Fr Ksawery Sokolowski
Most Christians do not negate the fact of Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament. You cannot be a Catholic and do not believe that at the moment of the consecration, when the priest says in the name of Christ the words, ‘This is my Body. This is my Blood’, the bread and wine become his Body and Blood. In 1274, at the Council of Lyon this conviction was pronounced as a dogma of the Christian faith, i.e. recognised as the essential truth of the faith. The Orthodox believers and some Protestants: the Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists and the Mormons, share this conviction. Although this fact is not noticed by the senses – because the species of bread and wine are not transformed – we are convinced that the glorified Christ is present under the bread and wine. Our conviction is based of the above quoted statement of the Son of God. And we do not need any other evidence. Participating in the liturgy of the Eucharist we can be, even every day, witnesses of this miracle; we can participate in the mystery of the Divine Presence empowering our human reality. The so-called Eucharistic miracles are events that make us realise this truth to a greater extent. These are astonishing events, extraordinary, making us think. They happened in many countries and various forms in the past twenty centuries. The oldest testimony about the first miracle comes from the 8th century and says about the miracle that happened in Lanciano at the Adriatic. In the 7th as well as 8th and 14th centuries there were many extraordinary events connected with the Eucharist: 10 in Italy; 10 in Spain; 1 in Portugal, 7 in Belgium; 5 in France; 8 in Germany; 3 in Austria, 5 in Holland and 2 in Poland. In the next centuries there were several dozen miracles and in the last century there were several and a few in this century. Some of them, like the miracle in Lanciano, were the transformations of the consecrated Bread and Wine in real human flesh and blood, which one can see in the mummified forms nowadays. We know numerous cases of bleeding Hosts, for example in Bolsen, Italy (in the year 1254), in Santarem, Portugal (1274), in Bois-Seigneur-Isaac, Belgium (1405), in Stich, Germany (1970), in Betania, Venezuela (1998), and the Hosts that have not been destroyed with time, e.g. in Siena (1730). In other cases the miracles involved the appearance of Jesus’ picture on the sacred Host, for instance in Dubna, Poland (1867), in Moure, Portugal (1996), in Chirattakonam, Indie (2001), or its levitation, e.g. in Torino (1453), in Faverney, France (1608), in Lourdes, France (1999). We also know cases of people whose only food for several dozen years was Holy Communion wafers, e.g. Nicholas from Flüe, Switzerland (+1487), Alexandrina da Costa, Portugal, (1904-1955), Teresa Neumann, Germany (1898-1962), Marta Robin, France (1902-1991). Those extraordinary events and their variety help some strengthen their faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Others do not have the need to support their faith by such events and they humbly kneel before the Sacred Elements to glorify the Saviour who is present in them and thank him for his great git of love. It is commonly known that the ecclesiastical authorities are cautious about giving their opinions about the miraculous character of the events connected with the Eucharist. Therefore, we should not let others say that we, Catholics, are too little critical, that the Catholic Church recognises the miraculous events that, though astonishing, should not be regarded as miraculous. On the contrary, the one that follows the history of these events learns how cautious and inquiring the Church’s authorities have been before giving any opinion in this matter. When in March 1935, in Italy people spread the news that someone in Rieti saw a bleeding Host, Pope Pius XI ordered the bishop to send a detailed documentation of that event and when he received it and saw that the fact had been invented by the person who wanted to evoke faith in others, he excommunicated that person. The fact is that both the diocesan and Roman authorities examine carefully and critically the testimonies concerning the alleged Eucharistic miracles, weigh the arguments ‘for’ and ‘against’, considering the possibility to explain the case by natural reasons. One could see such an attitude when the famous events, which had taken place for example in Garabandal, Spain (1961) and in Naju, South Korea (1985) or in Moure, Portugal, as well as in several other places, were questioned. Some think that the bloody-like substance appearing in Hosts can be caused by the bacteria Serratia marcescens, which in suitable temperature and humidity multiplies on starch (bread), causing the impression of surging blood and even tissues. Such cases concerning consecrated and non-consecrated hosts have been known by the Church. That’s why the Church has introduced detailed regulations defining the conditions and the maximum time to preserve communion wafers. First of all, one should notice that the facts of sudden outflow or even gush of blood from consecrated hosts and unexpected repetition of the phenomena after an even long period cannot be explained by the processes related to these bacteria. The phenomenon of the apparent bleeding evoked by the bacteria normally lasts several days or weeks and disappears when the bacteria decay. Therefore, it does not explain the existence of permanent spots on hosts or altar covers. It is also useless trying to explain such events like the transformation of the wine into the Blood or levitation of hosts or even monstrances, and especially such cases when consecrated Communion wafers were the only food for many years. Only fanatic materialists or big sceptics let themselves have the comfortable possibility to exclude the presence of Christ in the sacred Bread and Wine. Prudence and reflection tell us not to undermine the reliability of the witnesses of these events, not to question their miraculous character, and especially those events that the Church’s authorities – not finding reasons to explain, following the principles of the behaviour of matter – allow to worship. We have the choice whether to believe or not to believe in the miraculous dimension of those ca. 180 extraordinary events connected with the Eucharist – regardless of their recognition by the ecclesiastical authorities. However, it would be burying our heads in the sand if we did not admit that these events make us face the unquestionable Mystery of the miraculous relationships between God and us as well as with the material world. Leaving and ignoring these events or suggesting that we will find their explanation sooner or later would mean letting out intelligence follow the horizons of the 19th century rationalism. Our intelligence should be free from prejudices. It should be open to all dimensions of the events happening around us. When we hear information about such events we should assume a humble attitude, believing that we will be more amazed when we can see what God gives those who love him. The Eucharist is an earnest of these gifts. Undoubtedly, this is the reason why God gives these special signs called the Eucharistic miracles to those who doubt so that they could themselves, using their senses, like Doubting Thomas recognised the fact of the Resurrection, believe that Jesus is really present among us under the species of bread and wine.