Friday, May 17, 2013

St. Paschal Baylon, Confessor

Baylon was born at Torrehermosa, in the Kingdom of Aragon, on May 24, 1540, on the Feast of Pentecost, called in Spain “the Pasch (or “Passover”) of the Holy Ghost”, hence the name Paschal. His parents, Martin Baylon and Elizabeth Jubera, were poor peasants. He spent his youth as a shepherd. He would carry a book with him and beg passersby to teach him the alphabet and to read, and as he toiled in the fields he would read religious books.

In around 1564, he joined the Reformed Franciscan Order (Alcantarine Reform) as a lay brother. He chose to live in poor monasteries because, he said, “I was born poor and am resolved to die in poverty and penance.” He lived a life of poverty and prayer, even praying while working, for the rest of his life.

He was a mystic and contemplative, and he had frequent ecstatic visions. He would spend the night before the altar in prayer many nights. At the same time, he sought to downplay any glory that might come from this piety. He died on 17 May, which is his current feast day, in 1592.

His tomb in the Royal Chapel in Villareal in the old province of Valencia, where he died, immediately became an object of pilgrimage. Beatified by Paul V in 1618, he was canonized by Alexander VIII on 16 October 1690. The saint is usually depicted in adoration before a vision of the Eucharist.

Forty years before he was canonized, an indigenous Guatemalan claimed to have had a vision of a sainted Paschal Baylon, appearing as a robed skeleton. This event became the basis of the heterodox tradition of San Pascualito.

Paschal Baylon was enlisted in the Church’s struggle against Modernism, part of which was through increasing devotion towards the Sacrament of the Eucharist; Pope Leo XIII proclaimed Saint Paschal Baylon, the “seraph of the Eucharist”, Patron of eucharistic congresses and all contemporary and future eucharistic associations. Christian art usually depicts him wearing the Franciscan habit and bearing a monstrance, signifying his devotion to the Holy Eucharist.

During the Red Terror at the time of the Spanish Civil War, his grave was desecrated and his relics burned by anticlerical leftists.


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