I wish, first of all, to highlight certain limits that should be kept in mind in a catechesis on Eucharistic miracles. I will then point out the positive aspects these miracles can offer to such a catechesis.
- Our faith is not founded on Eucharistic
miracles, but on the proclamation of the Lord Jesus, received with
faith through the action of the Holy Spirit. We believe because we have believed
in the preaching (see Gal 3:5); fides ex auditu, auditus autem
per verbum Christi(Rom 10:17: Faith depends on hearing and hearing by
the word of Christ; and, in turn, preaching depends on the word of Christ.
Believing is an act of the intellect, which under the influence of the will
moved by God through grace, gives its consent to divine truth (St. Thomas,
Summa Theologiae, II-II, q.2, a.9,c).
Our faith in the Eucharist
has as its center Christ, who during His preaching foretold the institution
of the Eucharist and then, in fact, instituted it during the celebration of
the Last Supper with his Apostles on Holy Thursday.
Since then, the Church,
faithful to the command of the Lord: Do this in memory of me (1
Cor 11:24), has always–with great faith–celebrated the Eucharist, especially
on Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, and continues to do so until
He comes (1 Cor 11:26).
- A Christian is not
obliged to believe in Eucharistic miracles. These miracles do not bind
the faithful to believe in them, even if they are officially recognized by
the Church. Every Christian is free to make up his or her own mind. No Christian
is obliged to believe in any private revelation, not even when approved by
- In principle, however,
the believer must not exclude the possibility that God may intervene in
an extraordinary way in any given moment, place, event or person. The difficulty
is discerning whether, in an individual case, the authentic extraordinary
intervention of God has taken place.
- The prudence of the
Church, in the face of extraordinary phenomena (like the Eucharistic miracles),
is fully justified, since, among other things, one can run into the
The Church’s eventual approval of a Eucharistic miracle contains the following elements:
- Thinking that God forgot to tell us something in the institution of the Eucharist
- Making the Sunday Eucharist a secondary thing
- Attributing excessive importance to the miraculous and the extraordinary, with the resulting undervaluing of the "everyday dimension" in the life of the believer and of the Church
- Easily and excessively believing suggestions or illusions
Even though no one
is obliged to believe in them, a believer should show respect for the Eucharistic miracles, whose authenticity has been recognized by the Church.
- the event in question does not contain anything that contradicts faith and morals
- it is lawful to make it public
- the faithful are authorized to give their prudent assent to it
2) POSITIVE ASPECTS:
Eucharistic miracles can be useful and fruitful aids to our faith. For example:
What is public Revelation?
- They help us go beyond
the visible, the perceptible and admit the existence of something beyond.
Precisely because it is recognized as an extraordinary happening, the Eucharistic
miracle has no explanation in scientific facts and reasoning. It goes beyond
human reason and challenges a person to ‘go beyond’ the perceptible, the visible,
the human, that is to say, to admit that there is something incomprehensible,
something humanly unexplainable with human reason alone, something that scientifically
cannot be demonstrated.
- They can give someone
the occasion–during catechetical instruction–to speak of public Revelation
and of its importance to the Church and to Christians. Eucharistic miracles
are all about extraordinary events that have taken place after Jesus’ institution
of the Eucharist, after the end of the New Testament, that is to say, after
the end of public Revelation.
Public Revelation is something that:
Why did public Revelation end with Christ and the death of the last Apostle?
- was progressively disclosed by God, beginning with Abraham and, through the prophets, all the way to Jesus Christ
- is attested to in both parts of the Bible: the Old and the New Testaments
- is intended for all men and for the entire man, of all times and places
- is radically different, in essence and not just in degree, from so-called private revelations
- ended with Christ and the death of the last Apostle in the New Testament, to which the Church is bound.
Because Jesus Christ is the mediator and the fullness of Revelation.
He, being the only-begotten Son of God made man, is the perfect and definitive word of the Father. In the sending of the Son and the gift of the Spirit, Revelation is now fully complete, although the faith of the Church must gradually grasp its full significance over the course of centuries (Compendium – Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 9).
In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe (Heb 1:1-2).
In a word, Christ, Son of God made man, is the unique, perfect and definitive Word of the Father, who in Him speaks and gives everything, and there will be no other Word other than this one.
Ever since he gave us His Son, who is the unique and definitive Word, God, in His Word, has told us everything all at one time and has nothing more to tell us (St. John of the Cross).
The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord, Jesus Christ (Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Verbum, 4).
What are the consequences of this conclusion regarding public Revelation?
Here are some of them:
- The God of Christians is credible, trustworthy. Revelation is built on the foundation of Holy Scripture and not on messages subsequently handed down to individual believers.
- We cannot expect from God any manifestation or new revelation other than the glorious return of Christ, who will inaugurate new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet 3:13), allowing God the Father to be all in all (1 Cor 15-28).
- The Church is bound to the unique event of sacred history and to the word of the Bible, and her mission is to guarantee, to interpret, to gain a deeper understanding of, and to give witness to public Revelation. This happens thanks to the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, who is her guide and who helps her to always better understand that treasure which is Jesus Christ.
- Public Revelation requires our faith: In fact, in it, by means of human words and the mediation of the living community of the Church, God himself speaks to us and to every person of whatever race, language, nation, time or place. The certainty that God speaks gives me the assurance that I am encountering truth itself, and thus I have that kind of certainty that cannot be verified in any human form of knowledge. It is the certainty on which I build my life and to which, dying, I entrust myself (CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, The Message of Fatima, p. 34).
- Nonetheless, even if Revelation is complete, it is not necessarily fully explicit. It is up to Christian faith to understand it better, deepen its meaning, incarnate it continually, give witness to it to all people with fidelity and courage. In this way, we can gradually grasp its full significance over the course of centuries.
- Eucharistic Miracles can help us understand and live the faith,
which has Christ and Christ-Eucharist as its center. These Miracles are
indeed useful as long as they are closely focused on Christ and do not become
autonomous. They can strengthen the subjective faith of believers and even
non-believers. Hence they are a help to their faith as long as they refer people
to the Eucharist instituted by Christ and celebrated every Sunday. They must
serve the faith. They must not and cannot add anything to the one and only,
definitive gift of Christ-Eucharist, but they can become a humble reminder of
it, sometimes a fruitful and deeper knowledge of it. They can become a help
that is offered but not one that we are obliged to use.
- Eucharistic Miracles can encourage us to understand, appreciate and love the Eucharist.
They can help a person discover the mystery, the beauty and the riches of the Eucharist. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, approved and published this past June by Pope Benedict XVI, says:
The Eucharist is the source and summit of all Christian life. In the Eucharist, the sanctifying action of God in our regard and our worship of him reach their high point. It contains the whole spiritual good of the Church, Christ himself, our Pasch. Communion with divine life and the unity of the People of God are both expressed and effected by the Eucharist. Through the Eucharistic celebration we are united already with the liturgy of heaven and we have a foretaste of eternal life” (n. 274).
- We must never forget nor fail to mention that the Eucharist is the true, great inexhaustible daily miracle.
- It is a sacrament: The Sacraments, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, are efficacious signs of grace perceptible to the senses. Through them divine life is bestowed upon us. (
) The Sacraments are efficacious ex opere operato (‘by the very fact that the sacramental action is performed’), because it is Christ who acts in the sacraments and communicates the grace they signify. The efficacy of the sacraments does not depend upon the personal holiness of the minister (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 224 and 229).
- It is the Sunday sacrament par excellence. We must emphasize the fact that the miracle that is the most common and accessible to all is the one that takes place in our churches whenever Mass is celebrated.
The Eucharist is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus which he instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until his return in glory. Thus he entrusted to his Church this memorial of his death and Resurrection. It is a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet, in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us” (Compendium, 271).
It is indeed true that the most important and astounding miracle is the one that takes place whenever the Eucharist is celebrated, during which Jesus Christ is present in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and Blood, with his Soul and Divinity. In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man” (Compendium, n. 282). In making his Sacrifice of the Cross present and actual, he becomes our food and drink, with his Body and his Blood, uniting us with him and with each other, becoming our viaticum on our earthly pilgrimage toward our eternal homeland.
This is the mysterious miracle par excellence, which we are invited to celebrate, especially on Sunday, in the community of the Church, breaking the one bread, which as St. Ignatius of Antioch affirmsis the medicine of immortality, the antidote keeping us from death and helping us live in Jesus Christ forever.
- It would be good to make use of the Shrines of the Eucharistic Miracles, approved by the Church, as places of liturgical celebrations (especially the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation), as well as other places of prayer and Eucharistic spirituality, of catechesis and the performance of charity.
- Eucharistic Miracles manifest and realize their relationship with popular piety.
Often Eucharistic miracles emanate especially from popular piety, and they are reflected in this piety. The miracles give it new energy and reveal new forms to it. This does not mean that they do not have an effect even on the liturgy itself, as the feasts of Corpus Christi show. The Liturgy is the criterion; it is the vital form of the whole Church, which is nourished directly by the Gospel.
S.E. Rev. ma Mons Raffaello Martinelli
Rector of the International Ecclesiastical College of St. Charles
Official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith