Every time we attend Mass, something wonderful occurs. In the words of the Credo of the People of God: Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into his Body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into his Blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation.
In other words, the Church teaches that the “substance” of the bread and wine are changed at consecration, but the “accidents” remain the same. Before and after consecration, the Body and Blood smell, look, taste and feel like the bread and wine they were before. Ordinarily.
Sometimes, very rarely, during a Mass, the accidents of the bread and wine apparently change in some way along with the substance. These are known as Eucharistic miracles.
Blessed Carlo Acutis created a website listing Eucharistic Miracles around the world. While his list includes 32 Eucharistic Miracles for Italy, these five are the most well-known and visited.
In lower Umbria is the ancient town of Orvieto. Conserved in the city’s ornate cathedral is the Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena. This miracle led to the feast of Corpus Christi. In 1263, a German priest was traveling to Rome on pilgrimage, when he stopped in Bolsena. According to the legend, he had doubts regarding Catholic teaching on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Just after the consecration, the host began to bleed. Flabbergasted, he suspended the Mass and went straight to Orvieto where Pope Urban IV was residing. The pope investigated the miraculous host and bloodstained corporal (linen altar cloth) and confirmed its authenticity. He instituted a new feast in the liturgical calendar: the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano, located in the region of Abruzzo, is par excellence the most well-known in the Catholic Church. The miracle took place in the eighth century in a church administered by Basilian monks. Similar to Bolsena, one of the priests was doubting the Real Presence. As he pronounced the consecration, the host was transformed into flesh, the wine into blood. The Body took on the form of a heart, and the Blood coagulated into five irregularly-shaped globules. In 1970, the miracle was subjected to scientific scrutiny. The doctors concluded that the flesh was human heart tissue and the blood is human. Both are from the same blood group, AB. Today, the relics are conserved in a Franciscan church. While it is often difficult to discern details of other Eucharistic miracles, Lanciano is unique. Close access is possible thanks to a stairway immediately behind the relics. The flesh is preserved within a silver monstrance, the blood globules in a crystal chalice.
On Aug. 14, 1730, thieves stole a silver pyx from a Franciscan church in Siena. The pyx contained 351 consecrated hosts, numerous due to the feast of the Assumption the following day. Three days later, the stolen hosts were recovered in a nearby church and returned to the Franciscan church. The Franciscans verified the hosts were those stolen. Five decades later, on April 14, 1780, the hosts were examined and found to be “without any alteration.” In 1789, 1889, 1815 and 1854, more examinations were carried. During one, some non-consecrated hosts were sealed in a tin box for 10 years. When reopened, the commission found only worms and rotten fragments instead of the hosts. In another investigation in 1914, on the initiative of Pope Pius X, the final report stated: [The particles appeared well-preserved, without any sign of alteration or mold, nor spoiled due to alteration of woodworms or other parasites, typical of flour products. It also declared: [The particles] constitute a singular phenomenon, abundant in relevance, which reverses the natural laws of the conservation of organic matter. This is a unique fact preserved in the annals of science. In 1980, Pope St. John Paul II visited Siena on a pastoral visit. Upon witnessing the miracle, he exclaimed: “Here is the Presence!”
In Umbria’s Valnerina Valley, near the birth city of St. Benedict of Nursia, is Cascia. While most pilgrims go there to pay homage to St. Rita (1371- 1447), beneath the basilica housing her remains is preserved another Eucharistic miracle. In 1330, a priest was preparing to visit a dying parishioner not far from Siena. He carelessly placed a consecrated host in his prayer breviary rather than in a pyx. When he arrived at the sick man's house, he heard his confession and granted him absolution. When he opened the breviary, he discovered the host bleeding, both pages stained with blood. One of the pages is conserved in Cascia.
The Eucharistic miracle of Macerata follows the pattern in Bolsena and Lanciano. In 1356, a priest was celebrating Mass and had doubts as to the Real Presence. During the consecration, blood gushed forth from the consecrated host falling into the chalice, as well as onto the altar linen. After the Mass, the priest promptly reported the event to the bishop who opened a canonical investigation. Though the documents of the investigation are no longer preserved due to the Napoleonic suppressions, the linen is kept within the city’s cathedral. Though no one knows the mind of God, perhaps he allows Eucharistic miracles so that, like the doubting priests and St. Thomas, we, too, may “see and believe.”BACK TO LIST