Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Apostle of the Eucharist
By Jean M. Heimann
August 2 is the feast of St. Peter Julian Eymard, who is known as the “Apostle of the Eucharist” for his strong devotion to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and for leading both clergy and laypeople to recognize and rediscover the significance of the Eucharist in their daily lives. He shared with others his own belief that the Eucharist is the chief means of progress in the spiritual life — the manna which nourishes the soul in the desert and supplies the strength for the journey of life.
Peter Julian Eymard was born to a poor family in La Mure d’Isère in southeastern France near Grenoble. From early childhood he led a holy life and demonstrated an intense devotion to the Eucharist. One day, five-year-old Peter Julian Eymard secretly strayed from his family home. His sister and half-sister looked everywhere for the boy and finally found him in the parish church, standing on a stool near the tabernacle. When they anxiously questioned him about his mysterious disappearance, he answered simply, “I am here listening to Jesus.”
God called to Peter Julian to religious life at an early age. However, his father insisted that he take over the family business instead and refused to give his permission to allow Peter Julian to enter the priesthood.
When he did eventually enter the seminary at the age of 18, he became so sick that he was sent back home to die. However, Peter Julian made a remarkable recovery and entered the seminary once again at the age of 20 and was ordained to the priesthood in the diocese of Grenoble.
All his life, Peter Julian had an deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Just five years after his ordination, he joined the Marists. During his years as a Marist, he exercised his love for the Eucharist by preaching the Forty Hours in numerous parishes. Then, in January of 1851, he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Fourvières. There he promised the Blessed Virgin Mary that he would found a congregation of priests dedicated to Eucharist Adoration. Later that year, he established his community of men — the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. St. Peter Julian died in 868 and was canonized in 1962, one day after Vatican II’s first session.
“Love cannot triumph unless it becomes the one passion of our life. Without such passion we may produce isolated acts of love; but our life is not really won over or consecrated to an ideal. Until we have a passionate love for our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament we shall accomplish nothing.”
“The Eucharist is the work of a measureless love that has at its service an infinite power, the omnipotence of God.”
“Have a great love for Jesus in his divine Sacrament of Love; that is the divine oasis of the desert. It is the heavenly manna of the traveler. It is the Holy Ark. It is the life and Paradise of love on earth.”
“Hear Mass daily; it will prosper the whole day. All your duties will be performed the better for it, and your soul will be stronger to bear its daily cross. The Mass is the most holy act of religion; you can do nothing that can give greater glory to God or be more profitable for your soul than to hear Mass both frequently and devoutly. It is the favorite devotion of the saints.”
“The Eucharist is the life of the people. The Eucharist gives them a center of life. All can come together without the barriers of race or language in order to celebrate the feast days of the Church. It gives them a law of life, that of charity, of which it is the source; thus it forges between them a common bond, a Christian kinship.”
— St. Peter Julian Eymard
Prayer to Saint Peter Julian Eymard
Saint Peter Julian,
the Lord has given you,
as he once did to Jacob, his servant,
an ever-searching faith.
All your life long, you have sought the way
to deepen your union with God
and to satisfy the hungers of humanity.
In the Eucharist, you have discovered the answer to your searching:
God’s love was there for you and for all humanity.
Answering this gift of love,
you made the gift of yourself to God
and you have given of yourself to the service of his people.
Your life, modeled on that of the Cenacle,
where Mary and the apostles were united in prayer,
inspired your disciples to live in an atmosphere of prayer.
Their apostolic zeal caused them to build Christian communities
where the Eucharist is the center and source of life.
Saint Peter Julian,
accompany us on our journey of faith.
May our ardent prayer and our generous service
help us to contribute to the establishing of a world
where there is justice and peace.
May our celebrations of the Eucharist
proclaim the liberating love of God
for the renewal of his church
and the coming of his kingdom.