Tag Archives: Eucharist

Christ’s marvelous intervention seen through Eucharistic miracles

A sampling of Eucharistic miracles are surveyed, in honor of the month of the Sacred Heart, and of the Corpus Christi celebration … and as a reminder of Christ’s continual, actual presence in the world, and among his people.

A priest’s confection of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ is awe-inspiring enough for the faithful Catholic, but for those whose faith has waned or who are downright incredulous, the Lord has more in store. In fact, one of the most celebrated Eucharistic miracles took place in the 700s due to a priest’s doubts regarding the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

At the words of consecration, the doubtful Basilian priest saw, not with the eyes of faith, but with his bodily eyes, the bread change into flesh and the wine into blood. The visible flesh and blood have remained intact over the centuries and are currently kept in a specially designed, elevated altar in St. Francis Church in Lanciano, Italy.

In 1970 Dr. Edward Linoli, professor of anatomy and histology (the study of microscopic animal or plant tissue), was commissioned to investigate the Lanciano phenomenon, which has been the focus of countless pilgrimages over the centuries. The following year, he released a report confirming that the remains are indeed fresh human heart tissue and blood, not tainted by any preservatives. Dr. Linoli’s findings were later confirmed by the World Health Organization.

Meeting the miracle in person

Michael O’Neill, commonly known as “The Miracle Hunter,” led a recent pilgrimage to St. Francis Church in Lanciano. He said that the blood type found there is AB, by far the least common, but the same type found on the Shroud of Turin, which is more likely in Middle Easterners. Samples of flesh and blood miracles have often been found to contain striated heart muscle indicative of torture, and show seamless integration between the visible bread and visible flesh, ruling out the possibility of a hoax.

“There have been common themes throughout the dozens of Eucharistic miracles recognized by the Church, “O’Neill said. A popular speaker at Legatus gatherings, O’Neill continued to explain: “Some of the most common of these themes are bread and wine that turn to visible flesh or blood.” This has been seen all over Europe, as well as in places like Venezuela and Mexico.

O’Neill has a chapter on Eucharistic miracles in his recent book, Exploring the Miraculous. While many of the effects of these miracles have been preserved, as in the case of Lanciano, not every miracle leaves behind tangible remains. For example, O’Neill relates the story of the 20th century stigmatic German, Therese Neumann, who lived almost 40 years on no other food but the Eucharist.

Other types of miracles include preservation from natural disasters and instantaneous conversions, as described in The Eucharistic Miracles of the World, written by Antonia Salzano Acutis, mother of Venerable Carlo Acutis, who cataloged stories of Eucharistic miracles before his death at age 15 in 2006.

The book, which is similar to Joan Carroll Cruz’s bestselling classic, Eucharistic Miracles, was translated into English with the help of The Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association and is the compact version of a poster exhibit that has been all over the United States.

One of the miracles exhibited dramatically changed the life of Andre Frossard. He was raised an atheist and his father was one of the founders of the French Communist Party. The younger Frossard even considered himself beyond atheism, to the point that he had never given God adequate consideration to dismiss Him.

Frossard entered a Paris chapel in 1935 at the age of 20 filled with a multiplicity of worldly concerns, and left the chapel filled with the love of God. He was there simply to meet a friend, but in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, he was overwhelmed with divine love. He was subsequently baptized and went on to fight the Nazis in World War II. In 1969 he wrote a bestselling book entitled God Exists; I Have Met Him and in 1990, five years before his death, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher by Pope John Paul II.

Pope’s apparent association with a miracle

Eucharistic miracles were reported from Saint Mary’s Parish in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1992, 1994, and 1996. The specific circumstances varied for each report, but they all involved hosts turning to visible flesh and blood. The last of these reports involves Jorge Bergoglio, then an auxiliary bishop, instructing the host to be photographed, secured in a tabernacle, and, years after no decomposition, to be analyzed. 

One of Bergoglio’s representatives, Dr. Ricardo Castanon Gomez, brought a sample to a California lab without telling the scientists its origin. While this procedure very unfortunately eliminated the great reverence that should have been present, it did ensure no confirmation bias would take place. The scientists, unaffected by any preconceived notions, determined the sample contained human AB blood.

Then Dr. Frederick Zugibe, a renowned New York cardiologist and forensic pathologist, determined that when the sample was given to him, it was living human flesh and blood. This determination also came without prior knowledge of the sample’s origin. Further, he believed the sample specifically to be cardiac muscle from the left ventricle in a rich white blood cell condition indicative of severe stress—as if the person whose heart it was had been beaten on the chest.

In The Eucharistic Miracles of the World Dr. Gomez summarizes the Buenos Aires events this way: “Rightly a theologian pointed out to me how the fact that it was really the myocardium [heart muscle] was not by chance, but was symbolic. The Lord in this miracle wanted to show us His myocardium, which is the muscle that gives life to the whole heart, just as the Eucharist does with the Church.”

Miracles, wonders and saints

O’Neill said that while over 100 Eucharistic miracles have been recognized by the Church, none have come from the United States. However, he does not think that this should alter anyone’s belief in the Real Presence or the accessibility of Americans to the Almighty. He likes to remind people that, before any material manifestations of miracles, the “real” miracle is the Real Presence—the Lord substantially dwelling with us under the appearance of bread. “The Miraculous Miracle” is laden with additional miracles to augment the original and most important one.

O’Neill, who will speak at five Legatus events in 2019, is also working on two separate EWTN series that will air next year. One is about Americans whose canonization causes have been opened, called “They Might Be Saints,” while the other, “Miracle Hunter,” is about wonders of all kinds. He also has four more books in the works, including one from TAN Books/ St. Benedict Press, which is led by Legate Conor Gallagher. The company also prints, not only Joan Carroll Cruz’s Eucharistic Miracles, but other popular works of hers such as The Incorruptibles and Miraculous Images of Our Lord.

TAN Books/St. Benedict Press is a comfortable fit for “The Miracle Hunter,” who feels like he has been working for the past 20 years in the same vein as Venerable Carlo Acutis, one of his patrons: “I am inspired by Carlo’s perception of the importance of spiritual things at such a young age. He combined that awareness with his technological skills to make the wonders of God’s grace present to many people. I hope to carry on his work and ask for his intercession in this endeavor, which reaches its fulfillment in Eternal Life.”

TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Our role in the Eucharist

JOHN HUNT writes that we play a profound role in the Lord’s gift of Himself . . .

John Hunt

John Hunt

Silent, meditative prayer is a very special way in which we can dialogue with Our Lord. As we talk to him and listen to him, we come closer to him in the silence of our hearts.

Many of us are not easily drawn to private prayer. The pace of our lives, the noise of the world, and the contradictions of daily life drown out our conversation with the Lord. But despite the challenges to grow in a life of prayer, be assured that he is waiting for us. He wants to welcome us into a relationship with himself. As he humbled himself to be born, to live a life of obedience to his parents, and to subject himself to the ignominy of the cross only to overcome the world by his resurrection, so too he humbles himself daily to be with us, to be consumed by us and so to travel with us throughout the day.

This gift, this Eucharist, is worthy of our meditation because the Lord’s gift of himself is, in a sense, the product of our mutual self-giving. We know that the Eucharist is Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity. The miraculous changing of bread and wine into himself begins, not with the bread and wine, but rather with the wheat and the grapes. He gives us the material to which we apply our human talent and energy, thereby giving back to him the bread and wine that, through transubstantiation, becomes his body and blood for our spiritual and physical nourishment.

The Lord does as we ask in prayer: “Prosper the work of our hands O Lord, prosper the work of our hands.” This mutual self-giving is a very tangible expression of our love for Jesus Christ and of his love for us. By this self-giving we become central participants in the Eucharist, not simply “bit players” in a divine/human miracle. As we receive Jesus in the Eucharist we become, as a modern-day saint has said, “Other Christs.”

If your silent prayer seems dry and without form or substance, simply begin by telling Jesus, “Lord, I don’t know how to pray.” If you do that, you can be assured you have already begun to pray.

The Lord invites us to the table and reminds us, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life everlasting.” How blessed we are to have such a precious gift!

JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

Eucharist: In the hand or on the tongue?

MIKE AQUILINA distills the difference between the two ways of receiving the Eucharist . . .

Mike Aquilina

Mike Aquilina

The Body of Christ is the most precious thing in the world. It’s very important that none of it be lost or disrespected in any way.

In times past, it was the rule that people receive the Host on the tongue. There were several good reasons. First of all, the hands of priests are consecrated expressly for consecrating the Eucharist. Over time, it seemed fitting that such contact should be reserved to consecrated hands. But there were other reasons, too. Superstitious people sometimes hid the consecrated Host for use as a sort of magic talisman, which is a sacrilege. This was less likely to happen if people in the congregation never had an opportunity to hold the Host.

And then there were practical reasons: In the days before indoor plumbing, workmen might come to Church with very grubby hands. And there are fewer opportunities for accidents when the Host is placed on the tongue.

Although these reasons are still valid, U.S. bishops decided that it’s safe and respectful to offer Communion in the hand to people who wish to receive it that way. Those who receive in the hand should take special care to ensure that no small particles of the Host remain on their hands or fall to the ground.

Many people prefer to receive on the tongue because they find it more fitting and reverent, or because they grew up with the custom, or because they’d rather not take the chance of accidentally mishandling the Sacrament. The general rule is that the person receiving, rather than the person distributing, should decide whether to receive on the tongue or in the hand.

If you wish to receive on the tongue, keep your hands down and folded, and allow the person distributing the Host to place it on your tongue.

Because Christ is fully present in both the consecrated bread and the consecrated wine, you don’t get any more grace if you receive both species than if you receive only one. Communion under both species, or only one, is equally valid. You’re not getting just half of Christ if you receive only the Host or, for that matter, only the Blood of Christ, as people with wheat allergies sometimes do.

MIKE AQUILINA is the author or editor of more than 40 books on Catholic history, doctrine and devotion. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers“ (Servant Books, 2011).

Catechism 101

Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us, is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,” in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which He is the author,  in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister.  But “he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species.”

Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons, this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. But the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly. This is the usual form of receiving communion in the Eastern rites.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1373-1390

Holy Communion: To receive or not to receive?

Mike Aquilina shows both sides of a very complex issue that many bishops face . . .

Mike Aquilina

Mike Aquilina

Sometimes we see public figures taking Communion when they seem to be violating the rules: politicians, for example, who actively support abortion or who make public statements that disagree with Church teaching.

One of the principles of canon law is that penalties are a last resort. If a Catholic is straying from the true path, the Church has the duty to use every means in her power to bring the lost sheep back to the fold.

In the case of a public figure, bishops must also consider the public effect of their own actions. What message will they be sending about the Church by how they react to such provocations? Should they make a statement correcting the public figure’s error but let him continue to take Communion, to show that the Church values mercy and forgiveness? Should they excommunicate him, to show how seriously the Church takes her teachings? It’s not an easy decision.

To some bishops, erring on the side of mercy seems like the more Christian thing to do, as well as the course most likely to convey to the world what Christian love is like. Others, however, say that the greater concern should be for the sinner’s scandalous effect on the public, who may grow confused or cynical about Catholic doctrine, devotion and discipline. Sometimes, if a bishop has met privately with public figures and failed to persuade them to change, the bishop must refuse to admit them to Communion.

In August, the bishops’ conference in Bolivia opted for the latter approach. The adjunct secretary of that body, Monsignor José Fuentes, said that government officials and others who support abortion should not receive Holy Communion.

“If as a legislator, a judge, or whatever, I support an abortion law, I am separating myself from the Church. I cannot receive Communion unless I show my repentance,” he said, according to Catholic News Agency.

As St. Paul says, we should examine ourselves before we take Communion, because we’re in a better position than anyone else on earth to know what’s lurking in our souls.

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29).

The priest has a duty to make sure Communion is not offered to anyone who is not allowed to receive it. If he knows of an obstacle to your receiving Communion, he will usually speak with you about it, explaining what the problem is and what you can do to overcome it.

MIKE AQUILINA is the author or editor of more than 40 books on Catholic history, doctrine and devotion. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers” (Servant Books, Cincinnati, 2011). Information on the Bolivian bishops’ conference is from the Catholic News Agency.

Catechism 101

Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty — and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin — are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.

Code of Canon Law, 915

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 270

Bread: It matters which kind becomes the Eucharist

Mike Aquilina says there are many good reasons why we use unleavened bread at Mass . . .

Mike Aquilina

Unleavened bread is one of the main features of the Passover. It commemorates the Israelites’ hasty exit from Egypt: “The dough they had brought out of Egypt they baked into unleavened loaves. It was not leavened, because they had been driven out of Egypt and could not wait. They did not even prepare food for the journey” (Ex 12:39).

In memory of that Exodus, the Israelites were to celebrate the Passover for a week every year. During that week only unleavened bread was allowed. “When the Lord, your God, has brought you into … a land flowing with milk and honey, you will perform the following service in this month. For seven days you will eat unleavened bread, and the seventh day will also be a festival to the Lord. Unleavened bread may be eaten during the seven days, but nothing leavened and no leaven may be found in your possession in all your territory” (Ex 13:5-7).

Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Passover at the Last Supper. “And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Lk 22:15-16).

So we know that the bread used at the Last Supper was unleavened bread. Our Christian Eucharist follows the pattern laid down by Christ at the Passover meal. We repeat, as far as practical, the circumstances of Christ’s meal with his disciples, including unleavened wheat bread.

The bread must be unleavened, and it must be made of wheat. It can’t be leavened wheat bread, and it can’t be unleavened bread mixed with other grains so much that we can no longer reasonably call it wheat bread. Communion wafers meet these requirements, which is why most parishes use them.

In theory there’s nothing to prevent another kind of unleavened wheat bread from being used. But because it becomes the sacred Body of Christ, the priest has to be very careful not to lose crumbs of it when it is divided.

Concerns have been raised by people with celiac disease who can’t digest gluten. Low-gluten hosts can be used, but not gluten-free hosts. Wheat is the essential matter; wheat flour with the gluten reduced can be substituted without invalidating the sacrament. But with no gluten at all, it’s really not wheat bread anymore.

If it’s not possible to arrange for a low-gluten bread for Communion, or if your body can’t take even the tiny amount of gluten in a low-gluten wafer, remember that Christ is completely present in both elements. Speak to the priest about receiving only from the chalice.

This column is reprinted with permission from “Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers” by Mike Aquilina (Servant Books, Cincinnati, 2011).

Catechism 101

The essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread and grape wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper: “This is my body which will be given up for you. …This is the cup of my blood…”

In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: The unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt. …When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #133-134