Canonized: December 9, 1962
Beatified: July 12, 1925
Venerated: June 22, 1922
Peter Julian Eymard was born on February 4, 1811 in La Mure, France. He grew up in a poor family in Europe after the French Revolution, a time when Catholicism was not looked upon kindly.
There is a story about Peter from when he was only about five years old. His sister was caring for him and he disappeared. She was frightened and began to search the whole town, looking for the little boy. She finally looked into the village church, where she saw that her brother had pulled a small ladder over to the tabernacle and had his ear up against its door. When she scolded him and asked what he was doing, the child told her, “I can hear Him better this way.”
Before his first communion at the age of 12, the young boy wrote a small book of prayers. The prayer to be recited after communion was written as follows:
My dear Jesus,
I thank you for the grace
which you have given me
that you have come to dwell in my heart.
It was clear from an early age that Peter wanted to be a priest, although his father was not happy with that idea. After he entered the seminary, illness forced him to leave. But he persisted and was finally ordained for the Diocese of Grenoble when he was 23. A few years later he heard some Marist Priests preach. The Marist order is dedicated to Mary, the Blessed Mother. Their message appealed to Father Eymard, and he eventually joined their congregation. He traveled through Europe, giving retreats and missions.
As time passed, he felt very drawn to Jesus through the Eucharist and decided that there needed to be priests who urged devision to this. In 1856, Father Eymard founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. The men who joined the congregation guarded the Blessed Sacrament 24 hours a day and soon attracted lay persons to do the same. This practice of prayer and devotion before the Blessed Sacrament became known as Eucharistic devotion.
The congregation struggled and was very poor. But Father Eymard did not give up. Despite continuing problems with his health, he even helped form the Sister Servants of the Blessed Sacrament with one of the women who came to him for direction, Marguerite Guillot. Along with the men and women of these congregations he visited the poor and those in prison and tried to Catholics in the teachings of the faith.
In 1868, at the age of 57, Father Eymard died. He was canonized 1962 by Pope John XXIII. He has been referred to as “the Apostle of the Eucharist.”