Miracles of the Priesthood
A look at the Eucharist, reading souls, healings and control of nature
Adam Blai Comments Off on Miracles of the Priesthood
It is perhaps sometimes easy to forget the miracle that is the priesthood. Things might start to seem routine in the press of demands in our modern Church and the rush to meet all of the responsibilities. Of course, there are miracles of the sacraments happening: the transubstantiation of the bread, the absolution of sins and the anointing of the sick. There are also miracles in some of the rites of the Church, such as exorcisms that repeat the actions taken by Jesus in the Gospels. The supernatural nature of these events can take a back seat and seem less real in the day-to-day.
The source and summit of our Catholic Faith is the Eucharist. — the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Many Eucharistic miracles have occurred through the centuries, some studied thoroughly by secular scientists. Eucharistic miracles are when the bread becomes heart tissue and the wine becomes blood.
Until the 1990s, we only had data on the Eucharistic miracle in Lanciano, Italy, from the eighth century. Professor Edoardo Linoli first scientifically analyzed the material in 1971, which was about 1,200 years after the miracle occurred. Normally, human tissue is completely decomposed after 100 years, and in this event no sign of chemical preservation was found. He found that the tissue is human heart tissue, the blood type is AB, the heart tissue is traumatized and the DNA analysis was inconclusive.
In 1992 and 1996, then-Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Bergoglio oversaw two Eucharistic miracles, respectively. The first instance was particles of a host seeming to turn to a bloody substance, the second was a discarded host that seemed to transform to flesh and blood. The host was professionally photographed and left in the tabernacle for some time. When it did not decompose, it was analyzed by Frederick T. Zugibe, M.D., Ph.D., P.C., in New York. The doctor was not told where the sample he was to analyze came from. The analysis was videotaped live and is available on YouTube. He not only concluded that it was cardiac tissue from a human, and that it was alive when the sample was taken, but he writes in his report: “When I was later told that the heart tissue was kept in tap water for about a month and transferred to sterile, distilled water for three years, I indicated that it would be impossible to see white blood cells or macrophages in the sample. Moreover, it would be impossible to identify the tissue. Per se as there would be no morphological characteristics.”
So, not only was this cardiac tissue, but it should have been destroyed by the method it was stored under.
What a powerful affirmation of both the Church and the power of the priesthood God has given us in Eucharistic miracles. They are there as a sign to the faithful and the priest — a reminder of the reality of the Eucharist in the priest’s hands at every Mass, and especially when we might be tempted to doubt it.
The power to save a soul from damnation, whether in the confessional or on a deathbed, cannot be overstated. The priest can take a willing soul from a state of spiritual death to a state of grace, restoring their broken relationship with God and opening the way to heaven for them. The Holy Spirit inspires many penitents to make a good confession, but he also inspires priests. Sometimes that inspiration includes asking about a sin the person has not even alluded to but turns out to be true. Sometimes it is inspiration to give good counsel that speaks well to that soul. This does not happen for every priest in startling ways, but it does happen often. Sometimes such inspiration from God is called “reading the heart” or “reading the soul.”
The patron saint of parish priests, St. John Mary Vianney, had many gifts. Among his gifts was this reading of hearts. He felt very strongly about his people living in a state of grace, and cared deeply about confession. Some sources reference him spending as much as 16-18 hours a day in the confessional. A large part of what drew pilgrims to his village was his reputation as a confessor.
In the Acts of Canonization for St. John Vianney, there are countless testimonies of penitents reporting his supernatural insights into them and their sins. These included details of their lives, not merely general references to common human problems.
We can get a feel for how he felt about confession from his oft-repeated quote: “The Lord is more anxious to forgive our sins than a woman is to carry her baby out of a burning building.”
Jesus is the Divine Physician, and the priest brings his healing to the world. That healing can be spiritual, emotional or physical, just as in the Gospels.
One of the critical moments a priest intervenes for a soul is near the moment of death. The absolution of their sins frees them from potential damnation, an incalculable gift of grace. Their final Communion is food for the soul on its journey to God.
The Church usually only investigates healings and considers declaring them miraculous if they are in support of a beatification or canonization, or special circumstances such as at Lourdes. The standard for miraculous healings is that they are immediate, complete, lasting and unexplainable by medical science. This is a strong standard that requires time and effort by licensed medical professionals in addition to the Church. Therefore, most healings associated with the anointing of the sick will never be investigated or officially approved. That does not mean that they do not happen — on the contrary. There are myriad anecdotal stories of healings that occurred after an individual received the anointing of the sick. Just about everyone has heard of or experienced people being healed by the anointing of the sick.
The priest also brings the comfort of the presence of Christ in a particular way to the sick and their family and loved ones. When it is a person’s time to die, a priest can give them the strength and reassurance to die well instead of in a state of anxiety. Priests also often comfort families and help them in their time of anxiety and anticipated loss. This help may be in their presence, in a word of counsel, in the rites of the Church, or just in a shared human moment.
Control over Nature
An oft-forgotten type of miracle is control over nature. Jesus showed control over storms to the apostles, and the Church has had traditional prayers against storms throughout her history. In these coming years, when the weather is likely to become more intense, it may be helpful to keep a prayer such as this (from the classic “The Original Pieta Prayer Book,” approved by Pope Pius IX in 1862):
Jesus Christ the King of Glory has come in Peace. +
God became man, +
and the Word was made flesh. +
Christ was born of a virgin. +
Christ suffered. +
Christ was crucified. +
Christ died. +
Christ rose from the dead. +
Christ ascended into Heaven. +
Christ conquers. +
Christ reigns. +
Christ orders. +
May Christ protect us from all storms and lightning. +
Christ went through their midst in Peace, +
and the Word was made Flesh. +
Christ is with us with Mary. +
Flee you enemy spirits because the Lion of the Generation of Juda, the Root of David, has won. +
Holy God! +
Holy Powerful God ! +
Holy Immortal God! +
Have mercy on us. Amen!
Note: Make the sign of the cross at the + symbol.
More Than You Realize
Dear priest, you often do much more than you realize. While it is true that Jesus does miracles, it is the “yes” of the priest that often opens the miraculous channel of grace to people in the world. The priest performs a miracle every time he does a sacrament: people are baptized into the Body of Christ, Jesus is made present on the altar, people’s sins are forgiven, couples are married and the dying are prepared to go to their judgment. In addition to this, there are many cases of other priestly miracles: healings, reading of the heart, Eucharistic miracles (which are secondary to the consecration of the host), exorcisms and the supernatural comfort of Jesus in pastoral works. All of these are made possible by your “yes,” both at the time of your ordination, and every new day you embark on.
ADAM BLAI is the peritus in religious demonology and exorcism for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and an auxiliary member of the International Association of Exorcists. He trains priests in exorcism on a national level and has been working on demonic cases of all kinds for many years.
“The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him. To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask. So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God. But his miracles can also be occasions for ‘offense’; they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic. Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.”
— The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 548