ST PETER JULIAN EYMARD
The Catholic Dictionary defines spirituality as "the way an individual
responds through grace to the call of Christ and his invitation to discipleship. This always involves conversion or change of heart on the part of those called by
Christ." On a broader perspective, it has to do with the inner life of an individual. It means nourishing the soul by following saintly principles and living in a way
that brings true peace to the whole person and accord with God's entire creation.
The response of Fr. Eymard to this call of God and his invitation to
discipleship is by the Vow of Personality, Gift of Self. Before Fr. Eymard could respond the call, he had to go through a long and winding road and for sure with
corresponding graces. - from the "Rock of St. Romans" in Chatte, to Lyons during the Corpus Christi procession, to La Seyne- sur-Mer, "grace of donation", the
founding of the two Congregations in Paris, the Great Retreatin Rome.
Foundations of Spiritual Life
Father Eymard emphasized the importance of Baptism, and saw it as
cornerstone of his life and vocation. He cites St. Paul's words that baptised persons "have put on Christ, they have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires, they have been buried with Christ".
During his Great Retreat in Rome he wrote:
"I made my meditation on the gratuitous and all-merciful
grace of the Holy Baptism I received. I understood what it is: a new creation in our Lord Jesus Christ, a second life in Jesus
Christ, but in Jesus crucified. (Gal.3.27) [...] I saw the immense graces that made up the dowry of my Baptism: - a
child of God; - a member of Jesus Christ, a child of the Church, a brother of the Saints, - a right to the graces and to the glory of
Jesus Christ." (1st Meditation, Feb. 5, 1865, Great Retreat of Rome)
Further, he wrote: "to live the life of Christ in me is to
give him new birth and growth which is the mission of the Holy Spirit." (1st Meditation, Feb. 6, 1865, Great Retreat of Rome)
His baptism is also the happiest day of his life.
On the anniversary of his Baptism he wrote to his sister
Marianne. "It is such a beautiful day for me, the most beautiful day of my life." (Feb. 5, 1846).
Word of God: Father Eymard was imbued by the Word of God. He
also recognized also that it was Word of God that demanded the gift of his person.
In the course of the Great Retreat of Rome, he comes to a
profound understanding of who the Word of God is and what he wishes to bring about in us. And again St. Paul wrote: "May
the Word of Christ dwell in your hearts."
He was the Word of the Father [cf, Rev. 19:13] He repeated
this divine word with respect, it was divine, holy. He repeated this divine word with love, for it was a grace, spirit and life [Jn 6:63] it is
all - powerful. If my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you [Jn 15~7]. He spoke and it came to be [Ps 33:9].
The words of Jesus Christ were the rays of this sun of truth. I am the light of the world [Jn 8:12]. They were light in the midst of darkness
[...] That is what I must be for my brethren and for my neighbor, the word of Christ [cf. Col. 3:16]. (1st Meditation, Feb 24, 1865, Great
Retreat of Rome.)
Love of God: As Fr. Eymard discovered the love of God, especially
his experience at the "Rock of St. Romans" where he felt the goodness and love of God shown through nature, brought about a
turning point, an important passage in his vision of life and marked his spirituality; he passed from a spirituality centered on penance and
the fear of God to a spirituality centered on God's love.
Imagine perfection as a high mountain and the Christian being
told: "You must climb to [the summit of] mountain of God." There are difficulties and sacrifice along the way, as he climbs,
he slips and falls; there are so many difficulties on the way to perfection! Another person [...] takes wings and flies. The
first one walks, exercising virtues, working out perfection to the smallest detail. This is long, very long, he does make much
progress, he will only reach perfection at the end of his life. The other is St. John, the beloved disciple, he flies like an eagle
[cf. Rev.4:7] with the wings of love. He reaches the summit of the mountain to contemplate our Lord Jesus Christ , his beauty,
his goodness. He speaks with him and sees what he has done for the love of mankind. He wants to know him, to serve him
and love him. He begins by looking at him, and then he loves him and offers himself to him. (Conference to the Servants:
Paris, Tuesday, May 7, 1861, Book 2 - The Cenacle: The Place where we were taught about love)
In the Retreat at St. Maurice our Founder was favored with avivid experience of God's love. He wrote: "God has given me
so many graces up to this day! How he has loved me! To the excess!" (Great Retreat of Rome, 2nd day, 1st Med., April 28, 1868).
Eucharist:The life of Christ we have received in Baptism, develops
and comes to its perfection by means of the Eucharist. The life of Christ in us which we received during baptism has to be nourished.
Therefore we need to eat, to receive communion which Fr. Eymard insists very much.
Through Holy Communion, the life of the communicant is united
sacramentally to that of Jesus Christ and takes its merit and virtue, and ends by being transformed n this way into Jesus Christ.
"This transformation has placed you in him, your heart in his heart, your spirit in his spirit, your will in his will, your body in his body.."
(Conference to the Servants, Paris, February 8, 1860).
During his last retreat at St. Maurice, months before he died,
he meditated on the graces he had received. He wrote: "The greatest grace in my life has been a living faith
in the Most Blessed Sacrament from my childhood." (Great Retreat Rome.2nd day, 2nd Med. April 28, 1868).
More and more Fr. Eymard discovered the Eucharist as the sacrament
of Christ's love, as the ultimate expression of the love of God, who gives himself for us and to us. He felt the intense desire to respond to it through
the gift of himself.
Gift of Self: It is as if my Savior said: In sending Me through the
Incarnation, the Father has torn out of Me every root of self-seeking by leaving Me without a human person uniting Me to a divine Person
in order to make Me live for Him; in the same way, through Communion, you will live for Me, for I shall be living in you. I will
fill your soul with My desires and with My life, which will consume and reduce to nothing everything that is personal to you; so much so
that it will be I instead of you that shall live and shall desire everything in you. Thus you will be entirely invested with Me, My
heart will beat within your body, My soul will act through your soul; your heart will be the receptacle and the pulsation of My heart.
I shall be the person of your personality, and your personality will be the life of My person in you. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ
who lives in me." (Gal. 20:20)(Great Retreat of Rome, 1st Meditation, March 21, 1865)
Before he wrote the meditation cited above, Fr. Eymard during
Thanksgiving on this day of March 21, made the Perpetual vow of Personality to our Lord Jesus Christ in the hands of the Most Blessed Virgin and of St. Joseph,
under the patronage of St. Benedict (his feast):
"Nothing for me as a person - with a prayer for the grace that is
essential to this gift: nothing by me."
In this act one can notice that Fr. Eymard came to a life of total union or
fusion with God.
In the Retreat preached to his religious in Paris in 1867 Fr. Eymard said:
"The content of the gift of self is not new, some saints have lived it. But in no body of men (corps) was it required as pattern of conduct, as a law."
"If you understand this thought well, you will begin in the Church a new way, not in itself [...] but new in practice. We must not be,
remember well, but human shadows, like the human species of which the Blessed Sacrament is the subject. The renunciation is not only of
what one has, but of self; here then is your virtue."
1) Fr. Manuel Barbiero, SSS: Praying 15 Days with St. Peter Julian Eymard, The Apostle of the Eucharist
2) Fr. Andre Guitton, SSS: Peter Julian Eymard: Apostle of the Eucharist
3) Fr. E.C. Nunez, SSS: Retreat Notes of Rome
4) Etudes Sur Les Origines Des Congregations Du Saint-Sacrament : Eymard and the "Vow of Personality"
5) CATHOLIC GOOD NEWS APOSTOLATE