Peter Julian Eymard
Born at La Mure d'Isère in the Grenoble diocese, Peter worked at his father's profession of a cutler until he entered the local seminary and was ordained priest in 1834. With his bishop's approval he entered the Marist Congregation in 1839, rising to the office of Provincial of Lyons in 1845. The abiding inspiration of his spirituality was his perception of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This led to his foundation of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers in 1857. They grew slowly at first, but more rapidly after the first six years: the congregation attained final papal approval in 1895, by which time he had also founded lay associations with similar names and ends. He was credited during his life with ability to read the secrets of hearts and to utter prophecies. He broke down in 1868 and returned to his home town where he collapsed with paralysis. Characteristic of all his foundations was constant and repeated adoration at the heart of all their lives; but this was completed by teaching and other charitable works. It could be said that the emphasis on a somewhat static view of the Eucharist, shared by many in the 19th century, has been completed by 20th century popes and the Second Vatican Council into a deeper perception of the Eucharist as a sacrificial meal in which all those present actively share. But it is no accident that he was canonized during the Second Vatican Council in 1962: adoration and reverence are needed in every century. Feast: 1 August.
Lives by J. M. Lambert (1925), C. de Keyser and F. Trochu (1949); B.L.S. viii, 14–17; Bibl. SS., x. 840–3; See also F. Lebrun (ed.), Histoire des Catholiques en France du XVe siècle à nos jours (1980).