The life of Paschal Baylon (1540 – 1592) has much in common with that of his fellow Franciscan, Joseph of Cupertino (+1633). They were both Franciscan friars who adopted lives of great humility and austerity – Pascal would wear a spiked metal coat, or a habit with rough pig hair on the inside. They were committed to prayer and charity to others, eating little, often scraps and boiled vegetables, and had a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, often spending whole nights in adoration.
Paschal was born to poor parents on the feast of Pentecost, hence his name. They could not afford an education but, during his time working as a shepherd (what is it with shepherd’s becoming saints? I may need a career change…) Paschal taught himself to read. He joined the Reformed Franciscans in 1564, discerning clearly that he was not called to the priesthood, remaining a brother, fulfilling his humble, and often humiliating, tasks (he was their official ‘beggar’) to the utmost.
As with most true ascetics, he accepted suffering joyfully, even self-afflicted, for the love of God and the sake of souls, Paschal was always cheerful, supernaturally so, never perturbed, and always solicitous for those around him. Yet he stood for the truth, and was once nearly killed by a Calvinist mob when he defended the Eucharist against the sacrilegious words of one of their preachers.
Paschal died of an unknown illness the day after his 52nd birthday, on May 17th, 1592, as the Protestant Reformation and revolt against the Church was reaching its height, and was instantly hailed a saint. He was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII on October 16th, 1690.
May Saint Paschal intercede for unity and charity in all that divides us, that we all submit humbly to the truth, as it is revealed to us.
Although we may not be called to Paschal’s ascetical extremes, we can at least accept the thorns and thistles of this vale of tears, with some small share of his peace of soul and interior joy, which, as Christ promises in today’s Gospel, the world cannot take away.
Saint Paschal Bayon, ora pro nobis! +