Saint of the Day – 17 May – St Paschal Baylon O.F.M. (1540-1592) professed Franciscan Religious Brother of the Order of Lay Brothers Minor, Mystic, Contemplate, Apostle of the Eucharist and Mary, Apostle of the Sick and the poor, known as the “Seraph of the Eucharist”, “Saint of the Blessed Sacrament, “Servant of the Blessed Sacrament.” St Paschal was born on 24 May 1540 (feast of Pentecost) at Torre Hermosa, Aragon, (modern Spain) and he died on 15 May 1592 (feast of Pentecost) at Villa Reale, Spain of natural causes. Patronages – cooks, shepherds, Eucharistic congresses and organisations (proclaimed by Pope Leo XIII on 28 November 1897), Shepherds, Male Children and Priesthood Vocation, Eucharistic Adoration, diocese of Segorbe-Castellón de la Plana, Spain, Obado, Bulacan, Philippines. Attributes – The Eucharist, Monstrance, Franciscan habit. Like his holy father of the Franciscans, St Francis of Assisi, St Paschal is best known for his strong and deep devotion to the Eucharist, which manifested in his childhood.
In Paschal’s lifetime the Spanish empire in the New World was at the height of its power, though France and England were soon to reduce its influence. The 16th century has been called the Golden Age of the Church in Spain, for it gave birth to Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Peter of Alcantara, Francis Solano, Salvator of Horta, St John of Avila and many others.
Paschal’s Spanish parents were poor and pious. Between the ages of seven and 24 he worked as a shepherd and began a life of mortification. He was able to pray on the job and was especially attentive to the church bell, which rang at the Elevation during Mass. Paschal had a very honest streak in him. He once offered to pay owners of crops for any damage his animals caused!
In 1564, Paschal joined the Friars Minor and gave himself wholeheartedly to a life of penance. Though he was urged to study for the priesthood, he chose to be a brother. At various times he served as porter, cook, gardener and official beggar.
Paschal was careful to observe the vow of poverty. He would never waste any food or anything given for the use of the friars. When he was porter and took care of the poor coming to the door, he developed a reputation for great generosity. The friars sometimes tried to moderate his liberality!
Paschal spent his spare moments praying before the Blessed Sacrament. In time, many people sought his wise counsel. It was Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, that gave St Paschal great wisdom. He was hardly able to read and write but he was able to hold intelligent conversations with learned doctors in theology. Some of the theologians felt that Paschal was inspired by God. The priests of the monastery used to ask his advice about preaching. When the saint spoke about the Birth of Jesus and the Last Supper, it was as though he had been present at these events.
On Whit-Sunday, in 1592, St Paschal turned fifty-two years old. He knew that death was near and tried to put his habit on but being very weak he fell to the floor. Just then, a Brother entered. He placed the habit on Paschal and put him in bed.
During this time the monks told Paschal that Mass had started and his heart was filled with joy. As the monastery bell was ringing for the Elevation of the Host, the dying saint said, “Jesus, Jesus,” and then breathed his last. The news of his death spread like fire over the whole country.
On the day of St Paschal’s funeral Mass, a wonderful miracle took place. Paschal opened his eyes from the coffin and looked at the Host and the Chalice during the elevation of the Mass – He adored God publicly, even though he was dead.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about St Paschal, are the strange happenings 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. Sometimes the knocks have 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 St Paschal, are warned about their death, days before, so that they may have a chance to receive the Last Sacraments.
People flocked to his tomb immediately after his burial; miracles were reported promptly. Paschal was Canonised in 1690 and was named patron of Eucharistic congresses and societies in 1897.
More on St Paschal here: https://anastpaul.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/saint-of-the-day-17-may-st-paschal-baylon/