With some eucharistic miracles, the host emits a bright light. In 1247, for instance, a woman in Santarem, Portugal, was concerned about her husband’s faithfulness. She went to a sorceress, who promised the woman that her husband would return to his loving ways if the wife would bring a consecrated host back to the sorceress. The woman agreed.
At Mass, the woman managed to obtain a consecrated host and put it in a kerchief, but before she could return to the sorceress, the cloth became bloodstained. This frightened the woman. She hurried home and hid the cloth and host in a drawer in her bedroom. That night, the drawer emitted a bright light. When her husband saw it, the woman told him what had happened. The following day, many townspeople came to the house, attracted by the light.
The people reported the events back to the parish priest, who went to the house. He took the host back to the church and put it in a wax container where it continued to bleed for three days. The host remained in the wax container for four years. One day when the priest opened the tabernacle door, he saw that the wax had broken into numerous pieces. In its place was a crystal container with the blood inside.
The house where the miracle took place was converted into a chapel in 1684. Even today, on the second Sunday of April, the incident is re-enacted in the Church of St. Stephen in Santarem. The reliquary that houses the miraculous host rests above the tabernacle in that church, and it can be viewed year-round from a set of stairs behind the main altar.
A similar phenomenon took place in the 1300s in the village of Wawel, near Krakow, Poland. Thieves broke into a church, forced their way into the tabernacle, and stole the monstrance containing consecrated hosts. When they determined that the monstrance was not made of gold, they threw it into nearby marshlands.
When darkness fell, a light emanated from the spot where the monstrance and consecrated hosts had been abandoned. The light was visible for several kilometers, and frightened villagers reported it to the bishop of Krakow. The bishop called for three days of fasting and prayer. On the third day, he led a procession to the marsh. There he found the monstrance and the consecrated hosts, which were unbroken. Annually on the occasion of the feast of the Corpus Christi, this miracle is celebrated in Corpus Christi Church in Krakow.
The Face of the Christ Child
In some eucharistic miracles, an image appears on the host. The miracle of Eten, Peru, for instance, began on June 2, 1649. That night, as Fr. Jèrome Silva was about to replace the monstrance in the tabernacle, he saw in the host the image of a child with thick brown curls that fell to his shoulders. He held the host up to show the image to those present. They all agreed that it was an image of the Christ Child.
A second apparition took place the following month. During the exhibition of the Eucharist, the Child Jesus appeared again in the host, dressed in a purple habit over a shirt that covered his chest, as was the custom of the local Indians, the Mochicas. It was felt at the time that the divine Child wanted to show his love for the Mochicas. During this apparition, which lasted about fifteen minutes, many people also saw in the host three small white hearts, thought to symbolize the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. The celebration in honor of the Miraculous Child of Eten still attracts thousands of people to Peru each year.
One of the more recent verified miracles was of a similar nature. It began on April 28, 2001, in Trivandrum, India. Fr. Johnson Karoor was saying Mass when he saw three dots on the consecrated host. He stopped reciting the prayers and stared at the Eucharist. He then invited those at Mass to look, and they also saw the dots. He asked the faithful to remain in prayer, and he placed the Holy Eucharist in the tabernacle.
At Mass on May 5, Fr. Karoor again noticed an image on the host, this time a human face. During adoration, the figure became more clear. Fr. Karoor later explained: “I didn’t have the strength to speak anything to the faithful. I stood aside for some time. I couldn’t control my tears. We had the practice of reading Scripture and reflecting on it during adoration. The passage that I got that day as I opened the Bible was John 20:24–29, Jesus appearing to St. Thomas and asking him to see his wounds.” Fr. Karoor called a photographer to take photos. They can be seen on the Internet at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/988409/posts.
Parting the Waters
A totally different type of eucharistic miracle was recorded by St. Zosimus of Palestine in the sixth century. This miracle concerns St. Mary of Egypt, who left her parents at the age of twelve and became a prostitute. Seventeen years later, she found herself in Palestine. On the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Mary went to the church, looking for customers. At the door of the church, she saw an image of the Virgin Mary. She was overcome with remorse for the life she had led and asked for our Lady’s guidance. A voice told her, “If you cross the Jordan River, you will find peace.”
The next day, Mary did so. There, she took up the life of a hermit and lived alone in the desert for forty-seven years. As the Virgin had promised, she found peace of soul. One day she saw a monk, St. Zosimus of Palestine, who had come to the desert for Lent. Although they had never met, Mary called him by his name. They spoke for a while, and at the end of the conversation, she asked Zosimus to come back the following year and bring the Eucharist for her.
Zosimus did as she requested, but Mary was on the other side of the Jordan. There was no boat for him to cross to her, and Zosimus thought that it would be impossible to give her Communion. St. Mary made the sign of the cross and walked across the water to meet him, and he gave her Communion. She again asked him to return the following year, but when he did, he found that she had died. Next to her corpse was a note asking that he bury her. He reported that he was assisted by a lion in the digging of her grave.
My favorite eucharistic miracle took place in Avignon, France, in November 1433. A small church run by the Gray Penitents of the Franciscan order was exhibiting a consecrated host for perpetual adoration. After several days of heavy rain, the Sorgue and Rhône rivers had risen to a dangerous height. On November 30, Avignon was flooded. The head of the order and another friar rowed a boat to the church, certain that their little church had been destroyed. Instead, they saw a miracle.
Although water around the church was four feet high, a pathway from the doorway to the altar was perfectly dry, and the sacred host was untouched. The water had been held back in the same way the Red Sea had parted. Amazed by what they had seen, the Friars had others from their order come to the church to verify the miracle. The news spread rapidly, and many townspeople and authorities came to the church, singing songs of praise and of thanks to the Lord. Still today, the Gray Penitent brothers reunite at the Chapelle des Pénitents Gris every November 30 to celebrate the memory of the miracle. Before the blessing of the sacrament, the brothers perform a sacred chant taken from the Canticle of Moses, which was composed after the parting of the Red Sea.