The Church commemorates two saints today: The fourth-century bishop Eusebius of Vercelli (+371), known historically as one of the great foes of the insidious heresy of Arianism, that Christ was not truly God, suffering painful exiles – at one point, being dragged through the streets – for his resistance to the Emperor’s own support for the heresy. After all, if Christ be not the Almighty –the Lord – then Caesar has no earthly rivals, and becomes the mediator between God and men. Arianism would have meant not just the death of the Church, but of society, ensuring an unending tyrannical reign of plenipotentiary dictators, as we have seen in so many atheistic regimes.
Eusebius was also the first to combine the monastic and priestly life, forming a community of clerics in the pursuit of holiness.
Please do peruse Pope Benedict’s own take on this endearing saint, whose personality shines through the ages.
We also remember Saint Peter Julian Eymard (+1868), the Apostle of the Eucharist, who from childhood had a great devotion to Our Lady. Hence, he began his religious journey in the novitiate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, but ill health – he suffered from some sort of lung affliction and frequent migraines – forced him to leave, and enter the diocesan priesthood. He reformed a rural parish where there was little faith, but still felt called elsewhere, so joined the missionary Order of the Marists – the Society of Mary.
Here he flourished for a time, but again felt called to devote his life to Eucharistic adoration, and so received permission to depart and begin his own community, the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, whose founding is traditionally traced back to January 6th, 1857, when Eymard and a companion, Raymond du Cuers, began their apostolate of adoration at a dilapidated building, whose address ironically was 114 Rue d’Enfers – the road to hell. Well, not anymore, apparently, for Father Eymard made it the road to heaven.
A final historical footnote about Father Eymard: It was under his direction and advice that the sculptor Rodin – most famed for the ubiquitously-copied-and-parodied ‘The Thinker’ – entered the Catholic Church, and, in return, Rodin made a bust of the saint, providing us with his vivid likeness. But, in the end, Rodin got the better part of that exchange.
Both saints teach us that Christ is the Way, the only path, to heaven. And the more fully and faithfully we trod that road – by Mass, Holy Communion, Eucharistic adoration, devotion to Our Lady and the saints – the more surely we will reach that blessed end of heaven.