One of Alphonsus’s most beautiful writings is his Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, written in 1745, when he was in his fifties. This was his very first book, and it was so compelling that forty editions of it were published even during his lifetime. This precious work, composed by Alphonsus and often drawn from writings of the saints, contains thirty-one days of meditations and prayers to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. In his introduction, Alphonsus writes that he hopes his readers will not “despise” his “little book,” for he wrote it with the “utmost simplicity” in order to inspire devotion to the Eucharistic Lord in people of all walks of life.
In Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, Alphonsus meditates on the tremendous comfort it gives us to spend time with the Lord in the Eucharist, speaking with Him “heart to heart.” Jesus wants us to draw close to Him not only as our Lord and Savior but also as our most intimate Friend. We know how much it consoles us to take shelter in the warmth of our beloved friends. Infinitely more do we find comfort when we place our trust in the Lord and go to Him with all our troubles. Especially when we are in His Eucharistic presence, Jesus desires to bless us in the most tender ways, so that we may “taste and see” how good He is (Ps. 34:8).
Alphonsus assures us that those who walked with the Lord, who ate with Him, who felt His healing touch and delighted in His tender gaze enjoyed no advantage over us today. The Lord Himself has promised us, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20). Do we really believe this—that the Lord who walked this earth, who suffered and died and rose for us, is the very same Lord who dwells physically with us in the Blessed Sacrament? Because we have His intimate, physical presence with and within us, comforting, helping, and loving us, we can enjoy the consolation of His presence as surely as His disciples did when they wanted just to be close to Him.
No other treasure on earth is more worthy of our love than Jesus in the Eucharist. This is why Alphonsus urges us to spend time with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament whenever we can: before and after Mass, during visits to the church, or during Eucharistic adoration. In this great Sacrament of Love, the Lord Himself is physically present with us and longs to pour out upon us His most intimate blessings. It is also while we are adoring the Lord in the Eucharist that the Holy Spirit makes us especially docile to His inspirations. St. Alphonsus tells us that it was while he was praying before the Blessed Sacrament that he received the grace to respond wholeheartedly to the Lord’s call to him to be a priest.
St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. John Paul II Jesus delights to be intimately, physically with us; may we find our delight in being with Him! In all our problems and trials, Alphonsus urges us to go to the Lord in the Eucharist. When we are suffering, when we feel miserable, let us go to Jesus, who is our healing, our comfort, and our strength. Let us not waste time being disheartened and discouraged. Instead, Alphonsus urges us, let us run straight to the Lord, our beloved Friend, who wants to and can make well all that is not well within us. To every one of us He says these precious words: “Come to me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The Lord Himself is inviting us, “Bring your every need to me. Place all your trust in me, and let me hold you close to my heart.” Alphonsus encourages us to respond to Jesus from our hearts, just as Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, did: “Lord, the one You love is sick” (see John 11:3). “Yes, Lord,” let us say to Him. “I am the whom you love, and I am the one who is sick. I come to You to rest on Your heart and to be healed.”
Alphonsus reminds us of how sweet it is to be physically close to those we love. Often, we don’t even need to say anything; it makes us happy just to be with them. How much sweeter it is to be with Jesus, who loves us more tenderly than we can imagine. What comfort and grace would fill us if, whenever we can, we would spend even a few moments in the Lord’s presence, simply letting Him love us. Jesus, our Lord and God, longs to fill us with everything good, but no words can express how sweet it is just to be with Him, to be close to Him. We can go to Him at any time and tell Him about all our needs. We can be completely ourselves, hiding nothing, holding nothing back, opening our hearts to Him who is so intimately present with us in the Blessed Sacrament. What a comfort it is simply to rest on His heart, as the beloved disciple did at the Last Supper (see John 13:23).
There was a Carmelite brother, Alphonsus tells us, who would go in and spend time with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament every time he passed a church. The brother would say that it was “not becoming” for a friend to pass by the door of a friend without stopping to see him for even a few moments. Let us, then, go to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament as to our beloved and dearest friend. If we would spend even a little time with the Eucharistic Lord whenever we can, we would find the remedy for every one of our troubles. Again, Alphonsus reminds us that Jesus longs for us to be with Him: “Come to me, all you who are weary . . . and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Instead of becoming bitter and discouraged by our trials, let us go to the arms of Jesus, who has the power to make well all that is disturbing our peace of soul.
Throughout the entire world, the Lord remains on our altars night and day so that we may easily find Him. Alphonsus encourages us to go to Him to be consoled, to be filled with His peace and strength, and to receive into our inmost being the tremendous blessings He longs to bestow on us.
Alphonsus also reminds us that the Lord has no need of us; He is infinitely happy without our love. And yet He loves us so passionately that He wants to be with us, physically, not only as He was during the years when He walked this earth, but always. We could ask what more He could possibly do for us after the astounding wonders of His life, Passion, death, Resurrection, Ascension, and pouring out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, all for our sake. But the Lord did want to do even more for us: He wanted never to deprive us of His physical closeness. And so, in the precious sacrament of the Eucharist, He has given us Himself. Why? Because, Alphonsus assures us, He “cannot bear to separate himself from us.” “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood, abide in me and I in them” (John 6:56). Unworthy though we are, we are still the Lord’s delight, and He longs to be completely united to us, to make His heart and ours as one.
This article on St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Reflections on the Eucharist is adapted from the book The Wonders of the Mass and the Eucharist by Sr. Mary Ann Fatula, OP which is available from Sophia Institute Press.