Reflecting on the life, character and example of St. Dominic during this Novena and simultaneously aware of the Mass Readings this morning focusing so strongly on the Eucharist, I was struck again, as I have been before, on how deeply St. Dominic seemed to have understood the extraordinary mystery of the Eucharist. We know this from several witnesses who gave testimonies at the process of canonization-for example:

Brother Bonvisus said: “Sometimes I served his Mass. I would then watch his expression, and I used to see so many tears running down his face that the drops ran in a stream.”

Brother Stephen testified “ that very frequently he saw him celebrate Mass, and noticed that his eyes and cheeks were wet with tears during the Canon. It was quite easy for those present to perceive this devotion from his great fervour during Mass and the way that he said the Pater Noster . He never remembers having seen him say Mass with dry eyes.”

Brother Paul of Venice said that “ if Dominic could find a suitable church, he wanted to celebrate a High Mass every day.”

We know that in the 12th & 13th Centuries it was both unusual and exceptional for priests to celebrate Mass daily and yet we know that Dominic did. The historian, William Hinnebusch, says of Dominic in reference to his love of the Eucharist:

“ Endowed with a charm and compassion that drew both men and women
into the orbit of his love, his dominant trait was a priestliness that was
marked by a profound love of Christ and the Eucharistic Mystery.”

It seems to me that St. Dominic was graced with an understanding of the deepest reality of this Mystery, having put into practice the words of the first reading from Isaiah this morning calling us ‘ to come to the Lord, to listen to Him, and so receive life for our souls ‘ – spiritual nourishment- which is given above all in the Eucharist and prefigured in the Gospel today when Jesus feeds the multitudes after taking, blessing, breaking and giving the loaves and fish- the exact verbs- to take, to bless, to break and to give – used at the consecration during Mass when Jesus gives his own body and blood for our salvation and for our continuous spiritual nourishment on our earthly journey.

Later in the 13th Century St. Thomas elaborates on this spiritual nourishment given in the Eucharist, articulating what St. Dominic truly realised and what we also are in need of being reminded of, so that we can enter more deeply into this extraordinary Mystery and not take it for granted. St. Thomas says :

“ This sacrament, the Eucharist, does for the life of the spirit all that material food does for the life of the body, by sustaining, building up, restoring and contenting.”

“ What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life, by preserving, increasing and renewing the life of grace in us, received at Baptism. The growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.”
( CCC 1392)

In his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Blessed John Paul II said that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian Life and from it the Church draws her very life- because, he says:

“ The most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to us.” ( No 1)

Through the intercession of St. Dominic may we all be granted a greater appreciation, reverence and love for Christ in the Eucharist, becoming more and more receptive to this inflow of divine love and life, so that in the words of the Father to Catherine in the Dialogue “we may not slacken our pace because of weakness, nor forget the blessing of the blood poured forth for us with such burning love, but may be constantly strengthened and filled with pleasure as we walk.” ( Dialogue 78)