Paschal Baylon: the Eucharist and the poor

I learned of Saint Paschal Baylon, a Franciscan brother, when I was in grade school. His great devotion to the Eucharist impressed me. But I didn’t know one part of holiness until recently.

He was the porter and cook of his friary, He attended those who came to the door and was especially attentive to the poor who came for help.

Fr. Elgar Mindorff wrote this about him:

Towards the poor and lowly he felt a special compassion. He aided them in many ways – comforting them in their trials, instructing them in their religion, and dispensing material alms. A superior once warned him against being too generous to loafers who came to the monastery door; Paschal answered: “I give the alms for the love of God, and who knows whether Christ Himself might not be found among these needy brethren?”

He is another of the holy porters who found Christ in those who came to the door. I wrote about them in a previous post. They included the US Capuchin priest Blessed Solanus Casey, the Canadian Holy Cross Brother Saint André Bessette, the Dominican Saint Juan Macias, and the Spanish Jesuit brother Saint Alfonso Rodríguez.

Their holy hospitality embraced the poor as Christ. They lived the admonition in the Letter to the Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have entertained angels unaware.”

There is a story I read long ago. I don’t know if it was about Saint Paschal, but it seems to fit his character. One day he was praying in his cell and Christ appeared to him. But someone rang the doorbell. He was reluctant to leave Jesus but went. When he returned he found Jesus there. The Lord told him that He would have left if the saint had not gone to see the poor person at the door.

This story reminds me that not only is hospitality an important virtue for us deacons – and for all followers of Christ. We are also called to be available, ready to respond to the needs of those around us. Their calls are not interruptions but the call of God.

Christ is found in the Eucharist but also in the poor at our doorsteps.

That’s a hard message but all too important and saints like Paschal Baylon provide us examples.

May we be like Saint Paschal and all the other holy porters, attentive to the Eucharist and the poor where we can find Christ the Lord.

(Image of art work of Hank and Karen Schlau, found at this site.)

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