In 1224, an army of soldiers on errand from Frederick II arrived to attack Assisi. St. Clare lived in Assisi with the sisters of her newly formed religious order at the time. In response to the coming invasion, St. Clare—while very ill—went out to meet the soldiers with the Blessed Sacrament in her hands. She placed the Blessed Sacrament on the wall where the invaders could see it. She then fell to her knees and begged God to save her sisters. It is said that she prayed:
“O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now,” she prayed. A voice seemed to answer: “I will keep them always in My care.”
The attackers were then filled with fear and fled from the town as fast as they could without hurting anyone in the process.
In 2014, it became national news that Satanists planned to host a “black mass” at Harvard which was being hosted by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club. There was a great outcry as Catholics rallied around the world through prayer to combat the sacrilegious event. In response, Catholics in the Boston area participated in a Eucharistic procession through the streets near MIT.
In a great show of spiritual power, the priests, religious, and faithful present demonstrated to the world and to the Satanists that true power comes from the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The “black mass” was canceled by Harvard and moved to a local bar where it apparently was not performed in its entirety and without a consecrated host.
Nearly 800 years after St. Clare, Catholics still respond to threats of evil by holding high the Eucharistic Presence of Our Lord. In doing so, we are showing the world Christ Himself body, blood, soul, and divinity who is the ultimate answer to all evil, affliction, sin, and death. He is the source of all power. In the end, it is the higher supernatural order that truly conquers what transpires in the material world as ordained by God. It is this supernatural understanding and vision that we must reclaim to an even greater extent now.
Many priests and some bishops responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by going out to mountain tops, city streets, neighborhoods, and parish steps lifting high Our Eucharistic Lord through Eucharistic processions and Benedictions. These priests and bishops understand that what is taking place in the material world right now has a greater spiritual dimension to it that we must fiercely combat even more than any virus, violence, divisions, war, famine, or other affliction that besets mankind at the material level. To win these battles we must fight the spiritual war raging around us first and foremost.
Unfortunately, this was not the normative response in many dioceses as countless Catholics found themselves without access to the Sacraments or even private prayer before the Tabernacle with the Real Presence during this time of great suffering and darkness. The saints down through the ages show us the power of Our Lord in His Eucharistic Presence in combating pandemics, wars, famine, and other sufferings. Our world is broken, wounded, and dying. It is only Christ who can heal souls. We cannot lock Him up in our churches separated from His people and the numerous souls in need of saving in the world.
To lift up the monstrance housing the Blessed Sacrament is to lift high Christ on the Cross, which is the source of our redemption. It is to show Our Crucified and Glorified Lord to a dying world that is still marred by sin and death. This is the power St. Clare asked Christ to unleash on the coming invaders. Not a violent retaliation or fleeing from danger, but rather, His Real Presence protecting them through His divine power. She trusted completely in Him. It is this trust and faith in Him that is essential for us today.
With the majority of Catholics denying the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, we live in an age of great spiritual danger. If we are indifferent, and even desecrating the Blessed Sacrament through our unbelief and lack of love as Catholics, then we cannot hope to evangelize our own broken culture or respond as Christian disciples to the great afflictions ravaging the world.
St. Peter Julian Eymard said, “Let us never forget that an age prospers or dwindles in proportion to its devotion to the Holy Eucharist. This is the measure of its spiritual life and its faith, of its charity and its virtue.” These are strong words to an age when nearly 70% of Catholics deny the Real Presence.
The danger for all of us is to forget the real power of the Holy Eucharist. When faced with the risk of death in a pandemic it is easy to flee to our homes and leave the world behind. The priests and bishops who have held high the Blessed Sacrament throughout the world in response to this great trial and testing know better. They see with the supernatural vision of faith. We cannot abandon the world. We must go out to the world with Our Eucharistic Lord. He wants to be with His people and He wants to save souls in a time when so many are dying spiritual deaths.
Do we have the faith of St. Clare who was willing to stake her life, the lives of all of her sisters, and Assisi on divine assistance from Christ in His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist? If we have faith in God and trust in Him, then He will unleash tremendous graces through our priests lifting high His Real Presence in our communities. This is the Eucharistic response saints have shown us down through the ages and we must do the same in our own day.