Fr. Dr. Wojciech Michniewicz - The Eucharist in the Life of Blessed Boleslawa.
I. Holy Communion
We celebrate the Eucharistic Year of which the lighted oil lamp on the altar is a symbol and the external sign. This church year, our Holy Father asks of us to pay closer attention to the mystery and the role of Eucharist in the various aspects of our everyday life. Some of the church documents issued recently talk about it ( Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum and the apostolic letter Mane nobiscum Domine). During the triduum devoted to Blessed Boleslawa, we would like to meditate more on the topic of Eucharist searching for the thoughts on Eucharist in her teaching.
Looking through various materials written by Mother Lament on the topic of the Eucharist, we can conclude that she devotes a very little attention to the sacrament itself. Rather, she goes straight to its essence: to Holy Communion. She states what communion is: it's a union of the soul with Christ, "pureness and holiness"; "we receive the Savior, the best Father who loves us more than mother loves her child. We should always turn to His great love…"; "the most compassionate doctor who comes to heal us from our sickness, weakness, and wounds. We should turn to Him with great trust."
In mother's understanding, Eucharist is a feast: "we participate in royal, holy, and divine feast where Lord Jesus feeds us not the fruit of the earth or the meat of animals, but gives us Himself, His divinity and humanity, His soul and body, His most Sacred Heart with all its richness and graces." Jesus invited everybody for that feast: "…us, poor creatures with such love and kindness: "Come to me all who are weary and I'll give you rest." No wonder that Blessed Boleslawa tells all sister superiors to encourage daily reception of Holy Communion. After Alphonsus Ligouri, she repeats: "there is no religious deed that will be more pleasant to the Heart of Jesus than receiving Him in the Holy Communion."
She talks a lot about the fruits of communion. Among many, she mentions continuous being with Jesus (here she refers to the words of Jesus: "my body is the real food"). The Holy Communion makes us the church of God (it's not me who lives, but Christ living in me). Through communion, we become the live tabernacles loved by Jesus more than others. She writes that Holy Communion sustains us and strengthens in us God's holy grace (analogy to the natural food, "…if you won't eat the body of the Son of God…"). The constant feeding with the Body of Christ weakens in us all temptations and bad desires (it is the most powerful source of overcoming impure temptations and keeping the virtue of purity; it's a medicine for all bad predispositions that we might have- Jesus healed all illnesses). In addition, it gives the courage, zeal, and strength to do good deeds.
(St. John Chrysostom says that after receiving Holy Communion, we become lions breathing out fire, we're frightening even for devil itself). Following the teaching of the Trident Council, mother Lament states that communion cleanses us from the venial sins and protects from any mortal sin. Those who do not receive communion are prone to make many mortal sins. However, the daily shortcomings and falls shouldn't keep us from receiving communion: "…because you sin everyday, says St. Augustin, go and take Holy Communion"; St Francis Salezy says: "…there are two kinds of people who should receive communion very often: the perfect ones to become even more perfect, and the imperfect to become perfect; the strong to not grow weak and the weak to become strong."
Calling on reflections of other saints of the church, she writes: "St. Dionizy teaches that the Most Holy Sacrament is the most powerful source of our holiness; St. Vincent Fererius says: "we will achieve more through receiving one communion than through the whole week of fast living only on bread and water; you receive in the communion, together with all the graces, Jesus Himself who is the Bread of Life. "
Finally, she emphasizes the eschatological sense of receiving Holy Communion; it is the predisposition of our glorious resurrection (Holy Communion plants in our body the seed of immortality which will grow on the last day; "who eats my Body has the eternal life; I will raise him up on the last day.")
Finishing the scanning of mother Lament' thoughts on the Eucharist, it's important to look at her writings to religious people on that topic. She emphasizes that they're blessed in having the opportunity to receive Holy Communion often; she adds, "a religious who doesn't have a desire to receive communion and easily doesn't take it, loses his vocation that he chose, won't do as well his work, won't know how to love, won't be able to fight, won't be able to suffer, and won't be able to pray as he should."
From given reflections, we can conclude that Blessed Boleslawa saw in the Eucharist the center of Christian's sacramental life and viewed Holy Communion as the essence of the Eucharist. Therefore, there is no true Christian life without Eucharist; there is no full experience of Eucharist without Holy Communion.
II. Preparation to receive Holy Communion
If Holy Communion makes the essence of experiencing the Eucharist, no wonder that Mother Lament devotes a lot of her attention to the appropriate preparation to receive Holy Communion.
She discusses the formal preparation (Eucharistic fast); she states also that: "it's good, though not necessary, to cleanse your heart (through confession and act of contrition) from all that would be the venial sin, addiction to it, or certain imperfection." She backs it up with Bible: Lord Jesus desires the purity of heart from those who receive Him in Holy Communion. During Last Supper, before distributing communion, Jesus washed apostles' feet. He did this to wash them from the dust of venial sins and imperfections symbolized in the dust covering the feet.
Mother admits that a person will never be enough worthy, enough pure, and enough holy to receive God in communion. It's always God's gift and His unconditional grace. Going to communion, however, requires pure intention (not because of the routine, not because for others to see, but I receive Jesus for the love of God).
She writes about the farther preparation (on which the fruits of communion depend): "never forget that the best preparation for communion is to lead holy life, improve quality of your life, follow all regulations of your congregation, and fulfill all obligations; the best attitude would be to let go of all worldly vanities" (spiritual freedom); inflaming in us a deep desire to receive our Savior and love Him more everyday (Jesus refuses to grant His grace to those who do not desire Him).
Next, she discusses the close preparation consisting of prayer and meditation; Jesus doesn't need me, He comes because of His kindness and love for me; at this time, we should also ask Mary, angels, and all saints for help in good reception of Holy Communion. A proper thanksgiving is also an important part of the whole preparation which Blessed Boleslawa emphasizes in her writings: "sisters should have time for preparation and thanksgiving after Holy Communion; let your heart talk and listen to the voice of your Master. Ask, ask a lot…it will never be too much…"; as holy life is the best preparation, so thanksgiving means improving life, exercising virtues of your vocation, faithful fulfillment of constitution, and diligent work.
Mother Lament refers also to known papal documents about often reception of Holy Communion, especially to document written by Pius the X: "Christ, wanting to give Himself completely, picked the substance of bread as daily nourishment for the body. By doing so, He points out that we should receive Him daily." If in the Lord's Prayer, He wants us to pray for bread for all, He has in mind the bread for the soul. According to Trident Council, just as the body needs natural food, so does the soul needs spiritual nourishment."
Discussing the role of Holy Communion in the life of children, she states that "most harm is done by those who view communion as a "reward", not the medicine for weak human nature." In conclusion, "Grace of God and daily Holy Communion are very powerful weapons, but it doesn't mean anything to have the weapon in the hand without knowing how to use it." It means that we have to work constantly on improving ourselves.
Talking directly to sisters, she writes: "when sisters receive communion, let them do so in the solemn attitude of receiving it for the last time. Let them think that perhaps this communion is the last one since they may not live until tomorrow. Sisters should, then, always mind the real presence of God and pray and work in His presence."
With the practice of sacramental communion, she encourages the reception of Jesus through spiritual communion, especially when sisters have no possibility to participate in mass. In such encouragement of Blessed Boleslawa, we sense that sensus Ecclesiae - sense of church and thinking in the spirit of church. Mother's teaching correlates closely with the newest elaborations of John Paul II in his encyclical about Eucharist in the life of church: "it's good to nurture in the soul the constant desire for the sacrament of Eucharist. The practice of spiritual communion came from such desire; it's a practice rooted in church for centuries and advised by holy masters of spiritual life. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: "When you don't participate in mass and don't receive communion, the best way would be to practice the spiritual communion…thanks to it, you are marked with the love of the Lord." (EE, 34).
Based on the analysis of all written work left by Mother Lament and introduced in this conference, we can make a conclusion that the Holy Communion should be received in the right spiritual attitude which consists of the appropriate preparation for it (holy life) and proper thanksgiving (conversion of heart). Practicing spiritual communion, going through life in awareness of presence of God in me should be the constant practice in the life of a Christian.
According to Mother Boleslawa, the next important aspect of Eucharistic devotion is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament. In one of constitution articles, she writes that "it is our obligation to nurture in ourselves a special devotion to God in Eucharist and inflame in others the adoration and love toward that sacrament of love"; further; "in that case, we ourselves should visit the Most Holy Sacrament, participate as often as we can in adorations, and expose the Most Holy Sacrament in our churches and chapels that are open to public." (Article 125).
Just like before, mother points out to the essence of the adoration; she sees the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament precisely as "being in the presence of God"; "when you're before the Most Holy Sacrament, put yourself in the presence of Christ the Lord, prostrate yourself before Him, and say the act of faith in the true presence of Jesus." The awareness of God's presence is truly the cornerstone of good adoration prayer. Prayer is obviously conversation with God. Realizing His presence, the fact that I don't talk to the wall or to a picture, or even to the cross, but to the real Person - that's the fundament for each profound prayer.
Mother Lament discusses some norms regulating religious life as to the time and ways of adoring the Most Holy Sacrament. For example, in the article 132, she says: "after each meal all sisters will go to the chapel for a short adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament."She talks about the great happiness of living under one roof with Divine Bridegroom, about the obligation and joy of conversing with Him, and entrusting to Him everything we are: "let's visit Him often because our holy regulations require it; But, most of all, our love for Jesus hidden in Eucharist should lead us to Tabernacle."
She desired greatly to be united with Jesus: "whether the end of the world is close or far, whether 10 days or 1,900 years separate us from Christ - He is with and among us. For me, the most important thing is that He would stay with me to the end of "my world", to the hour of my death." Referring to the teaching of Jesus, she writes that without adoration we would be like the branches that are not able to bring fruit by themselves
(J 15, 4); "whoever remains in me will bear much fruit" (J 15, 5).
She is convinced that "the fruit of all apostolic works depends almost always on the level of eucharistic life reached by the soul"; and "inner life based on Eucharist makes the apostolic work fruitful." She elaborates on Jesus' saying: " if you won't eat the Body of the Son of Man…" and states that through these words Jesus pointed to the reception of not only the Holy Communion, but also the spiritual communion with adoration. Those aspects were viewed by mother as the base for all apostolic and mission works: "Lord Jesus gave us that sacrament as the source of work, sacrifice, and apostolic work that will benefit the church. If salvation focuses on Calvary, then, all graces of that mystery flow from the altar."
Talking directly to sisters, she writes: "Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament is there for all, but especially religious, the source of all goodness, all comfort, and all grace." Therefore, religious-continues mother- can't be satisfied only with participation at mass, but should visit the Most Holy Sacrament very often."
Let's leave the final word about adoration to the church documents discussing the benefits of adoring the Most Holy Sacrament. In the encyclical about the Eucharist, Holy Father writes: "devotion, with which we glorify the Eucharist, besides mass, has the priceless worth in the life of church. It is connected very closely to mass. The presence of Christ under the holy substances that are saved after mass, the presence that lasts as long as those substances originates from sacrificing mass and is offering the sacramental and spiritual communion. It's very important that, through their own example, shepherds of the church would encourage the Eucharistic devotion and adoration of Christ present under the bread, especially during the exposition of the Most Holy Sacrament" (EE, 25).
The teachings of mother form half a century clearly correlate with the official teachings of the XXI century church. Based on introduced above fragments written by Blessed Boleslawa works on the topic of adoration, we can conclude that mother lived in profound awareness of true presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament; adoration was for her the source of spiritual fruitfulness and authentic apostolic work. She wanted to pass these truths onto her spiritual daughters.
IV. Love is Everything
The conclusions made after listening to the teaching of Mother Lament about Eucharist are as follows: there is no Christian life without Eucharist; there is no Eucharist without Holy Communion; good preparation and thanksgiving are appropriate and necessary for Holy Communion; awareness of true presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament is the fundament of good adoration; only adoration is a source of spiritual fruitfulness and authentic apostolic work.
Talking about adoration, Mother Lament writes also about life of love: "those words contain everything, all Gospel, all Covenant"; "on which, then, God's covenant depend? -"Diliges": you will love! Love and only love is the word and fulfillment of religious life." Next, she clarifies that it's not about love that is "emotional, sensual, romantic, and sweet"; on contrary, "it's a matter of the will that is strong, powerful, and persistent: fertis ut mors: strong as death and reaching beyond the boarders of death." Mother uncovered the essence (once more!) of the whole process of Christian maturity- which is the crowning in spiritual formation and Christian life: God is Love.
The whole law and prophets were supposed to lead people to understanding of that fundamental truth and directing people to love of God and neighbors. Blessed Boleslawa realizes that the way leading to life by such truth is not simple or all roses: "when love starts growing in the soul, it usually goes together with the lack of emotion. However, it's a true love that is even greater, more courageous and sincere than the sensual comfort which we should avoid: "I repeat once more: emotions, tears, and comfort are not the sure signs of great love; on the other hand, lack of emotions often seen in the life of saints and expressed through ignorance toward God and His works doesn't show lack of love, but it's a sign of perfect, mature, childlike forms, and strong love.
The whole Bible, the Old and New Testament, talks about real love open to God and other person. Jesus simply calls His Father Love and expresses in it the truth about His nature and His essence. Giving us the commandment to love God and neighbor as the most important commandment, Jesus wants us to understand that this commandment replaces all partial norms of the Old Covenant including the Ten Commandments. St. Paul explains this thought very clearly: "the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, you shall not covet, and others are stressed in this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself! Love doesn't do any harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is a perfect fulfillment of the law" (Romans, 13, 9).
In the letter to Corinthians, he leaves for us a spiritual testament- a hymn about authentic love" (1Cor 13). No wonder that St. Augustin could later say these words: "love and do whatever you please" because true love never does any harm to others. Blessed Boleslawa uncovers these truths to her sisters when she says: "our theology is to love. With such teaching we can do all; without it nothing lasts. True love is not about emotions, fainting, and fast beating heart. There is nothing more beautiful and powerful in the world than love. To love, means to live godly and courageously." Who is, then, the real theologian?: "the one whose mind was changed in the flame of Tabernacle in the intimate union with Divine Bridegroom" (one can believe, but not love); "the most moral confusion among the souls otherwise beautiful and noble comes from division between belief and love. Growing in faith, they knew the regulations by heart, but didn't live them in their heart." Blessed Boleslawa quotes St. Thomas Aquinas: "holiness, according to St. Thomas doesn't rely either on broad knowledge or long medidations. The mystery of holiness is to love."
Mother notices, with a certain sadness and irony, that: "we do not lack "workers" in Lord's vineyard; I say: "workers" meaning the soulless machines, wheels circling mechanically in all outside work; we lack hearts that love. Talking, moving, acting is different than the actual evangelization." Finally, she says: "Oh, if only those who act knew how to love! If only they loved as perfectly as perfectly they do their work-they would be able to shake the world. The world, however, didn't shake despite many works that grow constantly in numbers. Why?...because love didn't become the soul of all the works and workers."
In the encyclical about Eucharist, Holy Father points to love as a source of true God's and human life: "It's beautiful to remain with Him, and, as beloved apostle, lean your head on Jesus' chest (J 13, 25), and feel the touch of His endless love. If Christianity is to stand out in "the mastery of prayer", then, how it can't feel renewed in need of remaining with Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament in a spiritual conversation and quiet adoration in the pose of full love? How many times, my dear brothers and sisters, I lived through that experience and received through it strength, comfort, and support." (EE, 25).
We can say that, through Eucharist, Holy Communion, and adoration, Mother Lament walked spiritually toward the authentic love of God and neighbor. She became true theologian who understood the depths of God Himself; recognizing love, she matured to be in the glory of heaven.
Let's finish our reflections about the Eucharist in the life of Blessed Boleslawa with prayer of Bishop Zawitkowski. On January 29, 1996 in Bialystok, bowing down before relics of Mother Foundress, he said the following reflection: " how little these saints talk? Because they don't have time for talking. They act a lot, though, because they don't want to waste any time. You're great in your trust. Teach us "to love more, love humbly, and to love better."