The title, “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament,” first appears in 19th century France with St. Peter Julian Eymard, often called the Priest and Apostle of the Eucharist. The short biographical sketch of the Saint which follows is taken primarily from the work, The Road to Emmaus, written by Damien Cash, Provincial Archivist at the Blessed Sacrament Congregation and St. Francis’ Church Heritage Centre in Melbourne, Australia.[1] Australia has become a focus for a re-examination of the writings attributed to St. Eymard, mainly through the work of the late Fr. Donald Cave, an Australian academic priest-historian who produced a number of major scholarly studies of Eymard’s life.  Cave and others have challenged some of the earlier assessments of Eymard’s work as it relates to the subject addressed herein.

It is clear that devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to Mary was characteristic of Eymard at an early age.  Mary was close to his heart.[2] In 1823, just before his First Communion, he went on foot to the shrine of Notre-Dame du Laus. He later wrote of this experience, “For the first time I knew Mary and loved her.”[3] With his village close to Grenoble, he not only enjoyed traveling to various Marian shrines throughout France, he also spent much time at Notre-Dame de La Salette. And, as his spirituality deepened with time, we can see the convergence of these two great loves into one.

Born in the small predominantly Catholic mining town of La Mure, France, in 1811, he often accompanied his mother on her daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and, from his earliest years, the Holy Eucharist took complete possession of his soul. As an altar boy, he would often be seen entering church to pay a quick visit to the Blessed Sacrament and say a short prayer to Our Lady.[4] His parents’ spirituality appears to have been a strong influencing factor: his mother was active in Eucharistic devotion, regularly attending Benediction; and his father was a member of the local Confraternity of the Penitents of the Blessed Sacrament.[5]

The historical setting is noteworthy. Nineteenth century France had moved from a Jansenist influence of guilt and fear to a religion of God’s mercy and love, no doubt with the aid of the earlier apparitions to Margaret Mary in 1673. As such, we find a resulting growth of Marian devotions, processions and pilgrimages, and Eucharistic devotions such as adoration and frequent communion.[6] It is clear that Eymard rejected Jansenism.

His commitment to religious life was made at age 13. Fr. Jean-Joseph Touche, a member of a small group of missionary priests in Provence, led by (later bishop) Fr. Eugène de Mazenod influenced his direction. The Provence missionaries had a strong commitment to frequent communion and to the poor; later, they became the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Fr. de Mazenod encouraged Peter Julian to attend daily Mass and to study Latin.  His father initially opposed his ambitions to the priesthood and refused to pay for his schooling, but in 1827, he consented. Peter Julian then accepted Latin instruction from a chaplain at the Hospice of St. Robert near Grenoble, where he also worked as a domestic. After his mother died in June 1829, he moved to Marseille to enter the novitiate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, but he soon returned to La Mure because of his own deteriorating health. After his father died in March 1831, Eymard declined to take up the family business and instead set out for the diocesan seminary at Grenoble. During this journey, he met Fr. de Mazenod, who agreed to take up his cause. After his intervention, Eymard was admitted to the diocesan seminary; he was ordained in 1834. Despite being plagued by continual health issues, he relentlessly desired to form a religious order.  He served as a diocesan priest until August 20, 1839, when he entered the Society of Mary novitiate at Lyon.[7]

Founded in 1816, The Society of Mary (Marists, or Marist Fathers)[8] was prominent among the large number of religious orders founded in France during the early 1800’s, at a post-revolution time of great unrest and difficulty for the French clergy and religious institutions. Largely based on the vision and spirituality of Jean-Claude Colin, the early Marists saw themselves as the ones to live and minister under Mary’s name under the maxim: “I (Mary) was the mainstay of the new-born Church; I shall be again at the end of time.” A phrase that was exemplary for the way Mary lived the Gospel, and central to Marist religious life was: Ignoti et quasi occulti in hoc mundo, unknown and partially hidden in this world.[9]

While the Marists were distinct from the Berullian school, there was some spirituality that overlapped.  For example, regarding de Montfort’s consecration, the Marists are called to imitate Mary in this way of life and ministry, to “… think as Mary, judge as Mary, feel and act as Mary in all things.” Eymard would often quote Ven. Jean-Jacques Olier in his Eucharistic writings.[10]

Eymard was now immersed in this life, receiving his training at the Marist College of Belley and making his profession in the Society in 1840. He gained valuable experience and leadership skills during his four-year term as spiritual director at Belley. This was of benefit for Eymard, who reluctantly made decisions. Generally, he required the maximum certitude prior to making a choice. Apart from his devotion to Mary, he also became acquainted with deeper aspects of Marist spirituality, including the virtues of a hidden and humble life.[11]

In 1844, Eymard became the Provincial of the Society of Mary and, later, Visitor General. He moved to Lyon to supervise the various Marist communities in France and overseas, and was now in charge of the Marist secular offshoot known as the Third Order of Mary, dedicated to Marist spirituality. By 1850, it had grown to three hundred members in Lyon among whom was St. John Vianney, who encouraged Eymard, recognizing him as a “great saint.”[12]

A Deepening Eucharistic Devotion

Significant at this time, too, was Eymard’s attraction to the writings of Marie-Eustelle Harpain (1814–1842), including her Eucharistic piety and frequent communion. On a visit to Paris in January 1849, he encountered groups practicing sustained Eucharistic worship, including members of the Association of Nocturnal Adorers and its founder, a Jewish convert, who followed Carmelite nuns who regularly prayed nightly before the Blessed Sacrament. Notable in this initial group was a fellow priest, Raymond de Cuers, who would later play a major role, not only in the Congregation’s later history, but in the genesis of the title “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.”[13]

Eymard also learned of a women’s adoration society founded by Théodelinde Dubouché. As Cave and others have argued, Eymard’s Eucharistic spirituality had been evolving, but his contact with the Paris group was a catalyst that reaffirmed his desire for this practice. This also led to his support of the establishment in Lyon of the Third Order Reparation Sisters in 1851, also founded by Mother Dubouché, that promoted adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as an offering or reparation for the sins of the world.[14]

Thus, the seeds were sown for the establishment of a men’s group with a similar Eucharistic mission as a source of spiritual nourishment for both priests and laity. Eymard’s seventeen years at La Seyne were a time of searching. He wrote regularly to Marguerite Guillot, a leading member of the Third Order of Mary, concerning the idea of founding a “Blessed Sacrament Order.” But this was not to be. Struck by the general lack of devotion to the Eucharist of his time and the “sacrileges” committed against it, he would write his superior Jean-Claude Colin: “We need for Jesus Christ to be always exposed, always a Victim, before the face of his Heavenly Father, and ever exposed to rekindle our faith, our piety and our love …”[15]

Subsequently, the relations of St. Peter Julian with Colin became strained after he exceeded his authority in seeking canonical approbation for the Third Order of Mary, and he was removed from supervision of the Order and from his responsibilities as Visitor General. His desire to establish a separate fraternity for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not seen as part of the charism of the Marists, even by Colin’s successor who told Eymard: “You are a Marist before all else.” While not rejecting Eucharistic devotion in and of itself, Marist spirituality emphasized the Virgin Mary.[16]

On May 13, 1856 we come to the founding of the Society of the Most Blessed Sacrament by Eymard, now known as Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, dedicated to perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as preaching of the Forty Hours, retreats and preparation for first Communion. On that date, the Congregation received the approbation of the Archdiocese of Paris. Eymard established a common rule for the members of the Society and worked toward papal approval.  He was granted a “writ of praise” by Bl. Pope Pius IX in 1859. After three more communities had been established, with the help of Fr. Touche, he obtained a Decree of Approbation in 1863 from Pius IX.[17]

Eymard welcomed the assistance of the laity and promoted other communities which became branches of the Society with the same committed worship of the Blessed Sacrament, such as the secular women-based Servants of the Blessed Sacrament (canonically approved in 1864) and the earlier Association (or Aggregation) of the Blessed Sacrament, established in Marseille in 1859.[18] Despite difficulties, the Congregation continued to grow. The giving of oneself totally to God in a more austere way came to dominate Eymard’s later teaching on the Eucharistic mystery and is now the focus of modern studies of Eymard’s spirituality. As Cash points out, it

was an act of self-surrender; a dying based on the model of Christ. Through a total sacrifice of “self”—to loving God for God alone and not for one’s own self—the giver could be transformed to become Christ-like. The gift of self was thus an act of consecration which led to a spiritual communion: to Christ living through the giver in Eucharistic perfection. This concept may not seem so strange today, but it was certainly a radical idea in the mid-nineteenth century.[19]

After the Congregation moved beyond France to Brussels in 1866, Eymard’s health began to rapidly decline: shingles, bronchitis, influenza, and recurring migraines… then a severe stroke which, by July 1868, left him partially paralyzed and losing his speech. On August 1, 1868, Peter Julian Eymard died peacefully at the age of 57 in La Mure. In 1877, his remains were moved from the local cemetery to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in Paris. He was beatified in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, and canonized by Pope St. John XXIII on December 9, 1962. His feast day is August 2.

Eymard himself was not a prolific writer. In 1850, while still a Marist, he published a pamphlet on the Stations, several other articles, and several versions of the Constitutions of the Congregation. He also wrote eight articles between 1864 and 1866 for his newly-published review, Le Très Saint-Sacrement, to which he gave the sub-title: “Bulletin of all that concerns the Eucharist under the Direction of Rev. Fr. Eymard.”[20]

Shortly after Eymard’s death, Albert Tesnière, a member of the Congregation, began the publication of a series of texts drawn from various sources, notably from Eymard’s own notes and jottings, together with notes taken by others of his talks, sermons and conferences, a few of which the Founder had personally corrected.  Since this concerns the genesis of the title “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament,” more will be said of this below.

Eymard’s Marian Devotion

Devotion to the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary follows strictly on faith in Jesus our Savior. Devotion to Mary follows on the love of Jesus, her divine Son. How, in fact, can we adore Jesus Christ without honoring the one who gave him to us? How can we love Jesus without loving Mary… Devotion to Mary is then the filial duty of every Christian.[21]

Eymard’s great devotion to Mary later spilled over into his Marian-Eucharistic spirituality. His love for Mary grew in time, which led to his later working tirelessly with lay organizations promoting devotion to Mary. He often had recourse to Our Lady in times of distress—when, for example, his father rejected his desire for a priestly vocation, pouring out his heart to Mary at the feet of Mary at Notre-Dame du Laus, and when his mother passed away, imploring Our Lady to become his mother from that moment onward.[22]

His trust in both God and in the Blessed Virgin encouraged him to pursue priestly formation. After his ordination in 1834, he set out for the shrine of Notre Dame de L’Osier to celebrate his first Mass at the altar of Our Lady.

One of his first tasks as a new parish priest in the church in Monteynard was to purchase a statue of Our Lady and hold Marian devotions each May.[23] In fact, the origins of his Eucharistic inspiration can be traced to two powerful religious experiences: (1) in May 1845, soon after carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a procession in Lyon where he then resolved to concentrate his preaching on Christ in the Eucharist; and (2) in January 1851, at the Marian shrine of Our Lady of Fourviere, where he was profoundly motivated to establish a group of men dedicated to adoring Christ in the Eucharist.[24]

[God] led me by the hand to the society of the Blessed Sacrament… The Blessed Virgin kept alive this feeling in my heart; it is she that first led me to my Eucharistic Lord.[25]

Title Genesis: Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament

In 1859, after his first companion, Raymond de Cuers, went to Marseille to lay the foundations for a second community, Eymard’s good friend, Bishop de Mazenod, called him to Marseille to help inaugurate this second community. In the history of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation, his move to Marseille is significant. It was the Congregation’s first religious community to be founded outside Paris.  It was also here, early on, where the Congregation’s character or model of religious life was established, which had a major influence on their later mission and culture.[26] There was also an established, tightly organized community of adoration already present in Marseille, the “seed” of this second community.  It is also in Marseille where the title “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament” emerged and has since been credited to St. Eymard. However, as we shall now see, further evidence reveals that its genesis by Eymard is rather problematic.

Support for Eymard as the Title’s Originator

The biographer, Norman Pelletier, writes: “The first public devotion expressed to Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament began here [in Marseille].”[27] If true, then this would explain the appearance of the title in Eymard’s published writings and prayers between 1859 and 1868. Most biographical sketches of Eymard consider 1868 the official inaugural use of the title by the Saint. For example, biographer Andre Guitton writes that, just before his death, on May 1, 1868, while inaugurating the “Month of Mary” at the novitiate of Saint-Maurice near Paris, Fr. Eymard invited his sons to honor Mary under the title of “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament” as his final testimony of his devotion to Mary.[28] This claim originated and was described in more detail by the early biographer, Albert Tesnière, during the final years of Eymard’s life.[29] His 1870 work, The Priest of the Eucharist, A Sketch of His Life, was originally published just two years after Eymard’s death, but many editions and translations of this work have been since produced as the source material for Eymard’s biographies.  In this work, Tesnière writes:

On the first of May, 1868, being at St. Maurice, a little country house which he had taken, far away from the noise and bustle of Paris, to be, as he expressed it, “a little paradise for such of the members of the Adoration as Our Lord called to a more contemplative life,” Father Eymard opened the Exercises for the month of Mary.  He wound up a beautiful allocution on our duties toward this good Mother by the following words:  “Well, let us honour Mary under the title of ‘Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.’ Yes, let us say, with confidence and love, ‘Our Lady of the Most Holy Sacrament, Mother and Model for all adorers, pray for us who have recourse to you!’”

He continued:

The good father… felt as if he had been able to thus pay a debt of gratitude to her who had first led him to the tabernacle, and who sustained him and encouraged him with such maternal solicitude in the foundation of his society. “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament—it is only a new name for an ancient truth,” he would say.[30]

Attributing the title to Eymard in Tesnière’s 1868 account is widely accepted today, appearing in numerous publications and website biographies.[31]

The Veracity of the Accounts by Tesnière

With the source of the claim of the title credited to Eymard now established, one has to first ask if the above biographer’s account is credible and, additionally, if there is evidence from the hand of Eymard himself. The previously noted biographer, Fr. Donald Cave, who has recently produced numerous scholarly studies on the life and writings, is skeptical of the accuracy of Tesnière’s source materials, as is the prominent Fr. Anthony McSweeney.[32] So, too, is the analysis from the historical work in 1968 by Laureat Saint-Pierre, SSS.  McSweeney also disputes Tesnière’s source materials.[33] While his work is of value, Tesnière, besides destroying some of the original documents, suppressed and rewrote others to present an image of Eymard that conformed with an “orthodox” or “respectable” image of him appropriate for his times.[34]

Therefore, while one must recognize Tesnière’s contribution in preserving many of Eymard’s documents and accounts of his conversations, his work at times is seriously flawed. Thus, his account of the official introduction of the title, “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament,” in 1868, must be viewed as questionable, as well as the use of the title in Eymard’s published works while in Marseille.

Opposing Views —“Dueling Titles”

In addition to the above-mentioned biographical sketches, we have access to the correspondence of St. Peter Julian himself during the 1850’s, translated and republished by Sr. Catherine Marie Caron SSS.[35] These shed more light on the intentions of St. Eymard and the apparent genesis of the title, “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.”

What surfaces is a distinct difference in the perception of how Eymard viewed the Congregation in contrast to that of his first companion, Father Raymond de Cuers. After arriving in Marseille, with a nocturnal adoration society already established, de Cuers exhibited great zeal and put his stamp on the community that would enhance the richness of Eucharistic exposition.[36] But while the Marseille community tended to develop according to de Cuers’ preoccupation with prayer and perpetual adoration, it was unlike the model developed by Eymard at Paris which was along apostolic lines, especially in the preparation of children for the sacraments.[37] This would lead to a clash between the two—“a painful separation,” as McSweeney calls it. We have the open and flexible Eymard leaning on prayer and gift of self, along with a concern for the private needs of priests and brothers, vs. de Cuers’ more austere model of Eucharistic life only for priests like himself, influenced by his naval experience focusing on order and discipline.[38] Eymard viewed de Cuers’ approach as “old ideas,” clinging to “immobility as the guarantee of fidelity.”[39]

Both de Cuers and, later, Tesnière would have a significant influence on the Congregation in the years that followed the Saint’s death. After Eymard was elected as Superior General in 1865, the apostolic model was to endure for the time being.[40]  However, after Eymard’s death, and with the biographer Tesnière in de Cuers’ camp, the influence of de Cuers survived over time. According to history, Tesnière passed on as Eymard’s, a heritage that was, in fact, the ideas and practices which were those of de Cuers in many cases. These views were eventually accepted by the Congregation as authentic, at least until the ground breaking works of Laureat Saint-Pierre (1968) and Donald Cave (1969).[41] Furthermore, Tesnière was principally responsible for the 1874 text on Marian devotion that became part of the Order’s Constitutions in 1888.  As Cave’s findings suggest, Tesnière’s portrayal of Eymard, endorsed by many others, produces an outcome that is overly simplistic with an unjustified emphasis placed on piety, duty and devotion, in contrast to the central elements of Eymard’s spirituality.[42] McSweeney concludes:

That is exactly what happened in the case of Mary’s title. Here it was Tesnière, above all, who made sure that Father de Cuers’ ideas [which included the use of this title], attributed to Eymard, should become dominant in the Congregation… the title of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament is never found in any of the drafts of the Constitutions from Eymard’s hand, although he certainly did use it on occasion and even spoke warmly about it at least once, according once again to Tesnière, a month or two before his death.[43]

Evidence from Eymard’s Correspondence

To support the above conclusion, McSweeney notes that it was de Cuers, not St. Eymard, who initially gave the name “Religious of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament” to his candidates for the women’s branch of the Congregation noted above. And, it was de Cuers as well, not Eymard, who was apparently inspired by the representations of Our Lady as the “Virgin-Monstrance” that were well known in his Marseille tradition as well as in that of the Carmelites and Cistercians. Interestingly too, it was Fr. de Cuers who also dedicated the chapel at Marseille to Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in 1859.[44]

We find more evidence to the same in Sr. Catherine Marie Caron’s work. In a letter of May 6, 1859, commenting on the chapel’s title of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, the Saint called it “a fine idea”—so clearly not his own.[45]

Once introduced, we find that he supported the title’s use, as was the case on April 13, 1861, when a proposed medal with the title was also to be struck:

In a few days, they will tell me how much the design and impression for your medals will cost. I had a thought, let us put Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament on the reverse side of the medal, represented as follows: the Blessed Virgin holding the Child Jesus before her, the Child Jesus holding a ciborium in one hand and a host in the other. They say this idea is new and fine, what do you think of it?[46]

Queen of the Cenacle

In 1856, the chapel St. Peter Julian built in Paris was named the “Cenacle.” In the 1860 draft of his Constitutions, Eymard wrote as he typically spoke of Mary in relation to the Cenacle, under the title of Queen of the Cenacle. Citing the 1968 work of Saint-Pierre, McSweeney notes:

Saint-Pierre’s historical work has restored to us Eymard’s mature view of the role of Mary in relation to the Eucharistic mystery. In its biblical and theological depth it is a perennially valuable one, provided we understand it as Eymard did, namely, as seeing in Mary a model for those in whom Christ wishes to become incarnate once again through holy communion.[47]

“Cenacle” is a term taken from the Old French term, cénacle, and the Latin term, cēnāculum (derivative of the Latin word cēnō, which means “I dine”). In common usage, this term relates to “The Upper Room,” traditionally understood as the location for the Last Supper. The Acts of the Apostles suggests that the apostles used the Upper Room as perhaps a temporary residence. It was a place where they met and where, after Easter, the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles, becoming a focal point of early Christianity in Jerusalem (Acts 2:42ff).

It is interesting that Eymard uses an analogy to the Cenacle. The Religious Congregation, Our Lady of the Retreat in the Cenacle, was founded in 1826 at La Louvesc, France, near the tomb of St. John Francis Regis—not far from Lyon, about 60 miles from Eymard’s home town. This Congregation honors particularly, and proposes to itself for its model, the retirement of the Blessed Virgin in the Cenacle after the Ascension of our Lord, while the whole Church awaited the descent of the Holy Spirit. The practices of the Congregation include perpetual prayer, the recitation of the Divine Office, and the daily Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.  Could this have influenced Eymard?[48]

Saint-Pierre states that Eymard’s 1867-1868 reflections on Mary under the title of “Queen of the Cenacle” stress the interiority of the Cenacle, of the Kingdom of God, and of the growth of Jesus Christ in us. Mary’s role is that of Spouse and Mother, presented to us as “partakers of the broken bread and as the model of adoration in spirit and in truth.” The Word Incarnate becomes the model of union with God “and in the gift of self, that living without self-ownership, the consequence of the wedding banquet.”[49]

To support this assessment, McSweeney refers to the texts of Eymard:[50]

Today’s feast is all interior, it is a feast of communion. In communion, we incarnate Jesus Christ in us. Communion is the goal of the Incarnation. By receiving worthily, we enter into God’s plan to complete it. Mary did not want to be alone in carrying Jesus. May the Lord find in us a fitting dwelling as he did in Mary (March 25, 1867).

And the Word was made… bread. We receive Jesus Christ. In that way, the Eucharist is the extension of the Incarnation: and he dwelt among us… We need not envy our Blessed Mother. Our Lord gave himself to us to satisfy his love. And if you love our Lord in return, as Mary did, you become like a mother, begetting Jesus in you and able to engender him in others (March 26, 1868).

The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you… What happened in Mary at the Incarnation also happens to us in Holy Communion (June 14, 1867).

Eymard’s approach finds biblical support in the writings of St. Paul:

Our Lord does not form us so much as he forms himself in us. He comes in us in communion to grow in us and foster his union with us. I have a guest in me whom I must feast by serving him with the virtues which he likes. He will live in you and you will prolong his earthly life in you: “my children, I am in travail with you until Jesus Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19), that is, until our Lord is conceived, born, and grows in you (December 6, 1867).[51]

Taken in this sense, McSweeney’s assessment is that the title, Queen of the Cenacle, has a richer content that far surpasses the devotional character of the approach associated with the title, “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.”

The image of the Cenacle calls to mind the Last Supper, but also the gathered believers of the first community, about Mary the Lord’s Mother, awaiting in prayer the coming of the Spirit. It then brings to mind the Spirit’s powerful outpouring upon them with loud wind and enkindled flames, empowering them for mission. Thereafter it will be the place of gathering for the breaking of the bread in community, where the members are refreshed in their faith, deepen their union with Christ and one another, and are empowered once again for their mission.

The title Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, by contrast, is purely devotional in nature, simply linking Mary and the Sacrament without any special content. It carries none of the dynamic meaning we have suggested above, being incapable of awakening any of these powerful echoes so important for our understanding of our life and mission as believers. For that reason, the evocation of Mary in the Cenacle is to be preferred.[52]

The letters from the hand of Eymard bear out his preference for the title “Mary, Queen of the Cenacle,” significantly expressed by him at this time to Pius IX:

What I desired most was to begin my retreat with the Queen of the Cenacle.[53]

This divine Queen of the Cenacle leads us and directs us there. It’s under this beautiful title of Our Lady of the Cenacle that we honor her.[54]

We all exist only for the glory of our Lord. So it is no dishonor to have passed by the hands of Mary to serve Jesus more directly, to come from Nazareth to the Cenacle, or better, to honor Mary as Mother and Queen of the Eucharistic Cenacle.[55]

We also will have the Month of Mary after the rosary; we’ll read the “Month of Mary” by Belley. Yes, nourish devotion to the Blessed Virgin: she is the Gate of Heaven, the Queen of the Cenacle, the Mother of John.[56]

The divine Queen of the Cenacle will be your advisor and guide for this Eucharistic life.[57]

So what can we conclude from all of this? The title, “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament,” which appears in Eymard’s writings, had its origins in 1859, not 1868, and must be credited to the Congregation’s co-founder, Father Raymond de Cuers not St. Eymard. The Saint expressly desired “Queen of the Cenacle,” a title that did not gain much traction in the years that followed.  Perhaps now is the time for its resuscitation.

The Title, “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament,” in the Writings of Eymard

Here is a brief sampling of texts where the title appears in the works of the Saint, regardless of whether they are from his hand or that of Tesnière:

We have not as yet involved our Lady under this beautiful title, our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament; but devotion to the Eucharist is now spreading; it was never more vigorous or more widespread than in this our day… [And] devotion to our Lady of the most Blessed Sacrament will grow with the worship of the Eucharist.[58]

What did the Blessed Virgin do in the Cenacle? She adored. She was the Mother and the Queen of adorers. She was, in a word, our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament. [59]

If we belong to the Son, we belong to the Mother; if we adore the Son, we ought to honor the Mother: therefore we are obliged, in order to continue in the grace of our vocation and participate fully in it, to give very special honor to the Blessed Virgin under the title of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament. [60]

Application to Marian-Eucharistic Theology

It is clear that St. Eymard’s Marian-Eucharistic theology meshes well with Marian doctrine and devotion in general. Examples are confirmed in the following texts.

1 – Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces

The Month of Mary is the month of blessings and of grace, for, as St. Bernard, in the company with all the Saints, assures us, all grace comes to us through Mary … which prepares us well for the beautiful month of the Blessed Sacrament which follows it.[61]

All grace passes through her hands; she is the reservoir.[62]

O Virgin Immaculate, Mother most loving, an admirable model of the adorers of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, thou art also the Dispensatrix of the graces necessary to fulfill the great duty![63]

2 – Union of the Two Hearts

Eymard recognized that the French School provided some “divine lights,” “shedding luster” on fostering a program of Eucharistic worship joined to a devotion to Mary, specifically of Cardinal de Berulle, Ven. Jean-Jacques Olier, Charles de Condren and St. John Eudes.[64] Eymard’s endorsement of the union of the Two Hearts is perhaps the best example that he supports the linking of Eucharistic worship to Marian devotion:

Without Mary, we shall never find Jesus, for she possesses Him in her Heart.[65]

We must never separate Jesus from Mary; we can go to Him only through her.[66]

We shall discover the perfect union of these two hearts—that of Jesus with that of Mary—so merged as to seem one heart, one life.[67]

All in Mary turned toward the Blessed Sacrament as toward its center and end. A current of grace and love was established between the adorable Heart of Jesus Hostia and the adorable Heart of Mary; they were two flames that burned as one.[68]

3 – Mary’s Contribution to the Incarnation

At least as much, if not more than previous saints, Eymard continues and even amplifies what had already been expressed by other notable figures regarding Mary’s contribution in en-fleshing Christ, who becomes the Eucharist.  As such, he calls Mary the “liberatrix” of the world.[69]

4 – The Immaculate Conception

Besides linking Mary’s virtues to the Immaculate Conception, her “mantle of purity,” he also discusses our “preparation of purity” necessary for the reception of the Eucharist, based on Mary’s preparation to receive the Word made flesh through her Immaculate Conception: “Was it not she who gave us the Eucharist!”[70]

Our Lord owes everything to her in the order of the Incarnation, His human nature. It is by the flesh that she gave Him that He has so glorified His Father, that He has saved us, and that He continues to nourish and save the world by the Blessed Sacrament.[71]

Mary brings us the Bread of Life. From the day of her birth we salute her as the aurora of the Eucharist, for we know that the Savior of mankind will take from her the substance of that Body and Blood which He will give us in the Adorable Sacrament of His love.[72]

The Eucharist began at Bethlehem in Mary’s arms. It was She who brought to humanity the Bread for which it was famishing, and which alone can nourish it. She it was who took care of that Bread for us. It was she who nourished the Lamb whose life-giving Flesh we feed upon.[73]

The Immaculate Conception is the source of all the grace that we have received… The Eternal Father and the Holy Spirit sanctified Mary in order to make her a worthy tabernacle for the Divine Word… The Immaculate Conception is the remote preparation for Holy Communion… Holy Communion should be for us the fruit of the Immaculate Conception.[74]

Interestingly, Eymard takes the position of the Franciscan school when he denotes the Immaculate Conception as the foundation for all of Mary’s privileges and virtues:

Without a doubt the grace of the Immaculate Conception surpasses all the other graces conferred on Mary, even that of her Divine Maternity. Though less in dignity, it is more important before God and more important for Mary; it is, moreover, the foundation and the source of all the privileges afterwards accorded to her … [it] is the starting point of all Mary’s virtues.[75]

5 – Perpetual Virginity

She knew not the pain of maternity. The Savior passing through her womb bequeathed His glory, and Mary will be Queen because she has given to the world Christ, King.[76]

She was that “enclosed garden” which none but the well-beloved Spouse could enter.[77]

[At the moment of the Annunciation]… She treasures so the virginity she has vowed to God… [and] God awaits the consent of this humble maiden!… because He values Mary’s virginity before everything [else].[78]

[Quoting St. Bernard] She pleased the Lord by her virginity, she conceived Him by her humility.[79]

St. Peter Julian ties Mary’s virginity also to the Incarnation and, thus, to Communion:

In Communion, Jesus Eucharistic becomes, in a manner, Incarnate in us, and Communion is the object of His Incarnation. By communicating worthily we enter into the Divine plan, we complete it. The Incarnation prepared the way for and heralded Transubstantiation.[80]

6 – Mary Coredemptrix

Like John Paul II in Salvifici Doloris (cf. 14, 25, 26), Eymard calls attention to the loving suffering of Our Lady, her “co-passion”:

She follows Him to Calvary. She meets Him on that way of sorrow which He saturates with His blood.  Their eyes meet; their hearts, their sorrow unite in one act of sacrifice, one act of perfect resignation … She, too, is being crucified – the rebounds of the hammer give Mary her stigmata.[81]

In texts like this, Eymard ties the prophetic words of Simeon to the moment Mary became “Queen of Martyrs” at the crucifixion,[82] but then further connecting it to the sacrificial offering on the altar and which we contemplate in the Blessed Sacrament:[83]

In order to appreciate the gift of the Eucharist at its just value, the adorer ought to go as Mary did, and with her, to its source, to the sacrifices it demanded of our Lord’s love.  If that love is beautiful on Calvary, it is even more beautiful in the Cenacle and on the Altar, for there it is love forever immolated.[84]

He also affirms the Real Presence and that the Eucharist is above all else a sacrifice:

At the sight of the Eucharistic annihilation of Jesus, she wished to be annihilated also, changed into a sacramental species, without life of her own. She had, in fact, transformed her natural life into that of Jesus, as the bread is transformed into the substance of Jesus Christ.[85]

Thus, for Eymard, in her “co-passion,” Mary is also united in a special way to the Eucharist that is both sacrament and sacrifice—a re-presentation of the one and eternal sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. John Paul II similarly teaches that, in Christ’s Eucharistic presence, Mary, as “Mother of the Eucharist,” is just as closely united with His sacramental sacrifice at the Cross: At the root of the Eucharist is the virginal and maternal life of Mary.[86]

Prayers and Hymns

Numerous prayers to date have now been composed using the title “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.” The ejaculatory prayer, Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, pray for us, incorporated into the prayers of the nine day Novena to Our Lady under this title, is one of the prayers attributable to the Saint.[87] Booklets have since been produced—for example, those by Edward Wood[88]—referring to Mary under this title as well. We find the title appearing in the Saint’s prayers and commentaries. The first example is a prayer directed to St. John the Evangelist:

O glorious chaplain of the Cenacle, you will teach us to know the mysteries of the life of our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament; you will make us enter into her dispositions every time we receive or adore the God of the Eucharist … [And to close the commentary:] Let us fulfill our Eucharistic duties in union with our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament.[89]

Another prayer attributed to Eymard is as follows:

Oh Mary! Teach us the life of adoration! Teach us to see, as thou didst, all the mysteries and all the graces in the Eucharist; to live over again the Gospel story and to read it in the light of the Eucharistic of life of Jesus. Remember, Oh our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, that thou art the Mother of all adorers of the Holy Eucharist.[90]

He concludes an act of entrustment to Mary with the following:

I hope to become a true servant of the Most Blessed Sacrament! My God, behold Thy humble servant! May it be done to me according to Thy merciful goodness and Thy most wondrous love! Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Mother and Model of Adorers, pray for us who have recourse to thee![91]

His sentiments are perhaps best expressed in this prayer to Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, composed for the liturgical feast day of May 13:

Blessed are you, Mary,
exalted Daughter of Sion!
You are highly favored
and full of grace,
for the Spirit of God descended upon you.

We magnify the Lord
and rejoice with you
for the gift of the Word
made flesh,
our bread of life and cup of joy.

Our Lady of the Blessed
our model of prayer in the
pray for us
that we may become what
we receive,
the body of Christ your son.


Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
Pray for us![92]

From the “Novena in Honor of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament,” we find these two prayers, which comprise a useful summation of the theological foundations for Marian-Eucharistic titles in general, but also their application for Eucharistic spirituality:

O Virgin Immaculate, Mother of Jesus and our tender Mother, we invoke thee under the title of our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, because thou art the Mother of the Savior who lives in the Eucharist, and because it was from thee that He took the Flesh and Blood with which He there feeds us! We invoke thee under that title because, again, thou art the sovereign dispensatrix of all graces and, consequently, of those contained in the august Eucharist, also, because thou didst first fulfill the duties of the Eucharistic life, teaching us by example how to assist properly at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, how to communicate worthily, and how to visit frequently and piously the Most Blessed Sacrament. Pray for us, O Virgin Immaculate, our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Oh Virgin Mary, our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the glory of Christians, the joy of the universal Church, and the hope of the world, pray for us. Kindle in all the faithful a lively devotion for the Most Holy Eucharist, so that they may all be made worthy to receive Holy Communion every day.  Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, pray for us.[93]

Rich May is from Houston, Texas. A retired U.S. Air Force Pilot and aerospace engineer, he has a B.A. in theology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, and an M.A. in theology from the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. He has been a national lecturer and retreat presenter, speaking at parishes and conferences in the U.S. for 30 years. A member of the Mariological Society of America, he was a former radio host on Radio Maria. He has also appeared on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).  He has written and published several papers and booklets on Mariology and the Rosary. His website is


[1]     Damien Cash, The Road to Emmaus (Victoria, Au: Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament/David Lovell Publishing, 2007), 6-24; see also condensed version:, (accessed Dec. 7, 2016).


[2]     Ibid., 6.


[3]     Ibid., 8; regarding the shrine: name translated “Refuge of Sinners;” it is where our Lady appeared between 1664 and 1718 in Saint-Étienne-le-Laus, France to Benoite Rencurel, a young shepherdess, approved by the Holy See on May 5, 2008.


[4]     Ibid., 6.


[5]     Ibid., 8.


[6]     Ibid., 7.


[7]     Ibid., 8-10.


[8]     To be distinguished from the Marianists, also known as the Society of Mary, founded by Bl. William Joseph Chaminade around the same time.


[9]     Ibid., 10; a good summary of the Marists offered on Wikipedia: “The Society of Mary (Marists),” (2016); also see Catholic Encyclopedia/New Advent: (2012).


[10]    Albert Tesnière, The Priest of the Eucharist, A Sketch of His Life, (London: Burns and Gates, 1881), 47.


[11]    Damien Cash, The Road to Emmaus, 10.


[12]    Ibid., 9-10.


[13]    Ibid., 10, 11, 13, 18.


[14]    Ibid., 11-13.


[15]    Ibid., 11-13.


[16]    Ibid., 12-14; also see: “Eymard, Pierre
Julien, St.,’’ in New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2002 ed.


[17]    Ibid., 13,18,19; From Eymard’s early petition to Pius IX:  Holy Father . . . Why does the greatest of all mysteries not have its own religious group like the other mysteries; why would it not have men with a perpetual mission of prayer at the feet of Jesus in his divine Sacrament? For an account, also see Martin Dempsey, Champion of the Eucharist-Saint Peter Julian Eymard, (New York: Sentinel Press, 1962), 161.


[18]    Ibid., 17-19; Also see Dempsey, Champion of the Eucharist, 150,173, 174; re: dates: added information from Damien Cash in personal correspondence; see also, (2016).


[19]    Ibid., 20.


[20]    A complete resource listing for St. Eymard is found on (accessed Jan 24, 2017).


[21]    Peter Julien Eymard, Eucharistic Handbook, (Cleveland, Ohio: Eymard League, 1948), 115.


[22]    Norman B. Pelletier SSS., Tomorrow Will Be Too Late, 13, 18.


[23]    Ibid., 28-29.


[24]    Ibid., 51-52; also see Tesnière, The Priest of the Eucharist , 24ff.


[25]    Tesnière, The Priest of the Eucharist, 7.


[26]    Damien Cash, The Road to Emmaus, 18-19; also see: (2017).


[27]    Pelletier, Tomorrow Will Be Too Late, 93-94.


[28]    Andre Guitton, SSS, Peter Julian Eymard: Apostle of the Eucharist (Ponteranica: Centro Eucharistico, 1996 ed.) original publication 1992 in French, English translation by Conrad Goulet.


[29]    Tesnière, The Priest of the Eucharist, full citation above.


[30]    Ibid., 99-100.


[31]    Examples: that the title was favored by Eymard: Stefano Manelli in Jesus Our Eucharistic Love (New Bedford: Academy of the Immaculate, 1996), 108; or that Eymard entitled or “coined” Our Lady as such: Richard Foley in Mary and the Eucharist (Newtonsville, Ohio: Hope of St. Monica, 1997), 30, 47, 105, 133; and that it originated specifically in the year 1868 by Eymard, is on popular Catholic websites such as, “Easter, May 13th, Optional Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima” on:


[32]    Cave, Donald, SSS. (2001). “Eucharistic myths: A suggested means of illustrating the differences between conceptions of the ‘eucharistic life’ as held by Eymard in his later years, and Tesnière (de Cuers). In Commission for the Study of the Founder and His Work (Ed.). The Vow of the Personality, 127-136. Rome: SSS. (Etudes sur les origines de la Congrégation du Saint-Sacrement, vol. VII). This citation is taken directly from the Eymard Resource Listings found on, (accessed Jan 24, 2017).


[33]    McSweeney, Anthony, SSS., “Our Lady of the Cenacle: Some Reflections Concerning the Feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.” See (2016).


[34]    Damien Cash, The Road to Emmaus, 22.


[35]    Eymard, P.J., Life and Letters of Saint Peter Julian Eymard: Founder Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers and Brothers, Congregation of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament and a Eucharistic association for the laity, translated and arranged chronologically by Sr. Catherine Marie Caron, SSS. (Albuquerque, NM: Guynes, 1995), 6 Vols.


[36]    Pelletier, Tomorrow Will Be Too Late, 93-94.


[37]    Damien Cash, The Road to Emmaus, 18; cites Pelletier; see Tomorrow Will Be Too Late, 94-95.


[38]    Ibid., 19-21.


[39]    McSweeney, “Our Lady of the Cenacle.”


[40]    Damien Cash, The Road to Emmaus, 21.


[41]    McSweeney, “Our Lady of the Cenacle.”


[42]    Damien Cash, The Road to Emmaus, 23; also on:


[43]    McSweeney, “Our Lady of the Cenacle”; he also cites Guitton, 326, when noting: “‘We shall honour Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament!’ This declaration was reported two years after Eymard’s death by Tesnière.  As Cave has documented, Tesnière’s Marian piety was the object of criticism for its notable exaggerations even in his own time.”


[44]    McSweeney, “Our Lady of the Cenacle.” Regarding the chapel naming, McSweeney cites André Guitton, Peter Julian Eymard Apostle of the Eucharist, 134. Probable chapel date (1859) is from correspondence received by Damien Cash.


[45]    Eymard to Count Jean Raymond de Cuers
(Fr de Cuers SSS), Paris, 6 May 1859, Doc. 823 in Caron, The Life and Letters of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, vol. 3, 121.


[46]    Eymard to Count Jean Raymond de Cuers
(Fr de Cuers SSS), Paris, 13 April 1861, Doc. 1029 in Catherine Marie Caron, The Life and Letters of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, vol. 3, 341. Note that the medal design is the “template” for the statue of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament still replicated to this day (Our Lady holding Jesus, who holds both a ciborium and the Host).


[47]    McSweeney, “Our Lady of the Cenacle.”


[48]    Cf. Rev. Fr. Felix, Our Lady of the Cenacle or of The Retreat, trans. Miss Deak (New York: The Lafayette Press, 1896); this is the English translation of the original work Notre Dame Du Cenacle published in 1885. The text of the English can be found on line using Several passages are strikingly similar to some texts in the works of Eymard. For example (p. 182): “Where more appropriately than in the Place of the Holy Apostles could this new fire of the apostolic life be kindled? As everywhere else, it commenced there in the most humble manner, and under the roof of a palace, it still recalled Bethlehem and Nazareth. It recalled likewise the high and spacious room which was the first Cenacle. This was for the Society a circumstance of immense importance, for which it was not possible to too much thank the God of all blessings and Our Lady of the Cenacle … Such are the wishes that, in concluding we form for the future of Our Lady in the Cenacle.”


[49]    McSweeney, “Our Lady of the Cenacle.”


[50]    Ibid.


[51]    Ibid.


[52]    Ibid.


[53]    Eymard to Mme. Sauvestre de la Bouraliere, Paris, Feast of the Ascension, May 1856; Doc. 566 in Catherine Marie Caron, The Life and Letters of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, vol. 2, 199-200.


[54]    Eymard to Mme. Franchet, Paris, September 24, 1856; Doc. 627 in Caron, The Life, vol. 2, 273.


[55]    Eymard to Miss Marguerite Guillot [Mother Marguerite du SS], Paris, October 3, 1856; Doc. 631 in Caron, The Life, vol. 2, 276.


[56]    Eymard to Count Jean Raymond de Cuers, Paris, May 4, 1860; Doc. 950 in Caron, The Life, vol. 3, 265.


[57]    Eymard to Fr Alexander Leroyer, Paris, May 24, 1861; Doc. 1128 in Caron, The Life, vol. 4, 41.


[58]    Peter Julian Eymard, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament (Cleveland, Ohio: Eymard League, 1930), 4.


[59]    Ibid., 4, 5.


[60]    Ibid., 3.


[61]    Ibid., 1.


[62]    Ibid., 25.


[63]    Ibid., 183.


[64]    Ibid., 14-15.


[65]    Ibid., 2.


[66]    Ibid.


[67]    Ibid., 5.


[68]    Ibid., 114.


[69]    Ibid., 31.


[70]    Ibid., 1.


[71]    Ibid., 2.


[72]    Ibid., 31.


[73]    Ibid., 68-69.


[74]    Ibid., 18-19.


[75]    Ibid., 22-23.


[76]    Ibid., 51.


[77]    Ibid., 34.


[78]    Ibid., 41.


[79]    Ibid., 42.


[80]    Ibid., 42-43.


[81]    Ibid., 85.


[82]    Ibid., 73.


[83]    Ibid., 75.


[84]    Ibid., 124-125.


[85]    Ibid., 129.


[86]    Alla radice dell’Eucaristia c’è dunque la vita verginale e materna di Maria; John Paul II, Angelus Address, June 5,1983; Libreria Editrice Vaticana, on; also, the sacrificial aspect is well articulated in Dominicae Cenae (Feb., 1980), no. 9.


[87]    Peter Julian Eymard, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, 176.


[88]    Wood, Edward, SSS, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament: Novena booklet. (Melbourne: Blessed Sacrament Congregation, 1997). Also: Wood, Edward, SSS. The Blessed Sacrament: Personal prayer for a visit: Alone with the Lord. (Melbourne: Blessed Sacrament Congregation, 1997); 6 page pamphlet.


[89]    Peter Julien Eymard, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, 9.


[90]    Ibid., 14.


[91]    Ibid., 175.


[92]    Pelletier, Tomorrow Will Be Too Late, 145; also from Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, Rule of Life 14; found on, (2016).


[93]    Peter Julien Eymard, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, 176-178.