There has never been in the history of the Church a time, where the sacrament of the Eucharist has been abused and outraged to such an alarming and grievous extent as in the past five decades, especially since the official introduction and Papal approval in 1969 of the practice of Communion in the hand. These abuses are aggravated, furthermore, by the widespread practice in many countries of faithful who, not having received the sacrament of Penance for many years, nevertheless regularly receive Holy Communion. The height of the abuses of the Holy Eucharist is seen in the admittance to Holy Communion of couples who are living in a public and objective state of adultery, violating thereby their indissoluble valid sacramental marriage bonds, as in the case of the so-called “divorced and remarried”, such admittance being in some regions officially legalized by specific norms, and, in the case of the Buenos Aires region in Argentina, norms even approved by the Pope. Additionally to these abuses comes the practice of an official admittance of Protestant spouses in mixed marriages to Holy Communion, e.g., in some dioceses in Germany.
To say that the Lord is not suffering because of the outrages committed against Him in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist can lead to a minimizing of the great atrocities committed. Some people say: God is offended by the abuse of the Blessed Sacrament, but the Lord does not personally suffer. This is, however, theologically and spiritually too narrow a view. Although Christ is now in His glorious state and hence no more subject to suffering in a human way, He nevertheless is affected and touched in His Sacred Heart by the abuses and outrages against the Divine majesty and the immensity of His Love in the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lord has expressed to some Saints His complaints and His sorrow about the sacrileges and outrages with which men offend Him. One can understand this truth from the words of the Lord spoken to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, as Pope Pius XI reports in his Encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor:
“When Christ manifested Himself to Margaret Mary, and declared to her the infinitude of His love, at the same
ti.me, in the manner of a mourner, He complained that so many and such great injuries were done to Him by
ungrateful men—and we would that these words in which He made this complaint were fixed in the minds of the
faithful, and were never blotted out by oblivion: “Behold this Heart”—He said—”which has loved men so much and
has loaded them with all benefits, and for this boundless love has had no return but neglect, and contumely,
and this often from those who were bound by a debt and duty of a more special love.” (n. 12)
Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité gave a profound theological explanation of the meaning of the “suffering” or “sadness” of God because of the offenses the sinners commit against Him:
This “‘suffering,’” this “‘sadness’” of the Heavenly Father, or of Jesus since His Ascension, are to be
understood analogically. They are not suffered passively as with us, but on the contrary freely willed and
chosen as the ultimate expression of Their mercy towards sinners called to conversion. They are only a
manifestation of God’s love for sinners, a love which is sovereignly free and gratuitous, and which is not
irrevocable.” (The Whole Truth About Fatima, vol. I, pp. 1311-1312)
This analogical spiritual meaning of the “sadness” or the “suffering” of Jesus in the Eucharistic mystery is confirmed by the words of the Angel in his apparition in 1916 to the children of Fatima and especially by the words and the example of the life of St. Francisco Marto. The children were invited by the Angel to make reparation for offenses against the Eucharistic Jesus and to console Him, as we can read in the Memoirs of Sister Lucia:
While we were there, the Angel appeared to us for the third time, holding a chalice in his hands, with a host above it from which some drops of blood were falling into the sacred vessel. Leaving the chalice and the host suspended in the air, the Angel prostrated himself on the ground and repeated this prayer three times: ‘“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit…’ Then, rising, he once more took the chalice and the host in his hands. He gave the host to me, and to Jacinta and Francisco he gave the contents of the chalice to drink, saying as he did so: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God.” (Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words. Sister Lucia’s Memoirs, Fatima 2007, p. 172)
Reporting about the third Apparition on July 13, 1917, Sister Lucia stressed how Francisco perceived the mystery of God and the necessity to console Him because of the offenses of the sinners:
What made the most powerful impression on him [Francisco] and what wholly absorbed him, was God, the Most Holy Trinity, perceived in that light which penetrated our inmost souls. Afterwards, he said: “We were on fire in that light which is God, and yet we were not burnt! What is God?… We could never put it into words. Yes, that is something indeed which we could never express! But what a pity it is that He is so sad! If only I could console Him!” (Sister Lucia’s Memoirs, p. 147)
Sister Lucia wrote how Francisco perceived the necessity to console God, whom he understood to be “sad” because of the sins of men:
I asked him one day: “Francisco, which do you like better—to console Our Lord, or to convert sinners, so that no more souls will go to hell?” “I would rather console Our Lord. Didn’t you notice how sad Our Lady was that last month, when she said that people must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already much offended? I would like to console Our Lord, and after that convert sinners so that they won’t offend Him any more.” (Sister Lucia’s Memoirs, p. 156)
In his prayers and in the offering of his sufferings St. Francisco Marto gave priority to the intention of “consoling the Hidden Jesus,” i.e. the Eucharistic Lord. Sister Lucia reported these words of Francisco, which he said to her: “When you come out of school, go and stay for a little while near the Hidden Jesus, and afterwards come home by yourself.” When Lucia asked Francisco about his sufferings, he answered: “I’m suffering to console Our Lord. First I make it to console Our Lord and Our Lady, and then, afterwards, for sinners and for the Holy Father. … More than anything else I want to console Him.” (Sister Lucia’s Memoirs, p. 157; 163)
Jesus Christ continues in a mysterious way his Passion in Gethsemane throughout the ages in the mystery of His Church and also in the Eucharistic mystery, the mystery of His immense Love. Known is the expression of Blaise Pascal: “Jesus will be in agony even to the end of the world. We must not sleep during that time.” (Pensées, n. 553) Cardinal Karol Wojtyła left us a profound reflection on the mystery of Christ’s sufferings in Gethsemane, which in a certain sense continue in the life of the Church. Cardinal Wojtyła spoke also about the duty of the Church to console Christ:
And now the Church seeks to recover that hour in Gethsemane—the hour lost by Peter, James and John—so as to compensate for the Master’s lack of companionship which increased his soul’s suffering. The desire to recover that hour has become a real need for many hearts, especially for those who live as fully as they can the mystery of the divine heart. The Lord Jesus allows us to meet him in that hour [and] he invites us to share the prayer of his heart. Faced with all the trials that man and the Church have to undergo, there is a constant need to return to Gethsemane and undertake that sharing in the prayer of Christ our Lord.” (Sign of Contradiction, chapter 17, “The prayer in Gethsemane”)
Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic mystery is not indifferent and insensitive towards the behavior which men show in His regard in this Sacrament of Love. Christ is present in this Sacrament also with His soul, which is hypostatically united with His Divine Person. The Roman theologian Antonio Piolanti presented a sound theological explanation in this regard. Even if the body of Christ in the Eucharist cannot see nor sensibly feel what happens or what is said in the place of his sacramental presence, Christ in the Eucharist “hears all and sees with superior knowledge.” Piolanti then quotes Cardinal Franzelin:
The blessed humanity of Christ sees all things in themselves by virtue of the abundant infused knowledge due to the Redeemer of mankind, to the Judge of the living and the dead, to the Firstborn of every creature, to the Center of all celestial and earthly history. All these treasures of the beatific vision and of the infused knowledge are certainly in the soul of Christ, also in so far as it is present in the Eucharist. In addition to these reasons, by another special title, precisely as the soul of Christ is formally in the Eucharist, for the same purpose of the institution of the mystery, it sees all men’s hearts, all thoughts and affections, all virtues and all sins, all the needs of the whole Church and of the individual members, the labors, the anxieties, the persecutions, the triumphs—in a word, all the internal and external life of the Church, His Bride, nourished with His flesh and with His Precious Blood. So by a threefold title (if we can say so) Christ in the sacramental state sees and in a certain divine way perceives all the thoughts and affections, the worship, the homages and also the insults and sins of all men in general, of all his faithful specifically and his priests in particular; He perceives homages and sins that directly refer to this ineffable mystery of love. (De Eucharistia, pp. 199-200, cited in Il Mistero Eucaristico, Firenze 1953, pp. 225-226)
One of the greatest apostles of the Eucharist of modern times, St. Peter Julian Eymard, left us the following profound reflections on the affections of the sacrificial love of Christ in the Eucharist:
By instituting His Sacrament, Jesus perpetuated the sacrifices of His Passion. … He was acquainted with all the new Judases; He counted them among His own, among His well-beloved children. But nothing of all this could stop Him; He wanted His love to go further than the ingratitude and malice of man; He wanted to outlive man’s sacrilegious malice. He knew beforehand the lukewarmness of His followers: He knew mine; He knew what little fruit we would derive from Holy Communion. But He wanted to love just the same, to love more than He was loved, more than man could make return for. Is there anything else? But is it nothing to have adopted this state of death when He has the fullness of life, a glorified and supernatural life? Is it nothing to be treated and considered as one dead? In this state of death Jesus is without beauty, motion or defense; He is wrapped in the Sacred Species as in a shroud and laid in the tabernacle as in a tomb. He is there, however; He sees everything and hears everything. He submits to everything as though He were dead. His love casts a veil over His power, His glory, His hands, His feet, His beautiful face and His sacred lips; it has hidden everything. It has left Him only His Heart to love us and His state of victim to intercede in our behalf. (The Real Presence, 29. The Most Blessed Sacrament is not Loved!, III)
St. Peter Julian Eymard wrote the following moving and almost mystical profession of the Eucharistic love of Christ, with an ardent appeal for Eucharistic reparation:
The Heart which endured the sufferings with so much love is here in the Blessed Sacrament; it is not dead, but living and active; not insensible, but still more affectionate. Jesus can no longer suffer, it is true; but alas! man can still be guilty towards Him of monstrous ingratitude. We see Christians despise Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament and show contempt for the Heart which has so loved them and which consumes itself with love for them. To spurn Him freely they take advantage of the veil that hides Him. They insult Him with their irreverences, their sinful thoughts, and their criminal glances in His presence. To express their disdain for Him they avail themselves of His patience, of the kindness that suffers everything in silence as it did with the impious soldiery of Caiphas, Herod, and Pilate. They blaspheme sacrilegiously against the God of the Eucharist. They know that His love renders Him speechless. They crucify Him even in their guilty souls. They receive Him. They dare take this living Heart and bind it to a foul corpse. They dare deliver it to the devil who is their lord! No! Never even in the days of His Passion has Jesus received so many humiliations as in His Sacrament! Earth for Him is a Calvary of ignominy. In His agony He sought a consoler; on the Cross He asked for someone to sympathize with His afflictions. Today, more than ever, we must make amends, a reparation of honor, to the adorable Heart of Jesus. Let us lavish our adorations and our love on the Eucharist. To the Heart of Jesus living in the Most Blessed Sacrament be honor, praise, adoration, and kingly power for ever and ever! (The Real Presence, 43. The Sacred Heart of Jesus, III)
In his last encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II left us luminous exhortations with which he stressed the extraordinary sanctity of the Eucharistic mystery and the duty of the faithful to treat this sacrament with utmost reverence and ardent love. Of all his exhortations, this statement stands out: “There can be no danger of excess in our care for this mystery, for ‘in this sacrament is recapitulated the whole mystery of our salvation’ (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 83, a. 4c).” (n. 61)
It would be a pastorally urgent and spiritually fruitful measure for the Church to establish in all dioceses of the world an annual “Day of Reparation for the crimes against the Most Holy Eucharist.” Such a day could be the octave day of the Feast of Corpus Christi. The Holy Spirit will give special graces of renewal to the Church in our days when, and only when, the Eucharistic Body of Christ will be adored with all Divine honors, will be loved, will be carefully treated and defended as really the Holiest of Holies. Saint Thomas Aquinas says in the hymn Sacris sollemniis: “O Lord, visit us to the extent that we venerate you in this sacrament” (sic nos Tu visita, sicut Te colimus). And we can say without doubt: O Lord, you will visit your Church in our days to the extent that the modern practice of Communion in the hand will recede and to the extent that we offer to you acts of reparation and love.
In the current so-called “COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency,” horrible abuses of the Most Blessed Sacrament have increased still more. Many dioceses around the world mandated Communion in the hand, and in those places the clergy, in an often humiliating manner, deny the faithful the possibility to receive the Lord kneeling and on the tongue, thus demonstrating a deplorable clericalism and exhibiting the behavior of rigid neo-Pelagians. Furthermore, in some places the adorable Eucharistic Body of Christ is distributed by the clergy and received by the faithful with household or disposable gloves. The treating of the Blessed Sacrament with gloves suitable for treating garbage is an unspeakable Eucharistic abuse.
In view of the horrible maltreatments of Our Eucharistic Lord—He being continuously trampled under foot because of Communion in the hand, during which almost always little fragments of the host fall on the floor; He being treated in a minimalistic manner, deprived of sacredness, like a cookie, or treated like garbage by the use of household gloves—no true Catholic bishop, priest or lay faithful can remain indifferent and simply stand by and watch.
There must be initiated a world-wide crusade of reparation to and consolation of the Eucharistic Lord. As a concrete measure to offer to the Eucharistic Lord urgently needed acts of reparation and consolation, each Catholic could promise to offer monthly at least one full hour of Eucharistic adoration, either before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle or before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance. The Holy Scripture says: “Where sin abounded, grace did more abound” (Rm. 5:20) and we can add analogously: “Where Eucharistic abuses abounded, acts of reparation will more abound.”
The day when, in all the churches of the Catholic world, the faithful will receive the Eucharistic Lord, veiled under the species of the little sacred host, with true faith and a pure heart, in the biblical gesture of adoration (proskynesis), that is, kneeling, and in the attitude of a child, opening the mouth and allowing oneself to be fed by Christ Himself in the spirit of humility, then undoubtedly will the authentic spiritual springtime of the Church come closer. The Church will grow in the purity of the Catholic Faith, in the missionary zeal of salvation of souls, and in the holiness of the clergy and the faithful. In deed, the Lord will visit His Church with His graces to the extent that we venerate Him in His ineffable sacrament of love (sic nos Tu visita, sicut Te colimus).
God grant that through the Eucharistic crusade of reparation, there may increase the number of adorers, lovers, defenders, and consolers of the Eucharistic Lord. May the two little Eucharistic apostles of our time, St. Francisco Marto and the soon-to-be-Blessed Carlo Acutis (beatification on October 10, 2020), and all of the Eucharistic saints, be the protectors of this Eucharistic crusade. For, as St. Peter Julian Eymard reminds us, the irrevocable truth is this: “An age prospers or dwindles in proportion to its devotion to the Eucharist. This is the measure of its spiritual life, faith, charity, and virtue.”
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana