More Eucharistic miracles

After the Eucharistic miracle that Pope Francis approved when he was bishop in Buenos Aires in 1996, another miracle took place in Poland in 2008 and again the host was found to have turned into human heart tissue.  Remarkably, the eighth-century Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano in Italy has also been analysed scientifically and the findings are the same. I post here two of my columns on these extraordinary miracles.

Another Eucharistic miracle

I read with great interest your column on the Eucharistic miracle that Pope Francis approved when he was a bishop in Buenos Aires in 1996. Now a friend tells me there has been another miracle in Poland with similar scientific findings. Do you know anything about it?

The miracle took place in 2008 in the town of Sokołka, near Bialystok on the border with Belarus. Australian lawyer Ron Tesoriero, who spoke with the people involved, relates the facts in his new book Unseen, published in 2013.

On 12 October 2008 in the church of St Anthony of Padua, a young assistant priest, Fr Jacek Ingielewicz, accidentally dropped a consecrated host during Mass. He picked it up and, since it was soiled, placed it in a vessel of water and put it in the tabernacle. After Mass the parish priest, Fr Stanislaw Gniedziejko, asked the sacristan, Sr Julia, to place the host and water in a glass bowl and put it in the safe in the sacristy.

A week later, on 19 October, Fr Stanislaw asked the sacristan if the host had dissolved and when Sr Julia opened the safe she discovered that there was a red stain on the host which looked like blood. She called Fr Stanislaw, who was very moved when he saw it, and informed his superior, Archbishop Edward Ozorowski. A few days later the Archbishop went with his Chancellor to see the host and on 29 October he asked Fr Stanislaw to take the host out of the water and lay it on a linen corporal, which he then placed in the tabernacle of the chapel in the priests’ house.

The Archbishop appointed a special commission to investigate the matter, with the aim of determining whether anyone had interfered with the host. On 5 January 2009 he asked two pathomorphologists from the Medical University of Bialystok to conduct a scientific examination of the host. The two, Professor Sobaniec-Lotowska and Professor Sulkowski, hold chairs in different departments of the university and have published widely in their fields, having worked as specialists for over thirty years.

In the presence of the Chancellor, Fr Andrew Kakareka, and others Professor Sobaniec-Lotowska removed a small piece of the host, about a square centimetre in size. She reported that it was brittle, brownish in colour and with remains of the communion host attached.

After analysing the material under an electron microscope the two professors reported that it consisted entirely of cardiac tissue. Various aspects of the material made them certain that it was indeed heart muscle tissue. Professor Sobaniec-Lotowska described the sample as heart muscle, “just before death. It is in agony, a moribund condition, caused by great stress. This is proved by the presentation of a very strong phenomenon of ‘segmentation’ or damage to myocardial fibres at the site of the intercalated discs, which does not occur after death. Such changes can be observed only in living fibres and they show evidence of rapid spasms of the heart muscle in the period just before death.”

In a later interview on 13 August 2010, Professor Sobaniec-Lotowska elaborated on this finding: “The cardiac impact had been recent. The heart was alive, just before death. The sample analysed was not from a dead person. The person was alive. There was one square centimetre of heart. A fragment of muscle. If one had to remove it from a person, he would die.” Pointing to a photograph of the tissue she repeated her amazement that even though it had been in water for weeks the cardiac tissue was still visible. She said that if it had been in water even for one week it would not be visible.

The professors were also amazed that there had been no autolysis, the process whereby a cell is destroyed by its own enzymes when the organism is injured or dying. In their opinion there was no scientific explanation for this phenomenon. “What is even more difficult to comprehend”, Professor Sulkowski said, “is that the tissue, which appeared in the host, was closely bound to it, to the host that is, penetrating the base on which it appeared. Please believe me that even if someone intended to tamper with the sample, it would be impossible to bind the two pieces of matter in such an indissoluble way.”

So once again a communion host has been miraculously transformed into living heart tissue, readily identifiable under an electron microscope, and the tissue shows signs of great stress. God is obviously going to great lengths to confirm the truth of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano

I have been fascinated by your account of the Eucharistic miracles of Buenos Aires and Poland. What is the connection, if any, between these miracles and the one of Lanciano in Italy?

The common thread in these Eucharistic miracles, as well as in the many others that have taken place throughout the centuries, is the fact that a consecrated host has changed into recognisable features of human tissue and sometimes blood.

We know that after the consecration in the Mass, when the priest pronounces the words of Christ on instituting the Eucharist, the host becomes the Body of Christ and the wine becomes his Blood. We don’t see the Body or Blood, because they continue to have the characteristics of bread and wine, but we know by faith that they are there.

Occasionally, sometimes to shore up the faith of people who doubted his Real Presence, Our Lord has done a miracle to make clear that the Eucharist is truly his Body and Blood. In recent decades some of these miracles have been subjected to scientific examinations, which have resulted in extraordinary findings. Such is the case with the miracles of Buenos Aires in 1996, Poland in 2008, and even the eighth century miracle of Lanciano.

The first great Eucharistic miracle was that of Lanciano, the ancient Italian city of Anxanum. It took place in 750 AD in the church of St Legontian when a Basilian monk doubted the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. After he had consecrated the Body and Blood of Our Lord, the host was suddenly changed into physical flesh and the consecrated wine into physical blood, which coagulated into five globules of different shapes and sizes. They are still on display in Lanciano, even though almost 1300 years have passed since they first appeared.

In 1971 the flesh and blood were examined scientifically by Dr Odoardo Linoli, Professor of Anatomy and Pathological Histology and of Chemistry and Clinical Microscopy at the Arezzo Hospital. He was assisted by Dr Ruggero Bertelli, retired Professor of Anatomy at the University of Siena.

Their findings were truly extraordinary, and similar to the findings in the miracles of Buenos Aires and Poland. The flesh was identified under a microscope as human flesh from the left ventricle of the heart, showing clearly the myocardium, the endocardium and the vagus nerve.

What is more, Professor Linoli was amazed at the evenness of the slice of tissue he was examining. He commented that only a highly skilled hand in dissection could have obtained such an “even and continuous” slice of heart tissue. This is especially intriguing if one takes into account that the first anatomical dissections reported in the medical literature took place only after the 1300s, some six hundred years after the miracle.

The blood was of type AB, the rarest blood type, which is found more commonly in the region around the Mediterranean. In Italy between 0.5% and 1% of all people have type AB blood, whereas in Israel and the Middle East the percentage is 14-15%.

The blood in the sample of flesh was also of type AB. Significantly, this is the same blood type identified in the Shroud of Turin. What is more, the proteins in the blood sample were in the same proportions as in fresh normal blood.

One of the experiments conducted on the blood sample involved liquefying it and studying its capillary properties; that is, the rate at which it climbs a narrow tube. Professor Linoli found that the capillary properties matched exactly those of human blood taken from a man that very day.

The fact that the flesh and blood have been preserved for almost thirteen centuries even though exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, and without any preservative, is itself a miracle.

Professor Linoli’s findings were published in “Quaderni Sclavo di Diagnostica Clinica e di Laboratori” in 1971. In 1973 the Higher Council of the World Health Organisation appointed a scientific commission to investigate Professor Linoli’s findings. After 500 examinations, carried out over fifteen months, the commission confirmed the earlier findings.

These miracles and the scientific evidence that supports them can help to reaffirm our faith that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Our Lord at a time when many doubt it.