|Devotion to Our Lady||
October 13th is well-known as the anniversary of Our Lady’s final apparition and the solar miracle at Fatima, but it is also the anniversary of the death of Portuguese mystic and victim soul Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa, whose life was closely connected to the Fatima events. Pope John Paul II beatified Alexandrina in 2004 and decreed that her feast be celebrated on this date.
Escape From Rape
Alexandrina was born on March 30th, 1904, in Balasar, a small rural village about 40 miles north of Porto. When she was 14, an attempt on her virtue was to have devastating consequences. On Holy Saturday of 1918, while Alexandrina, her sister Deolinda and a young apprentice were busily sewing, three drunken men violently entered their home and attempted to sexually violate them. To preserve her purity, Alexandrina jumped from a window, falling over twelve-feet onto the hard ground. Her injuries were numerous and her spine was damaged, and the doctors diagnosed her condition as "irreversible." It was predicted the partial paralysis that she suffered would only get worse. Until age nineteen Alexandrina was still able to "drag herself" to church where, hunched over, she would remain in prayer, to the great amazement and edification of her fellow parishioners. With her paralysis and pain worsening however, she was eventually forced to remain in bed, and from April 14th, 1924, until her death – that is approximately 30 years – she would remain bedridden and completely paralyzed.
Good Out of Evil
While bedridden she began to receive extraordinary mystical graces, and she was eventually called to be a victim soul, that is, to suffer in union with Jesus for the conversion of sinners. Thus on Thursday nights into Friday afternoon, the Passion of Jesus was mystically re-lived each week in and through her, for the conversion of souls.
On March 27th, 1942, in a blaze of agony and adoring love, Alexandrina cried out to Jesus in the tabernacle of the nearby church, "O my Eucharistic Love, I cannot live without you! Oh Jesus, transform me into your Eucharist! Mother, my dearest Mother, I wish to be of Jesus, I wish to be entirely yours!" And deep within her soul she heard Jesus’ profound reply: "You will not take food again on earth. Your food will be My Flesh; your blood will be My Divine Blood, your life will be My Life. You receive it from Me when I unite my Heart to your heart. Do not fear, My daughter. You will not be crucified any more as in the past .... And now a new trial awaits you, which will be the most painful of all. But in the end I will carry you to Heaven and the Holy Mother will accompany you."
No More Food
Thus, on March 27th, 1942, Alexandrina began an absolute fast which was to last more than thirteen years until her death, her sole nourishment being Holy Communion which she received with deep devotion every morning. Initially she would vomit any food that she attempted to eat, and since she herself did not understand the grace at first, she, like others around her, thought her end was near, because obviously one cannot normally live without food for very long, and this cause her to cry out: “O Jesus, my love, do not abandon the one who loves you so much! O days which never end! O Heaven which never approaches!" Turning to her relatives she groaned, "When you hear the bells sound for my death, go down on your knees, pray and thank Jesus and Our Lady for coming to take me."
Initially, her desire for food and drink was very strong On May 24th, the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, after almost two months of absolute fasting "with a burning thirst and a longing for food", Alexandrina cried out in anguish, "I sigh, I die, I long to satisfy my soul with the food of Paradise!"
As the months passed, news of Alexandrina's fast spread far and wide. Crowds of pilgrims began to visit her, asking for her prayers. Their endless visits wore her out and increased her suffering, but united with Jesus on her bed of pain she promised to remember everyone in her prayers. Of this period she wrote later:
“Day by day, moment by moment, my life became more and more painful. On the one hand, obedience obliges me to live hidden and to receive people in such a way as to be soon forgotten. O my God, if I had my will, that is how I would live. But what deceit! The more I want to be hidden, the more they make me known. Visitors arrive from everywhere — what torment for me!”
One afternoon, a number of distinguished looking men entered her sickroom to investigate reports of Alexandrina's total fast. She relates the event as follows:
“At half past two in the afternoon, five men entered the room. At once I had a presentiment that one of them was a doctor. They began to question me. For some reason, I found my attention drawn to one of them and, after they had gone, I knew instinctively that he was a doctor. I answered their questions calmly and firmly, for truth has only one reply. When they asked me incredulously if it was true that I ate and drank nothing, not knowing whether they were believers or not, I answered: ‘I receive Holy Communion every day.’ They remained silent and non-committal for a while and shortly afterwards they respectfully withdrew.”
Not everyone, however, treated Alexandrina with the same courtesy. Doubts and suspicions about her fast circulated; some openly accused her sister Deolinda and her mother of perpetrating a monstrous fraud. These accusations, and the lack of charity by people who knew not the facts caused much sorrow for Alexandrina and her family. Finally, her friends appealed to the medical authorities to intervene and establish the authenticity of the prodigy once and for all.
Her Complete Fast is Put to the Test — The Medical Certification and Confirmation
Alexandrina vividly describes all that followed. She wrote on May 27th, 1943: "In order to satisfy the desires and the will of the Archbishop, I subjected myself once more to a medical examination. When they told me about this, a new suffering took possession of my spirit, but seeing in everything the holy Will of God, I accepted, as always through obedience. When they told me the day on which the doctors would come, I prayed with great fervour to Our Lady to give me the necessary composure to bear everything with courage and resignation for Jesus and for souls.
"On the appointed day, the doctor in attendance came to our house with Dr. Enrico Gomes di Araujo and Dr. Carlo Lima. Fortunately I was calm and serene; God had heard my prayer. One of the doctors asked me if I suffered much and for whom I offered my sufferings. He also asked whether I suffered willingly and if I would be happy if God released me from my sorrows. I replied that, in truth, I suffered much and that I offered everything for the love of God and for the conversion of sinners
“Then they asked me what was my greatest aspiration and I answered, 'It is Heaven.' They then enquired if I wanted to be a saint like St. Teresa or St. Clare and to arrive in Heaven, leaving behind a name famous throughout the world. 'I am not in the least interested in that', I replied. They then asked, 'If it were necessary to lose your soul to save sinners, what would you do?' I answered, 'I trust that I would also be saved, but if I had to lose my soul I would say no, because God would never ask such a thing.'
"'Why do you not eat?' they then asked. And I replied, 'I do not eat because I cannot. I feel full. I do not need it. However, I have a longing for food.' The doctors then began the examination which I bore with good disposition. At the end, seeing that I was in no condition to make a journey, they decided to call two nuns to verify the truth of my fast. After they left, I remained waiting for their decision.
"On June 4th, my confessor came to give me Communion, accompanied by my doctor, who afterwards explained that I was being given the opportunity to enter a hospital in Oporto to have the fast medically certified. I would be isolated for a month and under constant observation. I immediately said 'No' — but at once I was sorry, thinking of the obedience that owed to Archbishop and the difficult situation of my spiritual director, my doctor and my relatives and friends.
“So I accepted the proposal, subject to three conditions — I would be able to receive Holy Communion every day, I would be accompanied by my sister, and I would not be subjected to any more medical examinations because I was only entering the hospital for observation."By June 10th, all was ready for my journey to the hospital of Foce del Duro in Oporto. My grief was great, but I had such faith in Jesus that I felt he would, if necessary, send his angels to help me. When my doctor arrived, he hesitated for some while, as if loath to tell me I had to leave. Finally I managed to say, 'Let's go, doctor. He who does not leave does not return!'
Pain of Separation
“I embraced my family and friends and only Jesus knew the sorrow it cost me to separate myself from them. I looked only into his Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and implored them to give me courage and strength to bear this new affliction. As they levered my stretcher downstairs I murmured to my weeping family, 'Courage! All for Jesus and for souls!' I was unable to say more. There was such a tightening of my heart that I felt it would be impossible to keep back the tears. Over a hundred people were surrounding the ambulance. I saw tears in the eyes of almost all. The sorrow I felt then was indescribable. My heart was beating with such violence that it seemed about to burst my ribs. Inwardly I prayed, 'Accept these throbbings, my dear Jesus, for your love and for the salvation of souls.'
"The journey was difficult; it seemed to me that my heart would not hold out, for the road was very bumpy and difficult. Every now and then, I looked at my sister and saw how desolate she was. By the grace of God, I was able to keep the smile on my lips. But the constant shaking of the ambulance was sheer torture and I prayed repeatedly, 'All for your love, my dear Jesus, and may the darkening of my spirit serve to give light to other spirits.'
Purgatory on Earth
"When we arrived at Matozinhos, the doctor raised the curtains so that I could look at the sea. An enormous silence filled my spirit, and observing the continuous movement of the waves, I asked Jesus to let my love beat like them without interruption."
"After a long while we reached the hospital, but before they withdrew me from the ambulance, my face was covered with a cloth so that no one would recognise me. Going up the stairs was a martyrdom as they carried me up head down. When they reached a small room, my face was uncovered and I found myself surrounded by doctors and nurses. I was dismayed to discover that Deolinda had been allocated an adjoining room, contrary to what I had asked for. I did not know how I could manage without her experienced help and constant words of encouragement. Dr. Araujo then arrived and began to give instructions to the nurses and assistants.
"After he had gone, my own doctor remained for some while and two nurses charged with watching all my movements took up their station by my bed. When Dr. Azevedo finally left that evening, I could not restrain my tears any longer. For a long time I wept, offering my tears and grief to Jesus. On seeing me so desolate, the nurses permitted Deolinda to remain near me that night, together with another nurse who learned from her the correct way of turning me.
The Ascent of Calvary Begins
"The following day, a Friday, I began my true Calvary in that place. I had an ecstasy in the morning (I have one every Friday), and the doctors and nurses gathered round my bed. Dr. Azevedo was there and after writing the words of the ecstasy he passed them round for the other doctors to read. Nothing escaped their watchful gaze, not even the most insignificant detail which was commented on at once .... Dr. Araujo was very strict, even to the point of harshness. He sternly forbade any nurse to question me in the slightest way. When one of the nurses tried to comfort Deolinda, who was weeping because of my condition, Dr. Araujo immediately dismissed her and forbade her to enter my room again.
"During the night of Friday to Saturday, I had a great crisis of vomiting, which made me suffer severely and which was made worse by the absence of my sister, who knew how to sustain me. Dr. Araujo arrived in the morning, but my prostration was such that I did not hear him knock at the door. I heard him whisper to one of the nurses by my bed, 'It is all over with her.'
"At these words, I opened my eyes and said, 'Doctor, I have had these crises at home.' He replied curtly, 'Miss, don't think that you have come here to fast.' I understood what he meant and felt deeply wounded. When he was informed of the ecstasy of the previous day, he asked for the notes of it and having read them, commented, 'It seems impossible that Dr. Azevedo, so intelligent, lets himself be deceived by these things. It is necessary to make an end of this nonsense. From now on, take away all the clocks so that the sick woman will be ignorant of the time.' (As if the Lord had need of clocks')
"Dr. Araujo then tried to treat me with medication, but I would not consent. Several times the nurse came near me, convinced that I was dead. For five days I underwent a continuous agony, more in the spirit than in the body, because in those crises, they never permitted Deolinda to come near me, while at home two people were frequently necessary to sustain me. All were persuaded that the crises were due to a lack of nourishment and they kept me isolated, convinced that I would ultimately be compelled to ask for food, or else die of starvation. How they deceived themselves! They did Bot know that nourishment came to me from the Sacred Host which I received every day.
To the Rescue
"When Dr. Azevedo returned and learnt of the attempts to make me take medicine and nourishment, he said to the hospital staff, 'This sick woman has only come so that the reality of her fast and the normality of her mental faculties can be ascertained — nothing more. I trust that Dr. Araujo will abide by these terms. I do not permit anyone to give her injections or medication, unless she specifically requests them, or I consent to it. You will see that after each crisis she has, the dark rings under her eyes disappear, her color returns and her pulse becomes normal.' He paused and then added, pointedly, 'I can assure you of one thing: without nourishment, you would die, I would die, but the sick woman here will not die.' His kind words on my behalf did much to rally my flagging spirits.
“Five days later, the vomiting stopped completely, the colour reappeared on my face and my pulse became normal. The strict surveillance by relays of doctors and nurses continued. Never for one moment was I left alone. The door of my room opened only to admit doctors and nurses. The improvement in my condition failed to convince any of them. They said it was impossible to live without nourishment and they tried to intimidate me, using soothing, persuasive tones to induce me to take food. But all their efforts were in vain. On one occasion I heard them affirm that my case could be one of hysteria, or a phenomenon still unknown to medical science.
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
"Dr. Araujo visited me several times each day, occasionally taking me by surprise at night, as if to discover something .... Even if I live until the end of the world, I will never forget the apprehension I felt whenever he opened the door, and my anxious suspense of waiting for his words. So many times I prayed, 'May this night serve to give light to him, to the people who surround me and to all the souls who find themselves in darkness.'
"During his frequent interrogations of me, he tried in every possible way to persuade me to take food and end the fast. A nurse even tried, on many occasions, to take away my Faith. She used interminable arguments to discourage me and to convince me that what was happening to me was not the work of God. Once Dr. Araujo said to me with a malicious expression, 'You convince yourself, Miss, that God does not want you to suffer. If you wish to save souls, He can save them Himself if it is true that He has the power to do so.' At other times when he questioned me, I seemed to see in front of me a wolf in sheep's clothing. I had the impression of seeing Satan himself trying to destroy my Faith and convince me that my immolation for souls was all an illusion.
Humility vs. Pride
"On one occasion I replied to him, 'The things of God are so great, so great, and we are so small, so small. At least, I am, doctor.' He stiffened and then said scornfully, 'You are right, but I am far greater than you — and by how much!' So saying, he took himself off. How far Dr. Araujo was from comprehending this law of love for souls! If he knew the value of a soul, he would realise that everything is too small to save it. My stay in the hospital was a constant rain of humiliation and sacrifice. O, if I had known how to suffer for Jesus! To this end, I turned to little Jacinta of Fatima whose picture I keep at the foot of my bed, and said to her, 'Dear Jacinta, you who were so small have proved all this. You know how hard it is.' Only through prayer and the prayers of many good souls was I able to gain the strength to climb this sorrowful Calvary with such a heavy cross.
"One day, Dr. Araujo sat down by my bed and tried to convince me that I was a victim of delusion. He began with an involved discourse on medicine and spoke of one of his professors, to whom he had presented a long work, pains-takingly put together during many days and nights of study. The professor read the work and asked him if he was certain that it was accurate. The doctor replied 'yes' and cited the arguments supporting his case. As the conversation lengthened, I looked at him, pretending that I did not understand, but thinking, 'You go so far to fall so near?' Meanwhile, the doctor continued, 'I was convinced that I had done a good job, but the professor let me finish and then, with a few deft strokes, briefly demolished my case. My breath was taken away. I felt humiliated over so many lost hours and the realisation that my long study had collapsed in a few seconds.'
“I had already guessed what was coming and replied, smiling, 'But my case does not fall, doctor. A very good and wise man follows me and has studied me for years [Dr. Azevedo]. If the work is of God, there is nothing that can make it collapse.' Dr. Araujo seemed rather embarrassed and said, 'We will see,' and retired in a hurry.
"On the 17th and then on the 30th day of my stay at the hospital, my mother came to see me. I had such a desire to see her! But she stayed only a very short time and always under the watchful eye of the nurses who were keeping me under continual surveillance. When my mother wept, I had to smile and joke to conceal my sorrow. The difficult days passed with the endless changing of nurses under the directions of the doctor. With some, who went beyond the limits of their duties and their rights, I suffered more than with others. After some weeks, the doctor began to allow me a little freedom and permitted my sister to spend some time near me, though without giving her permission to touch me. On the 21st day, he allowed the nuns of the hospital to make a brief visit to me.
"While Deolinda and I were beginning to think of letting the family know of our approaching return to Balasar, an unexpected obstacle arose. One of the nurses charged with my surveillance had spoken of my case to a physician named Dr. Alvaro. Not knowing anything about me, he expressed his immediate disbelief and affirmed that the nurses who were watching me must have been deceived. He added that he would only believe in my fast if it were testified to him by a nurse of his faith.
"Dr. Araujo was indignant because it put the seriousness of his study in doubt. He invited Dr. Alvaro to send a nurse of his own choice and the latter selected one of his sisters. I was therefore asked to remain in the hospital for an additional period of observation. The new test lasted ten days — and with what suspicion! When my sister, with Dr. Alvaro's permission, entered my room every evening to turn me, the new nurse lit the light and stood beside her. As soon as Deolinda left, the nurse made a rigorous check to ascertain if Deolinda had concealed something under the sheets.
"Nor did they lack subterfuges to induce me to eat something which the assistant nurse always had with her. When she showed me some tasty morsels, I smiled without saying anything and when she offered them to me, I thanked her and still smiling, pretended not to understand her. Frequently, all my linen was taken away to be inspected. The nurse who assisted me during those last ten days became convinced of the reality of my fast and afterwards visited my home where she greeted me like a dear friend.
Eve of Discharge
"On July 19th, 1943, the eve of my discharge, all the children of the hospital passed around my bed and I prayed with them. Later more than 1,500 people came and the authorities had to call the police to maintain order. One policeman limited himself to standing by my bed and saying continually to the crowd who pressed around, 'Pass along! Pass along!' The doctor had to literally implore the crowd that pressed round the entrance to the hospital and in my room to move back so that I would not be suffocated. I remained humiliated, exhausted and full of self-contempt for the tears of the visitors and for the many kisses I received which I did not merit and did not want.
"On the morning of my departure, Dr. Araujo rose early than usual and told me that he had been unable to sleep that night due to the responsibility weighing on him. When he arrived at the hospital, a crowd awaited him. After spending a short while with me, he permitted some people to enter the hospital and only then did he tell us that we were free and that the 'observation' was ended. He allowed my sister to eat a meal near me and then said, 'In October, I will come to visit you at Balasar, not as a doctor-spy, but as a friend who esteems you.'
"I kissed the doctor's hand gratefully and thanked him from my heart. I did this in all sincerity for I was deeply grateful to him for the seriousness with which he had treated my case."
The Official Medical Reports
So ends Alexandrina's account of the medical investigation of her fast. The official report issued by Dr. Araujo confirmed the prodigy as "scientifically inexplicable". The key sentence stated: "It is absolutely certain that during forty days of being bedridden in hospital, the sick woman did not eat or drink and we believe such phenomenon could have happened during the past months, perhaps the past 13 months leaving us perplexed."
The report is signed Dr. Gomez de Araujo of the Royal Academy of Medicine, Madrid, specialist in nervous diseases and arthritis.In addition to the formal medical report, there was a certificate signed by Dr. lima and Dr. Azevedo. It read as follows:
“We the undersigned, Dr. C. A. di Lima, Professor of the Faculty of Medicine of Oporto and Dr. E. A. D. de Azevedo, doctor graduate of the same Faculty, testify that, having examined Alexandrina Maria da Costa, aged 39, born and resident at Balasar, of the district of Povoa de Varzim ... have confirmed her paralysis .... And we also testify that the bedridden woman, from June 10th to July 20th, 1943, remained in the sector for infantile paralysis at the Hospital of Foce del Duro, under the direction of Dr. Araujo and under the day and night surveillance, by impartial persons desirous of discovering the truth of her fast. Her abstinence from solids and liquids was absolute during all that time. We testify also that she retained her weight, and her temperature, breathing, blood pressure, pulse and blood were normal while her mental faculties were constant and lucid and she had not, during these forty days, any natural necessities.”
The certificate continues:
“The examination of the blood, made three weeks after her arrival in the hospital, is attached to this certificate and from it one sees how, considering the aforesaid abstinence from solids and liquids, science naturally has no explanation. The laws of physiology and biochemistry cannot account for the survival of this sick woman for forty days of absolute fast in the hospital, more so in that she replied daily to many interrogations and sustained very many conversations, showing an excellent disposition and a perfect lucidity of spirit. As for the phenomena observed every Friday at about 3:00 p.m. (i.e. her ecstasies), we believe they belong to the mystical order .... For the sake of the truth, we have prepared this certificate which we sign. Oporto , July 26th, 1943."
A distinguished professor who carefully examined the medical reports and other details of the examinations made on Alexandrina testified:
"In returning to my friend and client (i.e. Fr Pinho) the copies of the reports concerning the singular case of Alexandrina Maria da Costa, I desire to thank him for the opportunity he has offered me of studying in minute detail this strange case .... It was above all as a doctor, specialist in nutrition, and not only as a Catholic, that I found that which had happened to the sick woman so interesting. I also attach great importance to his testimony (i.e. Fr Pinho's report on Alexandrina submitted some years earlier to the Archbishop of Braga), because an enlightened confessor and spiritual director is, perhaps, more competent than anyone else to determine if his subject is mentally normal or abnormal.
"In my opinion, it is not possible to explain by purely scientific means, or better still, by medical means, that which has happened to Alexandrina da Costa. Nothing makes us believe, according to what one reads in the detailed reports of the doctors and the confessor, that it is simply a matter of hysteria, particularly in view of the long time in which the sick woman has passed, and is still passing, without taking the slightest nourishment. On the other hand, I am certain that it is not a matter of deception because the impartial commission which observed her for forty days and forty nights with rigorous vigilance, could verify that her abstinence from nourishment was total.
"Now this abstinence from all food during such a long period of time is incompatible with life, and much less with the maintenance of normal temperature, respiration, pulse, blood pressure, etc .... Her intellectual life is intense, her relationships are perfect, her faculties and senses are retained in an absolute manner. . . . This extraordinary case, rather I would say exceptional case, can in no way be explained by purely natural means, or through scientific data. The inflammation of the spinal cord, which is most probably the cause of the paralysis, has nothing to do with her abstinence from food, being merely a parallel illness.”
This report was signed by Professor Ruj. Joao Marques, professor of medical science in Pernambuco and university lecturer of the faculty of medicine, and also Professor Recife; professor of the branch of nutrition of the School of Social Service in Pernambuco and also the president of the Society of Gastroenterology and Nutrition in Pernambuco.There we have the certification and the verdict of medical science. But Alexandrina had a more enlightened explanation. She confided to her confessor that Our Lord had told her, "You are living by the Eucharist alone because I want to prove to the world the power of the Eucharist and the power of My life in souls."
After years of great suffering, on October 13th, 1955, after a vision of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who told her that She was about to take her to Heaven, Alexandrina received Holy Communion for the last time, and delivered her final poignant message to all humanity, crying out: “Do not sin. The pleasures of this life are worth nothing. Receive Communion. Pray the Rosary every day. This sums up everything.” She died at 8:29 p.m.
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich
Anne Catherine Emmerich was told by Our Lord that her gift of seeing the past, present, and future in mystic vision was greater than that possessed by anyone else in history. Born at Flamske in Westphalia, Germany, on September 8th, 1774, she became a nun of the Augustinian Order at Dulmen. She had the use of reason from her birth and could understand liturgical Latin from her first time at Mass. During the last 12 years of her life, she could eat no food except Holy Communion, nor take any drink except water, subsisting entirely on the Holy Eucharist.
Therese Neumann (1898–1962) was a German Catholic mystic and stigmatic. She was born in the village of Konnersreuth in Bavaria, Germany, where she lived all her life. She was born into a large family with little income. She was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis.
On the anniversary of her death, September 30th, 1927, St Therese of Lisieux appeared to Therese in a vision and told her that henceforth she would live entirely off the Eucharist, and would have not need for earthly food. This total abstinence from food and drink continued until her death in 1962. The fast actually began in 1922, but was not a total and complete fast from food or drink until September of 1926.
This led to a request by the Bishop of Regensburg that Therese submit herself to a period of medical observation. The request was for a fifteen-day observation, for specialists in these matters considered such a period sufficient. They asserted that hunger might possibly be borne longer than that, but a complete fast of two weeks without taking any liquid nourishment was not possible. Resl's father agreed to comply with the episcopal request, and so from July 14th to 28th inclusive, in the year 1927, Therese was under the observation of four Mollersdorfer Sisters, members of a nursing order, who came to her home. They were placed under oath by the Regensburg ordinariate before and after the observation. All were well qualified for the task, and carried out with the most scrupulous care the directions of Dr. Seidl, the medical supervisor.
The directions were very strict and carefully calculated to meet every possible contingency. Therese was not to be left alone for a single moment, day or night, whether at home, in church, or out of doors. For this reason, even her customary confession was foregone. The Sisters were to bathe Therese, but with a damp cloth instead of a sponge. The water for mouth washes was to be measured and remeasured before to Resl so she could swallow the Host was to be measured by the Sisters before it was given to her. Periodic weighing of the body, taking of the pulse and temperature were prescribed. Blood smears were to be made during the Friday ecstasies and compared with a blood smear from the ear lobe taken on another day, after which the hemoglobin content was to be determined.
According to the Miinchner Medizinische Wochenschriit supplement, No. 46, 1927, the directions went so far as to demand that "All excretions — urine, vomit, and stools — must be gathered, measured, and weighed, and immediately sent to the physician for analysis."
Professor Ewald of Erlangen, an opponent of any supernatural explanation of this phenomenon, admitted in a brochure on Konnersreuth that the keenest and most relentless attention was given to the matter of food throughout the period of observation. Despite the constant alertness, it could never be ascertained that Therese Neumann took nourishment or attempted to take it. The professor claimed that the stigmatist ought to have lost weight heavily, but such was not the case. She did lose considerably (3 to 8 pounds in a few days is no slight loss) following the days of ecstasy, but regained this in the course of the same brief period. Without taking food or drink she gained 5 to 6 pounds, so that at the conclusion of the observation her weight was the same as before.
Dr. Ewald also draws attention to the fact that about 400 grams of water are taken from the body daily through exhalations. It is to be especially noted that to meet the demands of exhalation is a purely physical process and almost totally independent of the constitution of the individual. To the loss in this manner must be added that which accompanies the bleeding, perspiration, etc. "Therese ought long since to have been dried up like a mummy. But she is fresh-looking and lively, has saliva, and moist mucous membrane. One may indulge in the most fantastic imaginings, a prolongation of metabolism as in hibernation, or Iakirism — though Therese does not hibernate, but moves, speaks, reads, writes letters, goes about - this increase in weight simply cannot be explained; for something cannot come from nothing.”
Dr. Seidl, who had been Therese Neumann's attending physician since at least 1918, testified under oath in a Munich court case on April 15, 1929, that there could be no question of Therese having taken any nourishment during the period of observation. He maintained flatly that the abstention of all nourishment by Therese Neumann was a fact, which he had not the least reason to doubt. He added that since September, 1926, the stigmatist took no nourishment at all, not even a bit of water, as she had at the time of the fifteen days' observation.
She was once asked how it was possible that she lived on the Eucharist alone, and she responded “The Saviour can do all things. Did He not say that ‘My Flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink’?”
Therese would later apparently develop the stigmata. She said that on March 5th, 1926, the first Friday of Lent, a wound had appeared slightly above her heart, but that she had kept this secret. Therese Neumann was once asked how it was possible that she never ate or drank and lived on the Eucharist alone, and she responded “The Saviour can do all things. Did He not say that “my Flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink”? Therese Neumann said: "One of the reasons I am here on earth today is to prove that man can live by God's invisible light, and not by food only." Therese Neumann had lived solely on the daily Holy Eucharist for 12 years.
St. Catherine Fieschi
St. Catherine Fieschi of Genoa supported by the Eucharist (1447-1510). All through Advent and all through Lent, Catherine Fieschi took no food at all except that administered to her in the mass. In fact, for twenty-three years, from St. Martin’s Day (November 11th) to Christmas Day, and from Quinquagesima Sunday to Easter Day, she took no food except “this heavenly manna,” administered to her daily, and her only drink was a glass of water mixed with vinegar and salt. If ever she attempted to swallow any other food or drink, her stomach rejected it. Sometimes she made great efforts to retain what she had thus swallowed, especially before her confessor, but in these cases her efforts were followed by alarming illness, almost to the verge of death
St. Gerasimus, a recluse of Palestine, ate nothing but the bread given him in the Eucharist all Lent (a.d. 475). St. Gerasimus was noted for his extraordinary abstinence. He fasted always all Lent, taking no nourishment of any kind, except the eulogie or sacred bread administered to him in the Eucharist.
St. Joseph of Cupertino
St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663) lived five years without eating, and fifteen years without drinking. In these long abstinences, he was sustained by the eulogie, which was administered to him daily. It was often noticed that before the sacrament he looked pale and haggard, weary and spiritless; but when he left the altar he was brisk, animated, and full of vigour.
The body of Christ was food indeed, and the blood of Christ was drink indeed. On one occasion the superior insisted on his taking a little food; he took it in obedience to the superior, but the moment he swallowed it, his stomach rejected it again.
St. Nicholas de Flue
St. Nicholas de Flue (1417-1487) for twenty years ate and drank nothing, except for taking the Holy Eucharist. John de Muller himself, Protestant historian of the Swiss Confederation, writes: “Nicolas de Flue, during the twenty years he lived [in Ranft], took no other food or drink other than the Holy Eucharist he received every month. This was done by the grace of Almighty God who created from nothing the heavens and the earth, and can keep them as he pleases. This miracle was examined during his life, and is proven to posterity, by his contemporaries, and held undisputed” (John de Muller, Histoire de la Suisse, vol. v. p. 248, 1487).
Oswald Isner, the priest at Kerns, writes in 1447: “When Father Nicholas began his life of total abstinence, and had reached the eleventh day, he sent for me and asked me privately if he should take food or continue to abstain. He wished to live wholly without food, that he might more sever himself from the world. I felt his members, and found only skin and bone; all the flesh was dried up entirely, the checks were hollow, and the lips wonderfully thin.
“I told him to persevere as long as he could without endangering life. For if God had sustained him for eleven days, He could sustain him eleven years. Nicholas followed my advice; and from that moment to the day of his death, a period of twenty and a half years, he took no sort of food, and drank nothing. As he was more familiar with me than with any other person, I often spoke to him on the subject. He told me he received the sacrament once a month, and felt that the body and blood of Christ communicated vital force which served him for meat and drink. Otherwise he could not sustain life without nourishment.”
The magistrates, wishing to verify the fact, sent guards for an entire month to surround the retreat of the saint both night and day, to see that no one brought him food. The prince-bishop of Constance sent his suffragan, the bishop of Ascalom, with strict orders to unmask the imposture, if he could detect any. The suffragan took up his abode in a chapel adjoining the cell of Nicholas, And entering the cell, asked him, “What is the first duty of a Christian?”
“Obedience,” said Nicholas. “If obedience is the first duty of a Christian. I command you to eat these pieces of bread, and to drink this wine,” said the bishop. Nicholas besought the bishop not to insist on this order, but the bishop would not give way. Nicholas was obliged to obey; but the moment he swallowed a mouthful of bread, his agony was so great, that the bishop pressed him no longer, and said he only wished to prove whether Nicholas was possessed with a devil; but his obedience had shown him to be a child of grace.
The Archduke Sigismond of Austria sent the royal physician Burcard von Hornek, to examine into the case, and he remained in the cell several days and nights. The Emperor Fredrick III, sent delegations to search into it, but one and all confessed it was a real fact, wholly without delusion.
Nicholas took part in the service of the parish church every Sunday, and in the great annual procession at Lucerne and he tried to be as little different from other men as possible.
BOLSENA-ORVIETOT, ITALY (1263)
In 1263, a German priest, Peter of Prague, stopped at Bolsena while on a pilgrimage to Rome. He is described as being a pious priest, but one who found it difficult to believe that Christ was actually present in the consecrated Host. While celebrating Holy Mass above the tomb of St. Christina (located in the church named for this martyr), he had barely spoken the words of Consecration when blood started to seep from the consecrated Host and trickle over his hands onto the altar and the corporal.
The priest was immediately confused. At first he attempted to hide the blood, but then he interrupted the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighboring city of Orvieto, the city where Pope Ur ban IV was then residing.
The Pope listened to the priest's account and absolved him. He then sent emissaries for an immediate investigation. When all the facts were ascertained, he ordered the Bishop of the diocese to bring to Orvieto the Host and the linen cloth bearing the stains of blood. With archbishops, cardinals and other Church dignitaries in attendance, the Pope met the procession and, amid great pomp, had the relics placed in the cathedral. The linen corporal bearing the spots of blood is still reverently enshrined and exhibited in the Cathedral of Orvieto.
It is said that Pope Urban IV was prompted by this miracle to commission St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the Proper for a Mass and an Office honoring the Holy Eucharist as the Body of Christ. One year after the miracle, in August of 1264, Pope Urban IV introduced the saint's composition, and by means of a papal bull instituted the feast of Corpus Christi.
After visiting the Cathedral of Orvieto, many pilgrims and tourists journey to St. Christina's Church in Bolsena to see for themselves the place where the miracle occurred. From the north aisle of the church one can enter the Chapel of the Miracle, where the stains on the paved floor are said to have been made by the blood from the miraculous Host. The altar of the miracle, which is surmounted by a 9th- century canopy, is now situated in the grotto of St. Christina. A reclining statue of the saint is nearby.
In August of 1964, on the 700th anniversary of the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Paul VI celebrated Holy Mass at the altar where the holy corporal is kept in its golden shrine in the Cathedral of Orvieto. (His Holiness had journeyed to Orvieto by helicopter; he was the first pope in history to use such a means of transportation).
Twelve years later, the same pontiff visited Bolsena and spoke from there via television to the 41st International Eucharistic Congress, then concluding its activities in Philadelphia. During his address Pope Paul Vl spoke of the Eucharist as being ". . . a mystery great and inexhaustible."
BLANOT, FRANCE (1331)
The village of Blanot is situated in a long, narrow valley surrounded by picturesque mountains. Inconspicuous because of its location, it was nevertheless favored by God, who honored it with a Eucharistic miracle. The physical evidence of this event is still preserved in the church in which it occurred.
Before relating the miracle, it would be best to recall the manner in which Holy Communion was distributed in the 14th century (and in many places yet today). During Holy Mass, when the time approached for the distribution of Communion, the communicants would approach the altar railing which separated the body of the church from the sanctuary. Taking their places side by side along the length of the railing, they would kneel. At about the same time, two altar boys would approach the railing and take their places one at each end. Reaching down for a long linen cloth that hung the length of the railing on the side facing the sanctuary, each would take his end of the cloth and flip it over the top of the railing. The communicants would then place their hands beneath the cloth. The priest, holding the ciborium containing the consecrated Hosts, would approach one end of the railing and distribute the Hosts as he moved along its length. At the time of the miracle this was the way in which Holy Communion was received at Blanot.
The miracle occurred on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1331, at the first Mass of the day, which was offered by Hugues de la Baume, the vicar of Blanot. Because of the solemn occasion, two men of the parish named Thomas Caillot and Guyot Besson were also serving in addition to the altar boys. At Communion time the two men approached the altar railing, took their places at each end and turned the long cloth over the railing. The parishioners took their places, held their hands under the cloth and waited for the approach of the priest.
One of the last to receive was a woman named Jacquette, described as being the widow of Regnaut d'Effour. The priest placed the Host on her tongue, turned, and started walking toward the altar. It was then that both men and a few of the communicants saw the Host fall from the woman's mouth and land upon the cloth that covered her hands. As the priest was then placing the ciborium inside the tabernacle, Thomas Caillot approached the altar and informed him of the accident. The priest immediately left the altar and approached the railing; but instead of finding the Host, he saw a spot of blood the same size as the Host, which had apparently dissolved into blood.
When the Mass was completed, the priest took the cloth into the sacristy and placed the stained area in a basin filled with clear water. After washing the spot and scrubbing it with his fingers numerous times he found that, far from becoming smaller and lighter, it had actually become larger and much darker. On removing the cloth from the basin he was surprised to find that the water had turned bloody. The priest and his assistants were not only astonished, but also frightened, and exclaimed, "This is the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ!" The priest then took a knife and, after washing it, cut from the cloth the piece bearing the bloody imprint of the Host. This square piece of cloth was reverently placed in the tabernacle.
Fifteen days later, an official of the Archdiocese of Autun, Jean Jarossier, journeyed to Blanot to initiate an investigation. With him was the Curé de Lucenay, a monsignor of Autun, and an apostolic notary. The interrogation of witnesses was conducted in the presence of Pierre Osnonout, the Curé of Blanot. The results of this investigation were sent by Archbishop Pierre Bertrand to Pope John XXII, who pronounced a favorable verdict and accorded indulgences to those who would celebrate Mass in the parish church of Blanot. Copies of the documents are still kept in the City Hall of Blanot and are described as being in an ancient style, which is difficult to read.
The Hosts that remained in the ciborium, after the distribution of Holy Communion on that Easter Sunday, were never used, and were carefully reserved in the tabernacle. The reason for this is not known, although one might speculate that the priest wished to avoid a possible repetition of the prodigy. In 1706, these Hosts, preserved in good condition after 375 years, were taken in a five-hour procession around the parish of Blanot in observance of the anniversary of the miracle. Taking part in the ceremony were many prelates and a great many people of the parish and the surrounding areas. At the conclusion of the procession, the silver ciborium holding the Hosts was returned to the golden box in which it was kept. This was carefully placed in the main tabernacle of the church.
For many years there were commemorative processions and special observances, but these were discontinued at the start of the French Revolution when violent fanatics were desecrating Catholic churches and taking objects of value.
On December 27, 1793, a group of French Revolutionaries entered the church and boldly opened the tabernacle. The bloodstained cloth, now encased in a crystal tube, was actually handled by one of them, but fortunately was rejected as being of little value. After this desecration of the church, the relic was entrusted to the safekeeping of a pious parishioner, Dominique Cortet. While it was in his home it was venerated and given all respect, yet despite this care, the tube was cracked on both the top and bottom. One of the injuries was caused by Fr. Lucotte, the Curé of Blanot, who often kissed it and put it on the eyes of the faithful. The other end was accidentally cracked while it was hidden in the drawer of an armoire.
Following the Revolution, when peace was again restored, many persons were questioned about the authenticity of the cloth within the crystal tube. All agreed that it was the same one that had been kept in the church. After ecclesiastical officials were satisfied as to the relic's authenticity, it was solemnly returned to the church and placed in a box covered with velvet which, in turn, was placed within the tabernacle.
Sometime later a new crystal tube was designed for the relic. At either end are rings of gold and copper, with a cross surmounting the top. The tube, with the cloth clearly visible, is sealed and kept within a special ostensorium. This is adorned at its base with four enamel panels which depict events in the history of the relic.
Each year on Easter Monday, according to ancient custom, the relic is solemnly exposed in the church of Blanot.
A Faith Strengthener
The weakening of faith in the real presence of the Risen Christ in the Eucharist is one of the most significant aspects of the current spiritual crisis. Jesus wants to strengthen our faith in His Eucharistic presence. That is why from time to time in the history of the Catholic Church He gives us signs–Eucharistic miracles that clearly underscore the fact that He, the Risen Lord Himself in the mystery of His Divinity and glorified humanity, is truly present in the Eucharist. The most recent Eucharistic miracle recognized by the Church authorities occurred in 1996 in the capital of Argentina–Buenos Aires.
A Consecrated Host Becomes Flesh And Blood
At seven o’clock in the evening on August 18th, 1996, Fr. Alejandro Pezet was saying Holy Mass at a Catholic church in the commercial center of Buenos Aires. As he was finishing distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to tell him that she had found a discarded host on a candle-holder at the back of the church. On going to the spot indicated, Fr. Pezet saw the defiled Host. He placed it in a container of water and put it away in the tabernacle of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.
A Changed Host!
On Monday, August 26th, upon opening the tabernacle, he was astonished to find that the Host had turned into a bloody substance. His Bishop Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis I), who gave instructions that the Host—now changed into a bloodied substance—be professionally photographed. When the photographs were taken on September 6th, they clearly showed that the Host, which had become a fragment of bloodied flesh, had grown significantly in size. For several years the Host remained in the tabernacle, the whole affair being kept a strict secret. Eventually, since the Host suffered no visible decomposition, Bishop Bergoglio decided to have it scientifically analyzed.
Therefore, on October 5th, 1999, in the presence of the Archbishop Bergoglio’s representatives (he became Archbishop in 1998), Dr. Ricardo Castañón, who was an atheist at the time, took a sample of the bloody fragment and sent it to New York for analysis. Since he did not wish to prejudice the study, he purposely did not inform the team of scientists of its origin (that is to say, they were not told it came from a consecrated Eucharistic Host).
One of these scientists was Dr. Frederic Zugibe, the well-known cardiologist and forensic pathologist. Zugibe, after conducting a series of scientific tests, stated that the analyzed substance was real flesh and blood containing human DNA. Furthermore Dr. Zugibe concluded that the sample was a piece of heart muscle that was alive at the time the sample was taken. He further concluded that due to the fact that white blood cells had penetrated the tissue of the heart, this was an indication that the heart had been under severe stress.
Zugibe testified that:
“The analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves. This muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart. It should be borne in mind that the left cardiac ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”
There were two witnesses to these tests, Australians, journalist Mike Willesee and a lawyer Ron Tesoiero. Both men knew where the sample came from and were dumbfounded when Dr. Zugibe gave the results of his thorough analysis.
This is Beyond Science!
Mike Willesee asked Dr. Zugibe how long the white blood cells would have remained alive, if they had come from a piece of human tissue, which had been kept in water. Dr. Zugibe relpied that they would have ceased to exist in a matter of minutes. Mike Willesee then told Dr. Zugibe that the source of the sample had first been kept in ordinary water for a month and then for another three years in a container of distilled water; only then had the sample been taken for analysis. Dr. Zugibe’s was at a loss to account for this fact. There was no way of explaining it scientifically, he stated.
This Comes From a Living Heart!
Also, Dr. Zugibe passionately asked, “You have to explain one thing to me, if this sample came from a person who was dead, then how could it be that as I was examining it the cells of the sample were moving and beating? If this heart comes from someone who died in 1996, how can it still be alive?”
Only then did Mike Willesee inform Dr. Zugibe that the analyzed sample came from a consecrated Host (white, unleavened bread) that had mysteriously turned into the bloody human flesh that Dr. Zugibe had just examined. Amazed by this information, Dr. Zugibe replied, “How and why a consecrated Host would change its character and become living human flesh and blood will remain an inexplicable mystery to science—a mystery totally beyond her competence.”
Same DNA as Lanciano Host
Yet this was only the beginning of what would be a phenomenal enigma. DNA tests on the sample showed it to be that of a male, AB positive blood type. What is extraordinary about this fact is that the DNA is the exact same match to the DNA from another Eucharist miracle that took place in the 8th century, in Lanciano, Italy. This was confirmation that both samples came from the same person!
The Lanciano sample is over 1,200 years old and the elements can still be seen today. The flesh, which is the same size as the large host used in the Latin Church, is fibrous and light brown in color and becomes rose-colored when lighted from the back. The blood consists of five coagulated globules and has an earthly color resembling the yellow of ocher.
Same Heart Tissue as Lanciano
Dr. Odoardo Linoli, a professor in anatomy and pathological histology, who has examined the Lanciano sample, has verified that it is real flesh and the blood is real blood. The flesh and blood belong to the human species. It is from the muscular tissue of the heart—just like the Host from Buenos Aires is also heart muscle tissue. He has confirmed that in the Lanciano sample, we see the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve and also the left ventricle of the heart for the large thickness of the myocardium. The flesh is a heart complete in its essential structure. Both the flesh and the blood showed no evidence of preservatives (or other added chemical agents of any kind) being used.
In collaboration with Ron Tesoriero, Mike Willesee, one of Australia’s best-known journalists (he converted to Catholicism after working on the documents of another Eucharistic miracle) wrote a book entitled Reason to Believe. In it they present documented facts of Eucharistic miracles and other signs calling people to Faith in Christ who abides and teaches in the Catholic Church.
Temporary Miracle for Blind Man
They have also made a documentary film on the Eucharist—based largely on the scientific discoveries associated with the miraculous Host in Buenos Aires. Their aim was to give a clear presentation of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the subject of the Eucharist. They screened the film in numerous Australian cities. The showing at Adelaide drew a crowd of two thousand viewers.
During the commentary and question period that followed a visibly moved man stood up announcing that he was blind. Having learned that this was an exceptional film, he had very much wanted to see it. Just before the screening, he prayed fervently to Jesus for the grace to see the film. At once his sight was restored to him, but only for the thirty-minute duration of the film. Upon its conclusion, he again lost the ability to see. He confirmed this by describing in minute detail certain scenes of the film. It was an incredible event that moved those present to the core of their being.
Atheist Converts After Miracle and Testifies
Excerpts from the speech of Dr. Ricardo Castañón, former atheist, at the Faith & Science Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2008. Translated from Spanish.
“Now I’ll start a very interesting topic which I’ll surely deeply explain. I was called by the Cardinal of Buenos Aires … because … there is a trend of certain people [receiving] the Communion with their hand. So somebody dropped the [consecrated] Host and since the Host was dirty he didn’t want to pick it up. … The priest grabbed it and put it in a water fountain and let it sit in the water, so that it can dissolve. [The Host was then placed in a container of water and put in the Tabernacle.] After five or six days of being in the Tabernacle, they opened the Tabernacle and noticed that instead of being dissolved it had some red stains in different shapes. They noticed that the stains grew in the following days. That’s when they invited me to take a sample and find out what it was all about.
“I traveled several times and got two samples. One [of the samples] is like gelatine. … [The other] has become like a dry scab. I went to some labs in the U.S. in California to take these samples. I don’t tell them that this comes from a Host. Blind tests consist of just giving the samples to the lab tech. … [The lab tech later reported to me:] “Doctor, the sample that you have brought us is muscle from the heart—muscle from the myocardium of the left ventricle.” That was the first result, but there are many things to discover.
“We’ve been working on these studies since 1999. [But just recently found a] great expert in cardiology, pathology and biochemistry. He’s the only professor who has written a book of how to determine [the way in which] a person died when the heart has been wounded. So he’s a very famous professor, Dr. Frederick Zugibe. We gave him the samples and he said: “The person that had this heart must have been very wounded because his heart shows that he must have been very beat up. He was tortured!” He didn’t know it was a Host! Then what happened is that he said:
“But there is something you need to explain. How is it possible that while I was studying this sample, the sample was moving, it was beating? So you explain to me: How did you take out the heart of a dead man and took it alive to me to my New York lab?” … Imagine telling a person that … a piece of wheat has turned into blood, coagulated and become heart tissue!
“But it doesn’t end here since he asked us how was it possible that it is alive. I’ve been studying this sample since 1999—it’s been more than five years that I have the sample. So I went to the lab in Buenos Aires. And I looked for the documents of the first studies realized in Buenos Aires. And the lab tech that had done the first studies wrote: “Some liquids are observed like red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin. What calls my attention is that the cells are moving and beating. Some days had gone by already yet [under normal circumstances] after fifteen minutes the blood cells die!
“So I got attracted to the heart topic and I found out that in Lanciano, a town located at the south of Italy, a priest that was celebrating Mass doubted if Jesus was present in the Eucharist. He doubted, and, in the moment he was doubting, the Host became flesh and blood. If you travel to Lanciano you can see it. … The wine turned into five [blood] clots. There are five blood clots, blood that looks like cotton. But the five of them have different sizes and weigh the same! The bishops’ conference of Italy invited in the ‘70’s—this happened in the eighth century, but they kept it [preserved in a reliquary]—they invited this professor Dr. Linoli, who is an expert in biochemistry and pathology to study it, and this doctor told us it “is muscle from the heart, just like the sample you have.” Hence, the sample I have from the ‘90’s from Buenos Aires is the same as this one—belongs to the same person!
“What do you think? … So here we’re talking about what I believe is an extraordinary proof. Can I prove that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist? The Lord says something mystical: “I make miracles for the blind and deaf, but I would love not to make any miracles and you would believe because of faith.” I’m no one to say these are proofs, but I just want to put on the table the results of my research so you can meditate and come up with your own conclusions.”
Only Faith in the extraordinary action of a God, who cannot deceive nor be deceived, provides the only reasonable answer—a Faith in a God, Who wants to make us aware that He is really and truly present in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.
Our Lord warned us about a lack of Faith in the End Times: “The Son of man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, Faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). Our Lady foretold, at La Salette, that “Lucifer, together with a large number of demons, will be unloosed from Hell; they will put an end to Faith little by little, even in those dedicated to God. Several religious institutions will lose all Faith and will lose many souls ... among these people there will even be bishops … Several will abandon the Faith, and a great number of priests and members of religious orders will break away from the true religion.”
Kick Start Your Faith
The Eucharistic miracle in Buenos Aires is an extraordinary sign attested to by science. Through it Jesus desires to arouse in us a lively faith in His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. He reminds us that His presence is real, and not symbolic. Only with the eyes of faith do we see Him under appearance of the consecrated bread and wine. We do not see Him with our bodily eyes, since He is present in His glorified humanity. In the Eucharist Jesus sees and loves us and desires to save us. We have already seen the importance of the Holy Eucharist in the Vision of St. John Bosco, concerning the Two Pillars, where upon the larger pillar that arose from the turbulent sea, was the Holy Eucharist, under this was the inscription “Salus Credentium” or “Salvation of Believers.” The Pope sailed the Ark of the Church between these Two Pillars (the other Pillar was topped by Our Lady) and chained the Ark to both these Pillars. Let us similarly chain ourselves to the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady for own safety and salvation!
Amsterdam, today a city of sin, was blessed with two extraordinary Eucharistic miracles in the Middle Ages. The first in 1345 and the second in 1452. In both cases the Holy Eucharist came through two fires, unscathed.
The First Miracle
In 1345, Amsterdam was a tiny fishing village consisting of four streets and a few alleys lined up along the main canal. There were small modest fishermen's huts, a church, and a monastery. The monastery was the largest building in the city. The Eucharistic Miracle, given to this tiny village on March 13th, 1345, was the beginning of the growth of Amsterdam into the large city which it has now become. In fact, on the 600th anniversary of the miracle, March 13th, 1945, the Dutch Catholics attributed all the growth and progress of their city to the Eucharistic Miracle which we will now present to you.
The Fisher of Men and the Fisherman
The Eucharistic miracle occurred in a house on Kalverstreet where a fisherman named Ysbrant Dommer, who had fallen seriously ill and was now on his deathbed. He had called for a priest to come to his home to give him the last rites of the Church and Holy Communion. After having heard the man's confession, the priest blessed him with the oils of Extreme Unction, and gave him Holy Communion. The priest, after administering the Sacraments, advised the family, that if the sick man threw up (which he was known to do after taking food), they were to empty the contents in the fire.
What on earth do I do?
The priest had no sooner left than the sick man began coughing violently. His wife ran over to him in an effort to help him, but the husband, gagging and choking beyond control, vomited the contents of his stomach, including the Host, still intact. The wife reacted instinctively. She swept up the Host and threw It into the fireplace. She soon felt confusion and remorse at having thrown the Holy Eucharist into the fire, but the fire was raging, and she was not about to put her hands into it for fear of burning herself. That night she slept fitfully, tossing and turning. She was afraid she had committed a terrible sin and had nightmares about the Sacred Host that she had thrown into the fire. This incident occurred on March 12th.
Lo and Behold!
The following morning, as soon as she got out of bed, she went over to the fireplace. The fire was not extinguished yet, and the coals were still quite hot. She stoked the coals, looking for the Eucharist. To her amazement she suddenly saw the Host sitting atop a burning ember. It was not burned at all. It had not even turned color. The Host was fresh with brilliant surrounding it, lying among the coals.
The woman became upset and immediately put her hand in the fire to rescue the host. This she did without any ill effects to herself. She did not burn her hand. The woman was surprised to find the host was cold! She immediately called in a neighbor and asked her to take the Sacred Host to her home. The neighbor took a clean cloth, placed the host on it and locked it in a chest for safekeeping. She then took it home. When the husband of the woman who found the host heard what had taken place, he requested to see it. He tried to lift it off the white cloth it rested on but the Sacred Particle resisted as if to say it did not want to be touched by this man's hands.
Calling the Priest
She then called the priest who had been to her house the previous night and told him the story. The priest, amazed at the preservation of the Host, then placed the Host into a pyx and washed the cloth in which it had been wrapped. He then carried the Host to the parish church of St. Nicholas. The priest thought it best not to tell anyone about the incident, so as not to stir up gossip involving the woman or her husband. He took the Host, wrapped in the cloth, and returned It to the church, where he placed It in the tabernacle.
The following morning, the priest found the pyx empty to his amazement, but the Host was soon discovered by the same neighbor woman, who had returned for her original box and cloth. When she opened the locked chest, she at once found the Sacred Host in it! She was stunned and confused, as she knew the priest had taken It away the day before. Had she committed such a terrible sin, that the Lord brought back the proof to punish her with the sight of It? She ran to the Church, and explained what had happened to the priest.
What Do I Do?
Again the priest placed the Eucharist into a pyx and returned it to the church. Then, after yet another disappearance and discovery, the priest contacted other members of the clergy for consultation. All agreed that the occurrences were a direct proof of God's intercession, and apparently a sign that the miracle should be openly honored. Jesus wanted to use this miracle to awaken His sleeping people. The Miraculous Host was a light which was to shine all over Europe.
The priest told his fellow friars about the miracle, and the story of which soon spread about the town and the surrounding countryside. When the priest formed a procession to go to the fisherman's house for the Sacred Host, a huge crowd followed him and his fellow priests. They carried the Sacred Host back to the church of St. Nicholas affording Our Lord the honor He deserved for giving such a rich gift to these humble people.
The Fisherman Recovers
Another wonderful element to the story is that the fisherman who had been dying, the one whom the priest brought the Eucharist on that first night, didn't die. To the contrary, he recovered, thanks be to God. However, when word of the miracle reached the ears of the townspeople, and those from other villages, they all went to the fisherman's house to see where the miracle had taken place. It soon became sort of a shrine, and soon afterwards, a Chapel.
Official inquiries were made by the civil magistrate and also the city council, and upon investigation all were satisfied with the truthfulness of the witnesses. They affirmed the occurrence as fact and also endorsed the miracle in official City documents. The Church authorities, too, headed by the Bishop of Utrecht, held an extended inquiry before permitting the clergy to spread information about the event.
In a Pastoral letter, the Bishop officially declared that an authentic miracle had occurred in the little town of Amsterdam. In the same pastoral letter, he authorized veneration of the Eucharistic Miracle of the Host. The little house of the fisherman was soon converted into a Chapel, called Nieuwe Zijds, or Holy Place and the Miraculous Host was placed upon the main altar, for the adoration of the people. The fireplace of the fisherman's hut was kept intact, and became a permanent part of the new shrine.
The second miracle of 1452
A second miracle took place around 100 years later. Amsterdam had grown considerably in the century since the first miracle had taken place. On May 24th, 1452—the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians—the entire city of Amsterdam was engulfed in fire. Most of the buildings were destroyed by the blaze. When the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (the former fisherman's hut of the previous miracle, see above) caught fire, some of the parishioners made an attempt to save the Miraculous Host from destruction by the flames. They tried to force open the tabernacle. The Host had been placed in a beautiful monstrance, which was inside the tabernacle. The heat of the Church was becoming unbearable. The workers worked feverishly, but to no avail. The heat of the fire had made it impossible to get the door open. As the roof of the Chapel began to cave in, the men ran out of the Church to safety, their mission a failure.
The Eucharist in the Fires Again!
The entire Church collapsed and burned to the ground, including the tabernacle. Upon seeing this, there was a great sadness among the faithful of the city, especially those who had tried in vain to rescue the Eucharistic Miracle. The next day, they sifted through the ashes of the Church, hoping against hope, that something remained of their precious Host. Their grief turned to joy as soon they spotted the Monstrance, completely unscathed, there among the ashes of the Church. Even the silk veil which covered the Monstrance had been saved from the fire. So, once again the Lord saved the same Host from fire in the same house in Amsterdam.
Soon afterwards, a new chapel was built, more elaborate and more beautiful than the previous one. The fame of the Eucharistic Miracle of Amsterdam, now recognized as a twofold miracle, spread beyond the Netherlands to all of Europe. The Hapsburg Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Maxmillian, went to Amsterdam in pilgrimage to the Eucharistic Miracle. He prayed for a healing at the shrine, which was granted to him because of his faith. He showed his thanksgiving by donating beautiful gifts to the Chapel of the miracle. Amsterdam and the Eucharistic Miracle became a major place of pilgrimages and processions.
In 1665 the city council authorized Father Jan Van der Mey to convert one of the houses of the former convent of the Beghine into a chapel. After completion, the precious monstrance was transferred, but unfortunately was shortly afterwards taken by unknown thieves. Even today there is perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in memory of the miracle. The only objects that remain from the Eucharistic miracle are the case that contained the Sacred Host (pictured in the photo to the left), the documents that describe the miracle, and some paintings housed in the Historical Museum of Amsterdam. Every year there is a silent procession (Stille Omgang) in honor of the miracle on the eve of Palm Sunday.
On August 14th 1730, in Siena, Italy, during devotions for the vigil of the feast, while most of the Sienese population and the clergy of the city were attending these services, thieves entered the deserted Church of St. Francis. Taking advantage of the absence of the Franciscan Friars, they made for the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was kept, picked the lock to the tabernacle and carried away the golden ciborium containing consecrated Hosts.
The theft went undiscovered until the next morning, when the priest opened the tabernacle at the Communion of the Mass. Then later, when a parishioner found the lid of the ciborium lying in the street, the suspicion of sacrilege was confirmed. The anguish of the parishioners forced the cancellation of the traditional festivities for the feast of Our Lady's Assumption. The Archbishop ordered public prayers of reparation, while the civil authorities began a search for the consecrated Hosts and for the scoundrel who had taken them.
Two days later, on August 17th, while praying in the Church of St. Mary of Provenzano, a priest's attention was directed to something white protruding from the offering box attached to his prie dieu. Realizing that it was a Host, he informed the other priests of the church, who in turn notified the Archbishop and the friars of the Church of St. Francis.
When the offering box was opened, in the presence of local priests and the representative of the Archbishop, a large number of Hosts were found, some of them suspended by cobwebs. The Hosts were compared with some unconsecrated ones used in the Church of St. Francis, and proved to be exactly the same size and to have the same mark of the irons upon which they were baked. The number of Hosts corresponded exactly to the number the Franciscan friars had estimated were in the ciborium — 348 whole Hosts and six halves.
Replaced in Tabernacle
Since the offering box was opened but once a year, the Hosts were covered with the dust and debris that had collected there. After being carefully cleaned by the priests, they were enclosed in a ciborium and placed inside the tabernacle of the main altar of the Church of St. Mary. The following day, in the company of a great gathering of townspeople, Archbishop Alessandro Zondadari carried the Sacred Hosts in solemn procession back to the Church of St. Francis.
During the two centuries that followed it has sometimes been wondered why the Hosts were not consumed by a priest during Mass, which would have been the ordinary procedure in such a case. While there is no definite answer, there are two theories. One explanation is that crowds of people from both Siena and neighboring cities gathered in the church to offer prayers of reparation before the sacred particles, forcing the priests to conserve them for a time. The other reason the priests did not consume them might well have been because of their soiled condition. While the Hosts were superficially cleaned after their discovery, they still retained a great deal of dirt. In such cases it is not necessary to consume consecrated Hosts, but it is permitted to allow them to deteriorate naturally, at which time Christ would no longer be present.
To the amazement of the clergy, the Hosts did not deteriorate, but remained fresh and even retained a pleasant scent. With the passage of time the Conventual Franciscans became convinced that they were witnessing a continuing miracle of preservation.
Fifty years after the recovery of the stolen Hosts, an official investigation was conducted into the authenticity of the miracle. The Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Father Carlo Vipera, examined the Hosts on April 14th, 1780, and upon tasting one of them he found it fresh and incorrupt. Since a number of the Hosts had been distributed during the preceding years, the Minister General ordered that the remaining 230 particles be placed in a new ciborium and forbade further distribution.
A more detailed investigation took place in 1789 by Archbishop Tiberio Borghese of Siena with a number of theologians and other dignitaries. After examining the Hosts under a microscope, the commission declared that they were perfectly intact and showed no sign of deterioration. The three Franciscans who had been present at the previous investigation, that of 1780, were questioned under oath by the Archbishop. It was then reaffirmed that the Hosts under examination were the same ones stolen in 1730.
Testing the Authenticity
As a test to further confirm the authenticity of the miracle, the Archbishop, during this 1789 examination, ordered several unconsecrated hosts to be placed in a sealed box and kept under lock in the chancery office. Ten years later these were examined and found to be, not only disfigured, but also withered. In 1850, 61 years after they were placed in a sealed box, these unconsecrated hosts were found reduced to particles of a dark yellow color, while the consecrated Hosts retained their original freshness.
Other examinations were made at intervals over the years, the most significant being that of 1914, undertaken on the authority of Pope St. Pius X. For this inquiry the Archbishop selected a distinguished panel of investigators, which included scientists and professors from Siena and Pisa, as well as theologians and Church officials.
Acid and starch tests performed on one of the fragments indicated a normal starch content. The conclusions reached from microscopic tests indicated that the Hosts had been made of roughly sifted wheat flour, which was found to be well preserved.
The commission agreed that unleavened bread, if prepared under sterile conditions and kept in an airtight, antiseptically cleaned container, could be kept for an extremely long time. Unleavened bread prepared in a normal fashion and exposed to air and the activity of micro-organisms would remain intact for no more than a few years. It was concluded that the stolen Hosts had been both prepared without scientific precautions and kept under ordinary conditions which should have caused their decay more than a century before. The commission concluded that the preservation was extraordinary, "…e la scienza stessa che proclama qui lo straordinario."
More Modern Scientific Testing
Professor Siro Grimaldi, professor of chemistry at the University of Siena and director of the Municipal Chemical Laboratory, as well as the holder of several other distinguished positions in the field of chemistry, was the chief chemical examiner of the holy particles in 1914. Afterward, he gave elaborate statements concerning the miraculous nature of the Hosts, and wrote a book about the miracle entitled Uno Scienziato Adora (A Scientific Adorer). In 1914 he declared:
The holy Particles of unleavened bread represent an example of perfect preservation … a singular phenomenon that inverts the natural law of the conservation of organic material. It is a fact unique in the annals of science.
In 1922 another investigation was conducted -- this one in the presence of Cardinal Giovanni Tacci, who was accompanied by the Archbishop of Siena and the Bishops of Montepulciano, Foligno and Grosseto. Again the results were the same: the Hosts tasted like unleavened bread, were starchy in composition and were completely preserved.
In 1950 the miraculous Hosts were taken from the old ciborium and placed in a more elaborate and costly one, which caught the eye of another thief. Thus, despite the precautions of the clergy, another sacrilegious theft occurred on the night of August 5, 1951. This time the thief was considerate enough to take only the container and left the Hosts in a corner of the tabernacle. After counting 133 Hosts, the Archbishop himself sealed them in a silver ciborium. Later, after being photographed, they were placed in an elaborate container which replaced the one that had been stolen.
The miraculously preserved Hosts are displayed publicly on various occasions, but especially on the 17th of each month, which commemorates the day they were found after the first theft in 1730. On the feast of Corpus Christi the Sacred Hosts are placed in their processional monstrance and triumphantly carried in procession from the church through the streets of the town, an observance in which the whole populace participates.
Among many distinguished visitors who have adored the Hosts was St. John Bosco. They were likewise venerated by Pope John XXIII, who signed the album of visitors on May 29th, 1954, when he was still the Patriarch of Venice. And although unable to visit the miraculous Hosts, Popes Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius Xl and Pius Xll issued statements of profound interest and admiration.
With a unanimous voice, the faithful, priests, bishops, cardinals and popes have marveled at and worshiped the holy Hosts, recognizing in them a permanent miracle, both complete and perfect, that has endured for over 250 years.
By this miracle the Hosts have remained whole and shiny, and have maintained the characteristic scent of unleavened bread. Since they are in such a perfect state of conservation, maintaining the appearances of bread, the Catholic Church assures us that although they were consecrated in the year 1730, these Eucharistic Hosts are still really and truly the Body of Christ. The miraculous Hosts have been cherished and venerated in the Basilica of St. Francis in Siena for over 250 years.
All this should serve to rouse us out of our habitual lukewarmness towards the Blessed Sacrament and ignite our Faith and devotion towards the Holy Eucharist, which is none other than the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in our midst—even today!