Saint of the Day – 17 May – St Paschal Baylon (1540 (feast of Pentecost) at Torre Hermosa, Aragon, (modern Spain) – 15 May 1592 (feast of Pentecost) at Villa Reale, Spain of natural causes) Franciscan lay brother, Mystic, Contemplate, known as the “Seraph of the Eucharist”. Patron of cooks, shepherds, Eucharistic congresses and organizations (proclaimed by Pope Leo XIII on 28 November 1897), diocese of Segorbe-Castellón de la Plana, Spain, Obado, Bulacan, Philippines. Attributes – The Eucharist, Monstrance, Franciscan habit.
Today, May 17, marks the feast day of Saint Paschal Baylon, mystic, known for his profound devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. While Saint Paschal never became a priest, he is the saint most often thought of in relation to the Holy Eucharist and Pope Leo XIII declared him the patron saint of Eucharistic congresses and associations. He wrote, “There is no more efficacious means than this for nourishing and increasing the piety of the people toward this admirable pledge of love which is a bond of peace and of unity.” Among all those most devoted to the Eucharist, Paschal Baylon seemed to the pope to be “the greatest.”
As a youth, Paschal Baylon tended his family’s sheep. He taught himself to read so that he could pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, the popular prayer book of his day. Paschal disciplined himself to endure the harshness and loneliness of a shepherd’s work. And when his sheep trod on others’ vines, he scrupulously paid for the damage out of his own meager resources.
At twenty-one, St Paschal joined the reformed Franciscans of St. Peter of Alcántara at Loreto. As a lay brother, Paschal for many years served as porter and guestmaster with patience and good humor. John Ximenes, his biographer, reports that he was a model friar, always the first at prayer and never once behaving badly in a relationship. “In no single case,” said Ximenes, “do I remember to have noted even the least fault in him, though I lived with him in several of our houses and was his companion on two long journeys.”
Like other saintly doorkeepers Brother André and Solanus Casey, Paschal gained a reputation for miracles.
For example, Martin Crespo once told how the saint freed him from his determination to take vengeance on his father’s murderers:
“One Good Friday there was a lifelike representation of the descent from the cross. Along with everyone else in town, I followed the crucifix borne in triumph through the streets. In a last ditch effort to get me to repent, my friends boxed me in and forced me to endure the preacher’s address. He concluded his eloquent speech in a pathetic peroration, urging me to forgiveness in memory of our Saviour’s passion. His fine discourse left me unmoved and cold.
“Quit tormenting me,” I exclaimed angrily. “It’s no use. I will not forgive them.” Brother Paschal, whom I had not noticed before, stepped forward. He took me by the arm and drew me aside. “My son,” he said, “have you not just now seen a representation of our Lord’s passion?” Then with a glance that penetrated my soul he said: “For the love of Jesus Crucified, my son, forgive them.”
“Yes, Father,” I replied, hanging my head and weeping. “For the love of God I forgive them with all my heart.” I no longer felt the same person. The crowd anxiously awaited the outcome of our mysterious conference. When Paschal announced that I had forgiven my enemies, they burst into applause.”
We remember Paschal Baylon most as the “Saint of the Blessed Sacrament.” Typically he spent as many hours a day as he could worshiping before the tabernacle. Because of his faithful devotion, the church has named him patron of Eucharistic congresses and conferences. He died in 1592 at the age of fifty-two.
Saint Paschal exhibited an ardent love for Christ and was especially devoted to the Eucharistic Mystery. He traveled from church to church, always on foot, visiting and praying before the Blessed Sacrament, referring to his encounters with “the real presence of Jesus” in these moments. During his prayers, he would often levitate above the floor, so much was his love and zeal for Christ.
Many miracles are attributed to Saint Paschal, including creating fresh-flowing streams by striking the ground, healing, and miraculous charity. Saint Paschal also experienced mystical visions. On one such occasion, while he was out in the fields with his sheep and unable to go to Mass at the nearby monastery, Paschal was waiting for the sound of the Consecration Bell which he always observed in prayer. In his longing to be present at the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, he cried out, “My Master, My adorable Master, Oh that I might see Thee!” Suddenly before him he saw Angels bowed down before a Chalice, with the Blessed Sacrament floating above it. In the Divine Presence of Our Lord, Paschal fell flat on his face and adored God. Then taking courage he gazed upon the beautiful vision.
The “Servant of the Eucharist,” as he was commonly called, died on 17 May Pentecost Sunday, in 1592. His tomb at the Royal Chapel in Villareal, Valencia, Spain immediately became the object of innumerable pilgrimages, even by the king and the nobles of Spain. At his funeral Mass, Saint Paschal’s eyes miraculously opened during the Consecration, adoring the Blessed Sacrament even in death. Since his death, strange occurrences have continued to be reported, known as the “Knocks of St. Paschal.” At first, the knocks came from Paschal’s tomb. Later they came from relics and pictures of the saint. The knocking sound is believed to come as a kind of warning, to let people know that a terrible event was about to take place. It is also said that in Spain and Italy, those who are devoted to Saint Paschal, are warned about their death, days before, so that they may have a chance to receive the Last Sacraments. Beatified by Pope Paul V in 1618, he was Canonised by Pope Alexander VIII on 16 October 1690.