Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May 17 - Paschal Baylon, Poor, Mystic, Friar

In the year 1540 Pentecost came on May 24th and it was celebrated by Christians around the world. On the same day, a baby boy was born in the city of Torrehermosa, in the country of Spain. His mother and father named the little one Paschal Baylon--Paschal in honor of the fact that he was born on the day of Pentecost which was called the "Pasch of the Holy Ghost" in Spain at the time. Paschal was born into the poverty that his mother and father shared and brought a little brightness to their otherwise difficult lives. He helped provide for the family as much as he could as he grew older by taking a job as a shepherd for those with money to pay and flocks to mind. He did his job well and soon found himself working nearly every day. This was a great boon to his family but meant that he received little to no education and was illiterate even as a youth. As a poor young man in a world that has little room for those stricken with poverty and frustration, he soon learned that he would be unable to purchase or earn education but he still endeavored to learn to read. So, he started doing something shocking: asking people who passed his way to teach him "just a little" of how to read.

With each passing person, Paschal either found a willing tutor for a moment or yet another person unconcerned with the face he doesn't know. Person by person Paschal slowly learned to read. Every lesson he received was an act of charity that produced knowledge in his own mind and good fruits in the soul of the one who spared their time and attention for the other. Some would have been ashamed to ask those who passed by for help and assistance but Paschal knew a very important thing: he wasn't the only one who benefited from these lessons. In accepting an act of charity, he was helping the other to grow and mature spiritually. Soon, he had repeat tutors coming by to teach him "a little more." When there was no tutor and nobody coming down the road, Paschal tried to read the book he carried with him and it grew progressively easier and easier as time went on and his knowledge increased. Eventually, he had learned to read and so he applied to be a lay brother among the nearby Franciscans. But, once again, he did something shocking: he only spent time in the especially poor monasteries.

Paschal was certain that poverty was formative and healing for him and so he refused to abandon it by residing in a monastery of some comfort and means. He is recorded as insisting, "I was born poor and am resolved to die in poverty and penance." He had found the powerful road that led through poverty into spiritual formation and growth. He had learned the power of asking others to be charitable and giving others the opportunity to prove their allegiance to a Kingdom not-of-this-world.The rest of his life was lacking in riches and filled with prayer and opportunities for charity. His many mystical and ecstatic experiences only confirmed his calling in his heart until he died on May 17th, 1592.

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