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St Paschal Baylon
Franciscan brother (entered heaven this day in 1592)
If you have been skimping on your prayer time, you have probably also been skimping on your visits to the chapel. Am I right? Don’t get defensive! Take a deep breath, calm down, take it easy… This is normal. No one ever really taught you how to keep first things first, so it is no surprise that you aren’t doing it. This Uncle, though, won’t stand idly by as you get sucked into the very well named “rat race” of modernity. Look, if your relationship with God is the key to your life’s meaning, happiness, and peace (which it is, no matter what those post-modern, deconstructionist professors might tell you – the proof is in the pudding, as they say), you have got to keep it first on your list of priorities. Therefore, that little Catholic chapel, as unappealing to you as its architecture may be, is your secret key to lasting efficiency. Let me remind you what is in there: God. Yep. Jesus Christ has chosen to accompany us on our earthly trek in many ways, the most remarkable of which is the Eucharist, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Son of God himself under the appearances of bread and wine. The living flame of the little candle next to the box (Tabernacle) in that chapel is a reminder of this silent, living presence of our Savior. He is there. Your creator. Your Redeemer. The one who knows you, who loves you, who wants to lead you to “life in abundance” (John 10:10)… But there you go, rushing around from physics class to fencing practice, from drama class to dinner meetings – way too busy to drop in and have a conversation with God. Rather unfortunate, eh? A quick look at today’s saint might help you recalibrate.
Paschal was a Spanish peasant. A shepherd for the first 24 years of his life. Taught himself how to read and write, in order to have access to a prayer-book. From early on he was graced with a vibrant love for the Eucharist. He longed to go to Mass every day, but, unlike yourself, he was bound to his flock from early morning till late at night. So at the hour, Mass was being celebrated, he would kneel in the pastures and gaze at the little village church down in the valley and pray, uniting himself spiritually to Christ’s offering being made through the priest’s hands. When he finally found his vocation and entered the reformed Franciscan convent nearby, he not only edified his brothers by his exemplary virtue, joy, and good humor, but he would frequently miss sleep in order to pray in front of the tabernacle. In all the snatches of free time between his many convent duties, he could be found in the chapel, speaking with the Eucharistic Lord. This humble shepherd turned religious brother, never even ordained a priest, died when he was only fifty-two, at the very moment that the bell rang to signify the consecration at Mass. Now he is the Church’s patron of Eucharistic congresses.
An example to contemplate, my young nephew, as you hurry past the chapel in your endless (dare I say “mindless”?) frenzy of over-committed and non-prioritized college activity. You could do a lot worse than squeezing in a few moments to spend with God now, so as to ensure that you will be able to stay with him forever later, in eternity.
With love, Uncle Eddy