Until 1964, when Vatican II provided that the second half of the Roman Catholic Mass be called the “Liturgy of the Eucharist,” it was referred to in the officially prescribed regimen for the Mass as the “Secret.” This usage owed its roots to the needs of the faithful at the very inception of the Church, when Roman persecution often meant martyrdom.
Today, the “Secret” need not be so well guarded. On this Easter Sunday, Christ is among us. All praise, honor and glory to Him, forever.
It was Holy Weekend, 1925, at San Giovanni Rotundo in southern Italy. On Good Friday, friends of Paolina Preziosi came to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for her. She had pneumonia and no penicillin was available. Padre Pio comforted them saying, “Tell her to have no fear since she will be resurrected with the Lord.”*
That night when Paolina was praying to be healed, so she would not leave her five children orphans, Padre Pio appeared to her and said, “tomorrow when the bells ring, you will be cured.”* Later that evening she fell into a coma and her friends began to make preparations for her death.
The following day, Padre Pio was told that the local pastor had come to her with Holy Viaticum, the Blessed Sacrament for her passing. Padre Pio then went to say the Easter Vigil Mass. When the bells rang to announce the resurrection of the Lord, Paolina leapt from her bed “as if she had been pushed by a superhuman force.”* She was completely well.
The above story may seem more appropriate for Easter Sunday than Holy Saturday. On Holy Saturday, however, the disciples were still living with the idea that Christ had died, that He was gone and they were now separated from Him. On Holy Saturday, 1925, Paolina was in a coma and her friends were awaiting her death. In the warmth of His Presence, she did rise again. The fears and doubts of her friends gave way to joy.
Similarly, it is easy to have fears and doubts about the Eucharist. A consecrated Host gives no indiation that it is anything other than an inert white disc. He still seems elsewhere, separated from us. The story above and many others testify to something far greater.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina knew Paolina Preziosi would be healed. He also knew about the Real Presence.
He is not separated from us. He is still with us.
*Ruffin, C. Bernard, Padre Pio: The True Story (Huntington, Indiana, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1991) p. 202-03.
Additional source: Cataneo, Pascal, Padre Pio Gleanings (Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, Editions Paulines, 1991) p. 123-124.
It was Good Friday, 1595, in Florence, Italy. A lit candle in the side chapel of a church fell to the ground and started a fire. The people succeeded in saving the Blessed Sacrament and the chalice from the fire, but, in their haste, six fragments of consecrated Hosts fell to the ground. When they were found later, they had joined together but undamaged from the fire. In 1628, the bishop examined these fragments and found them to be still incorrupt. They have been saved ever since and are still available for viewing to this day.
Source: “The Eucharistic Miracles of the World,” a Vatican international exhibition, as reported by The Real Presence Eucharistic Adoration Association, http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/english_pdf/Florence.pdf.
It was Holy Thursday, 1384 in the Tyrolean village of Seefeld, in western Austria. Oswald Milser was a knight, the guardian of Schlossberg Castle north of the village. The castle was situated in a mountain pass and provided protection to the village. Due to the importance of his position, Milser thought that he deserved particular respect, as revealed by the following account contained in the Golden Chronicle of Hohenschwangau:
“’Oswald Milser came down with his followers to the parish church of Seefeld. He demanded—and a refusal could mean death—the large Host; the small one he regarded as too ordinary for him. He surrounded the frightened priest and the congregation with his armed men. At the end of the Mass, Milser, his sword drawn and his head covered, came to the left of the high altar, where he remained standing (rather than kneeling as was the custom at that time). The stunned priest handed him the Host, upon which the ground under the blasphemer suddenly gave way. He sank up to his knees. Deathly pale, he grasped the altar with both hands.”*
|He then asked the priest to remove the Host from his mouth. The priest did so and the ground once again became firm.The Host itself was red, as though it had bled.The Host is still preserved, to this day, in an monstrance located in the south wall of the church.
Following the event, Milser hurried to the monastery of Stams, confessed his prideful actions and offered penance. He remained devout until his death several years later.
|Protective grate over the hole in floor of the parish church in Seefeld, Austria|
The original church was replaced with a larger one built on the same site. The stone altar present in 1384 has been retained, and is still available for viewing. The church remains a popular pilgrimmage destination today.
(*Cruz, Caroll, Eucharistic Miracles (Charlotte, North Carolina, Tan Books, 2010) p. 141.)
Andre Frossard was a committed atheist. His father was one of the founders of the French Communist Party and had been elected its first general secretary. When Andre was 20 years old, on July 8, 1935, he happened into a Catholic church, looking for a friend. In a book he wrote years later, God Exists, I Have Met Him, he explained what took place next:
“My gaze passed from the shadows to the light…from the faithful gathered there, to the nuns, to the altar…and came to rest above the second candle burning to the left of the Cross (unaware that I was standing in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament). And at that point, suddenly a series of miracles unfolded whose indescribable force shattered in an instant the absurd being that I was, to bring to birth the amazed child that I had never been … At first the hint of these words, ‘Spiritual Life’ came to me … as if they had been pronounced in a whisper next to me … then came a great light … a world, another world of a radiance and a destiny that in one stroke cast our world among the fragile shadows of unfulfilled dreams … of which I felt all the sweetness … a sweetness that was active and upsetting beyond every form of violence, capable of breaking the hardest stone and that which is even harder than stone – the human heart. Its overflowing eruption, so complete, was accompanied by a joy which is the exultation of the saved, the joy of the shipwrecked who is picked up just in time. These sensations, which I find difficult to translate into a language which cannot capture these ideas and images, were all simultaneous … Everything is dominated by the Presence … of Him of Whom I would never be able to write His name without fear of harming its tenderness, of Him before Whom I have had the good fortune to be a forgiven child who takes up to discover that everything is a gift … God existed and was present… one thing only surprised me: The Eucharist! Not that it seemed incredible, but it amazed me that Divine Charity would have come upon this silent way to communicate Himself, and above all that He would choose to become bread, which is the staple of the poor, and the food preferred by children… O Divine Love, eternity will be too short to speak of You.”
Frossard would later become a columnist for the French newspaper, L’Aurore, work at the BBC and author a number of books. During all of these years and until his death in 1995, Frossard remained devout in his faith. That one experience in 1935 changed him for life.
Sources: “The Eucharistic Miracles of the World,” a Vatican international exhibition, as reported by The Real Presence Eucharistic Adoration Association, http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/english_pdf/Frossard.pdf, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_Frossard.
The Italian newspaper Gazetta del Sud carried a story on April 7, 2014 about Michelina Comegna, a 74-year-old wife and mother. In April of 2003 she had breast cancer surgery. As a complication of this surgery, she suffered a brain aneurysm that left her partially paralyzed. She was confined to a bed for the next 3 years. Since that time, she has not gone anywhere except in a wheelchair.
Every Sunday, her husband of 55 years, Giovanni Passaro, took her to the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary, a cathedral in Pompeii. As she explains, “I always prayed to the Pompeii Madonna and Jesus to let me walk again, because it was so humiliating to have to be helped to do everything.”
On Sunday, March 23, 2014, they went again, to attend the 10:00 morning Mass. “I took communion,” she said, “and instantly felt a fire going from my feet up my legs and my whole body. At the same time, I was overcome by an intense scent of flowers. I forgot I was in church and looked around, convinced my clothes were on fire. I was covered in sweat, it was dripping from my head like water. I told my husband I was feeling an intense joy, and I needed to walk.” Her husband saw her stand up and walk quickly down the nave. “I told her to slow down, that she might fall. But she just rushed on,” he said. Passaro also said that he “never could stand to be in church more than 10 minutes. But now I have seen a great miracle. Everything has changed.”
The priest who celebrated the Mass, Monsignor Giuseppe Adamo, recalled that “she came up to me with a shaky step, held up by someone. As soon as she took communion, she started unbuttoning herself, saying she felt hot and also that she was smelling a perfume.”
The Archbishop in charge of the cathedral, Tommaso Caputo, has urged caution. “We must wait for conclusive scientific evidence,” he said. “While many prodigious events have taken place in this sanctuary by the intercession of the Virgin Mary, it is up to medical science to produce the evidence to confirm them.”
The Passaros are not waiting for any evidence. They have already had a silver etching made, which they are donating to the cathedral.
Thomas a Kempis relates a certain miracle to which he himself was a witness. One of his brethren commened to say Mass one day. He had been relegated to the use of two crutches for a long time. After he had finished saying this Mass, however, he left his crutches behind.
When asked what he had been thinking or praying during this Mass, he explained that he had been recalling the story in Luke of when people sought merely to touch Jesus and “virtue went out of Him and healed them all.”
Although this occurred more than 500 years ago, it is like so many others reported here that have taken place within recent years. They of course do have one thing in common, the Real Presence.
(Based on the excerpt from Chronicle of Mt. St. Agnes by Kempis that is contained in Eucharistic Miracles, by Joan Carroll Cruz (Charlotte, North Carolina, Tan Books, 2010) p. 208.)
The St. Charles Herald Guide carried an interesting story a few years back. It seems that on Thanksgiving Day, 2005, Andy Petty was with his fiancee, Ina, when she suggested that they both go to the chapel. He agreed, thinking she meant their wedding chapel. Instead, she was talking about Our Lady of Perpetual Help adoration chapel in Rivertown, Louisiana. So, they both went.
Andy was to be surprised by more than that this day. He was certainly not disposed to any willingness toward belief in the Real Presence. He was not Catholic. For the last 40 years, he had been a member of the Worldwide Church of God. Also, he was a scientist by background, employed by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a petroleum geologist. He had seen a host only once before, thinking it looked like a “cracker” at the time.
Inside the chapel with his fiancee, he looked at the Host in the monstrance. As he did so, he saw the image of a bearded man with long hair. Immediately, he looked glanced around to see where the projection was coming from, which he thought it had to be. He asked Ina if she saw the image. She replied no, she did not. He repeated his question to her, “It’s right there don’t you see it?” Still, she saw nothing.
Understanding something special was taking place, she began telling others that Andy was seeing Jesus. He was not able to accept this and would not refer to the image as Jesus. Instead, he merely called it a “bearded man.”
After this episode, he called the pastor at his own church, looking for some help in dealing with this. His pastor told him that he had received a gift.
While still trying to make sense of his experience, he was in church one day when it happened again. After that, he called the priest and signed up for time to give regular adoration.
Andy later converted and joined his wife as a Catholic.
In was the night before Pentecost in a Benedictine abbey in the city of Favernay, France. The monks erected a provisional altar for adoration of the Eucharist. The monstrance being used was large and they placed two Hosts inside. When their time of prayer was over, they left the monstrance exposed on the altar. The next morning, they returned to find the church full of smoke. As the smoke began to clear, they frantically looked for the altar, hoping to find the monstrance still on it. The were despondent upon discovering that the altar had been totally consumed. They saw the monstrance, however. It was there, hovering in the air. A multitude gathered to view the phenomenon.
They quickly erected a new altar and celebrated Mass. At the time for the elevation of the Host, the monstrance descended and rested upon the altar.
One of the hosts was donated to the Church of Dole, and it was destroyed during the French Revolution. The other Host is still available for viewing to this day.
Source: Source: “The Eucharistic Miracles of the World,” a Vatican international exhibition, as reported by The Real Presence Eucharistic Adoration Association, http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/english_pdf/Faverney.pdf.
On May 3, 2005, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bartlett was in a vehicle travelling down a road just outside of Baghdad when it was hit by a remotely activated roadside explosive. Shortly afterward, Sgt. Bartlett was at an aid station awaiting a helicopter. He was suffering from head injuries that would later require more than 40 surgeries, a collapsed lung and severe internal bleeding. That was when he died—the first time. He was resuscitated, only to die a second and a third time before eventually surviving. It was during the time after his second death episode that he found himself kneeling on a marble-like landing. In front of him, everything was black, white and gray. Directly in front of him were stairs that led down into a pool. In the pool were pillars. To his immediate right and his immediate left were two pillars that had fallen over, about half of the way up. The rest of the pillars were lying in the pool. As he gazed out, there was nothing around, forever. It was like two places at once, very far away and very close up.
As soon as he looked at the pool, he saw a drip coming from nowhere and coming from everywhere, It was dripping into the pool. He subsequently realized that these drips were the Blood of Christ, raining down, for his sins and the sins of all men.
He also realized that the first two fallen pillars represented his unholiness. He had only in the last couple of years begun going to Mass, but had not made his First Confession, nor had he experienced Confirmation. He understood that when we receive Christ, we are His temple. We are the cup in which we receive Him. To keep the inside of the cup clean, to keep our soul clean, we must go to confession. Sgt. Bartlett had not done that, and, as he told me himself later, had not done a good job of caring for his temple up to that time.
As he looked to his left, Sgt. Bartlett then saw a creature in the form of a dragon, with claws and a tail. It was perched on a pillar, but then leapt down and began clawing at him. He sensed how evil the devil is, how incapable of love he is, incapable of compassion, incapable of mercy. The edge of Hell was near. The pool was in fact the beginning of Purgatory. This place near both of them was where people choose one way or the other. He was scared, like a child, and begged God to take him out of there. Then, suddenly, he was out, and felt an all-enveloping Love come over him. He was now in the presence of God.
Sgt. Bartlett subsequently returned to this life, with a willingness to tell this story to all who will listen. He now understands Reconciliation and Holy Communion in the light of the direct and penetratingly powerful experience he once had. It is Our Lord whom we receive. It is Our Lord.