St. Francis of Assisi is often associated with the love of nature, particularly animals, and his embrace of holy poverty. At the heart of Francis’ spirituality, however, was a deep love and reverence for the most Holy Eucharist.
St. Francis was amazed by the humility of God. In particular, Francis was overwhelmed by God’s condescension in both the Incarnation and the Cross. That God should become a helpless, tiny baby or would pour Himself out upon the Cross was the sublime proof of God’s humility and goodness. For St. Francis, however, God’s humility and outpouring love were never more clearly apparent than in the Eucharist. In his Letter to all the Friars, St. Francis wrote:
Let the entire man be seized with fear; let the whole world tremble; let heaven exult when Christ, the Son of the Living God, is on the altar in the hands of the priest. O admirable height and stupendous condescension!
St. Francis instructed priests to show the utmost reverence when celebrating the Mass and administering the sacraments because they held in their hands the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
The Capuchin Reform movement stressed fervent devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The Capuchins were part of the impetus behind the traditional “40 Hours Devotion,” and the adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.
The Capuchin Constitutions clearly enshrine this deep love and devotion to our Eucharistic Lord:
After the example of Saint Francis, let us adore with faith, humble reverence, and devotion Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist. With Him, let us offer ourselves and our actions to God the Father through the Spirit, and frequently spend time in fervent prayer before Him, the spiritual center of our brotherhood.
The Capuchins today continue to emphasize the centrality of the Eucharist in the spiritual life of the friars. In most of their friaries, the brothers spend time in Eucharistic adoration and promote this great devotion among the people.