Peter Julian Eymard was born in 1811 in La Mure d’Isère, in the South-East of France, near the city of Grenoble. He first joined the diocesan clergy of Grenoble and, after a short period of pastoral experience as a young priest, left the diocese for the newly founded Congregation of the Marists, where he committed himself to tasks of education, preaching and administration.
The intense accompaniment of a group of lay-associates led him to the discovery of the Eucharist as an answer to the needs of his time and to his own role as the Founder of a new Congregation, exclusively dedicated to this sacrament. The process of his spiritual growth led him to a vision of the Eucharist as Christ’s gift of self out of love for us, waiting for our response of love to him and to our fellow human beings. The social dimension of the Eucharist is founded here, which found its concrete expression in Eymard’s commitment to improving the basic human situation of poor working-class people in Paris, while preparing them for first communion.
During the last years of his life he was engaged in an intense preaching activity, apart from leading the first steps of his young Congregation. He published little, but had an enormous correspondence with people of all kinds, to whom he was a spiritual guide and father. He left us an impressive quantity of personal notes and reflections, a precious witness to his untiring search into the depth of the Eucharistic mystery. He died exhausted by his many activities in 1868 in La Mure where he was born. He was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and canonized by Pope John XXIII in 1962, at the end of the first session of the Second Vatican Council. Pope John Paul II put his feast on the universal liturgical calendar in 1995. Saint Peter Julian Eymard, the Apostle of the Eucharist, is celebrated on the 2nd of August.
“Peter Julian Eymard’s path to canonization within a century of his death was relatively rapid by the standards of the Church. In the mid-1880s, Fr Edmund Tenaillon SSS was appointed the first ‘postulator’ of Eymard’s ‘cause’ (or case) for sainthood. Diocesan tribunals began gathering evidence about Eymard’s life. By 1902, thirteen volumes of testimony had been sent to Rome.After consideration by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, Eymard’scause was accepted in 1908 by Pope Pius X, who declared Eymard ‘Venerable’.Eymard’s intercession was soon being attributed to two medical miracles.
The first of these was the cure of Lucinda Cifuentes of Santiago, Chile from stomach cancer on 30 April 1916. The other was the cure of Renée Fouchereau of Angers, France from tuberculosis of the knee on 17 January 1919. Both cases had been considered incurable by medical experts.
By 1922, Eymard’s virtues had been investigated and accepted as ‘genuinely heroic’ by the Sacred Congregation of Rites. After investigation and acceptance of the 1916 and 1919 cures as miracles due to Eymard’s intercession, Pope Pius XI beatified Peter Julian Eymard on 12 July 1925. The title ‘Blessed’ was bestowed on Eymard at that time.
Two additional posthumous miracles were still required to be accepted by the Catholic Church before Peter Julian Eymard could be canonized a saint. (Nowadays, only one miracle is required to be accepted before beatification and another before canonization.) During the late 1940s, two remarkable medical cures emerged as possible miracles associated with Eymard’s intercession.
The first cure occurred on 29 May 1948, after a series of novenas requesting the intercession of Blessed Peter Julian Eymard, when Fr Charles Verdier of Bourges, France was spontaneously cured of chronic tuberculosis of the left foot.The second cure occurred on 3 August 1949, the final day of a Solemn Novena to Blessed Peter Julian Eymard at St Francis’ Church in Melbourne, Australia, when Dora Bartels was spontaneously cured of a heart condition (mitral valve stenosis) which was deemed medically incurable at that time.
During the 1950s, stringent apostolic processes investigated the validity of the Verdier and Bartels’ cures. In 1956, Pope Pius XII called for further study of the Bartels’ cure. The Sacred Congregation of Rites then requested additional medical checks and reports from Melbourne. These reports confirmed the earlier evidence that Dora Bartels’ cure was genuine and inexplicable by the contemporary standards of medical science.
Early in June 1962, there was news from the postulator of the cause at that time (Fr Henri Evers SSS) that the Bartels’ cure had been acknowledged as a miracle at a meeting of the College of Cardinals.On 15 July 1962 a Decree of Approbation was issued, declaring the miraculous nature of both the Verdier and Bartels’ cures, and on 22 September 1962 it was announced that the canonization of Blessed Peter Julian Eymard could proceed.Eymard’scanonization was scheduled at the end of the first session of the Second Vatican Council on 9 December 1962. As a result, about sixty cardinals and over two thousand bishops were present for the three-hour ceremony at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.The banner of St Peter Julian Eymard is carried into St Peter’s Basilica by members of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation on the day of the canonization of their founder, 9 December 1962.
In his homily during the solemn ceremony of canonization, Pope John XXIII eulogised Eymard, hailing him as the ‘friend of the Eucharist’. Pope John XXII at the canonization ceremony, 9 December 1962.The Decree of Canonisation read by Pope John XXIII in 1962 determined that Eymard’s feast day was to be celebrated in the Catholic Church on 1 August (the date of Eymard’s death). Before the canonization, the feast had been celebrated on 3 August. The date was changed again in 1995, when Pope John-Paul II declared that Eymard’s feast day was to be inserted in the General Roman Calendar and celebrated each year on 2 August.