Saturday, October 31, 2015

Eucharistic Miracles: A visit to Lanciano

Monstrance containing the miraculous Host, Lanciano
In the High Middle Ages, a veritable explosion of Eucharistic miracles occurred. (This site lists all the known ones -- and they date back to the earliest years of the faith, and have continued to occur into our own day and age.) It seems that Providence responded to increasing doubt about the Real Presence with such singular interventions. The practice of Eucharistic Adoration grew at least in part in response to this wave of doubt, and in 1264, Pope Urban IV established the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, for the public veneration of the Consecrated Host, and the Angelic Doctor himself composed the liturgical office for the feast. Here's a map (PDF link) of all the known Eucharistic miracles in Italy.

Raphael: "The Mass at Bolsena" (Wikimedia) 
Lanciano, near the southeastern Adriatic coast of Italy houses one of the earliest such miracle (PDF link) known, precipitated by the doubt of a Basilian Monk in the 8th century (some 400 years prior to the other famous Italian ones). While celebrating Mass, the Host turned into flesh and dripped blood. The miraculous product was carefully preserved. In the 13th century, the care of the church passed to the (relatively) newly established Franciscan Friars, the Conventual branch of which continues the custody of the miracle. The present monstrance housing the miracle dates from the middle of the 18th century. In the 1970s, scientific tests done established that the miracle is indeed human flesh, a bit of heart tissue, with the blood group AB. Pilgrims continue to be drawn to this, and other, miraculous sites. Last week (Monday, October 26), I had the opportunity to visit Lanciano.

Close up of the miraculous Host
A beautiful, quiet and uneventful 2h40m drive — leaving the chaotic morning traffic of Rome, and the nondescript suburbs of the Eternal City, followed by a slow climb to the Apennines, the central spine of the Italian peninsula, breathtaking views, and many tunnels cutting through the mountain rock — and one is on the Adriatic coast. Highway A50 runs fairly close to the shore between Pescara and Bari, and periodically the shimmering blue of the sea peeks through the hills and pastures.

Lanciano is a picturesque hilltop town, with winding, cobbled streets in the historic Centro. I find an easy parking spot in the main square, not a hundred yards from the Church of St. Francis, the site of the miracle. A large group if Italian pilgrims arrives at the same time. Inside the main church, Mass is underway — in English! I find the sacristan who informs me that there are three English-speaking groups in the church right now. The Italians will have Mass in the crypt (the site of the miracle itself). There is an Indonesian group expected in about 20 minutes, and I could concelebrate with them. The Church closes at 12:30 for the afternoon. I go and wait and pray in the chapel of St. Clare, right behind the display containing the monstrance with the miracle. A large group of Filipinos arrive — they kneel and bow and sign themselves in front of the monstrance. Several pray and touch the glass case reverently. Tablets and phones and cameras appear.. The Americans and Irish finish their Mass. The Indonesians don’t show up. An elderly Franciscan friar sets up the altar in the same chapel for me to say Mass.

Of course, since the altar is set up versus populum, I end up offering the Holy Sacrifice with my back to the miraculous host behind me. Idiotic! However, given the time crunch, I didn’t want to try and explain to the elderly Franciscan that I’d like to reverse the altar settings.

The Franciscans had everything set up for a Mass in English for the Indonesians — however, their photocopy of the Missal was of the now superseded 1970 ICEL translation. So, for the first time that I can recall, I offered Mass using the text of the current (2010) edition of the Roman Missal in English found on the iMissal app on my phone! [If I’d known this was going to be the case, I’d have asked for an Italian Missal. The Sacristan seemed a little surprised at my request for a Latin Missal …]  The Mass was for, appropriately, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

Offering Mass using my phone to get the correct translation!
It was such a joy and blessing to offer the Holy Sacrifice at this sacred place, where the Lord’s mercy powerfully intervened to strengthen the Church’s belief in His abiding and Real Presence in the Eucharist!

After Mass, I had a few minutes to visit the crypt (where the miracle actually took place), in the excavated ruins of the original Basilian Church — it was a bare room with stone walls, and a stylized modern cross and square altar added recently.

Remains of the 8th century chapel where the miracle occurred. 

I have now had the privilege of visiting the sites of two Eucharistic miracles: Balsenna-Orvieto (with the Atlanta NACers in 2012), and now Lanciano.

Piazza near the Church of St. Francis, Lanciano

Corporal with miraculous Precious Blood, from the Miracle at Bolsena, Cathedral of Orvieto (2012).

[There has also been a Eucharistic Miracle in India -- in 2001, in the Archdiocese of Trivandrum, Kerala! And a very famous one in Buenos Aires in 1996, the former See of the current Pope.]

1 comment:

Ollllddude said...

Idiotic? I guess following Vatican II norms is idiotic...

I do like how plain and barren the crypt is, and likely was, when the miracle occurred.

And there are smaller, unrecognized miracles which occur all the time: for me, serving at Mass on a cold February morning in the chapel for the nuns, and as the priest extended his hands being gripped by a sudden full realization of what was happening. That was 1962, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.