In Christianity, and in particular Catholicism, a Eucharistic miracle is any miracle involving the Eucharist. While transubstantiation, or the transformation of whole substance of the bread into the body and the transformation of the whole substance of the wine into the blood of Jesus Christ during a Catholic Mass or Orthodox Liturgy is correctly deemed a Eucharistic miracle, it is more appropriate to call it a "Mystery" of the Faith in order to distinguish it from extraordinary, often empirical, manifestations of God. In general, reported Eucharistic miracles usually consist of unexplainable phenomenon such as consecrated Hosts visibly transforming into myocardium tissue, being preserved for extremely long stretches of time, surviving being thrown into fire, bleeding, or even sustaining people for decades. Verification of Eucharistic miracles often depends on the religious branch reporting the supposed miracle, but in the case of the Catholic Church, a special task-force or commission investigates supposed Eucharistic miracles before deciding whether they are "worthy of belief." As with other miracles, such as Marian apparitions, belief in approved miracles is not mandated by the Catholic Church, but often serves as reassure believers of God's presence or as the means to "send a message" to the population at large. It is also not uncommon for religious authorities to allow secular sources to investigate, and confirm, at least specifics (such as muscle type) of the supposed miracle.
Catholic Eucharistic Doctrine draws upon a quasi-Aristotelian understanding of reality, in which the core substance or essential reality of a given thing is bound to, but not equivalent with, its sensible realities or accidents. In the celebration of the Eucharist, by means of the consecratory Eucharistic Prayer, the actual substance of the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. This change in substance is not, however, a physical change; the physical aspects or outward appearances of the bread and wine—their accidents—remain as before. This substantial change is called transubstantiation, a term reserved to describe the change itself. This differs from most Protestant Eucharistic theologies, which believe that the substance of the sacramental elements do not undergo such a change. Protestant views on the fact of Christ's presence in the Eucharist vary significantly from one denomination to another: while many agree with Roman Catholics that Christ is really present in the Eucharist, few would acknowledge that the nature of that presence comes about by a substantial change or transubstantiation.
According to Thomas Aquinas, in the case of extraordinary Eucharistic Miracles in which the appearance of the accidents are altered, this further alteration is not considered to be transubstantiation, but is a subsequent miracle that takes place for the building up of faith. Nor does the extraordinary manifestation alter or heighten the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as the miracle does not manifest the physical presence of Christ: "in apparitions of this sort. . . the proper species [actual flesh and blood] of Christ is not seen, but a species formed miraculously either in the eyes of the viewers, or in the sacramental dimensions themselves...."
The rarest reported type of Eucharistic miracle is where the Eucharist becomes human flesh as in the miracle of Lanciano which some Catholics believe occurred at Lanciano, Italy, in the 8th century A.D. In fact, Lanciano is only one of the reported cases of Eucharistic miracles where the host has been transformed into human flesh. However, a Eucharistic miracle more commonly reported by Catholics is that of the Bleeding Host, where blood starts to trickle from a consecrated host, the bread consecrated during Mass. Other types of purported miracles include consecrated hosts being preserved for hundreds of years, such as the event of the Miraculous Hosts of Siena. Other miracles include a consecrated host passing through a fire unscathed, stolen consecrated hosts vanishing and turning up in churches, and levitating consecrated hosts.
The Mass at Bolsena, depicted in a famous fresco by Raphael at the Vatican in Rome, was an incident said to have taken place in 1263. A Bohemian priest who doubted the doctrine of transubstantiation, celebrated mass at Bolsena, a town north of Rome. During the mass the bread of the eucharist began to bleed. The blood from the host fell onto the altar linen in the shape of the face of Jesus as traditionally represented, and the priest came to believe. The following year, in 1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi to celebrate this miraculous event. The blood-stained Corporal of Bolsena is still venerated as a major relic in Orvieto Cathedral.
There have been numerous other alleged miracles involving consecrated Hosts. Several of these are described below.
A story from Amsterdam, 1345, claims that a priest was called to administer Viaticum to a dying man. He told the family that if the man threw up, they were to take the contents and throw it in the fire. The man threw up, and the family did what the priest had advised them to do. The next morning, one of the women went to rake the fire and noticed the Host sitting on the grate, unscathed and surrounded by a light. It has apparently passed through both the man's digestive system and the fire unscathed. The story is commemorated with an annual silent procession through central Amsterdam.
According to another story, a farmer in Bavaria took a consecrated Host from Mass to his house, believing that it would give him and his family good fortune. However he was plagued by the feeling that what he had done was very wrong and turned to go back to the church to confess his sin. As he turned, the Host flew from his hand, floated in the air and landed on the ground. He searched for it, but he could not see it. He went back, accompanied by many villagers and the priest, who bent to pick up the Host, having seen it from some distance off. It again flew up into the air, floated, and fell to the ground and disappeared. The Bishop was informed and he came to the site and bent to pick up the Host. Again it flew into the air, remained suspended for an extended time, fell to the ground and disappeared.
An alleged 1370 Brussels miracle involves an anti-Semitic allegation of host desecration; a Jew attempted to stab a communion wafer, but it miraculously bled and was otherwise unharmed. The alleged wafers were venerated in later centuries.
Another claim states that a church in the village of Exilles, Italy, was plundered by a soldier and the monstrance (with the host still inside) was taken. The sack with the monstrance fell off the soldier's donkey and the monstrance fell out. It immediately rose up into the air and was suspended ten feet above the ground. The Bishop was notified and immediately came to view the miracle. When he arrived, the monstrance opened and fell to the ground, leaving the Host still suspended in the air and surrounded by a radiant light.
Caesarius of Heisterbach also recounts various tales of Eucharistic Miracles in his book, Dialogue on Miracles; however, most of the stories he tells are from word of mouth. These stories include Gotteschalk of Volmarstein who saw an infant in the Eucharist, a priest from Wickindisburg who saw the host turn into raw flesh, and a man from Hemmenrode who saw an image of a crucified Jesus and blood dripping from the host. All of these images, however, eventually reverted into the host. He also recounts more extraordinary tales, such as bees creating a shrine to Jesus after a piece of the Eucharist was placed in a beehive, a church that was burnt to ashes while the pyx containing the Eucharist was still intact, and a woman who found the host transformed into congealed blood after she stored it in a box.
- Serratia marcescens#Possible role in medieval miracles - bacteria that can colonize flour/bread/wafer and give it red color, sometimes even resembling blood stains.
- Ghose, Tia. "The Science of Miracles: How the Vatican Decides If They're Real". Live Science.
- SAUNDERS, WILLIAM. "FR". Catholic Education Research Center. Arlington Catholic Herald. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
- See Edward J. Kilmartin, The Eucharist in the West: History and Theology, ed. Robert J. Daly (Collegeville: Liturgical Press/Pueblo, 1998), 147-153.
- See, e.g., Thomas J. Davis, This is My Body: The Presence of Christ in Reformation Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008).
- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III, 76.8 ad 2: "...In huiusmodi apparitionibus. . . non videtur propria species Christi, sed species miraculose formata vel in oculis intuentium, vel etiam in ipsis sacramentalibus dimensionibus...." Translated for Wikipedia.
- Linoli O. "Histological, immunological and biochemiccal studies on the flesh and blood of the eucharistic miracle of Lanciano (8th century)." Quad Sclavo Diagn. 1971 Sep; 7(3):661-74
- Dutch-language description: "In Amsterdam, gelegen binnen het bisdom Utrecht, was een man zwaar ziek en vreesde te sterven. Om hem de laatste sacramenten toe te dienen werd een priester geroepen. Deze gaf hem na de biecht het heilig sacrament van de eucharistie. Echter, na het eten van de geconsacreerde hostie kon de zieke een braakneiging niet onderdrukken. Hij ging naar de brandende haard van zijn kamer en braakte het sacrament daarin uit. Daarop bleek dat de zieke niet alleen de hostie onbeschadigd had uitgebraakt, maar dat bovendien het brood niet door het hoogopvlammende vuur werd aangetast."
- Commission Nationale Catholique pour les Relations avec le Monde Juif. "Le Miracle du St Sacrament" (in French). Brussels Cathedral. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- Dialogue on Miracles, by Caesarius of Heisterbach, London : G. Routledge & sons, ltd., 1929
- Eucharistic Miracles, by Joan Carroll Cruz, OCDS, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc, 1987. ISBN 978-0-89555-303-4
- Sammaciccia, Bruno (1977): "Il miracolo eucaristico di Lanciano". A French translation of this paper is available at http://www.christ-roi.net/index.php/Le_miracle_eucharistique_de_Lanciano_(Bruno_Sammaciccia), retrieved on December 15, 2008.
- The Real Presence Association - Eucharistic Miracles
- Eucharistic Miracles
- http://www.zenit.org/article-12933?l=english (Lanciano, and Congress about such miracles)