Correspondence course model
This page is a quick adaptation of Sr. Elizabeth Charpy's correspondence course.
Vincentian Spirituality: A Correspondence Course with Sr. Elisabeth Charpy, D.C.
5. The Eucharist
Study of the Theme
The Eucharist, Prolongation of the Incarnation
“While Our Savior was living on the earth, He focused all His thoughts on the salvation of souls, and He continues still in the same sentiments, because it is there that He finds the Will of His Father. He came and He continues to come to us every day for this same reason.” XI.74
This important text shows us the thought processes of Vincent de Paul. St. Vincent not only adores in the host the Lord who died and has risen, but also the Savior who has been sent and is present today in the world and in human beings.
1. The Incarnation is not an event of the past. It is an eternal mystery. The Eucharist brings it to life in the world, in the Church, in each baptized person… 2. Through the Eucharist, the Lord pursues His work of salvation, of liberation, of healing. 3. Christ wants to be active among us. “He comes to us for that reason,” says St. Vincent. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive Jesus, the ever-active One. He comes to us, in fact, in order to build up, in order to edify, in order to bring to completion, our salvation.
B. The Eucharist, sacrament of presence and of meeting
Vincent de Paul suggests the requirements of our participation in order to bring us to the action of God Who saves.
1. To become, according to St. Vincent’s very beautiful expression, “a land of Incarnation”—Incarnated people. 2. To be emptied of oneself in order to be ready to be enriched with God. 3. Total devotion to the Eucharist is an invitation to commit oneself to build up the world and to serve our brothers and sisters. We live well only as “having been poured out or given (to others).”
Texts to be Studied
Sermon on Communion (undated)
The Eternal Father has demonstrated with what care we ought to dispose ourselves for receiving our Creator into our souls, since He Himself on sending Christ into the world, wished to prepare for Him a palace filled with every perfection; this palace was the virginal womb of His Blessed Mother. The Holy Spirit wished also to show this same respect that we owe to the Body of Our Lord, since having rejected the natural means for the formation of this Body, He wished that He Himself would bring it about while using the purest of the blood of the Virgin. If the Father and the Holy Spirit have wished so much to contribute to this preparation, what ought not human beings contribute to it since Jesus wished to do them this favor of communicating Himself to them, with consideration even for the conditions of both--of the one who receives and of the thing received, the former being a poor worm of the earth and a simple vapor while the latter is infinite and all-powerful! And we ought not to excuse ourselves on the basis of what great pomp and show it seems that the action requires, and what extraordinary sound should respond to this so extraordinary action. No, only the disposition of the heart is necessary for it, a forgetfulness of past vanities, a lively awareness of the great love which God has shown for us in this sacrament and a reciprocal and corresponding love on our part, which can be given without stirring from one’s place.
Our Lord instituted this august Sacrament, the true basis and center of our religion, the night before His Passion, by a solemn testament which He made in the presence of the Apostles, because He thought He could only fully express the love which He has for human beings by leaving to them His Body. He did this so that, as we have been reconciled to God through His Passion and death, we may experience their effects every day by receiving His Body, since the poverty of human beings is so great that, if they do not have an antidote for their souls, they easily allow themselves to fall prey to their evil inclinations and to their corrupted and depraved senses.
O worthy and admirable institution, which exceeds the capacity of human understanding, which the angels can only admire and no tongue can express, or any understanding comprehend, how worthy are you of great veneration, since an infinite God wishes to abase Himself so much as to allow Himself to be held within a finite creature, that He Whom the heavens cannot comprehend, Who is carried on the wings of the wind, wishes to compress his admirable grandeur within a poor worthless soul, that the sun itself withdraws its splendor from this little hiding place of the human breast! No, this is a matter which cannot be done, nor ought it even to be thought about; for what is there in the world so extraordinary." XIII. 30-32
Conference to the Daughters of Charity—July31,1634
Go to Holy Mass every day, but go with great devotion, and comport yourselves in church with great modesty, and be an example of virtue to all those who see you. My daughters, you must be reverent in church and especially during Holy Mass. What do you think you are doing while you are there? It is not the priest alone who offers the Holy Sacrifice, but also those who assist at it; and I am sure that when you have been well instructed, you will have great devotion; for it is the center of devotion.
My daughters, know that when you leave prayer and Holy Mass for the service of the poor, you will lose nothing, since to serve the poor is to go to God; and you ought to look upon God in the persons of the poor. Be then, very careful of all that is necessary for them, and watch out particularly for the help which you can give them for their salvation:; that they do not die without the sacraments. You are not only there for their bodies, but in order to help them be saved. Especially exhort them to make general confessions; put up with their little whims; encourage them to suffer well for the love of God; never become angry with them and do not at all say rude things to them. They have enough to do to suffer their own difficulties. Think that you are their visible guardian angel, their father and mother, and do not contradict them when something is repugnant to them; for in that way it is a cruelty to grant them what they are asking. Weep with them; God has established your Company to be their consolation. XI. 5-6
To the Priests of the Mission (undated)
It is not enough that we celebrate Mass; but we ought also to offer this sacrifice with the greatest devotion that is possible for us, according to the Will of God, conforming ourselves as much as we can, with His grace, to Jesus Christ, offering Himself, when He was on earth, in sacrifice to His Eternal Father. Let us strive then, Gentlemen, to offer our sacrifices to God in the same spirit as Our Lord offered His, and as perfectly as our poor and miserable nature can allow.
Exhortation to a dying Brother 1645
This lover of our hearts, seeing that, through misfortune, sin had spoiled and erased this likeness, wished to break all the laws of nature in order to repair this damage, but with an advantage so marvelous that He did not content Himself to place in us the likeness and the character of His divinity, but even wished, with the very plan that we love Him, to become like us and to clothe Himself even with our humanity. And who would wish to deny such a just and salutary duty?
Furthermore, as love is inventive even to infinity, after being nailed to the infamous wood of the cross in order to gain the souls and hearts of those by whom he wished to be loved, not to speak of other and innumerable stratagems altogether of which he made use to this end during his sojourn among us, foreseeing that his absence could occasion some forgetfulness or coldness in our hearts, He wanted to avoid this inconvenience and institute the very august sacrament, in which He is truly and substantially found as He is in heaven.
But, furthermore, seeing that, if He wanted to abase Himself and to humiliate Himself even more than He had done in His Incarnation, in some way He could make Himself more like us, or at least make us more like Him, He caused that this venerable sacrament serve us as food and drink, intending, by this means, that the same union and likeness which is made between nature and substance, the same be made spiritually in each person. Because love can do and wishes to do all things, He willed it thus; and for fear that human beings, not understanding well this unheard of mystery and stratagem of love, would come to neglect to approach this sacrament, He obliged them to do so under pain of incurring His eternal disgrace: “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man, you will not have life in you .(Jn 6,54). XI.145-146
Conference to the Daughters of Charity-January 22, 1646
One of the good things which happen to us following a Communion well made is, my daughters, to become the same thing as God. What, a poor Daughter of Charity, who, before her Communion was what she truly is, that is to say, a very little thing of herself, becomes the same thing as God! Ah! My daughters, who would wish to neglect this good! Oh! What a grace! What do you think that it is, my daughters, unless the forerunner of a blessed eternity! Could we understand, my dear Sisters, something greater! Oh! No, that a poor, worthless creature be united to a God; oh! may He be blessed forever!
I go on from this point on which I will not stop any longer, in order to say to you, my daughters, that one of the marks of a Communion well made is peace and tranquility of heart. In the person who has thus communicated well, this peace proceeds from the confidence that she has done what she could, without her conscience making any reproach to her. O my daughters, it is true that it is a mark nearly always infallible and assured. And how, my daughters, could the soul in grace, united to God in this Holy Sacrament, not possess a true peace, since it was often one of the first graces that Our Lord gave, when He was on earth! IX. 237
Conference to the Daughters of Charity—January 22, 1646 (contd.)
My daughters, one of the reasons which comes to mind and which I find very important for what concerns your vocation is that you are destined by God to prepare souls to die well. Do you think, my daughters, that God is expecting you only to carry to His poor a piece of bread, a little meat, some soup and medicine? Oh! no, no, my daughters, it was not His plan in choosing you to render to Him the service that you render in the person of the poor; He is expecting you to provide for their spiritual needs, as well as their corporal ones. They need spiritual manna; they need the Spirit of God.
And where will You take Him in order to communicate Him to them? It is, my daughters, in Holy Communion. The great and the small, my daughters, need Him. That is why you must have a particular care of preparing yourself to receive this Divine Spirit abundantly.
O my daughters, I have spoken to you many times, but never of more important things. Take guard, I beg you, and consider the grandeur of God’s plan for you: that He wishes that you, poor daughters, without ability or education, that you are to cooperate with Him in order to communicate His spirit! O my daughters, do not neglect this grace, I beg you. But let us approach this fire in order to be first set ablaze and then, by our charity and good example to draw others to it. Know, my daughters, that the chief virtue of the Daughters of Charity is to communicate well; and remember that the principal preparation is to confess your sins and to be detached from bad habits and from all attachments, as parents, friends and places where your inclination could carry you. IX. 239-240
Conference to the Daughters of Charity-October 22, 1646
Among the means for loving God, there are Confession and Holy Communion. O my daughters, these are great means; they will infallibly draw upon you graces sufficient to help you to put up with and excuse the faults of others and to amend your own. Approach then, my daughters, these sacraments, in the name of God. Have you noticed that you have fallen, oh! have recourse to Confession; go to Holy Communion each time that the goodness of God allows you.
-But I don’t have the taste for it!
-Oh! that doesn’t matter, do not let it go by. It is God who calls us. There is no remedy more efficacious against the maladies of our souls. It is there that it is necessary to go to be fortified; it is there that it is necessary to go to state one’s difficulties for there is the true doctor who knows the appropriate remedies; it is there that it is necessary to go to study love, support, cordiality, the example of the neighbor and all the other virtues which are necessary for us.
Go then, my dear daughters, when Jesus Christ calls you, and do not bother whether you are drawn there by a sensible desire, for your enemy will try with all his power to prevent you from approaching, in order to frustrate you from the graces that a God wishes to impart to you there in order to make you enter into the practice of the divine virtues of His Son. IX. 297-298
Conference to the Daughters of Charity—August 18, 1647
The Daughter of Charity who has communicated well does nothing which is not pleasing to God, for she does the actions of God Himself. The Eternal Father looks upon His Son in that person; He considers all the actions of that person as the actions of His Son. What a grace. my daughters! To be assured of being regarded by God, considered by God, loved by God! Thus, when you see a Sister of Charity serving the sick with love, gentleness, great care, you can boldly say: ”This Sister has communicated well.” When you see a Sister patient with inconveniences, who suffers gladly whatever she may meet which is difficult to put up with, oh! be assured that this Sister has made a good Communion and that these virtues are not at all ordinary virtues, but the virtues of Jesus Christ. Take delight, my daughters, in imitating the very holy and august person of Jesus Christ, both for Himself, and because it will render you pleasing to God His Father.
[…]What does she receive who communicates worthily? She receives Jesus Christ and, with Him, a thousand graces and a thousand blessings helpful for working out her salvation and contributing with Jesus Christ to that of others; finally, she receives life eternal.
And what does she receive who communicates unworthily? Alas! my daughters, she receives her condemnation. It is Saint Paul who says this, and he speaks truly; for the world would perish rather than the truth of the words uttered by the servants of God, who were the instruments of the Holy Spirit. Well, it is Holy Scripture, one must not at all doubt it. “The one who receives the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar will have eternal life,” says this great Apostle; “and the one who receives it unworthily receives her condemnation and will be eternally damned, if she does not do penance.” Thus then, the one who communicates well performs actions which are not ordinary actions, but actions of Jesus Christ.
What do you think, my Sister, that one must do if one is to communicate well? The Sister responded that it seemed to her necessary to indeed ask for grace from God.
-It is enough, my daughter, and this is the way that we must begin. For who can hope to perform a good action if God does not grant the grace to do so? And who can of herself form a good thought? No living person, my daughters, can do so of oneself; it is Saint Paul who says this. Oh! who could then dispose oneself to make a good Communion, if God does not give the grace for it! My Sister is certainly right to find this means. It is the basis and the foundation of all the others; and God will never deny it to the person who asks it from Him in the proper manner. May God bless you, my daughter!
And you, my Sister, what other means do you think are necessary in order to communicate well? The Sister responded that it seemed to her necessary to desire it ardently.
-O my daughter, you are indeed right. Notice, my Sisters, what she says: it is necessary to desire it ardently; ardently, for God does not wish to be desired coldly, nor lukewarmly, but with all the strength and all the ardor of the will, just as He himself desires to communicate with you. When He instituted the Blessed Sacrament, He said to His Apostles, “With desire have I desired to eat this Pasch with you” which means: I have desired ardently to eat this Pasch with you. Well, since the Son of God, who, in the Holy Eucharist, gives Himself, has desired to do so with such an ardent desire, is it not just that the soul who desires to receive Him who is indeed the Sovereign, should desire it with all her heart?
What He said to His Apostles, be assured, my daughters, that He says still to each one of you. That is why it is necessary to try to awaken your desire by some good thought. You desire to come to me, my Lord; and who am I? But I, my God, I desire with all my heart to go to You, for You are indeed my Sovereign and my last end. The late Bishop of Geneva (St. Francis de Sales) used to say that He always celebrated Mass as if it were the last time, and communicated as if it were Viaticum. The practice is excellent, and as much as I can, I recommend it to you IX.333-340
Conference to the Daughters of Charity—August 18, 1647 (contd.)
You, my Sister, have you some other means? Tell us a little of what you do when you wish to prepare yourself for Holy Communion.
The Sister responded that she gave herself entirely to God, saying with Saint Teresa of Avila: “My God, give Yourself entirely to me; I give myself entirely to You;” and that it is necessary, in order to profit from Holy Communion, to mortify one’s senses and particularly the curiosity of seeing and hearing useless things, which occupy the mind and prevent us from being united to God.
Would you like, Mademoiselle (Le Gras—St. Louise de Marillac), to tell us your thoughts on one or the other point?
In response Mademoiselle read her prayer which she had already prepared in writing in these words:
“On the first point, there appeared two principal reasons, in which are comprised all the others; the first of these is fear and the other is love. The commandment of the Church to communicate once a year under pain of mortal sin lets us know that God wishes absolutely that we communicate; and it appears that this threat warns us to communicate more often under the risk of losing many graces which would be given to us through Holy Communion.
“It is very important for us to give ourselves again to God in order to communicate well, since, without that, we would be in danger that the threats, about those who do not communicate, as well as about those who communicate badly, are not addressed to us in order to punish us.
“The other reason that we have to give ourselves to God in order to communicate well is the gratitude that we ought to have for the great love which He makes apparent to us in giving Himself to us in Holy Communion; we can only do so by showing to Our Lord a love in some reciprocal manner, in desiring with all our heart to receive Him, since with all His heart He wishes to give Himself to us. His love has appeared still greater in that His Incarnation was sufficient for our Redemption; yet, He seems to give Himself to us in the host only for our sanctification, not only by the application of the merits of His Incarnation and of His death, but again by the communication which His goodness desires to make to us of all the actions of His life, and for us to put in practice His virtues, desiring to be like Him through His love.
“On the second point, which concerns what is required for us to do in order to give ourselves to God so that we may communicate well, it seemed to me that it is necessary that we have such a great esteem for Communion that it makes us fear not having in ourselves the dispositions for communicating well, and that, since one of the effects of Holy Communion, and the principal one is to unite ourselves to God, we ought, as much as we can, remove the impediments to this union.
“And seeing that the most dangerous thing is to be too much to ourselves, by the love of our own will, it is very necessary that we give ourselves to God to have no longer but the same will with Him, in order to share in the fruits of Holy Communion; (this is) what I have desired to do after so many times God has caused me to recognize that I am incapable of every sort of good and entirely unworthy of Holy Communion.
“What has seemed to me that I ought to do is (to give) a stronger attention to the actions of the Son of God in order to try to unite to them my own (actions) aided by grace. I know that God sees everything. I thought that it is necessary that we have always a right intention in order to communicate without a mixture of any human respect, but by the love which we ought to bear to the holy and divine humanity of Jesus Christ, in order to be faithful to correspond to the love which He has for us in this very holy Sacrament.
“The knowledge that God has given to me of the abuse which I have often made in my life of Holy Communion, by leading a life which rendered me unworthy of it by the violence of my passions, has inspired me with the desire of working to mortify them, so that I may not have the hatred of God instead of His love, if I continued to make bad use of this divine food.”
Conference to the Daughters of Charity – August 19, 1647 (end)
Behold, my dear daughters, some means sufficient for disposing yourselves to communicate well and to profit from your Communions. And when you communicate in this way and with the dispositions that you yourselves have stated, for it is to you that the goodness of God has communicated all these truths, and I have only to go over them, when, I say you communicate in this manner, you can be assured of having communicated well.
You said that it was necessary to ask for the grace from God. Nothing easier than to ask, and we obtain it if we ask as we should, that is to say, with a good heart, in the desire of making use of it.
The means are not lacking: to mortify one’s passions, to mortify one’s senses, to speak little, not to make any useless visit, to dispose oneself from one Communion to the other, and in this time, my daughters, to advance always from some degree in virtue and in the love of God, and all other efficacious means of which you have spoken, on which I have not had the leisure of making any remarks.
There is one means, my daughters, of which you have said nothing which is to go to confession; oh! yes, my daughters, it is necessary to confess your sins. It is the proximate preparation and the one which repairs the faults which could be in all the others. It supplies for their imperfection and confers the grace which renders our souls so pleasing to God. It is necessary then to go to it as much as you can; for you will not know how to be too pure in order to approach God; but above all it is necessary to go there with the resolution of working toward our amendment (of life).
Another means still for obtaining the pardon of all the faults that we may have committed in our Communions, you, my daughters and I, miserable sinner, is to ask mercy from God for the past, and grace for the future. Ask this favor with all your heart, each one in particular, and, I, as the most culpable, I will do so with a loud voice both for you and for me, my heart filled with confidence that God will not look upon my sins, but your desire. IX. 344-345
Quoted by the biographer of Vincent de Paul
"Do you not feel, my brothers, do you not feel this divine fire burning in your breasts, when you have received the adorable Body of Christ Jesus in Holy Communion?" Abelly III,77
To Antoine Durand, appointed Superior of the Seminary of Agde 1656
It is necessary, Father, to be emptied of oneself in order to be clothed with Jesus Christ. You know that ordinary causes produce effects of their nature: a sheep produces another sheep, etc., and a human being another human being. In the same way, if the one who leads others, who forms them, who speaks to them, is only animated by a human spirit, those who see him, who listen to him and examine themselves while imitating him will become entirely human; he will not inspire them although he may say and do what has the appearance of virtue, not the substance; he will communicate the spirit by which he himself is animated, as we observe that teachers imprint their maxims and their ways of doing things in the spirit of their disciples.
On the contrary, if a Superior is full of God, if he is filled with the teachings of Our Lord, all his words will be fruitful, and there will go out from him a virtue, which will edify, and all his actions will be as so many salutary instructions which will work toward the good in those who know him.
In order to arrive at that place, Father, it is necessary that Our Lord Himself imprint in you His mark and His character. For, in the same way as we see a wild stock, on which one has grafted a cultivated shoot bear fruit of the nature of that same cultivated shoot; so we, miserable creatures, although we are only flesh, only straw and thorns, just the same, Our Lord imprinting in us His character, and giving us, so to speak the strength of His spirit and His grace, and being united to Him like the branches of the vine to the vine-stock, we do the same thing which He did on earth, I mean that we perform divine actions, and bring forth, like Saint Paul, all filled with this spirit, children to Our Lord. XI.343-344
Proposal for the Written Assignment
1. Do you find in this Eucharistic vision of Saint Vincent aspects, which resonate, with your Constitutions, with your living tradition?
2. The Eucharist renders Christ truly present to us.
- In what way do you believe that this is true?
- What behavior reveals in you your faith in the Christ always Incarnate?
3. What spiritual consequences flow from this for you?
- Do you believe in your “divinization”? (Cf. Encyclical of John Paul II)
- Do you believe in the transformation of the world?
- What do you share with Jesus Christ (His love, His zeal, His continued search for the souls of human beings…)?
- What do you share with men and women, your brothers and sisters? (The Eucharist is the place for sharing.)
Do you see any of the above text lived out in the well-known painting of Vincent Seated at Table with the Poor?