St. Paschal Baylon

St. Paschal Baylon {1540 - 1592}

Paschal was born in the little village of Torre Hermosa, Spain.  He was given the name of Paschal because he was born on Whit-Sunday, which in Spain is called the “Pasch of the Holy Ghost.”  He came into the world during the time of the Protestant Reformation, when many Catholics lost their Faith, revolted against the Catholic Church, and left the Catholic Church.

The boy’s parents were poor peasants, but they were rich in the Catholic Faith.  Even though they did not have much in worldly goods, they were full of Charity and gave much to the poor.  His father, Martin, and his mother, Elizabeth, had a great love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

With such good parents, Pascal grew in holiness and love of God.  The first words that he pronounced with his baby lips were the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.  The first time his mother carried him to Holy Mass, the little fellow kept looking at the Sacred Host.  At the elevation of the Host, Paschal’s body shook and from then on, he had a great love for the Church and the Altar.

One day little Paschal was lost, and his parents feared that he had been stolen by the gypsies.  Elizabethran through the streets looking for her baby. She decided to look in the Church and there she saw Paschal climbing up the Altar steps on his knees! He had crawled to the Church, for he could not walk, and was looking at the Tabernacle.  The little boy truly loved God.

When Paschal was seven years old, he became a shepherd and looked after his father’s sheep.  His parents had two older children as well, but they needed all the help they could get.  The young boy loved this work.  It gave him a chance to be alone with God.  He had no schooling and could not read or write.  One time he got hold of a book of the “Little Office of the Blessed Virgin,” and begged all those who passed by to give him a little lesson in reading.  He learned to write in the same way, by asking people to help him.

St. Paschal loved to pray at a shrine of Our Lady, which was near the place he pastured his sheep.  When he went to other areas, he carried his staff, which had an image of Our Lady and three crosses on top of it.  Then when he wanted to pray, he would use his staff as a shrine and stick it in the ground.

Some of Paschal’s fellow shepherds were not very pious.  They often spoke bad language.  But when they were in Paschal’s presence, they learned to hold their tongue.  They respected his holiness, his purity, and his other virtues.

The shepherd life was helping the boy to become a saint but it was not an easy life.  He was out in the heat or cold, day and night.  He fasted often, slept on the hard ground and went barefoot over thorns and stones!  He lived on the poorest food and always shared that food with the most needy. Paschal also made rosaries with knotted rope and gave them to his fellow shepherds.        

In time, God provided Paschal with a very dear friend named John Apparicio, who was also a shepherd.  They would meet each morning, and while tending their flocks, they would talk to each other about the things of God, the sorrows of this world, and the happiness of Heaven.  Paschal would often play on a small type of guitar and sing hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

One evening Paschal told John that he longed to quite this job and become a religious.  “An excellent idea,” John said, “Why not go to the Cistercian Monastery, nearby?  You would be in your own part of the country, and could work out your salvation quietly and easily there.”

“No, no,” Paschal cried, “I want to go far away, where nobody will know me.  I am looking for some place where I can live in poverty and complete abandonment into the hands of God!”  John quickly understood.

A short time later, Paschal told his friend that while he was praying a Franciscan Friar and a Sister appeared to him and invited him to enter religion.  Many writers believe that it was St. Francis and St. Clare.

Not long afterwards, Paschal worked a miracle.  It was very hot and John and his friend were not able to find any good water.  Suddenly, St. Paschal got an inspiration!  He took his staff and struck the ground with it.  Suddenly a fountain of water gushed out.  Paschal told his friend, “In future when you want a drink, you need only strike the ground with your staff like I did and water will come.”  They drank and washed, and ate their meal in silence.

Shortly afterwards, Paschal showed up in a different outfit.  Under his shepherd’s cloak he wore a light grey tunic with a cord around his waist.  Around his neck, he wore a large Rosary and a sombrero.  St. Paschal read John’s thoughts, “Our Lord has again sent a Friar from Heaven to urge me to quit the world and enter religion.  As you may see it, is high time to answer this call and to promise myself to the Divine Master!  Good-bye my friend.”  They shook hands, embraced, and the holy youth was on his way.

Paschal, now eighteen went to Valencia and applied at the Monastery of the Franciscan Friars of Reform.  The Monks refused him because he was so young and because they did not think that he would make a very good monk.

The saint did not worry.  For the present, he decided to become a shepherd again.  A man called Martin Garcia hired him.  He continued his prayers out in the fields, as he had done before.  His greatest joy was to assist at Mass at the Monastery, where he prayed more like an Angel than a human.  When it was impossible for him to go to Mass on a weekday, he would follow the Holy Sacrifice by the sound of the bells, while he watched his sheep. 

One day a great miracle happened.  St. Paschal was out in the fields with his sheep and unable to go to Mass at the Monastery.  While he was waiting for the sound of the Consecration Bell, in his longing to be present at the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, he cried out, “My Master, My adorable Master, Oh that I might see Thee!”  Suddenly he saw the Angels bowed down before a Chalice, with the Blessed Sacrament floating above it.  In the Divine Presence of Our Lord, Paschal fell flat on his face and adored God.  Then taking courage he gazed upon the beautiful vision. 

Wanting to share his vision with the other shepherds he ran to them crying, “Kneel Down! Kneel Down!  Do you not see on high the golden Chalice and the bright rays darting from the Host?” and he pointed towards the vision.  “It is the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  The Angels are adoring It.  Come let us join our adoration to theirs!”  The shepherds fell pun their knees in adoration.  But even though they could not see what St. Paschal saw they knew that he was telling the truth.  This vision happened many times as the days passed by, and Paschal was able to enjoy its beauty. 

Martin Garcia and his wife greatly admired Paschal, for they knew that he was good and virtuous.  One day Martin spoke to the holy youth, “My wife and I are getting old and we have no children.  We would like to adopt you as our son.  You could forget about being a shepherd and come and live with us in town.  Then when we die, you shall obtain all that is ours.”

Paschal replied, “I am very grateful for your kindness, but I wish to become a monk and I want to live far away from all worldly things.”  Martin understood.  He now had an even greater respect for the youth.  From then on, Paschal was treated in the house, like one of the family.

In time, the Franciscans allowed Paschal to join them.  He was humble, obedient, and fervent in all his duties.  Paschal’s motto was, “Whoever wants to save his soul, must have three hearts in one: He must have the heart of a Son towards God, he must have the heart of a mother towards his neighbour, and he must have the heart of a judge towards himself.”

St. Paschal would not take much sleep and would spend the time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  He loved Jesus with all his heart.  He would kneel without moving and remain with his eyes looking at the tabernacle.  One Holy Thursday, he was concentrating so much on his meditation of the Blessed Sacrament, that he remained kneeling in the same position for five hours!

Paschal loved all the monks in the monastery.  He also had a very great love for the poor.  The saint was given the job of being Porter (door keeper) for the monastery.  The crowds of poor grew in number, when they saw that Brother Paschal was their true friend, and that who loved to help them.

The Brother Gardener often scolded St. Paschal for taking the vegetables from the monastery garden, and giving them to the poor.  On one occasion Paschal said, “Calm yourself brother!  Our Lord will provide for us and the vegetables will grow up again!”  That night a miracle took place. The vegetables that had been pulled up in the evening, sprung up again during the night.  In the morning, the garden looked as if it had never been touched!

The next morning the Brother Gardener saw the garden, and asked St. Paschal for an explanation.  “Let us praise God’s goodness,” said Paschal.  “God wanted to console the poor sick people so He caused the vegetables to spring up during the night!  God can create anything in an instant!”       The Brother Gardener was not fooled.  He believed that Paschal had prayed and done penance, so that God would perform the miracle in the garden.

St. Paschal loved the sick.  When he saw how they suffered, he would cry with them and console them.  Br. Paschal would often go out begging for food.  When people would see him, they would often show him a house where a sick person was lying and waiting for him.  Upon entering the sickroom, the holy Brother would humbly pray, “May Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Joachim, Anne and Catherine cure you of every ill and deliver you from all pain.”

Paschal went to a house one day, begging for food.  When he entered, he noticed that a little girl had sores all around her neck.  He passed his hand lightly over the child’s neck, and three days later the girl was completely cured. 

Another time a woman had an infection in her jaw.  When she saw St. Paschal, she begged him for a miracle.  The holy brother said that he was a poor sinner and not worthy to cure her.  The woman did not give up.  She grabbed Paschal’s hand and held it to her jaw.  She was instantly cured!

St. Paschal was also an Angel of Peace.  He was able to destroy hatred and get the worst enemies to forgive and forget.  In one case, the father of a family was murdered.  His youngest son Martin hated the men who killed his father and told others that he would kill them when he was older.

One Good Friday morning, a priest was carrying a crucifix and leading the people in procession, through the streets.  The priest tried to convert Martin but he refused to listen.  Suddenly St. Paschal stepped forward.  “My son,” he said in a sorrowful tone, “You have just seen the Crucifix.  For the love of Jesus Crucified, my son, forgive the ones who killed your father.”  The young man was converted on the spot.  Ashamed and weeping, he said, “Yes, Father, I will do so.  I forgive them with all my heart for the love of God.

St. Paschal Baylon
Paschal was very strict with himself.  Here are some ideas of his rules:

1. I should think of myself as a rotting, smelling, dead person.

2. If anyone hurts me, I deserve it, because I am a sinner.  They can tear out my eyes, cut off my ears and tongue, and injure my whole body.

3. I should not be angry if others think the same, about these two points.  I should think it a favour, if I am told to do penance and make sacrifices.

4. If I get discouraged when doing penance or making sacrifices, I should think of Jesus who was innocent and suffered because He loved me.

St. Paschal did much penance.  He slept in the cold and would not give himself much rest.  He wore a habit that was patched all over.  And under his habit he wore an outfit of steel and iron, something like a knight would wear in battle.  Sometimes he wore a tunic lined with rough pig hair, and at other times he wore a coat with steel spikes!  On great feast days, he covered his body with chains, collars and other rough things, so that he could suffer for God.

The holy monk lived mostly on bread and water for almost ten years.  On Sundays he would eat a few boiled vegetables, which had been soaked in water with a terrible smelling weed, called wormwood.  Sometimes he ate scraps from the kitchen, or some soup that was, from the day before. 

St.Paschal also did some traveling to some far away places.  Fr. Christopher, the Superior-General of the Franciscans, was living in Paris, France.  The Superiorof the Franciscans in Spain wanted to send some very important news to Fr. Christopher. 

TheSuperior called Paschal and asked him if he would agree to go to Paris.  But it was dangerous for a religious to travel in this land because the country of France was being persecuted by the Protestant Calvinists (Huguenots).  The Calvinists hated all Catholics!  They had already burned a great many Convents and Monasteries to the ground!  And worse, they had also killed many Priests, Monks and Nuns.

Paschal agreed to go, even though his life was in danger.  He was not afraid and wanted to set out at once.  Nor did he worry about food, shelter, and other things that were necessary for his journey.  God would provide!

It was a long distance to Parisand he had to walk.  As long as in was in Spain, the people showed Paschal kindness and gave him food.  But when he entered France it was a different story.  The people came running out of their houses saying to each other, “Quick! Quick!  Come and look at a sort of man you have never seen before.”  And they would stare at the saintly monk, walking along, in his patched habit.  Everyday the same type of thing happened.

  But soon things got worse as he passed through the little French towns and villages.  At first the people were shocked.  Then they would threaten the saint, “Down with the Papist!  Death to the idol worshiper!”  They would throw dirt at St. Paschal and in one village the people threw stones at him. 

Another group fell upon him and gave him a terrible beating.  They hated the Blessed Sacrament and had robbed tabernacles and thrown the Hosts to the pigs!  How wicked they were.  They fired a bunch of questions at Paschal, hoping to get him confused.  But the Holy Ghost was with St. Paschal, helping him to give the perfect answer to their stupid questions.  In the end they threw stones at the saint bruising his body and breaking his shoulder.

Again and again, he was put in prison, and often he came very close to death.  But though he suffered much, God guided him and he delivered the message to Fr. Christopher.  After visiting some holy shrines in Paris, and taking a few days rest, he set out for his monastery in Spain.  His hair was black when he left Spain, but when he returned, it was all white; because of all that he had suffered.  His only disappointment was that he had not become a martyr.

After that whenever an important message had to be delivered, St. Paschal was always given the job.  When he went begging for alms in distant places, even though he was tired he would spend the whole night adoring the Blessed Sacrament.  Whenever he arrived at a new town, he would always make a stop at the church to visit the Blessed Sacrament. 

It was Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, that gave St. Paschal great wisdom.  He was hardly able to read and write but he was able to hold intelligent conversations with learned doctors in theology.  Some of the theologians felt that Paschal was inspired by God.  The priests of the monastery used to ask his advice about preaching.  When the saint spoke about the Birth of Jesus and the Last Supper, it was as though he had been present at these events.                                               

With all the penance and sacrifices that St. Paschal did, it is a wonder that the holy monk lived as long as he did. One day he was too sick to get up and unlock the Chapel door. The doctor was called and he told the holy monk, "This is your last illness, good Brother; how does it seem to yourself?"

"I think so too," he said calmly. "You could not give me more welcome news. For many years I have longed for this day and have often begged Our Lord to take me from this world. Believe me this is my sincere desire. Which day will it be Doctor?"

"I do not think you get through Friday!" the Doctor replied.

Paschal looked at the Doctor, "You are mistaken there Doctor. I have asked Our Lord to permit me to live until Saturday at least."

Most likely, Paschal wanted to live a while longer, so that he could honour Our Lady on one more Saturday, before he died. He then counted on his fingers and said, "It will be useless to watch by me before the seventh day. Spare the Brothers, as this would cause them to become very tired."

His suffering became worse and he had a burning fever. Friends and benefactors hearing that Paschal would soon die hurried to the monastery to see the holy Brother for the last time. He spoke to his visitors kindly, giving each one a bit of good advice. He also encouraged them to persevere in prayer, to generously practice virtue, and to love the poor of Jesus Christ. Then the monks came to visit their holy Brother and also received advice from him.

On Whit-Sunday, in 1592, St. Paschal turned fifty-two years old. He knew that death was near and tried to put his habit on, but being very weak he fell to the floor. Just then, a Brother entered. He placed the habit on Paschal, and put him in bed. When the devil tempted Paschal to sin, the saint asked for Holy Water and cried out, "Jesus! Jesus!" and the devil disappeared!

During this time the monks told Paschal that Mass had started and his heart was filled with joy. As the monastery bell was ringing for the Elevation of the Host, the dying saint said, "Jesus, Jesus," and then breathed his last. The news of his death spread like fire over the whole country.

On the day of St. Paschal's funeral Mass, a wonderful miracle took place. Paschal opened his eyes, and looked at the Host and the Chalice during the elevation of the Mass He adored God publicly, even though he was dead.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about St. Paschal, are the strange happenings known as the "Knocks of St. Paschal." At first, the knocks came from Paschal's tomb. Later they came from relics and pictures of the saint. Sometimes the knocks have come as a kind of warning, to let people know that a terrible event was about to take place. It is also said that in Spain and Italy, those who are devoted to St. Paschal, are warned about their death, days before, so that they may have a chance to receive the Last Sacraments.

St. Paschal Baylon, Pray for Us!

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