St Paschal Baylón

17th May 2024. “Indeed, this is what you ask supremely: that God may be sought above all else”

17 May 2024

Paschal was born in Torre Hermosa, in the Kingdom of Aragon in Spain, to Martino Baylón and Isabel Jubera on the 16th May, 1540, the Feast of Pentecost, called "Pascua rosada", hence his name. His was a large family, poor and humble, but in which a deep spirit of piety reigned, due above all to his mother, who was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. From an early age, his father entrusted him with the grazing of the flocks, a service that he carried out with great love, spending entire hours praying, meditating, praising, and singing to the Lord and the Virgin Mary.

When, at the age of eighteen, in Monforte del Cid he came to know the Franciscans of the friary of Santa Maria di Loreto of the Reformed Franciscans (called Alcantarini following the work of St Peter of Alcantara), Pasquale hoped to realize his dream of becoming a religious, but was rejected perhaps because of his young age. He then accepted to work as a shepherd with the wealthy flock owner Martino Garcia, who allowed him to stay at the Franciscan friary and attend its Marian shrine. Finally, on the 2nd February, 1564, he was able to wear the Franciscan habit and the following year make his religious profession in the friary of the Friars Minor Alcantarini in Orito, where he remained until 1573 dedicating himself to the most humble tasks, in particular that of porter. Esteemed for the life of austerity he led and was favoured by the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, including the gift of infused wisdom, the illiterate Friar Pasquale, who had learned to read whilst grazing the flock and then also to write a little, was often requested and sought for advice even by illustrious and erudite personalities. From 1573 to 1589 he spent his life among the various friaries of the Province of Alicante, and then moved on to that of Castellón in the friary of Villa Real.

Obedience also engaged him in a dangerous journey to Paris, when the Minister Provincial of Spain resorted to him and in 1576, he had to communicate urgently with the Minister General of the Order: a very difficult undertaking, since France at the time was dominated by Calvinists. In fact, Paschal suffered mockery, insults, and beatings, running the risk of being stoned to death in Orleans after a heated dispute over the Eucharist in which he had been able to stand up to his opponents by refuting their sophistry. Returning from this delicate and dangerous mission, Pasquale composed a small book of sentences, a sort of precious compendium of the major treatises on the Eucharistic theme, proving the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the divine power transmitted to the Roman Pontiff.

He earned the nickname "theologian of the Eucharist" not only for having resolved all the questions of his adversaries in France, but also for the collection of writings he left on the Blessed Sacrament which was always at the centre of his intense spiritual life and the most evident mark of his life. Always helpful to his confreres and to those who knocked on his door; he inflicted mortifications on his body, weakening it to the limit of its ability to resist.

He spent the last 3 years of his life in the friary of Villa Real, near Valencia, always exercising the office of porter and beggar, until one day, while he was begging in the town, he collapsed without being able to recover: he immediately understood that death was near and went to meet her with all the enthusiasm of his heart. Sister Death visited him in the friary of the Rosary at the age of 53, on the 17th May, 1592, on the Solemnity of Pentecost – the very same feast day in which he was born.

On the 29th October 1618 he was beatified by Paul V and on the 16th October 1690 canonized by Alexander VIII. On the 26th November 1897, Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him Patron of “Eucharistic Works” and shortly afterwards Patron of the International Eucharistic Congresses.

The mortal remains of St Pasquale Baylón that were venerated at Villa Real were desecrated and dispersed during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39); however, some were later recovered and they were returned to that city in 1952.

In iconography, the monstrance is its main attribute.

“Exercise your soul, therefore, in continual and intense actions, desiring what God desires, removing from your will all that good or gain might come to you from that request. On the contrary, this is what you ask supremely: that God be sought above all else. In fact, it is worthy that first and foremost we seek God, also because the Divine Will wants us to receive what we ask for in order to become more suitable to serve Him and to love Him more perfectly” (From the writings of St. Paschal Baylon).

Cf. Friars Minor Saints and Blesseds, edited by Br. Silvano Bracci, OFM and Sr. Antonietta Pozzebon, FMSC. Editrice Velar, 2009, pp. 253-255.

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