MANILA, July 30, 2015—Five months before the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu next year, the Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar) Parish in Manila’s Santa Cruz district has an ongoing mini exhibit that features a relic of St. Peter Julian Eymard as well as photographs of the French priest whose devotion to the Blessed Sacrament changed history.
Blessed Sacrament devotion
In an earlier interview, Fr. Ferdinand S. Tomo, vocation director of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (SSS) in the Philippines, told CBCP News that besides commemorating the life and legacy of St. Peter Julian Eymard, the exhibit also aims to inspire Blessed Sacrament vocation among the lay faithful.
Dubbed the “Apostle of the Eucharist,” the future saint was born Pierre Julien Eymard (Pierre Julien is French for Peter Julian) on February 4, 1811 in Le Mure d’Isère, on the French Alps.
Peter Julian’s “journey of faith” drew him from being a priest in the Diocese of Grenoble in 1834, to joining the Marists (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) in 1839, and finally to founding his own Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament in 1856.
Like his contemporary St. John Baptist Vianney, he had to cope with poverty, his father’s initial opposition to his vocation, serious illness, and the overemphasis on sin and the difficulties of getting diocesan, and later papal approval, for his new religious community.
His years as Marist, including service as provincial leader, saw his devotion to the Eucharist deepening, especially by his preaching of the Forty Hours devotion in many parishes.
Inspired by the idea of reparation for indifference to the Eucharist, Peter Julian became attracted to a more positive spirituality of Christ-centered love.
Members of the men’s community he had founded have no problem contemplating Jesus in the Eucharist even as they pursue active apostolic lives.
With the help of Marguerite Guillot, the priest established the Congregation of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament for women.
Peter Julian Eymard was beatified in 1925, and canonized in 1962, a day after the Second Vatican Council’s first session.
According to Tomo, the first Blessed Sacrament Fathers came to the Philippines in 1957 from the Province of St. Anne in the United States.
The local SSS community has since grown to become its own Province of Our Lady of the Assumption with members in Australia, Italy, France, Hawaii, Ireland, and Uganda. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)