Saint Paschal Baylon was a Spanish Franciscan lay brother and was known for his strong and intense devotion to the Eucharist.
Saint Paschal was born on the feast of Pentecost (May 16th) 1540 at the town of Torrehermosa in the Kingdom of Aragon (modern day Spain) to poor but very religious peasants Martin and Elizabeth Jubera Baylon. Because his birth fell on Pentecost his parents named him Paschal. As he grew he began to work as a shepherd in the fields. As a shepherd, Saint Paschal would always bring at least one book with him into the field and would ask any passerby's if they could read a page or two him as he watched the animals. Soon he began to ask passerby's if they would teach him the letters on the pages as they read and eventually began to be able to read himself through this process, a rarity at the time for peasant children.
Saint Paschal loved giving alms and prayer but because of his low social and economic status rarely had much in the way of wages to give to the poor. Instead Saint Paschal would frequently give away portions of his meals that were sent to him in the fields each day to any who were hungry. Rather than joining in with the other shepherds in quarrelling and cursing, Saint Paschal maintained a quiet and pious nature. It wasn't long before he began discussing a religious life with his family and his friends recommended several rich monasteries near by. Saint Paschal answered them saying:
"I was born poor and am resolved to die in poverty and penance"
In 1564 Saint Paschal joined the Reformed Franciscans and began his novitiate. A year later, on February 1565, he made his profession of vows in Orito at the Saint Joseph convent. The Franciscans urged him to become ordained as a priest but Saint Paschal discerned that ordination was not the path God has chosen for him.
As a brother, Saint Paschal never owned more than one single habit and walked in sandals only - even when it meant walking on rough roads and through terrible weather conditions. Despite these self-penances and self-denials Saint Paschal was known to all as being always content, cheerful and bursting with respect for anyone he came across. Several times in his life he had ecstatic visions and would often spend the nights in silence before the altar to commune in prayer with God. He became known for his extremely great devotion to the Eucharist and soon many people began to come to the monastery to seek his council.
In 1576 he was chosen to travel to France to defend the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist against Calvinist preachers. His defense was so robust but he was chased out of the town by a Huguenot mob that intended on stoning him to death for his defense.
On May 17th, 1592, Saint Paschal died after falling ill. His tomb at Villarreal almost immediately became a place of pilgrimage as his reputation for holiness and piety had become well known by the time of his death. Pope Paul V beatified him on October 29th, 1618 and Pope Alexander VIII formally canonized him on October 16th, 1690. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed Saint Paschal as the "seraph of the Eucharist" and the patron saint of Eucharistic congresses in 1897. His feast day is celebrated on May 17th.
Tragically during the Red Terror (Spanish civil war) his grave was desecrated and many of his relics destroyed. The relics that were remained were transferred by King Juan Carlos I on May 12th, 1992.