I have been fascinated by your account of the Eucharistic miracles of Buenos Aires and Poland. What is the connection between these and the miracle of Lanciano in Italy?
The common thread in these Eucharistic miracles, as well as in the many others that have taken place throughout the centuries, is the fact that a consecrated host has changed into recognisable features of human tissue and sometimes blood.
We know that after the consecration in the Mass, when the priest pronounces the words of Christ on instituting the Eucharist, the host becomes the Body of Christ and the wine becomes his Blood.
We don’t see the Body or Blood, because they continue to have the characteristics of bread and wine, but we know by faith that they are there.
Occasionally, sometimes to shore up the faith of people who doubted his Real Presence, Our Lord has performed a miracle to make clear that the Eucharist is truly his Body and Blood.
In recent decades, some of these miracles have been subjected to scientific examinations which have resulted in extraordinary findings.
Such is the case with the miracles of Buenos Aires in 1996, Poland in 2008, and even the 8th century miracle of Lanciano.
The first great Eucharistic miracle was that of Lanciano, the ancient Italian city of Anxanum.
It took place in 750AD in the church of St Legontian when a Brazilian monk doubted the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
After he had consecrated the Body and Blood of Our Lord, the host was suddenly changed into physical flesh and the consecrated wine into physical blood, which coagulated into five globules of different shapes and sizes.
They are still on display in Lanciano, even though almost 1,300 years have passed since they first appeared.
In 1971, the flesh and blood were examined scientifically by Dr Odoardo Linoli, Professor of Anatomy and Pathological Histology and of Chemistry and Clinical Microscopy at the Arezzo Hospital.
He was assisted by Dr Ruggero Bertelli, retired Professor of Anatomy at the University of Siena.
Their findings were truly extraordinary, and similar to the findings in the miracles of Buenos Aires and Poland.
The flesh was identified under a microscope as human flesh from the left ventricle of the heart, showing clearly the myocardium, the endocardium and the vagus nerve.
What is more, Professor Linoli was amazed at the evenness of the slice of tissue he was examining.
He commented that only a highly skilled hand in dissection could have obtained such an “even and continuous” slice of heart tissue.
This is especially intriguing if one takes into account that the first anatomical dissections reported in the medical literature took place only after the 1300s, some 600 years after the miracle.
The blood was of type AB, the rarest blood type, which is found more commonly in the region around the Mediterranean.
In Italy, between 0.5 per cent and one per cent of all people have type AB blood, whereas in Israel and the Middle East the percentage is between 14 and 15.
The blood in the sample of flesh was also of type AB.
Significantly, this is the same blood type identified in the Shroud of Turin.
What is more, the proteins in the blood sample were in the same proportions as in fresh normal blood.
One of the experiments conducted on the blood sample involved liquefying it and studying its capillary properties; that is, the rate at which it climbs a narrow tube. Professor Linoli found that the capillary properties matched exactly those of human blood taken from a man that very day.
The fact that the flesh and blood have been preserved for almost 13 centuries even though exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, and without any preservative, is itself a miracle.
Professor Linoli’s findings were published in Quaderni Sclavo di Diagnostica Clinica e di Laboratori in 1971. In 1973, the Higher Council of the World Health Organisation appointed a scientific commission to investigate Professor Linoli’s findings.
After 500 examinations, carried out over 15 months, the commission confirmed the earlier findings.
These miracles and the scientific evidence that supports them can help to reaffirm our faith that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Our Lord at a time when many doubt it.