Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Saint Paschal Baylon, Confessor

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The Seraph of Assisi was sure to depute some of his children to pay their court to his Risen Master. The one he sends today is the humblest and most unknown of men; another will follow, three days hence, powerful in word and work, and holding a palm in his hands, as a most devoted preacher of the Gospel. Paschal Baylon was a simple peasant. He was a shepherd-boy; and it was in tending his flock that he found the Lord Jesus. He had a great love for contemplation. Forests and fields spoke to him of their great Creator; and in order that he might be the more closely united with him, he resolved to seek him in the highest paths of perfection. He was ambitious to imitate the humble, poor and suffering Life of the Man-God; the Franciscan Cloister offered him all this, and he flew to it. On that blessed soil, he grew to be one of heaven’s choicest plants, and the whole earth has now heard the name of the humble Lay Brother of a little convent in Spain. Holy Church brings him before us today and shows him enraptured in the contemplation of his Jesus’ Resurrection. He had trod the path of humiliation and the cross; it was but just that he should share in his Master’s Triumph. It was of him, and of such as he, that this Divine Savior spoke, when he said: Ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations; and I dispose to you, as my Father hath disposed to me, a Kingdom; that ye may eat and drink at my table, in my Kingdom, and may sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The account given by the Liturgy of the angelic life of this illustrious son of St. Francis, is as follows.

Paschalis Baylon, pauperibus, piisque parentibus in Oppido Turris Formosæ Seguntinæ Diœcesis in Aragonia natus, a teneris annis plura dedit futuræ sanctitatis indicia. Sortitus animam bonam, ac rerum cœlestium apprime studiosam, pueritiam atque adolescentiam in gregis custodia transegit; quam ille vivendi rationem ideo præcipue diligebat, quod humilitati fovendæ ac innocentiæ conservandæ imprimis utilem atque opportunam judicaret. Erat in victu modicus, i oratione assiduus, tantaque apud coævos et socios florebat auctoritate et gratia, ut eorum lites componens, errores corrigens, ignorantiam erudiens, ac desidiam excitans, velut omnium parens, et magister maximo studio coleretur ac amaretur: Beatus etiam tum a plerisque appelatus.

Paschal Baylon was born of poor and pious parents, et Torre-Hermosa, a small town of the Diocese of Seguenza, in Aragon. Even from his infancy, he gave many signs of future sanctity. Being endowed with a good disposition, and having a great love for the contemplation of heavenly things, he passed the years of boyhood and youth in tending flocks. He loved this kind of life more than any other, because it seemed to him best for fostering humility and preserving innocence. He was temperate in his food, and assiduous in prayer. He had such influence over his acquaintance and companions, and was so dear to them, that he used to settle their disputes, correct their faults, instruct their ignorance, and keep them out of idleness. He was honored and loved by them as their father and master; and even then, was often called the Blessed Paschal.

Qui vero in sæculo, terra nempe deserta, et inaquosa, adeo feliciter adoleverat, flos convallium, plantatus in domo Domini, mirum ubique sparsit sanctitatis odorem. Igitur Paschalis arrepto vitæ severioris instituto, atque in ordine Minorum strictioris observantiæ discalceatorum cooptatus, exsultavit ut gigas ad currendam viam suam, totumque se Domino excolendum tradens, dies, noctesque cogitabat, qua se ratione, magis ei magisque conformaret. Ita factum est brevi, ut eum tanquam Seraphicæ perfectionis exemplar, ipsi quoque provectiores imitandum sibi proponerent. Ipse autem in humili servientium gradu constitutus, se velut omnium, peripsema reputans, ardua quæque, et abjecta domus ministeria veluti jure quodam peculiari sibi debita summa cum hilaritate suscipiebat et exercebat, humilitate ac patientia pari. Carnem spiritui quandoque reluctari nitentem jugi maceratione afflictavit, atque in servitutem redegit; spiritum vero assidua sui abnegatione ferventiorem in dies ad anteriora extendebat.

Thus did this flower of the valley bloom in the world—that desert and parched land; but once planted in the house of the Lord, he shed, everywhere around him, a wondrous odor of sanctity. Having embraced the severest sort of life, by entering the Order of the Discalced Friars Minor of strict observance, Paschal rejoiced as a giant to run his way. Devoting himself wholly to the service of his God, his once thought, both day and night, was how he could further imitate his Divine Master. His brethren, even they that were most advanced, soon began to look upon him as a model of seraphic perfection. As for him, he put himself in the grade of the Lay Brothers. Looking on himself as the off-scouring of all, he, with humility and patience, cheerfully took on himself the most tiring and menial work of the house, which work he used to say belonged to him by a special right. He mortified and brought into subjection his flesh, which, at times, would strive to rebel against the spirit. As to his spirit, he, by assiduous self-denial, maintained its fervor, and daily stretched himself forward to the things that were more perfect.

Deiparam Virginem, cujus clientelæ se ab ineunte ætate dicaverat, tanquam matrem quotidianis colebat obsequiis, atque filiali exorabat fiducia. Porro erga sanctissimum Eucharistiæ Sacramentum, difficile dictu est quam ardenti tenteretur devotionis affectu: quem defunctus etiam in cadavere retinere visus est, dum jacens in feretro, ad sacræ Hostiæ elevationem bis oculos reseravit et clausit, magna omnium, qui aderant, admiratione. Ejusdem veritatem inter hæreticos publice palamque professus, multa et gravia ob eam causam perpessus est; crebro etiam ad necem petitus, sed singulari Dei providentia impiorum manibus ereptus. Sæpe inter orandum omnibus destituebatur sensibus, dulcique languebat amoris deliquio; quo tempore cœlestem illam scientiam hausisse creditus est, qua homo rudis et illitteratus, de mysteriis Fidei difficillimis respondere, atque aliquot etiam libros ocnscribere potuit. Denique meritis plenus, eadem qua prædixerat hora, feliciter migravit ad Dominum, anno salutis millesimo quingentesimo nonagesimo secundo, sexto decimo kalendas Junii, eodem quo natus fuerat, Festo Pentecostes recurrente, annum agens secundum supra quinquagesimum. Quibus, aliisque virtutibus insignem, ac miraculis, tam in vita, quam post mortem clarum, Paulus Quintus Pontifex Maximus illum Beatum appellavit: Alexander autem Octavus Sanctorum catalogo adscripsit.

He had consecrated himself, from his earliest years, to the Blessed Virgin; he honored her, as his Mother, by daily devotions, and prayed to her with filial confidence. It would be difficult to describe the ardor of his devotion to the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. Even after his death, this devotion seemed to linger in his body; for when laid in his coffin, his eyes were seen to open and shut twice during the elevation of the sacred Host, to the astonishment of all that were present. He publicly and openly professed before heretics his faith in the dogma of the Real Presence, and had much to suffer on that account. His very life was frequently attempted; but, by a special providence of God, he was rescued from the hands of the wicked men who sought to kill him. Frequently, when at prayer, he was in ecstasy, and swooned away with the sweetness of love. It was on these occasions that he was supposed to receive that heavenly wisdom, whereby he, though uneducated and illiterate, was enabled to give answers upon the profoundest mysteries of Faith, and even write several books. Finally, being rich in merit, he happily took his flight to heaven, at the hour which he had foretold, in the year of our Lord 1592, on the sixteenth of the Calends of June (May 17), and on the Feast of Pentecost (the same on which he was born), being in his fifty-second year. These and other virtues having procured him great reputation, and being celebrated for miracles both before and after his death, he was beatified by Pope Paul the Fifth, and canonized by Alexander the Eighth.

Heaven opened to receive thee, O Paschal! Even when here below, the fervor of thy contemplations often gave thee a foretaste of the delights of eternal bliss; but now, every veil is drawn aside, and thou art face to face with Him thou so ardently desiredst to possess. Thou hast no further need to unite thyself with him by humiliation and suffering; what thou enjoyest, and what he, for all eternity, will have thee to enjoy, is his own glory, his own happiness, his own triumph. Deign to cast an eye of pity on us, who have not the eagerness thou hadst to walk in our Redeemer’s footsteps, and who, as yet, have but the hope of being united with him for eternity. Get us courage. Get us that love which leads straight to Jesus, which surmounts every obstacle of flesh and blood, and gives to man an admirable resemblance to his Divine Model. The pledge of this happy transformation has been given to us by our being permitted to partake of the Paschal Mystery; oh! that it might be perfected by our fidelity in keeping close to our Divine Conqueror and Lord! Though he leave us, some time further, in this vale of tears, his eye is ever upon us, he longs to see us persevere in our loyalty to him. Yet a little while, and we shall see him! Behold! says he, I come quickly; hold fast that which thou hast. Behold! I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Thus will the Pasch of time he changed into the Pasch of eternity. Pray for us, O Paschal, that, like thee, we may hold fat that which, by the grace of our Risen Jesus, we already possess.

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