October 23, St Joseph (Józef) Bilczewski

October 23
SAINT JOSEPH BILCZEWSKI, BISHOP
Optional memorial

Joseph (Józef) Bilczewski was born in 1860 in Wilamowice, near Bielsko-Biała. He was ordained in 1884. After graduating in Kraków, Vienna, Rome and Paris, he worked as a teacher in Kęty and Kraków. In 1891 he became a professor of dogmatic theology at the Lviv University, and in 1900 an ordinary of the Archdiocese of Lviv. He obtained the allowance from Pope Pius X for celebrating the feast of the Queen of Poland in his archdiocese, which was later expended over other dioceses. He published books and articles as a social activist. He toned down national conflicts in the archdiocese. He died in 1923 in Lviv.

Common of Pastors.

[PDF Version]

OFFICE OF READINGS

SECOND READING

From a pastoral letter of Saint Joseph Bilczewski, bishop (Christmas 1910)
The Bread of Life

Beloved in Christ!
The Blessed Sacrament is first of all and above all the bread!

The Saviour states this many a time with emphasis. He cries, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”; “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you”; “for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

This means that the basic aim of establishing the Blessed Sacrament, and at the same time the most holy way of venerating it, is the Holy Communion. The Eucharistic Bread is given not as a supplement and complement, but the basis of the higher and truly human life of each single soul and the whole world.

In other words, since God’s bread is to be the main and most important food of each man, the poorest one included, it cannot cost anything whatsoever. Everyone can receive it always, with ease and for free.

As this Eucharistic Bread is as valuable as God himself, as it is indispensable for a soul, as it contains health, world’s salvation, and, moreover, it does not cost anything, it would seem that everyone sans exception would queue in crowds before the tables filled with it; that priests would not be able keep up consecrating or distributing it; that there would shortage thereof in our churches.

Meanwhile, we come across Catholics that are fully satisfied with ordinary bread and throughout their lives, even on their deathbeds, do not want to know of the Eucharistic Bread. Others come from time to time just to have a glimpse at it during the Holy Mass, but do not sit down to the feast of Jesus and with Jesus, as if by looking only one’s hunger could be satisfied. Almost all eat this bread too rarely and too little.

When during the period preceding the new harvest there is a shortage of bread at home, people faint, cannot work and go down with diseases.

Even worse than bodily diseases have fallen on mankind in our times due to the negligence of God’s Bread; these include: weakening of the faith, atrophy of rules, as well as great characters, decline of morals, paganisation of the world.

Therefore, if the world is to be healed, if justice and love are to rule over nations, it must sincerely turn with all its heart to the Source of justice and love, to the Source of health and life, namely to the Blessed Sacrament, and make use of all the good that is laid in the Holy Communion. Eating this living Bread, ill mankind recuperated in the first centuries of Christianity, and so it shall recuperate now, for this food has not lost anything of its Divine power.[1]

RESPONSORY

See in this bread the Body that hung on the cross, and in this chalice of wine the Blood that flowed out from the side. Thus, receive and eat Christ’s Body, receive and drink his Blood:
For you yourselves have become Christ’s members.

So as not to become separated, eat the Body that unites you; so as not to doubt your value, drink the Blood that is the price of your salvation.
For you yourselves have become Christ’s members.

CONCLUDING PRAYER

O God,
you gave Saint Joseph Bilczewski, bishop, an apostolic zeal and reverence for the mystery of the Eucharist,
grant, we beg you, through his intercession that we may feed ourselves on the Bread of life and rejoice in the first instalment of eternity.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum. Probatum seu confirmatum, die 17 iunii 2008, Prot. 400/08/L.

[1] Translated by DChojnacki (2014).

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