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Catholic Heroes… St. Paschal Baylon

May 16, 2019 saints No Comments


In the sixteenth century, the Spanish Empire covered the globe, having the most influence and power in its history. For the Catholic Church of Spain, that time was known as the Golden Age. Despite the troubles of the Protestant Revolution, Spain benefited from the work of her saints such as St. Peter of Alcantara, St. John of Avila, St. Teresa of Avila, and the Jesuits such as St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis Xavier.
These saints were giants in the spiritual life of Catholic Spain. But the “little” saints should also be remembered for their contributions. The lowly porters of various orders have also done much to revive the faith of the laity. Men such as St. Conrad of Parzham (1818-1894), Blessed Solanus Casey (1870-1957), and St. Brother Andre Bessette (1845-1937) lived simple lives, but drew many persons seeking help to know the love of God more deeply.
St. Paschal Baylon was also a poor man, a simple brother, seeking to live a simple life by embracing poverty, chastity, and obedience. Though he sought to live a life of quiet austerity, he became an apostle to the French to defend the Holy Eucharist against the heresy of the Calvinists.
On Pentecost Sunday, May 16, 1540, Martin and Elizabeth Jubera Baylon, welcomed their son into the world. Because of the special feast, they named him Paschal. The Baylon family lived in Torrehermosa, Aragon, about 200 kilometers northeast of Madrid. They were quite poor since Paschal’s father served as a shepherd for a neighboring land owner. Nevertheless, their devotion as Catholics, honest and pious, was well-known.
Paschal grew up in the fields, helping his father tend the sheep. Daily they prayed and meditated on God’s teaching. When they heard the bells ring at the time of the consecration in the Mass, Paschal would stop, turn to face the Church, and reverence the Real Presence.
He readily listened to the faithful formation his parents gave him and quickly became known for both his holiness and his integrity.
Because he had to spend so much time caring for sheep and cattle, Paschal had little time to spend with his friends. Thus he devoted more time to prayer and had little time for the usual boyish pursuits. Rather than seeing this as a disadvantage, Paschal thirsted for his quieter life of prayer and reflection.
Still, the boys of his age had great respect for him and came to him to settle their disputes, even accepting his gentle rebukes. Sometimes they would sit with him as he gave them religious instructions from his store of knowledge. His friends soon learned that Paschal tolerated no vulgar language so they guarded their tongues in his presence.
When Paschal went to the meadows, he would carry books with him in order to ask others to teach him how to read. He also sought to help the poor — not realizing that he himself was poor, too. Since he had no money to give them, he would share his meager meal with them.
His honesty was proved when the animals for whom he was caring escaped and ruined part of a farmer’s crop. Paschal readily admitted his responsibility since they were under his watch, and offered to pay for the damages.
As Paschal matured into such a fine young man, the wealthy gentleman for whom he worked offered to adopt him. Paschal explained that he planned on entering the religious life so the matter was dropped.
Many of his friends recommended well-endowed monasteries, where Paschal could fulfill his quest, but his love of poverty and penance led him to the Franciscans. The first time Paschal sought entrance he was denied because of his age, but finally he was admitted in 1564. He joined the Reformed Franciscans on February 2, 1565 in Orito at the Convent of St. Joseph.
At the Monteforte friary, Paschal showed great charity and humility, assuming the most difficult chores to relieve his fellow Franciscans. He worked hard without a break and spent all his free time in prayer.
Possessing only one threadbare habit, Paschal walked everywhere barefoot. If he was out collecting alms, he always had his rosary in his hand. His devotion to both the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary was well-known, as he encouraged others in similar devotions.
One day when he heard the bell for the consecration, he knelt in reverence and two angels appeared to him carrying the monstrance for his veneration. Frequently, the friars found him prostrate before our Lord in the tabernacle, flooded with divine light or in ecstasy.
Paschal’s ability to speak on the wonders of the Real Presence was a marvel — especially since he had no significant education. In fact, the father provincial had such respect for his wisdom regarding the Eucharist that he sent Paschal to France in order to fight the Calvinist heretics.
As usual, Paschal traveled barefoot and with only one thin habit as he crossed the Pyrenees Mountains into France. He began preaching on the Holy Eucharist, but he was so severely abused by the Huguenots that he was forced to return to Spain. He had been stoned and beaten. With a broken shoulder and other wounds, he continued his return journey, relating how his angel had carried him through these difficulties.
Once back at the friary, Paschal continued serving the other Franciscans with is trademark humility and charity. He remained cheerful until the day of his holy death in 1852. As in birth, his death occurred on the Feast of Pentecost. His feast is celebrated on May 17.
His funeral was another occasion for heavenly favors. His body had been placed on a stretcher in the church in Villarreal. Eleanora Jorda y Miedes was near him during the Requiem Mass. As the priest elevated the Host, she saw Brother Paschal, with dew on his forehead, open his eyes. At his gravesite, many other miracles occurred.
When his body was exhumed years later, it was found to be in perfect condition with supple flesh and flexible limbs. Even his eyes seemed to smile when they were opened, despite the fact that the body had been covered in lime to hasten decomposition.
Pope Paul V beatified Brother Paschal on October 29, 1618 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Pope Alexander VIII canonized him there on October 16, 1690. In 1897 Pope Leo XIII declared him patron saint of Eucharistic congresses and societies.
He is also the patron saint of Villarreal, Torrehermosa, shepherds, cooks, and priestly vocations.
Dear Brother Paschal, in great simplicity you served the Lord and because you loved Him so much, He showered many blessings upon you — especially a great devotion to the Real Presence. By your holy intercession, obtain for us a greater love of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Also please, obtain for us many vocations to the priesthood for the salvation of souls. Amen.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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