“Good King Wenceslas Went Out Upon the Feast of Stephen” . . . for Eucharistic Adoration

The English-language Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” relates how St. Wenceslas of Bohemia went out upon the feast of Stephen to feed a poor peasant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_King_Wenceslas). According to the legend, St. Wenceslas’ servant found it very cold following him through the snow, so St. Wenceslas told the servant to follow in his footprints. By a miracle, the footprints stayed warm to protect the servant’s feet.

By divine providence today (the very feast of St. Stephen, Dec. 26, regardless of the date stamp above), I came upon an alternative story of the legend that says the miracle occurred during a visit St. Wenceslas made to the Blessed Sacrament. This version comes from St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church and founder of the Redemptorists.  I was reading St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s “Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and to the Blessed Virgin.”* St. Alphonsus writes the following in his introduction to the work:

“But tender indeed was the devotion of St. Wenceslaus, duke of Bohemia, to the Most Holy Sacrament. This holy king was so enamoured of Jesus there present, that he . . . used, even during the winter, to go at night to visit the church in which the Blessed Sacrament was kept. These visits enkindled in his beautiful soul such flames of divine love, that their ardor imparted itself even to his body, and took from the snow on which he walked its wonted cold; for it is related that the servant who accompanied him in these nightly excursions, having to walk through the snow, suffered much from the cold. The holy king, on perceiving this, was moved to compassion, and commanded him to follow him, and only to step in his footmarks; he did so, and never afterwards felt the cold.”

I don’t know which version of the legend is older — the version saying that St. Wenceslas was succoring the poor or the version saying he was visiting the Blessed Sacrament. I’d be happy to think they’re both true. If you love Christ’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, you will perform the corporal works of mercy (and the spiritual ones!) for Christ present in your neighbor. And who is “poorer” than Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, where He has hidden even His risen and glorified Humanity and suffers the cold indifference of men?

*Contained in the anthology of St. Alphonsus’ Eucharistic writings entitled, “The Holy Eucharist.”

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