The Dove of the Tabernacle

Chapter XII


Visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

THE more we meditate on the love of our blessed Savior the more boundless it appears. It is like eternity, without beginning and without end. The Blessed Sacrament is the infinite ocean of God's love, the deeper we drink of its salutary waters, the more inexhaustible it becomes; the more we endeavor to fathom its depth, the farther the bottom recedes from us. The love of Jesus, infinite though it be, might appear to be satisfied by giving Himself to us as our sacrifice in the Mass, and by giving us his body and blood as our food in the holy Communion; but no, He must be near us, to watch over us, to give us courage and strength, nay, to raise us up when we fall. How is this possible? It is possible only to God, to whom nothing is impossible. God's love alone could invent the means. What are they? Jesus ever present on our altars in the most adorable sacrament! Divine invention! Is it possible, then, that Jesus remains still on earth after his ascension? Possible and true. Yes, on our altars, in the tabernacle, in the ciborium, day and night, is ever present Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created and redeemed us who on the last day will be our judge, and, we trust, our reward in heaven. O Christians, envy not the just in heaven: except that you cannot love God as they love Him, you have in your humble chapel all they possess in paradise; they see Jesus face to face, you see Jesus not less really with the eyes of faith; on the altar you have Jesus, the lamp, the life, the glory of the blessed in heaven. How beautiful and full of faith was the reply of St. Louis, King of France, when invited to behold Jesus Christ, who appeared in the consecrated Host under the form of an infant: "Let those," said the holy king, "who do not believe by faith, go and see; I believe more firmly than if I saw Jesus Christ with my eyes." Such, too, is our firm faith. We kneel before the Blessed Sacrament with the same absolute certainty of the presence of Jesus Christ, as the saints have who see him face to face in heaven.


The Love of Jesus Dwelling on our Altars

In instituting the holy sacrifice and sacrament, our Lord expressed His tender love when He said to his disciples: "With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you before I suffer." Luke xxii. 15. So He tells us, in the most touching accents, His love and desire to remain with us day and night on our altars. "My desire is to be with the children of men." Prov. viii. 31. Jesus, though entertained by the sweet canticles of saints and angels in heaven, finds His delights among the children of men on earth. "O men," says St. Teresa, "how can you offend a God who declares that among you He finds His delights?" "Come to me," says Jesus, from the tabernacle, "all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you." Matt. xi, 28. O happy invitation! Come to me, your God, the fountain of all goodness ; come, fear not — approach all without exception; but especially come, you poor, you sick, you sorrowing, you in pain, in grief, in tears, you in sin and guilt, I will not cast you off. I will give consolation to the afflicted and sorrowing; I will give balm to the wounded heart; I will raise up the despairing, and pardon the repenting sinner. O, sweet voice of Jesus from the tabernacle!

Again, our blessed Lord says from the tabernacle: "This is my rest forever and forever; here I will dwell, for I have chosen it." Ps. cxxxi. 14, Jesus has chosen His rest amongst us — on the altar He dwells. He says: "My eyes and My heart shall be there always." — I Kings ix. 3. All can approach and speak to Jesus on the altar. Few can address the princes of this earth. The poor cannot speak to the king; none but nobles can approach the sovereign; but all, the poor as well as the nobles, can see and speak to, at all times, the King of kings, Jesus Christ, in the holy sacrament. Let us address the words of the inspired writer to every Christian: "Rejoice and praise, O thou habitation of Sion! for great is He that is in the midst of thee, the Holy One of Israel." Isa. xii. 6.


Devotion of the Saints to the Blessed Sacrament.

To cite the loving sayings of the saints in their ardent devotion to the blessed Sacrament, would fill and have filled volumes. The blessed Sacrament was the life of their souls, and the soul of their ministry, and the source of their sanctity.

St. Thomas says: " The Blessed Sacrament is not only the greatest of all God's miracles, but an abridgment of all the wonders He has ever wrought." He calls it a "sacrament of love; a pledge of love." Obusc. 68. "Behold," exclaims St. Bonaventure, "that Lord whom the world cannot contain, makes himself prisoner in the holy sacrament." "No tongue," says St. Peter of Alcantara, "can express the. greatness of the love which Jesus Christ bears to our souls." Hence, that His absence from us might not be an occasion of forgetting Him, this Spouse, before His departure from this world, left us a memorial of His love — this most holy sacrament — in which He Himself has remained.

We shall quote but one more — St. Liguori. All the writings of this great saint breathe the most tender love and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He says: "On this earth we cannot find a more brilliant jewel or a more lovely treasure than Jesus in the sacrament. Certainly, after the frequentation of the sacrament, the adoration of Jesus in the holy Eucharist is, of all devotions, the most acceptable to God and useful to us." Again the saint says: "Be assured that, of all the moments of your life, the time which you spend in devotion before this most divine sacrament will be that which will give you greatest support during life, and the greatest consolation at the hour of your death and for all eternity — and be persuaded that you will gain more in a quarter of an hour spent in prayer before the holy Eucharist, than in all other spiritual exercises of the day." This saint, who lived a secular to the age of twentysix, attributes his vocation to the Church to the visits which, when a young man, he used to make to the blessed sacrament. We shall give his own words: "Through gratitude to my Jesus in the holy sacrament, I must proclaim to all who read this little book, that, in remuneration of my cold and imperfect visits to the blessed sacrament, I am now removed from the dangers of the world, where unfortunately I lived to my twentysixth year. Believe me," continues the saint, "that all is folly; feasts, comedies, parties of pleasure, amusements. These are the goods of the world; but they are goods full of gall and thorns. Believe one who has had experience of them, and is now weeping for them. Be assured that Jesus Christ will give more consolation to those who remain with recollection before the holy sacrament than they could receive from all the pleasures and pastimes of the world." Intro. to Visits. The saints excelled, some in one virtue, some in another; but the most tender love for the blessed sacrament was common to all. The hours before the altar were the most precious, the most holy — the consolation, the happiness of their lives. May Jesus give us all this holy love for the blessed sacrament!


How Often Ought we Visit Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist?

We cannot visit our blessed Lord too often; it will depend upon our love and devotion; time will not fail where there is a good will. If we love Jesus, we shall be drawn insensibly to the altar; we shall find our supreme happiness in looking to the tabernacle. We shall find the Courts of the Lord attractive; we shall cry out with the prophet "How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord." Ps. lxxxiii. I. But alas, how often the courts of the Lord are lonely and abandoned! The palaces of kings and princes are thronged with visitors and courtiers who pay them homage; and shall the palace of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, be deserted and forgotten? Jesus is on the altar, how few visit Him! Jesus is in the church, and how lonely Jesus sits in the tabernacle, as on a throne of love, to bless all, to bestow His grace — how few come to receive His blessing, to beg His favors! "His delights are to be with the sons of men;" how few men find their delights with Jesus! O Lord, forgive our past ingratitude and coldness; for the time to come we shall not be among the ungrateful: we will visit Thee, O Lord. How often? St. Mary Magdalen, of Pazzi, used to visit the Blessed Sacrament thirty-three times every day. St. Francis Xavier, the apostle of the Indies, when exhausted from his labors of the day in saving souls, found repose and refreshment at the foot of the altar, where he spent the greater part of the night in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. St. Francis Regis, the great French missionary, after having spent the entire day in preaching and hearing confessions, at night found repose absorbed in prayer before the tabernacle; and when sometimes he found the church shut, he knelt and remained outside the door in cold and rain, to adore even at a distance his beloved Lord. St. Aloysius wished to remain always in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. A sainted nun being asked, how she could spend so many hours day and night before the altar, replied "I could remain there for all eternity."

Poor we, how unlike the saints, how far from God, and still God so near. If we have not love to spend hours, to spend one hour, let us resolve, in gratitude to Jesus, to pay one visit of a quarter of an hour every day to our beloved Lord. A quarter of an hour, how short, yet how long the day, how long the night! How much time spent in idle conversation! How much valuable time frittered away in doing or saying what means nothing? How little then a quarter of an hour for Jesus, who remains the whole day on the altar for us. The hours before the Blessed Sacrament, the hours given to God, how precious at the hour of death! "Taste and see how sweet the Lord is;" yes; taste and see the sweetness of the love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and you will find the happiest moments of your life are those spent on the foot of the altar; you will find yourself unhappy and disconsolate if only one day in the year you were deprived of the privilege and blessing of visiting your divine Lord in the tabernacle. "Blessed are they who dwell in Thy house, O Lord: they shall praise Thee forever and forever." — Ps. xxxiii. 5


How Employ the Time of our Visit to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament?

As in hearing mass, and in thanksgiving after holy Communion, so also in visits to the Blessed Sacrament, each person does best to follow the inspirations of grace, and to adopt the method best suited to his capacity, and which best excites his piety and devotion. The acts we are about to suggest will be useful to all and ought to occupy more or less of the time of our visit. We kneel reverentially and modestly before the altar; we excite our faith; we make an act of firm faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the most holy sacrament; my Jesus, my God, I believe Thou art really present in the most holy Sacrament of the altar. Our first act is divine firm faith. We then make a spiritual communion by inviting Jesus Christ into our hearts, and when Jesus comes into the soul our second acts are Acts of Adoration, Love, Thanksgiving.

Adoration, love, thanksgiving to Jesus? What thoughts crowd upon the mind! God, so great, so infinite; we, so little, so worthless. God, so pure, so holy; we, so sinful, so cold. What shall we do? We invite heaven and earth to join us; we offer to Jesus the adoration, love, and thanksgiving of the saints on earth and blessed in heaven. Thus united with holy souls, so dear to Jesus, we take courage, we look with more confidence, but deeper humility to the tabernacle; we say in the very depth of our souls: My Jesus, I adore Thee in the most holy Sacrament. I pay the homage of my understanding to Thee as my God, my Creator, my Redeemer, my All. We love Jesus; we offer to Him our hearts, with their affections now and forever; we never get tired of repeating: I love Thee, Jesus, with my whole heart and soul and strength and mind.

What shall we say of thanksgiving? Thanksgiving to Jesus ought to end only with our lives; we owe Him everything. Before the altar, in the silence of the sanctuary, is the place to remember the benefits of God, and to thank Him. We first thank Him for giving us Himself in the Mass for our sacrifice, for giving us His body and blood in the Holy Communion as our food, for remaining day and night in the tabernacle, for permitting, nay, inviting us to visit Him.

We thank Him for all the graces we have received from all the Masses we have ever heard, from all the Holy Communions we have ever made, from all the visits we have ever paid Him. We thank His patience, that spared us when we deserved hell a thousand times; we thank His mercy, that gave us life when we were dead in sin; we thank Jesus for His secret hidden graces, of which we know nothing, but on which, on the day of judgment, we will find depended our eternal salvation; we thank Him for the faith of St. Patrick, the true faith of Jesus Christ: in a word, we will desire to thank Him as he deserves. No prayer, says St. Augustine, is more beautiful than "Deo gratias."

Acts of Reparation.

A spirit of reparation is an essential part of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. We cannot love God without being pained by sin even in others. We cannot love Jesus without being wounded by the insults offered to His sacred heart in the sacrament of His love. Of this our Blessed Lord bitterly complained to his chosen servant, Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque. "Behold," said he, "this heart which has loved men so much, that it has spared nothing, even to the exhausting and consuming itself, to testify its love; and yet in return I receive from the greater number but contempt, coldness, ingratitude, irreverence, sacrilege, in the sacrament of my love," To encourage every one to a spirit of reparation, our Blessed Lord added, "Upon those who will render Me this honor (that is reparation), or cause it to be rendered to Me, I promise thee that My heart will expand to diffuse upon them the influence of its divine love." This promise of Jesus Christ, what a strong motive to induce us to the practice of reparation!

Reparation for Ourselves.

We all, even the very best amongst us, have sufficient reason to make Reparation for our own sins and Ingratitude to Jesus Christ Kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, the soul in peace, alone with God, the noise of the world hushed in silence, we shall see our sins in the light of the sanctuary. Our countless sins! The sins of our youth, the sins of our maturer age, the sins of our gray hairs; the sins of thought, word, and deed, the sins of omission, the sins occasioned in others: what a multitude rises up before the soul, and each sin a direct insult to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Again our coldness, our irreverence at Mass and Holy Communion, our neglect of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament — shall we say our sacrileges? May Jesus save us and all Christians from the greatest of sins, Sacrilege. Here we find sufficient matter for reparation. The true reparation is to weep before Jesus over our sins, to beg of Him tears of sorrow, that He himself may wash away our sins in His precious Blood. "I will recount to Thee, O Lord," says the Prophet, "all my years in the bitterness of my soul." Isaias v. 38

Reparation for Others.

The pious soul will endeavor to make reparation to Jesus for the sins of others. The sins of a wicked world, the insults offered to the Blessed Sacrament during the last nineteen centuries, would make an angel weep; all these Jesus foresaw, when for us He instituted the sacrament of His love. Let us try to make reparation to Him for all the sacrileges ever committed — sacrileges, the greatest of all insults to His Sacred Heart. Reparation to Jesus for all the outrages, irreverences, impieties, and blasphemies, of heretics and infidels; to wish to make an Act of Faith in the Real Presence for every heretic and infidel that ever lived and for every moment of their lives; to believe in Jesus for the poor pagans who never heard His sweet name; to love Jesus for the cold bad Catholics who believe in Jesus, but do not love Him; finally, to travel in spirit round the world, and in spirit kneel before every pyxis and tabernacle where Jesus is alone, abandoned and forgotten, and offer Him the praises — of men, angels, and of the Holy Mother: — such is reparation: may Jesus inspire our souls with it.

Acts of Petition.

"Of all kinds of prayer," says St. Liguori, "that of petition is the most indispensable: it is as necessary for the salvation of adults as baptism is for infants." Without the grace of God we cannot be saved. "Without Me," says Christ, "you can do nothing." And God does not give His grace except we ask it. He has again and again promised to grant us what we ask. "All things whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you." Mark xi. 24. Jesus, in the Blessed Sacrament, will grant us all the graces we stand in need of. Let us beg, in the first place, pardon of all our past sins. Wash us still more from our sins, and cleanse us from our iniquities and the grace never again to wound the Sacred Heart of Jesus by mortal sin. Let us beg of Jesus an increase of the love of God, to love Him daily more and more. Let us beg the grace of a holy life, happy death, final perseverance, and lastly an increase of love to the Blessed Sacrament. If we be fervent, Jesus Christ will make known to us what we want, and inspire us to ask it.

When we have prayed for ourselves — when we have obtained our petitions for ourselves — let us think of others. Let us not forget the interests of Jesus in others. If we love Jesus tenderly, we must desire for God's glory to banish sin from the world and to make all mankind love God. Our first prayer is that the Sacred Heart of Jesus may be never more wounded by sacrilege — that sacrilege may be banished from the Church of God. We pray that outrages, impieties, and blasphemies towards the blessed sacrament may forever cease; that the light of God's truth may shine upon heretics and infidels, to believe in the love of the blessed Eucharist. We pray that the love of Jesus be enkindled in the hearts of cold, bad Catholics, to venerate as they ought the holy mysteries, We pray for the poor pagans, that the seeds of Christianity sown in the blood of the martyrs and labors of holy missionaries, may produce the rich harvest of souls; that all nations may know and adore the true God; and we recommend to Jesus, in the blessed sacrament, our holy Father the Pope, the Universal Church, our own dear Irish Church, the exiles of Erin, that none of them may ever lose the faith of St. Patrick.

The soul thus occupied with the interest of Jesus in herself and others, how fast time will fly! A half hour or more will appear only a moment, so sweet is the society of God. "His conversation has no bitterness, his company no tediousness." — Wis. viii. 14. How happy the soul in the presence of her Beloved! How many looks of love to the tabernacle! None but God sees the secret currents of grace from the sacred heart of Jesus to the heart of the pious penitent. None but God and the pious soul know the silent inspirations from the tabernacle. "Give me," says St. Augustine, "a lover, and he will understand what I mean."

The blessing of daily Mass, frequent communion, and daily visits to the most holy sacrament, is the privilege of those living in towns. May they avail themselves of it! Those living in the country, far away from the church where the Blessed Sacrament is preserved, are deprived of these heavenly favors. How are they to manifest their love and gratitude by visits to the Blessed Sacrament? In the first place they have an opportunity of satisfying their devotion to the Blessed Sacrament on all Sundays and holidays, both before and after Mass. On these days the priest carries in his bosom to the chapel the Holy of holies. The lighted candle reminds the faithful of the real presence of Jesus on the altar, and there He remains in all His love. Here is a good opportunity to pay a loving and fervent visit to Jesus, to make up for one's absence during the week. Again, people from the country often come to town on business. They should never lose so good an opportunity of looking into the church to pay a visit to their beloved Lord. To come in specially to pray before the Blessed Sacrament would be time not lost but gained, time well spent time precious at the hour of death.

Besides these and other occasions of actual visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the pious soul can supply all defects of opportunity by visits in spirit. In a former chapter we have seen the advantages of spiritual communion: so also can we pay pious visits in spirit to Jesus in the most holy sacrament. And this holy practice will draw down showers of graces upon our souls. The devout Christian in his humble home, whether by the bleak mountain's side or far away in the bog, can enter the closet of his heart, and kneel in spirit before his Lord. With the eyes of faith he sees Jesus on the altar; he adores and loves Him; he begs His graces and blessings, he elicits the very same acts, and derives the very same advantages, as if he had been really in the actual presence, of the Blessed Sacrament. These spiritual visits can be made at all times and in all places, and are recommended to all, but especially to those living at a distance from the church. How the Sacred Heart of Jesus will dilate to diffuse His graces upon those who thus far away from the altar of His love still remember Him; who thus make their hearts living tabernacles of the blessed sacrament — tabernacles more precious than those of marble, silver, or gold; and who convert, so to speak, their modest dwellings into churches. O the holy of holies! Sacred Heart of Jesus! grant to us all the grace of this holy practice.

Pious Reflection.

My soul! the infinite love of Jesus in the holy Eucharist; his love in the mass, in holy communion, in the blessed sacrament: for thy sake Jesus remains day and night on the altar, to hear thy petitions, to cure thy diseases, to bless thee, to make thee happy, "to refresh thee." How often hast thou been irreverent? How often hast thou forgotten thy God? In love to Jesus, and in reparation to His sacred heart, make and keep the following resolutions:


My Jesus! ever present day and night on the altar, full of mercy and love, I resolve, first, never to pass by a church in which the blessed sacrament is kept without uncovering and bowing my head, and saluting and adoring in my heart the holy Eucharist. Secondly, when I enter such a church, to genuflect to the ground in profound adoration, saying: "I adore and love thee, Jesus Christ, in the most holy sacrament." Thirdly, I resolve to pay a visit of at least a quarter of an hour every day of my life to the Blessed Sacrament. And, lastly, when from any cause I am deprived of this blessing of every day kneeling before Thy altar, I resolve to make amends by visiting thee in Spirit. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament grant, me grace to keep these holy resolutions.

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