May 17, 2004
St. Paschal Baylon
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 and Salvator of Horta.
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. People flocked to his tomb immediately after his burial; miracles were reported promptly. In 1690 Paschal was canonized; in 1897 he was named patron of eucharistic congresses and societies.
Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament occupied much of St. Francis’ energy. Most of his letters were to promote devotion to the Eucharist. Paschal shared that concern. An hour in prayer before our Lord in the Eucharist could teach all of us a great deal. Some holy and busy Catholics today find that their work is enriched by those minutes regularly spent in prayer and meditation.
“Meditate well on this: Seek God above all things. It is right for you to seek God before and above everything else, because the majesty of God wishes you to receive what you ask for. This will also make you more ready to serve God and will enable you to love him more perfectly” (St. Paschal).