I write these words in the midst of the chaos of 2020. Years of confusing leadership from the Holy See, continual political wrangling, and the ever-creeping muzzle of political correctness have culminated in the Coronavirus lockdown and subsequent civil unrest. But all of this sound and fury must not be allowed to obscure basic reality. To help us in this quest, God Himself, from the time He walked in Palestine, has performed miracles to prove His teachings. Many of these centre around that dogma that is perhaps the hardest for unaided reason – His Real Presence in the Bread and Wine He transubstantiates into His Body and Blood. There are of course relics of His Precious Blood – either left behind at the Ascension or from His mages which have bled when attacked. But it is the Eucharistic Miracles which we will look at – specifically the six approved as authentic by the Church in the past three decades (despite the extraordinary scientific finding regarding the oldest – Lanciano.
The Miracle occurred at Marian Shrine of Finca Betania in Cúa, Venezuela, on December 8, 1991. It was while Father Otty Ossa Aristizábal, the Chaplain of the Shrine, was offering the Midnight Mass of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Having divided the large host into the customary four parts, he consumed one and returned the others to the paten. He looked down a few minutes later, and to his great surprise one of the three parts showed a red spot from which blood appeared to be leaking, as though from a wound. Afterwards, he took the piece of the host, and secured it in the sacristy. Early the next morning he went to check on it and saw that it was continuing to bleed – but only on one side; the other was free of any red coloured liquid. Witnesses present at the Mass agreed that the priest had no wounds from which the blood could have come. Bishop of Los Teques, Pio Bello Ricardo, ordered the fragment subjected to scientific analysis at the Department of Forensic Medicine of Caracas, which determined that the still-flowing blood is not of the same blood type of the priest, but AB positive – the same as on the Shroud of Turin, the Sudarium of Oviedo, and the Blood of Lanciano. Eventually, the Bishop allowed the Miraculous Host to be venerated in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel of the Augustinian Recollect Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Los Teques. There it continues to bleed and engulfed in various phenomena – occasionally caught by pilgrims on video.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Peculiar as this occurrence has been, more peculiar was awaiting the world in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The church of Santa Maria in the Argentine Capital’s Almagro district was destined to host not one but three Eucharistic Miracles. The first occurred on May 1, 1992. After Mass, a Eucharistic Minister to return the Blessed Sacrament to the Tabernacle, he found two pieces of a large Host lying on the Corporal in front of it. The priest told him to put them into water to dissolve them, which is the usual way of disposing of unconsumed hosts. There they sat in the Tabernacle for a week, unchanged. But a week later, on May 8, they had turned reddish in colour, as though there were blood present. Two days later, on Sunday, May 10, during the distribution of Holy Communion, drops of blood were seen in the patens from which the Eucharist was being distributed. The containers and all other evidence were sent to the Archbishop. Strange as this was, two years later, on Sunday, July 24, 1994, as the Eucharistic Minister uncovered the ciborium to give Communion at the children’s Mass, to his shock there was a drop of blood running down the inner surface of the ciborium. This too was sent off to the Archbishop – who now had as an auxiliary one Jorge Bergoglio.
Another two years would pass, until, on the feast of the Assumption, 1996, someone received Communion in the hand and dropped it. Apparently considering it too dirty to consume, he left it there. A rather pious lady observed the whole thing and told the pastor, Father Alejandro Pese, what had occurred. He in turn put the host in container of water to dissolve and placed the container in the Tabernacle. Once again, Heaven apparently had other ideas. After eleven days, the priest went to see what had occurred. Instead of dissolving, the host was sprouting reddish spots. They continued to grow in number throughout the wafer. Part of the host transformed into what looked like human tissue. It was sent to the Archdiocese. Three years later, the new Archbishop – Jorge Bergoglio – ordered the investigation of the samples.
In 1999, when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, current Pope Francis, was archbishop, he learned of the investigation and wrote a letter requesting that they continue the investigation. Samples were extracted in the presence of the Archbishop’s notary. On October 21, 1999, a genetics laboratory began analysing the samples. The following January 28, they found human DNA in the samples: it is human blood that has a human genetic code – once again, AB Positive. In March, Dr. Robert Lawrence, a forensic pathologist – an expert in tissues examination – was asked to participate in this analysis because of the discovery of substances resembling human tissue in the sample. He found human skin and white blood cells. But Dr. Eduardo Ardonidoli, who had studied the host of Lanciano studied this host at the request of the Italian Episcopal Conference. He said: “This is probably heart tissue, it is not epidermis, that is, it is not human skin.” The sample was then sent to Professor John Walker of the University of Sydney in Australia and who reported that the samples sent were inflamed muscle cells accompanied by intact white blood cells. The inflammation indicated the person had suffered. In 2003 he further declared that these samples “may correspond” to inflamed heart tissue. Next the foremost expert on hear pathology was consulted: Professor Federico Stigibe from New York City’s Columbia University. His report is sent on March 26, 2005, declaring “It is heart tissue. It has degenerative changes of the myocardium and these are due to the cells being inflamed and it is the left ventricle of the heart.” Dr. Stigbe says that the patient from whom these samples come had suffered a lot (he did not know that these samples came from a host), because they have stuck him at the chest and caused a heart attack. Even more bizarre is the existence of white blood cells. If a person's blood is drawn, within 15 minutes the white blood cells disintegrate. So how is it possible that until 2005 white blood cells remain in the sample that was taken in 1996? In any case, all of these mentioned miraculous items are able to be venerated at the parish to-day, in the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, which bears a sign saying: “The Community of Santa María dedicates this Chapel to Permanent Adoration. The Eucharistic Sign and all the sacred vessels are preserved in it, from the events of 1992, 1994 and 1996. We hope that the Sign is for others what it has been for us, a path of discovery of Eucharistic Adoration.”
The next such occurrence took place in Kerala State India, at the Malankaran Rite Catholic church of St. Mary in Chirattakonam. There, on April 28, 2001, Fr. Johnson Karnoor, the pastor, began to lead the St. Jude Novena in front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Monstrance. As he recited the prayers, he noticed three spots on the host. He halted the prayers, and then asked the laity present to examine the spots. Fr. Karnoor then asked them to keep praying, and reposed the Eucharist in the Tabernacle. Two days later, he offered Mass and left for the city of Trivandrum. When he returned to the church for the regular Sunday Mass on May 5, he vested and then opened the Tabernacle to see what had happened to the large host. He found that the dots had expanded and formed a human face. Both the altar boy and the faithful present saw it as well. They commenced adoration, during which the image became ever clearer and clearer. This continued – even as after adoration pictures were taken of it – the features were becoming clearer, and this was recorded on film. The host with the image is venerated there to-day, with permission of the Archbishop of Trivandrum.
The next such wonder struck at the parish church of San Martin de Tours in Guerrero State, Mexico, in October of 2006. Fr. Leopoldo Roque, the pastor, had invited Fr. Raymundo Reyna Esteban to lead a parish retreat. On October 21, while the two priests were distributing Communion, a hist was placed in a pyx held by a religious sister. She was to take communion to an ill lady in the parish; she looked up at the pastor weeping – the host had begun to bleed. Fr. Roque took charge of it and gave the host to the Bishop of the Diocese, Alejo Zavala Castro. He in turn appointed a Theological Commission of investigation. Three years later, the Bishop asked Professor Ricardo Castañón Gómez to tackle the scientific analysis; the professor in turn recruited noted forensic specialist Dr. Eduardo Sánchez Lazo. Between October 2009 and October 2012 the team did its work, announcing its conclusions on May 25, 2013. Having tested the samples using two different methods, they concluded that the bleeding was indeed coming from the host and could not have come from an outside source. The blood type was AB positive; microscopic analysis in 2010 showed that since 2006 much of the visible blood visible had coagulated. However, underlying internal layers featured fresh blood: the Eucharist was still bleeding. Moreover, there was heart tissue in the host – which incredibly was still alive, having as it did intact white and red blood cells and active macrophages. Moreover, as in Buenos Aires, the heart tissue was from the myocardium. The bishop approved the miracle, and the host may be venerated in the church to-day.
The next occurrence was in St. Anthony’s church, Sokółka, in Northeast Poland’s Podlaskie Voivodeship. On October 12, 2008, during the 8:30 AM Mass, a priest dropped a host, picked it up, and placed it in the little contained of water by the Tabernacle. Afterwards, the religious sister who served as sacristan put the host and water into another vessel and locked it up in a safe in the sacristy so that the host would dissolve. They were the only ones with keys. After a week, the nun looked into the safe at the pastor’s request to see the state of the host. Opening the vessel, she found the water to be clean and the host sporting a red spot in the centre, like a blood clot – which did not colour the water. She summoned the pastor, who came with several other priests, all of whom were astonished at the site. The Archbishop of Bialystok, Edward Ozorowski, came to Sokółka with the Chancellor of the Curia, and several priests and professors to investigate. They too were moved, and the prelate ordered that the host be secured once more to see what might happen. On October 29, by order of the Archbishop the vessel was moved to the Tabernacle, and the following day was removed from the water – unchanged – and placed on a corporal in the Tabernacle of the church’s Divine Mercy Chapel. Three years it sat there, until moved to the Tabernacle on the High Altar. The portion of the host with the changed form dried up by January of 2009, and since then has looked like a blood clot. In that month, the Archbishop ordered a scientific investigation of the phenomenon. Famed scientists Maria Elżbieta Sobaniec-Łotowska and Stanisław Sulkowski were called in to study the “blood clot” independently of each other. Sulkowski was not informed of the origin of the sample. Both used extremely advanced instruments, and both reached the same conclusion: the sample examined was actually still living heart tissue, but joined in an inseparable manner to the host – as though the bread had simply turned to human tissue. In a word, it was simply impossible – yet there it was – and is! On Holy Thursday, April 9, 2009, by the decision of His Excellency, the church of St. Antoni Padewski in Sokółka was raised to the rank of the Collegiate Church and the Collegiate Chapter of the Blessed Sacrament was established to guard the miraculous host and spread devotion to the Eucharist.
Yet another Eucharistic Miracle was to strike in Poland, this time at Legnica, in Upper Silesia in the Southeastern part of the country. There, at the church of St. Hyacinth on Christmas Day, 2013, a host fell on the floor. Once more, it was put into water to dissolve – instead it turned red. Suitably impressed, the local bishop set up a committee to investigate the occurrence. In February the next year tiny samples were taken to be tested at the Department of Forensic Medicine in Szczecin. Once again, it was found to be heart muscle that had been subjected to agony. These findings were sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. They decreed that the Miraculous host should be exposed for veneration, which the Bishop announced on April 17, 2016. Since then, St. Hyacinth too has been a place of pilgrimage.
So what does all of this mean for us? It means that the age of miracles has not passed. It means that devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacred Heart, and the Precious Blood are all tied together – as are those of the Five Wounds, the Holy Face, Shoulder, and Name – and of course the Kingship of Christ. Intimately bound up with them, however are devotions to Our Lady – especially her Immaculate Heart and her Queenship. Regardless of whatever in life fails us – to include ourselves – these things remain constant and true, and God has seen fit at this juncture of history to make miracles – beams of light from Heaven to pierce through the fog and darkness of this world of sin and shadows in which we live. All of the seeming unimportance and routine of our daily lives merely veil these effulgent realities. As Sir John Betjeman wrote of the seeming trivialities of Christmas:
So the stranger and more bizarre life becomes, hold ever closer to your Faith – especially the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary, and the Scapular. Our Lord has repeatedly reminded us through the centuries, and nevermore than now that He is both real and in charge. So be of good cheer and bring as many as you can to the Church and her – that is to say His – Sacraments.