Thursday, June 7, 2012

Is the Sacred Host the flesh of Christ's Sacred Heart?

The heart tissue of the Eucharistic miracle in Lanciano

Solemnity of Corpus Christi
Unless the local bishops have moved it to the following Sunday, today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, the feast of the Most Holy Eucharist.
On this day, the Church adores the Real Presence of her Savior in the Eucharistic Species. Christ our Lord is really, truly, substantially and sacramentally present in the Eucharist. This Presence is confirmed in a most astonishing way in those Eucharistic miracles where the Host and/or Precious Blood physically and visibly change shape so as to become (in sensible form) flesh and blood.
A question arises, however: Since, in some of these Eucharistic miracles, the Host changes into heart tissue, are we right to say that the Sacred Host is the flesh of the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

The Miracle: Lanciano
In the city of Lanciano, Italy (which is in the south-eastern portion of the country, near the “heel of the boot”) around the year 700, a Basilian monk who was celebrating Mass had doubts about the truth of the Eucharist.
During the Mass, after the consecration, the Eucharistic Species (that is, the consecrated bread and wine) visibly and sensibly changed form. The Eucharistic Host changed into visible flesh while the consecrated wine sensibly changed to blood, which coagulated into five globules of varying shape and size.
This miracle was the cause of great alarm and also of much interest. To this day, the Eucharistic miracle is still able to be seen in the Church of St. Francis in Lanciano. I have seen it myself, and worshiped our Lord’s Presence in this miraculous Species.
The five globules of blood from Lanciano
The Facts: The Miracle of Lanciano – It is a human heart
There have been a number of scientific investigations of the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano.
February 17, 1574 by Bishop Antonio Gaspar Rodríguez
1636 by Father Serafino from Scanno
October 23, 1777 by Bishop Gervasone
October 26, 1886 by Bishop Petrarca
1971, by Odoardo Linoli
1973, by a World Health Organization commission
These studies have concluded that the five globules always weigh the same size, in any combination. In other words, each weighs the same as the others, but any four together weigh no more than any one individually and any one alone weighs the same as the other four together.
Further, the flesh and blood are real, and human. They are of the same blood type, AB – which is that of the “universal recipient”, since our Savior receives all people into his Mystical Body.
Finally, the flesh is heart tissue. In the flesh, one can see all the essential parts of a human heart – the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve, and also the left ventricle. This flesh is a thin slice of a human heart.
By a wondrous miracle, this tissue and blood has remained wholly preserved and intact for 1300 years!
The Dogma: The whole of Christ’s body is substantially present
Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation. (CCC 1376; Council of Trent, Session XIII)
Further, by real concomitance, the Blood of Christ is present in the Host and the Body of Christ is present in the Chalice. Likewise, the Divinity of Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.
In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” (CCC 1374; Council of Trent, Session XIII)
Under both Species (that is, under that which looks like bread and that which looks like wine), the whole Christ is present – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Further, a smaller-sized Host does not contain “less” of Christ, nor does a larger Host contain “more” of Christ.
Images of the Miracle of Lanciano
The Answer: The heart tissue cannot be the physical tissue of Christ’s Sacred Heart
From this, it should be clear that the heart tissue of the Miracle of Lanciano cannot be the physical tissue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
If the Eucharist of the Miracle of Lanciano is truly the Eucharist, then it must still be a sacrament and the whole Christ must be truly present therein. It would be a limitation on the Miracle to say that it is only a “piece” of Jesus, or only a “slice” of his Heart. Indeed, this would come close to blasphemy!
No, in the Miracle of Lanciano, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained. We worship the Eucharist of Lanciano as Christ and not merely as a “part” of Christ.
However, the heart tissue is a miraculous sign of this truth. Though it is not (and cannot be) a piece of the physical Heart of Jesus – for this Sacred Heart is now whole and complete in Heaven, in our Savior’s glorified body – the tissue reminds us in the most vivid terms that the Eucharist is really and truly Jesus, and that he gives us his Heart (that is, the fullness of his Love) in the Eucharist.
Still, we are right to say that the physical flesh and blood of the Miracle are “Christ’s” – not as though they are the proper flesh and blood of his glorified body, but that they are wholly possessed by his Person, since he is the one really present in the Sacrament of Lanciano. In other words, that is “Christ’s heart tissue”, but it is not as though there is a slice missing from our Savior’s Sacred Heart in heaven.
As the Eucharist isn’t just a “piece” of Jesus, neither is it only a “slice” of his Love. Rather, in this Most Blessed Sacrament, our Savior gives us his whole Self and all of his Love. The Miracle of Lanciano is a reminder of this great mystery.


Paddy said...

I had never heard this story before. All I can say is 'wow!' Of course, the Gospel miracles were teaching tools, so no surprise that this miracle should be also - in this case that our Lord is truly present in the Eucharist.

for my own part I have never understood how anyone can read Jesus words 'this is my body' & not accept the literal meaning of the words: the bread has become his flesh ...

A Sinner said...

I thought that there was some debate, even in Aquinas, about whether the Real Presence continued during a Eucharistic Miracle given that the accidents of bread and wine no longer remain...

Anonymous said...

Hey Father,

If you live in the US and do not attend the EF Mass for Corpus Christi on Thursday, are you obligated to attend the OF Mass the following Sunday on which it is now celebrated, or may you attend an EF Mass (and thus miss the celebration of Corpus Christi entirely)? Your help is appreciated!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A Sinner,
I am not aware of any debate within the Angelic Dcotor himself (he very clearly teaches that the Presence remains, because the change in accidents more clearly communicates the Reality) ... however, there were certainly some theologians in the Scholastic period who did debate this point.

In fact, there may still be some freedom to debate even today ... but the Church does indeed worship the Species of Lanciano as the Eucharist, so that is a very strong weight in favor of St Thomas' doctrine.

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

In dioceses in the USA where Corpus Christi is moved to Sunday ... the obligation is simply to attend Mass (any Mass) on either Saturday eve or Sunday.
Thus, the EF or the OF suffices for the obligation (even though the EF is not Corpus Christi on Sunday) ... likewise, Mass at an Eastern Catholic Church suffices (though it is not Corpus Christi).

So the simple answer is, "yes", you may attend the EF Mass -- even if you had not attended the EF today (Corpus Christi), you could still attend the Sunday and it would count for fulfilling both the Sunday and the Corpus Christi obligation.

Hope that is clear! +

Marco da Vinha said...

Father, have you heard of the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarém? I had the chance to see it some months ago. Apparently it is the second most well known Eucharistic miracle in the world.

Clinton R. said...

It is simply beyond our human understanding to realize how much God loves us. However, for Catholics to believe and understand the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist allows us to begin to understand God's immense love for us. Blessed be God forever. +JMJ+

Josemaria Paulo Jeromino Martin Carvalho-Von Verster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Christ's sacred heart is also whole and complete in every host on earth, with his whole human nature and his whole Divine Nature. The miracle simply manifests the accidents of the heart tissue or of the blood, while the substance remains of Christ's whole human nature.


A Sinner said...

Thank you, Father.

I found your old article where you discussed this question.

It seems Aquinas says that since the "quantity" (the dimensions) of the accidents of bread remain (ie, the appearance of real flesh is still the same shape and size as the host)...and since the quantity is the foundation of the other accidents...then the Real Presence remains.

This makes sense.

Marco da Vinha said...

Is the phenomenon of the globules unexplainable?

Michelangelo said...

Dear Father,

Wonderful, elegant exposition of the theology of Eucharistic Miracles! Thank you again for "doing theology" for us and with us. THIS is so beneficial, so needed, in these times. What with all the sloppy, "be nice" homilies, you demonstrate how beneficial, and how manly it is to be precise in terminology about the Truths of our Faith, in order to be able to better understand, and then to better pray and act in our daily lives as good Catholics.

Our Lord loved that priest, and us, enough to condescend in love for our unbelief, to work this great miracle for our understanding and adoration of Him. Happy Corpus Christi, Father!

Prof. Federico A. Nazar f.nazar(at) said...

1. Could you please send links to the high resolution images so anybody can print them for a parish exhibit?

2. I read that the miracle is even more amazing since the species of bread is presented as species of tissue and blood. Is the bread still "behind" the tissue or did the specie change completely?

3. The Real presence is maintained as long as the species retain it's properties (e.g. freshness). How would we know this under the species of tissue? Isn't the worship related to the miracle of change of species rather than Real presence?

F. Nazar
f.nazar at

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