It is the delight of the ordinary, the experience of Jesus being interested in the silly little details of my life, that comes to mind when I hear the title Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. Saint Peter Julian Eymard honored Mary with this title, pointing us to her intimate relationship to — and with — the Eucharist and reminding us of her role as a model for us. She shows us how to trust, even when we may not understand God’s plan.
Mary never stopped or paused in her devotion to God. She lived with His Son in a most intimate way, by raising Him, and she was one of a few who were able to stand at the foot of the Cross. When it became clear that, in fact, Jesus meant for His followers to eat Him, to consume Him — and not just in a metaphorical way! — she was first in line, not because she was a raving cannibal, but because she trusted that God knew what He was doing.
Saint Eymard had a great devotion to Mary, and was a member of two different orders of monks, both devoted to Mary and both very influential to his spiritual formation. After quite a few years of reflection and, yes, interior combat, encouraged by the pope himself (Piux IX), he founded his own order, the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament, on May 13, 1856.
Saint Eymard first used the title Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, in a talk in May of 1868, when speaking to novices in his order. Later, he would describe Mary as Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, as a statue, holding the Infant Jesus in her arms, with Jesus holding a chalice in one hand and a Host in the other.
It’s significant that the apparitions in Fatima, among the most well-known of Mary’s apparitions, began on May 13, 1917, preceded by an angel’s visit the year prior. Both titles are celebrated on May 13 each year, and in both instances, under both titles, Mary is pointing back to her Son.
Mary’s love for Jesus started when she said “yes” to the angel Gabriel and continued throughout her life, as she said “yes” to each of the aspects of her vocation as wife and mother. She showed her love of God, as so many women do, by living her life, fulfilling her duties, saying “yes” again and again…and again.
Imagine, for a moment, how a mother, even the mother of Jesus, expresses her love of her four-year-old, dirt under His fingernails and all over His face. Think about the mundane task of folding the Son of God’s underwear. Visualize the routine of daily life, making dinner, clearing dishes, working through the day, but with the child Messiah.
In each of those normal, commonplace, ordinary tasks, Mary — a human woman — shows me what it means to love Jesus. She stands there, dirty laundry in a pile behind her, holding her Infant, and Jesus smiles at me, toothy and giggling while He holds a chalice and a Host.
They remind me, mother and Son, that when I consume the Blessed Sacrament at Communion, I am eating Jesus. Once He’s in my body, He becomes an inseparable part of me, flowing through my blood, in me in a way that’s both intimate and a little, well, freaky. Just as the drop of water that the priest adds to the wine during the Consecration at Mass cannot be separated, once added, from the wine, so Jesus cannot be taken away from me. He’s IN me.
How does Jesus become such a part of my everyday life, such a part of the mundane experiences of my world? He can’t help it, because I welcomed Him in when I ate Him. His presence flows out from me, if I let it, and I become an instrument, cooperating with grace and living as God wants.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament holds Jesus twice, in her arms and in the Host He holds, and she shows us how to love Him as she did. “Go to my Son,” the image says to me, gazing down at me through the centuries. “He’s right there, waiting for you. Go to my Son.”