By Janet Podolak
Those who visit Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Madison Thursday through June 9 will be able to see purported evidence of miracles from around the world that took place in conjunction with the Eucharist.
"The Eucharistic Miracles of the World" international exhibit, which has been approved by the Vatican and has visited many countries, has 140 panels that show miracles through the centuries.
All will be on display at the church, 2846 Hubbard Road, and available for viewing from 4 to 8 p.m. weekdays and 1 to 8 p.m. on the weekend.
The belief that the bread and wine taken at communion is the actual body and blood of Christ is central to being a Roman Catholic. Called transubstantiation by Catholics, it's the transformation that takes place on the altar when the priest calls upon the Holy Spirit to make the change.
In both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox church, communion is called the Eucharist and, once consecrated by a priest, the bread tangibly becomes the Host.
Protestant and other churches practicing communion tend to believe that the bread and wine are a spiritual symbolism of Christ's body and blood.
The Rev. John Hardon, a religious scholar who was raised in Cleveland, devoted much of his life to researching the Real Presence of the Lord in the sacrament.
"Scripture tells us that the night before Jesus died he gave his apostles the power to do what he did at the Last Supper — change bread and wine into himself," he wrote. "This is the Catholic faith: it is what Reality means."
Many of Hardon's findings and conclusions are found on the website reached after Googling "The Eucharistic Miracles of the World."
The Last Supper account in Matthew 26: 26-28 is what usually is cited: "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it and gave it to the disciples and said ‘Take, eat: this is my body.' and he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
The Rev. Sean Donnelly, pastor at Immaculate Conception Catholic, recently has returned from a trip to shrines in Italy, including the Shroud of Turin, believed by many to have held the body of Jesus after he was crucified.
His group of 27 included seven members of his church — all Catholic except for two Anglicans. The group visited many other shrines in Italy, including the one in Sienna where the Eucharistic Miracle depicted in the exhibit took place.
As visitors to the exhibit walk among the placards explaining and illustrating the various miracles, each person will likely have a favorite. A map shows where each miracle took place, so those whose families originate in other countries can easily find miracles that may also be embodied in that country's lore.
Here are a few of them:
Amsterdam, Holland, 1345
In March 1345 in Amsterdam, a devoutly Catholic man who was very ill told his family he would like to receive Holy Viaticum. The priest administering the sacrament told the family that if the ill man threw up they were to empty the contents in the fire. The man threw up and his family did as they'd been told. The next morning as a woman raked the fire she noticed the Host in the middle of the grate. When she put her hand in to get it she found that the host was cold.
A neighbor took a clean cloth and placed the host on it, locked it in a box, and summoned a priest. The priest could not lift the host but took the cloth away to wash it. When he returned to put it back in the box the host was gone. The next day it was back again inside the locked box.
A procession was organized to carry the host to the church and the home of the sick man soon became a chapel. By 1360 pilgrims were traveling there. In a 1452 fire which burned most of the city, the Miraculous Host was spared. In 1456 a new church was built surrounding the Holy Room where the host was kept.
By the second half of the 16th century the city had fallen to Protestant rule. The chapel was torn down, and the Host was lost. To this day devotion to the Eucharistic Miracle takes place on March 12 at a church near the original site.
Sienna, Italy, in the 1700s
In the eighth century in the Church of St. Legontian, near Siena, Italy, the host was changed into live flesh and the wine into live blood, which coagulated into five globules. The host flesh is light brown and appears rose colored when lighted from the back. The blood has an earthy color resembling ochre. Various ecclesiastical investigations were conducted beginning in 1574. In 1971 a series of microscopic photographs documented that the flesh was muscular tissue of the human heart and the blood had proteins in he same proportion as fresh human blood. The flesh and blood had the same blood type: AB. That's the same blood type that was found in the Shroud of Turin.
In 1310 in the Austrian village of St. Georgenberg-Fiecht during the consecration the wine turned into blood and began to boil and overflow the chalice. In 1480, the chronicler of that day wrote that after 170 years "the Sacred Blood was still fresh as though coming out of a wound." Today the blood is contained in the reliquary of the Monastery of St. Georgenberg.
Martinique, French West Indies 1902
On the Caribbean island of Martinique on May 8, 1902, the volcano Mount Pelee began to erupt lava and ashes, threatening the town of Morne-Rouge. The people rushed to the church and prayed for deliverance. The priest distributed Holy Communion and then exposed the Blessed Sacrament for public adoration. The people witnessed an apparition of Jesus in the host, and some said they saw the blood of Jesus dripping from his sacred heart. The vision lasted several hours and the village was spared. But the population had a chance to reconcile themselves with God so when the volcano erupted again on Aug. 30 and destroyed the town, they were able to die in a state of grace.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
2846 Hubbard Road
Eucharistic Miracles of the World International
Exhibit: June 2 through June 9, 2010
Hours: 4 to 8 p.m. weekdays; 1 to 8 p.m. weekend
Information: 440-298-1219; 440 428-5164