Several years ago my sister and I stood in our parents’ kitchen, eyes locked in serious debate. We were debating the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
At the time, I was a cradle Catholic turned skeptic. She was a campus missionary for Catholic Christian Outreach.
My faith in the Eucharist and most other Catholic teachings had long since turned to skepticism—and the “real presence” was at the top of the list.
First, it seemed obvious that the consecration effected no change to the bread and wine—the bread remained as bread, and the wine remained as wine. There was clearly no physical change which left me unconvinced.
Second, the idea of actually consuming the flesh and blood of Jesus bodily seemed to me a strange religious form of cannibalism.
My sister listened patiently to my objections and skeptical musings, and when she spoke her intense faith in the Real Presence shone through. This was the first time I had ever heard of the Sacrament of the Eucharist as the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324); and although I didn’t exactly know what that meant, I knew she was deeply convinced—and although I wouldn’t show it or admit, her conviction affected me tremendously.
As we closed our kitchen debate that day she made a suggestion that would fatefully trigger a new direction in my religious considerations. She appealed to the miraculous—and suggested that I investigate the “Miracle of Lanciano.” So I did.
The powerful impact of my ensuing discovery was the first of many critical steps that led me back to the Church of Rome (and one of many discoveries that have kept me there).
The Miracle of Lanciano
The story goes like this:
In the eighth century, a Basilian monk, who had doubts about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (Holy Communion) was offering Mass in the Italian town of Lanciano.
During the Mass, when he pronounced the words of consecration, the host was miraculously changed into actual human flesh while the wine was changed into real human blood. The blood later coagulated, while the flesh remained as it was. Neither decomposed.
The miracle has since underwent rigorous scientific analysis at the request of the Vatican (who always acts with a high degree of prudence in the investigation of alleged miracles before declaring them as authentic).
Dr. Edoardo Linoli, a professor of anatomy and pathological histology, of chemistry and clinical microscopy, and former head of the Laboratory of Pathological Anatomy at the Hospital of Arezzo, is the principle investigator of the miracle of Lanciano.
An article at Zenit.org describes the results of the scientific analyses according to Dr. Linoli:
Linoli explained that “as regards the flesh, I had in my hand the endocardium. Therefore, there is no doubt at all that it is cardiac tissue.”
In regard to the blood, the scientist emphasized that “the blood group is the same as that of the man of the holy Shroud of Turin, and it is particular because it has the characteristics of a man who was born and lived in the Middle East regions.”
“The AB blood group of the inhabitants of the area in fact has a percentage that extends from 0.5% to 1%, while in Palestine and the regions of the Middle East it is 14-15%,” Linoli said.
Linoli’s analysis revealed no traces of preservatives in the elements, meaning that the blood could not have been extracted from a corpse, because it would have been rapidly altered.
Linoli’s report was published in “Quaderni Sclavo di Diagnostica Clinica e di Laboratori” in 1971.
In 1973, the Higher Council of the World Health Organization (WHO) appointed a scientific commission to verify the Italian doctor’s conclusions. The work was carried out over 15 months with a total of 500 examinations. The conclusions of all the researches confirmed what had been stated and published in Italy.
Here is a general overview of Linoli’s scientific findings (from therealpresence.org):
1. The “miraculous Flesh” is authentic flesh consisting of muscular striated tissue of the myocardium.
2. The “miraculous Blood” is truly blood. The chromatographic analysis indicated this with absolute and indisputable certainty.
3. The immunological study shows with certitude that the flesh and the blood are human, and the immuno – hematological test allows us to affirm with complete objectivity and certitude that both belong to the same blood type AB – the same blood type as that of the man of the Shroud and the type most characteristic of Middle Eastern populations.
4. The proteins contained in the blood have the normal distribution, in the identical percentage as that of the serous-proteic chart for normal fresh blood.
5. No histological dissection has revealed any trace of salt infiltrations or preservative substances used in antiquity for the purpose of embalming. Professor Linoli also discarded the hypothesis of a hoax carried out in past centuries.
Also worth noting: the blood and tissue analyses of the Miracle of Lanziano are consistent with the Shroud of Turin…
Belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist goes back to the earliest Christians. St. Paul, Ignatius of Antioch (a disciple of John the apostle), Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons and other early Church Fathers clearly testify to it.
But today’s reality is that many Christians (including some Catholics) struggle with the dogma of the real presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, “where the feeble senses fail.” But from time to time, God in His infinite wisdom and love, acts in extraordinary ways to increase our convictions and dissolve our skepticism in the supernatural.
He does this especially through miracles.
For this reason, appealing to the miraculous can, in fact, be a very effective (but often forgotten) method of evangelization. Supernatural events, like Marian apparitions, dancing suns, bread-turned-flesh, healings of the terminally-ill and other signs of the divine, are great affirmations of the truth of Christianity. They are like little “signatures” of God spread throughout all of history.
As one who had his reversion to the Church effected by the testimony of a miracle, I encourage you without hesitation: Proclaim the miracles of Christianity! For indeed the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ hinges on a miracle—the resurrection of the Son of God.
Just some Food for thought.
The Miracle of Lanciano is just one of many authentic Eucharist miracles. For more, I recommend reading Joan Carroll Cruz’s Eucharistic Miracles.