By Joel Padgett
Connecting Faith and Life
Let us turn to another patron of our National Eucharistic Revival: St. Manuel González García. He may not be as well-known as Blessed Carlo Acutis; but once known, he is just as unforgettable.
St. Manuel lived in Spain from 1877 until 1940. He was ordained a priest, and later became a bishop and a founder of a religious congregation devoted to the Eucharist. It was an experience as a newly ordained priest that left the course of his life marked forever.
In 1902, Father Manuel was sent to preach a parish mission in the town of Palomares del Río. When he arrived at the church there, he found it in total neglect; the tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament was covered in cobwebs. Sadly, most of the people of that region had stopped practicing the faith.
Falling to his knees before that abandoned tabernacle, he shares, “My faith was looking at Jesus through the door of that tabernacle, so silent, so patient, so good, gazing right back at me…. It was a gaze in which all the sadness of the Gospels was reflected; the sadness of ‘no room in the Inn;’ the sadness of those words, ‘Do you also want to leave Me?’… the sadness of the betrayal of Judas; the denial of Peter…. All of this sadness was there in that tabernacle, oppressing and crushing the sweet Heart of Jesus and drawing bitter tears from his eyes.”
This experience became the motivation behind St. Manuel’s priestly ministry. He said, “I found myself to be a priest of a town that didn’t love Jesus, and I would have to love him in the name of everybody in that town. I would dedicate my priesthood to taking care of Jesus in the needs of his life in the tabernacle: to feed him with my love, to keep him warm with my presence … to serve him with my feet by taking him wherever he is desired … and with my mouth by speaking of him and consoling others in his name … until finally they would listen and begin to follow him.”
Our world isn’t all that different than the one in which St. Manuel lived. People would ask him, “How can we convert this world which, after 20 centuries of Christianity, is obstinately going back to the most corrupt and degrading paganism?” His answer was simple: “Go to the tabernacle! Draw power from the tabernacle!” St. Manuel knew that it is not we who convert the world, but the grace, the power, of God; if only we would turn to God and unceasingly ask Him for it with humility and confidence.
One thing that I love about St. Manuel is that his living faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist is not distinct from his faith in the person of Christ. Christ, who walked the streets of Nazareth; Christ in Heaven; Christ in the Eucharist … is Christ! St. Manuel lived this in such a consistent and authentic way that we are forced to reckon with the fact that if Christ and the Eucharist are not one and the same, then St. Manuel’s testimony is absurd.
We see this same faith on display when he was asked about how someone can discover the secrets of Christ in the Eucharist. His response was to point to the Gospels. Since Christ, in the Gospels, is the same as Christ in the Eucharist, the Gospels are “the messenger that the good God sent us so that our eyes and our ears of flesh could see and listen to what is said and done in the tabernacle.”
Shortly before he passed, St. Manuel made the following request, “I ask to be buried next to a tabernacle, so that my bones, after my death, as my tongue and my pen during my life, can say to those who pass by, ‘Jesus is there! There he is! Do not leave him abandoned!’” May our lives be a reflection of the same!
If you wish to discover more of St. Manuel’s writings, Victoria Schneider compiled and translated a selection of them into English in the book: “The Bishop of the Abandoned Tabernacle: St. Manuel Gonzalez Garcia” (to which the quotes herein are indebted).