By Bob Sullivan
So far in this series, we have looked at the literal writings about transubstantiation and the Eucharist in Scripture and a few key Christians throughout the past 2,000 years. After that, we selected the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 and examined the literal and spiritual senses of those verses. Now we can look at phenomena we call miracles as another way to know and understand transubstantiation and the Eucharist.
The Church has recognized more than 100 miraculous events involving the Eucharist in the past 20 centuries. Of course this does not include the miraculous event of transubstantiation at every Mass. The “Eucharistic Miracles” date back to the earliest days of Christianity such as in Skete, Egypt, in the 400s when St. Anthony witnessed the Infant Jesus in place of the bread after he consecrated the host. Three of St. Anthony’s fellow monks witnessed the same vision. While there is little documentation of this miracle, and no physical evidence of the miracle today, other Eucharistic miracles have left us with physical evidence.
The most famous Eucharistic miracle is probably the Miracle of Lanciano, which took place in the year 750. It was at that time when a monk was experiencing doubt about whether the bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of our Jesus at the words of consecration, and whether Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. While he was celebrating Mass, after the consecration, the Eucharist and the Blood changed their appearance into human flesh and human blood.
The monk’s faith was restored by the miracle and news of the miracle spread quickly. Shortly after the miracle, the Blood coagulated into five separate clots of differing sizes. However, when weighed, each individual clot weighed the same as the others. In fact, no matter the combination of one to five clots, the clots of blood always weighed the same. The flesh did not decay or become hardened, but remained as it had the moment it appeared to change into human flesh. Eventually, the flesh and the blood clots were placed in an ivory reliquary. Over the centuries, the reliquary was kept in various Catholic churches.
The Church allowed several studies of the blood clots and the flesh, the most recent taking place in 1971 by Dr. Edoardo Linoli, a respected an accomplished Italian doctor and teacher. He was assisted by Dr. Ruggero Bertelli. Linoli and Bertelli were allowed to analyze the relics and publish their findings.
Linoli’s analysis confirmed that the flesh and blood are of human origin, the flesh is cardiac tissue, and the blood is type AB, which is the same blood type found on the Shroud of Turin and other Eucharistic miracles. Further, the blood has characteristics of a man who was born and lived in the Middle East.
Two years after Linoli and Bertelli published their findings, the World Health Organization (WHO) appointed a scientific commission to assess their conclusions. The commission worked for nearly 1½ years and conducted approximately 500 examinations. In the end, the commission agreed with Linoli and Bertelli. To this day, there is no scientific explanation for any of these facts.
A skeptic could reject all of this, but the Miracle of Lanciano is not the only Eucharistic miracle to be analyzed and confirmed by scientists. Scientific analysis of these phenomena show that there is no scientific explanation for them. Nor have the miracles ceased. Eucharistic miracles continue to occur, such as the miracle in in Sokolka, Poland Oct. 12, 2008, and in Argentina in 2017.
Skeptics are not required to believe Eucharistic miracles. Nor are faithful Catholics. These are considered private revelations which are not binding on anyone. However, to the extent one does see these as incidents of interest, the fact is, these phenomena can help explain the dogma of transubstantiation in a way which supports Scripture and Christian history. These phenomena offer us physical evidence as well as physical absence. What do I mean by “physical absence”? Let me explain.
In the more than 100 Eucharistic miracles recognized by the Church, there are eyewitness accounts, investigations, documentations, and in some cases, physical evidence, which support Scripture and Catholic theology. In other words, most of the miracles involve a physical event such as human blood, human flesh, or some other tangible reality. There are no instances in which a symbol has appeared, or some disembodied voice has declared that the consecration is only an opportunity to recall an historical event. Therefore, none of these miracles contradicts the dogma of transubstantiation or any Church teaching on the Eucharist, they always support transubstantiation.
We have now looked at reason, the spiritual aspect of the Eucharist, some history, and the science which support the history, faith, and the reason behind the dogma of transubstantiation. The only perspective left is the personal experience of billions of Catholics over the centuries. These experiences should not and cannot be brushed away.
If you are Catholic, this should only make you more confident and excited about your faith. If you are not Catholic, you have to ask yourself why you can look at all this evidence and stop there. Sure, there are people out there who think the Catholic Church is wrong, and they write a lot of stuff which attempts to refute it, but here you have concrete ideas and sources to analyze. Read Aquinas, St. John Chrysostom, St. Justin Martyr, the Didache, or even modern works such as The Fourth Cup or The Lamb’s Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn. While you do this, find an adoration chapel and spend a few minutes a day or a few minutes a week in the quiet presence of the Eucharist asking God to reveal Himself to you, so you too can meet Him personally.