Peter Julian Eymard was born in 1811 in LaMure, France and is known for his deep devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist, a devotion which was manifested itself in his early childhood years. When he was 5 years old he vanished from his home only to be found by his sisters in the local parish church standing in front of the tabernacle of the high altar. When asked what he was doing, he told his sisters, “I am here listening to Jesus”
As a teenager, he worked for his father’ business making cutlery. Peter Julian wanted to become a priest but his father, having lost 8 children, did not want his only remaining son to become a priest. Following his father's death at age 18 he answered the call of God and joined the seminary at age 18. On July 20, 1834, after completing his training in the seminary he, was ordained a priest in the diocese of Grenoble at age 23. He served in this capacity until August 20, 1839, at which time he entered the religious life and professed vows in the Society of Mary, an order popularly known as the Marists. It was as a Marist priest that the devotion to the Eucharist he had since youth would flourish.
Although he was naturally drawn to contemplation, he was known as a devoted and energetic priest who was an educator and an exceptional preacher. In his journeys around France, he would encounter various manifestations of eucharistic piety that were popular at that time in France. Although he had a busy schedule supporting lay organizations, preaching extensively and educating the laity, the eucharistic devotions he encountered allowed him to express his contemplative nature. Being drawn closer and closer to the Eucharist his primary calling from God became clear in May of 1845. During a Eucharistic Procession in Lyons, he had an intense encounter with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament that would resolve him to “bring all the world to the knowledge and love of our Lord; to preach nothing but Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ eucharistic.” This devotion to the Eucharist and promoting what the Second Vatican Council would eventually call the “source and summit” of the Catholic Faith, eventually led Peter Julian to leave the Marist Order with the intent of founding a religious congregation dedicated to the Eucharist.
In May of 1856, after having proposed a Eucharistic community focused on evangelizing those estranged from the Church to the Bishop of Paris, Father Eymard was granted approval for his order. Peter Julian focused on the working class men of Paris and attracted many followers. Working with the poor laborers of Paris presented Peter Julian the unique challenge of not being able to provide food or shelter for the members of his community. By God’s blessing, they were supported by a neighboring convent and he was able to continue his mission. In 1858 in collaboration with Marguerite Guillot he founded a congregation for women known as the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. His work continued until his death in 1868. Peter Julian Eymard was canonized a saint in 1962.
Gracious God of our ancestors,
you led Peter Julian Eymard,
like Jacob in times past,
on a journey of faith.
Under the guidance of your gentle Spirit,
Peter Julian discovered the gift of love in the Eucharist
which your son Jesus offered for the hungers of humanity.
Grant that we may celebrate this mystery worthily, adore it profoundly,
and proclaim it prophetically for your greater glory. Amen.