AN INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION DESIGNED AND CREATED BY CARLO ACUTIS
EUCHARISTIC MIRACLES: LIMITS AND POSITIVITY
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, 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 recognised 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 the Church.
- In principle, the believer must not exclude the possibility that God may intervene in an extraordinary way in any given moment, place, event or with anyone. The difficulty is discerning whether, in an individual case, the authentic extraordinary intervention of God has happened. .
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 following risks:
- Thinking that God forgot to tell us something in the institution of the Eucharist
- Making the Sunday Eucharist a secondary importance.
- Attributing excessive importance to the miraculous and the extraordinary, while undervaluing of the "everyday dimension" in the believer’s life and of the Church
- Easily and excessively believing suggestions or illusions
The Church’s eventual approval of a Eucharistic miracle contains the following elements:
- the event in question does not contain anything that contradicts faith and morals
- it is lawful to make it public
- the faithful are authorised to give their prudent assent to it
Even though no one is obliged to believe in them, a believer should show respect for the Eucharistic miracles, whose authenticity has been recognised by the Church.
2) POSITIVE ASPECTS:
Eucharistic miracles can be useful and fruitful aids to our faith. For example:
- They help us go beyond the visible, and perceptible and admit the existence of something beyond. Because it is recognised as an extraordinary happening, the Eucharistic miracle has no scientific explanation. It goes beyond human reason and challenges a person to ‘go beyond’ the perceptible, the visible, and the human, and to admit that there is something incomprehensible, and unexplainable with human reason alone; something that cannot be scientifically demonstrated.
During catechetical instruction, they can give someone the occasion––to speak of public Revelation and of its importance to the Church and to Christians.
Eucharistic miracles are extraordinary events that have taken place after Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist, after the end of the New Testament, after the public Revelation has been completed.
What is public Revelation?
Public Revelation is something that:
- 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
- it is intended for all of humanity throughout history and in all 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.
Why did public Revelation end with Christ and the death of the last Apostle?
Because Jesus Christ is the mediator and the completion of all 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:
- The God of Christians is credible and trustworthy. Revelation is built on the foundation of Holy Scripture and not on messages handed 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 a unique event of sacred history and to the word of the Bible, and its mission is to guarantee, interpret, gain a deeper understanding , and to give witness to public Revelation. This happens thanks to the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, who is the Church’s guide and who helps it to 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).
- Even if Revelation is complete, it is not necessarily fully explicit. It is up to Christian faith to better understand it , deepen its meaning, incarnate it continually, give witness to it to everyone with fidelity and courage. In this way, we can gradually grasp its full significance over the centuries.
- Eucharistic Miracles can help us understand and live the faith, which has Christ and Christ-Eucharist as its centre. These Miracles are 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 , definitive gift of Christ-Eucharist, but they can become a humble reminder of it, sometimes provide 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 in 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, and our Pasch. Communion with divine life and the unity of the People of God are both expressed and affected 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 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 that the most common and accessible miracle 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 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, in 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 affirms—“is 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), and 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 from popular piety, and they are reflected in this piety. Miracles give this a new energy and reveal new forms of it, The feasts of Corpus Christi show that they can have an effect even on the liturgy . The Liturgy is the criterion and 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