One morning at Mass, a little boy went up to Holy Communion with his mother. Seeing that others were receiving Jesus, he held out his hands to receive our Lord. The deacon, realizing that the boy hadn’t made his First Communion yet, offered the child a blessing. However, the little boy kept raising his hands entreatingly, until his mother gently nudged him back to their pew. At the end of Mass, the priest said “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all longed to receive the Holy Eucharist as much as that little boy?”
On May 13, we celebrate two great Marian Feasts: Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Fatima. Following the apparitions of Our Lady, the Fatima children longed to receive Jesus in Holy Communion and spend time with Him in Eucharistic Adoration. When St. Francisco Marto went to school he was delighted because he could visit Jesus in the Holy Eucharist often. He said, “before the tabernacle it is much easier to ask God for His help.” St. Francisco loved the “Hidden Jesus,” as he called Our Lord, and offered many rosaries, prayers, and sacrifices.
St. Jacinta Marto also visited Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament frequently. She prayed many rosaries and offered penances for poor sinners, such as fasting from food and water. Although St. Jacinta suffered from various illnesses, she didn’t complain. When she learned that she was finally able to receive her First Communion, she said, “now that Our Lord is coming, nothing matters.” In the hospital, St. Jacinta was thrilled to be able to visit Jesus and she would gaze at Him in the tabernacle for as long as she was permitted.
Lucia de Jesus dos Santos was so excited to receive her First Communion that she couldn’t sleep. She called it “a great day,” and was devoted to our Eucharistic Lord and the Blessed Mother throughout her life. Her last vision of the Holy Trinity and Our Lady occurred while she was making a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. How fitting, since the Fatima visions began with the Angel leading the children in prostrating themselves in adoration before the Sacred Host and Chalice.
When Our Lady appeared to the children, she asked them to pray with her: “O Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee! My God, My God, I love Thee in the Blessed Sacrament!” Mother Mary continues to lead the faithful to adoration of her Eucharistic Son globally. In his stunning new book The World of Marian Apparitions, Wincenty Laszewski chronicles Our Lady’s visits and messages from Fatima to today.
Devotion to Our Lady and the Holy Eucharist are intertwined in the lives of the saints. Consider the example of St. Peter Julian Eymard. When his mother was pregnant with him, she would go to adoration at the nearby Church and dedicate him to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. After Peter Julian’s birth, she brought him to daily adoration and, when he was only four years old, he could be found praying there alone. One day, having searched all over for little Peter Julian, his half-sister found him there kneeling on a stool behind the altar deep in prayer. When she asked him what he was doing he replied, “Saying my prayers. I am nearer to Jesus and I am listening to Him!”
St. Peter Julian began his priestly life in the Society of Mary. Our Blessed Mother drew him closer to her Eucharistic Son. Then, Jesus spoke these words to his heart: “Ask permission to establish a religious society of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.” Our Lady told St. Peter Julian: “All the mysteries of my Son have a religious order of men to honor them. The Eucharist alone has none.” With the encouragement of Pope Pius IX, St. Peter Julian founded the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament on May 13, 1856.
The title of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament was first given to Mary by St. Peter Julian in May 1868. A few years later he described what her statue should look like: “The Blessed Virgin holds the Infant in her arms; and He holds a chalice in one hand and a Host in the other.” He exhorted faithful to offer the invocation to Mary “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, pray for us who have recourse to thee!” On December 30, 1905, St. Pius X granted a 300 days indulgence to the faithful who pray: “Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, pray for us.”
In 1921 the Sacred Congregation of Rites authorized a “solemn commemoration of the Blessed Virgin” yearly on May 13, with the intention of honoring Mary under the title of “Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament.” St. Pius X underscored this, saying, “This title, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, is perhaps the most meaningful of all.”
One lesser known appearance of our Blessed Mother, which further testifies to her role in leading us to Jesus Eucharistic, occurred in Ngome, located in the Zulu region of South Africa, in 1955. The visionary, Sr. Reinolda May, a Benedictine nun, recalls that “Upon her [Mary’s] breast rested a large host, surrounded by a brilliant corona radiating life. She was a living monstrance. Mary stood upon a globe.” In The World of Marian Apparitions, Laszewski further describes:
The Mother of God said to the visionary: “Call me ‘Tabernacle of the Most High.’” After a moment, even more amazing words came from her lips: “You, too, are such a tabernacle.” Sr. Reinolda took this to mean that, when we receive the Eucharist, our hearts also become vessels for Christ’s presence. We ourselves become monstrances.
“I wish to be called upon by this title for the glory of my Son,” she continued. “I wish that more such tabernacles be prepared; I mean human hearts.” Then, she explained, “I wish that the altars be surrounded by praying people more frequently.”
Our Lady appeared to Sr. Reinolda several more times, again affirming her mission to lead souls to the Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. “I want to save the world through the Host, my fruit. I am completely one with the Host as I was one with Jesus under the Cross.” The Blessed Mother implored the faithful:
“Be hosts. Prepare hosts for me—hosts who put themselves completely at my disposal. Only a flaming sea of hosts can drive back the hate of the godless world and restrain the angry hand of the Father. Do not get tired. I find consolation in revealing myself to you. I shall never abandon you.”
As in many of her apparitions, Mary requested a shrine to be built for Jesus to be adored. In 1966, the “Mary, Tabernacle of the Most High” shrine was constructed. Over the years, the South African Bishops investigated and, subsequently, encouraged pilgrimages to the sanctuary.
Mother Mary asks us to become completely at her disposal, like little children. She wants us to long for Jesus’ Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist and to bring others to His dwelling in Eucharistic Adoration. When the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest, Our Lord reminded them, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) May we draw close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament like little children and lead others to loving adoration of Him.
Image: TURIN, ITALY – MARCH 16, 2017: The painting of Madonna of Eucharist (“Nostra Signora del SS. Sacramento”) and San Pier Giuliano Eymard (1927) in Chiesa di Santa Maria di Piazza by unknown artist. Shutterstock/Renata Sedmakova