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.