March 24, 2013

He Closed One Eye for Awhile

Fr. Anthony Urbanek served as a priest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the years 1847 to 1848. A certain family named Pollworth lived relatively close to the city at that time. Fr. Urbanek began to engage in something of an ongoing interchange with Mr. Pollworth. They often discussed the tenets of the Catholic faith, but Mr. Pollworth always disputed them. He was an unshakable advocate of his own Protestant beliefs. While his wife was Catholic, he would never allow his children to be baptized.

At one point, Fr. Urbanek challenged Mr. Pollworth to say one “Hail Mary” each Sunday. Mr. Pollworth laughed in reply, but agreed to do so nonetheless.

“About fourteen days after the promise was made, he suddenly accosted his wife thus: ‘I am going to Milwaukee now to buy some new clothes for the children.’ The astonished wife asked: ‘But why at this time so particularly?’ ‘Well, I have at last made up my mind to let the children be Baptized,’ was his reply. The news spread like wildfire through the entire neighborhood. ‘Pollworth has, at length, consented to have his children Baptized,’ was in everyone’s mouth.

“Moreover, he begged the Rev. Mr. Urbanek to have the ceremony performed with the greatest solemnity. His request was granted. The Rev. Pastor invited another priest and two clerics to assist at the Baptism, which took place before High Mass. After Mass, the Most Blessed Sacrament was exposed and the hymn Pange Lingua sung by the choir. The newly Baptized children stood close to the altar steps and their father immediately behind them. During the singing of the hymn, it suddenly occurred to Mr. Pollworth to look at the Blessed Sacrament, but being forced by the immense crowd that was pressing towards the sanctuary to stand if he would not kneel upon his children, he feared lest a free glance at the Sacred Host might have the appearance of irreverence. However, he was not long able to resist the inclination. He looked towards the altar and saw the Sacred Host as it always is, but it soon increased to the size of a mill-stone, and in the center of it there appeared the Good Shepherd with a lamb upon His shoulders. This sight did not perplex the man: he wished to convince himself of what he seemed to see. He accordingly closed one eye for awhile and thus looked at the apparition, and then again with both eyes, until he was fully satisfied that there was no illusion in the matter. Besides, it was a clear noon-day, and he was standing scarcely two steps from the altar.

After the lapse of about five minutes, the vision disappeared, and the Sacred Host resumed its original appearance. On leaving the church, Pollworth asked some of his neighbors whether they had seen nothing singular during the divine service, but when he perceived that they knew nothing of the apparition, he said no more. The next day he invited the priest to pay him a visit, and as soon as Rev. Mr. Urbanek entered the house, Pollworth said: ‘Now, indeed, is the lost sheep at last found, after its long straying among the briars. I wish to become a Catholic.’ A few days later he was received into the Church, and after he had made his Profession of Faith, he solemnly attested by oath to the truth of the vision above related. … The Right Rev. Bishop granted to the congregation of the church in which the wonder had taken place the privilege of having, on every 16th of July, the day of the apparition, a solemn procession with the Blessed Sacrament, exactly as on Corpus Christi. Pollworth and his family always go to Holy Communion on this day.”*

*Muller, Michael, The Blessed Eucharist, Our Greatest Treasure (Fr. Pustet, New York and Cincinnati, 1880) p. 215-215


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