:8). And how many times was the angelic and seraphic St. Gemma tempted to not receive Holy Communion, holding herself to be nothing else than a vile “dunghill”?
Padre Pio of Pietrelcina used to repeat with trepidation to his brethren, “God sees blights even in the angels. What must He see in me!” For this reason he was very diligent in making his sacramental Confessions.
“Oh, if we could only understand Who is that God Whom we receive in Holy Communion, then what purity of heart we would bring to Him!” exclaimed St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi.
For this reason St. Hugh, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. Ignatius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Francis Borgia, St. Louis Bertrand, St. Joseph Cupertino, St. Leonard of Port Maurice and many other saints went to Confession every day before celebrating Holy Mass.
St. Camillus de Lellis never celebrated Holy Mass without first going to Confession, because he wanted at least “to dust off” his soul. Once, at sundown, in a public square in Livorno, before taking leave of a priest of the same religious order, foreseeing that he would not have a priest to confess to on the following morning before his Mass, paused, took off his hat, made the sign of the Cross and went to Confession right there in the square, to his confrere.
Also, St. Alphonsus, St. Joseph Cafasso, St. John Bosco, St. Pius X, and Padre Pio of Pietrelcina went to Confession very often. And why did St. Pius X wish to lower the age for First Holy Communion to seven years, if not to allow Jesus to enter into the innocent hearts of children, which are so similar to angels. And why was Padre Pio so delighted when they brought him children five years old who were prepared for First Holy Communion?
The saints applied to perfection the directive of the Holy Spirit, “Let everyone first examine himself, and then eat of that Bread and drink of that Chalice; because he who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks unto his own condemnation,” (1 Cor. 11:28-29).
To examine themselves, to repent, to accuse themselves in Confession and to ask pardon of God, and in this way even every day profit from the Sacrament of Confession, was something natural for the saints. How fortunate they were to be capable of so much! The fruits of sanctification were constant and abundant because the purity of soul with which each saint welcomed into himself Jesus, “the Wheat of the elect,” (Zach. 9:17) was like the good ground “…which brings forth fruit in patience,” (Luke 8:15).
St. Anthony Mary Claret illustrates this fact very well: “When we go to Holy Communion, all of us receive the same Lord Jesus, but not all receive the same grace nor are the same effects produced in all. This comes from our greater or lesser disposition. To explain this fact, I will take an example from nature. Consider the process of grafting, the more similar the one plant is to the other, the better the graft will succeed. Likewise, the more resemblance there is between the one that goes to Communion and Jesus, so much the better will the fruits of Holy Communion be.” The Sacrament of Confession is in fact the excellent means whereby the similarity between the soul and Jesus is restored.
For this reason St. Francis de Sales taught his spiritual children, “Go to Confession with humility and devotion … if it is possible, every time that you go to Holy Communion, even though you do not feel in your conscience any remorse of mortal sin.”
In this regard it is well to recall the teaching of the Church. Holy Communion must be received only while one is in the grace of God. Therefore, when one has committed a mortal sin, even if one has repented of it and has a great desire to receive Holy Communion, it is necessary and indispensable to confess oneself first before receiving Holy Communion, otherwise one commits a most grave sin of sacrilege, for which Jesus said to St. Bridget, “there does not exist on earth a punishment which is great enough to punish it sufficiently!”
St. Ambrose said that persons who commit this sacrilege “come into church with a few sins, and leave it burdened with many.” St. Cyril wrote something yet stronger: “They who make a sacrilegious Communion receive satan and Jesus Christ into their hearts — satan, that they may let him rule, and Jesus Christ, that they may offer Him in sacrifice as a Victim to satan.” Thus the Catechism of the Council of Trent (De Euch., v.i) declares: “As of all the sacred mysteries … none can compare with the … Eucharist, so likewise for no crime is there heavier punishment to be feared from God than for the unholy or irreligious use by the faithful of that which … contains the very Author and Source of holiness.”
On the other hand, Confession made before Holy Communion to render a soul already in the state of Sanctifying Grace more pure and more beautiful, is something precious even though not required. It is precious because it clothes the soul with a more beautiful “wedding garment” (cf. Matt. 22:12) with which it may take its place at the table of the angels. For this reason the most conscientious souls have always made frequent use (at least once a week) of the sacramental cleansing of absolution, even for venial sins. If you want great purity of soul in order to receive Jesus, no purity shines brighter than that which one obtains when he makes a good confession, where the cleansing Blood of Jesus renders the repentant soul divinely bright and beautiful. “The soul that receives the Divine Blood becomes beautiful, as being clothed in a more precious garment, and it appears so beautifully aglow that if you could see it you would be tempted to adore it,” declared St. Mary Magdalene di Pazzi.
Holy Communion with Mary
Oh, how much it pleases Jesus to be received by a soul cleansed and clothed with His Divine Blood! And what affectionate delight He takes when such a soul is a chaste virgin! For “the Eucharist came from the Paradise of Virginity” (namely, Mary), said St. Albert the Great; and Our Eucharistic Lord does not find such a paradise except in virginity. No one can repeat, quite like a virgin, with the Spouse of the Canticle of Canticles at every Holy Communion: “All mine is my true Love, and I am all His; … He goes out to pasture among the lilies … Come back, my heart’s Love,” (Cant. 2:16-17).
One praiseworthy way of preparing for Holy Communion is to invoke the Immaculate Virgin, to count on Her to enable us to receive Jesus with Her humility, Her purity and Her love — praying rather that She Herself may come to receive Him in us. This pious practice is much recommended by the Saints, in particular St. Louis Grignon de Montfort, St. Peter Eymard, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and Blessed Maximilian Mary Kolbe. “The best preparation for Holy Communion is that which is made with Mary,” wrote St. Peter Eymard. A delightful illustration is given by St. Therese of Lisieux, picturing her soul as a little three or four-year old girl whose hair and dress were in disarray, ashamed to present herself at the altar rail to receive Jesus. However she appeals to the Madonna, and “immediately”, the Saint writes, “the Virgin Mary occupies Herself with me. She quickly replaces my dirty dress, ties up my hair with a pretty ribbon and adds a simple flower … This is enough to make me attractive and enables me to take my place without embarrassment at the banquet of the angels.”
Let us try this method of preparation. We will not be disappointed. We will be able to say what St. Gemma exclaimed in ecstasy, “How beautiful it is to receive Communion with the Mother of Paradise!”
|Let us, like all the Saints, make Jesus feel welcome when He comes to visit us in Holy Communion. Let us do this by making a good preparation especially by purifying our souls in Confession, and by remaining at least 15 minutes with Him in Thanksgiving.|
Thanksgiving After Holy Communion
The time of Thanksgiving after Holy Communion is the most ideal time for an intimate exchange of love with Jesus. Let it be a love of total self-giving thus returning Jesus’ love so wholeheartedly that there is no longer two of us but one, so to speak, in soul and body. Let it be a love that vivifies and unites — He in me and I in Him — so that we may be consumed in the uniqueness and unity of His love.
“You are my loving prey just as I am the object of Your immense charity,” said St. Gemma to Jesus with tenderness.
St. John wrote, “Blessed are they that are called to the wedding banquet of the Lamb,” (Apoc. 19:9). In truth, in Eucharistic Communion rightly received, the soul realizes, in a heavenly virginal union, a nuptial love for the Spouse, Jesus, to Whom the soul can say with the most tender enthusiasm of the Bride in the Canticle of Canticles: “Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His mouth,” (Cant. 1:1).
Thanksgiving after Holy Communion is a small foretaste, while on earth, of the love which will be experienced in Paradise. In Heaven, in fact, how shall we love Jesus if not by being one with Him eternally? Dear Jesus, sweet Jesus, oh how I ought to thank You for every Holy Communion that You grant me! Did not St. Gemma have good reason to say she would thank You in Paradise for the Eucharist more than for anything else? What a miracle of love to be so completely united with You, O Jesus!
Water, yeast, wax
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Father of the Church, used three illustrations to show the union of love with Jesus in Holy Communion: “He who receives Communion is made holy and Divinized in soul and body in the same way that water, set over a fire, becomes boiling. … Communion works like yeast that has been mixed into dough so that it leavens the whole mass: … Just as by melting two candles together you get one piece of wax, so, I think, one who receives the Flesh and Blood of Jesus is fused together with Him by this Communion, and the soul finds that he is in Christ and Christ is in him.”
For this reason St. Gemma Galgani used to speak in awed wonder of the Eucharistic union between “Jesus Who is All and Gemma who is nothing.” In an ecstasy she exclaimed, “What great sweetness there is, O Jesus, in Communion! I want to live in Your embrace and die in Your embrace.” And Blessed Contardo Ferrini wrote, “Ah, Holy Communion! Unspeakable heights for a human spirit to reach! What does the world have that equals these pure, heavenly joys, these tastes of eternal glory?”
There is another value Holy Communion has that deserves our reflections, and it is in reference to the Blessed Trinity. One day St. Mary Magdalene di Pazzi was kneeling with arms crossed among the novices after Communion. She raised her eyes heavenward and said, “O Sisters, if only we would comprehend the fact that while the Eucharistic Species remain within us, Jesus is there and working in us inseparably with the Father and the Holy Spirit and therefore the whole Holy Trinity is there ….” She could not finish speaking because she became wrapt in ecstasy.
Remain at least fifteen minutes
The Saints chose, when it was possible, to set no time limit for thanksgiving after Communion, which would last at least a half hour. St. Teresa of Jesus told her daughters, “Let us detain ourselves lovingly with Jesus and not waste the hour that follows Communion. It is an excellent time to deal with God and put before Him the matters that concern our soul. … As we know that good Jesus remains within us until our natural warmth has dissolved the bread-like qualities, we should take great care not to lose such a beautiful opportunity to treat with Him and lay our needs before Him.”
St. Francis of Assisi, St. Juliana Falconieri, St. Catharine, St. Paschal, St. Veronica, St. Joseph Cupertino, St. Gemma, and many others, used to almost always go into a loving ecstasy immediately after Holy Communion. As for the duration, only the angels measured the time. Also St. Teresa of Avila nearly always went into ecstasy right after receiving Holy Communion, and sometimes it was necessary to carry her away bodily from the Communion grille.
St. John of Avila, St. Ignatius Loyola, and St. Aloysius Gonzaga used to make their thanksgiving on their knees for two hours. St. Mary Magdalene di Pazzi wanted it to continue without interruption. It was necessary to constrain her so that she might take a little nourishment. “The minutes that follow Communion,” the Saint said, “are the most precious we have in our lives. They are the minutes best suited on our part for treating with God, and on His part for communicating His love to us.”
St. Louis Grignon de Montfort used to remain for Thanksgiving after Holy Mass at least a half hour, and he would not let there be any worry or engagement that could make him omit it. He said, “I would not give up this hour of Thanksgiving even for an hour of Paradise.”
Let us also then make the following resolutions: That we will so organize our time and our lives that we will remain in Thanksgiving after Holy Communion for at least fifteen minutes; And further resolve to allow nothing to stop us from taking this time for Thanksgiving. These minutes in which Jesus is physically present to our souls and within our bodies are heavenly minutes that we should by no means waste.
St. Philip and the candles
The Apostle, St. Paul, wrote, “Glorify and bear God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). There is no time in which these words, taken literally, apply so well, as during the time immediately after receiving Holy Communion. How unfeeling it is, then, for someone to receive Communion and leave the church at once as soon as Mass is over, or as soon as he has received Our Lord! We may remember the example of St. Philip Neri, who had two altar boys with lighted candles go to accompany a man who had left the church right after his Communion. — What a beautiful lesson! For the sake of good manners, if for no other reason, when a person receives a guest he pauses to give his attention to him and takes interest in him. If this guest is Jesus, then we will only have reason to be sorry that His bodily presence within us scarcely lasts fifteen minutes or a little more. In view of this, St. Joseph Cottolengo used to personally oversee the baking of hosts for Mass and Communion. To the sister assigned to this he gave the following instruction: “Make the hosts thick so that I can linger a long time with Jesus. I do not want the Sacred Species to quickly dissolve.”
And why did St. Alphonsus Liguori fill the chalice with the wine almost up to the brim? Only to be able to possess Jesus in his body for a still longer time.
Are we not perhaps acting contrary to the example of the Saints when we regard our period of Thanksgiving as too long and perhaps feel impatient to get it over with? But, oh how we should watch ourselves here! For if it is true that at every Communion Jesus “gives us a hundredfold for the hospitality we show Him, as St. Teresa of Jesus declares, then it is likewise true that we must answer a hundredfold for neglecting this hospitality. A fellow Capuchin of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina told how one day he went to Confession to the holy friar, and, among other things, confessed omitting his Thanksgiving after Holy Mass because, he said, some ministry made him unable. While Padre Pio was lenient in judging the other faults, when he heard him confess this omission, he grew more serious, and, with a stern look, he said firmly, “Let us see to it that our being unable is not just being unwilling. I always have to make my Thanksgiving; otherwise I pay dearly.”
Let us give the matter serious thought and attention. When it comes to something so very precious as this Thanksgiving, let us take to heart the Holy Spirit’s admonition, “Let not your share of desired good pass you by,” (Ecclus. 14:14).
Thanksgiving with the Madonna
There is a special beauty in a Thanksgiving made in Mary’s company in honor of Her Annunciation. Right after Holy Communion we carry Jesus within our souls and bodies, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary did when She had received the message of the angel. We cannot find a better way to adore and love Jesus at that time than by making our dispositions agree with those of the Mother of God, making our own the same sentiments of adoration and love that She had toward Her Divine Son Jesus enclosed under Her Immaculate Heart. It can be helpful in achieving this, to recite meditatively the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. Let us try it. We cannot fail to profit by becoming united this way with the Madonna in order to love Jesus with Her Heavenly Heart.