Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Eucharistic Miracles Being Catholic does not mean you have to believe in these things. In fact, at a conference some years ago when I asked a priest whether or not, as parish librarian, I should leave a VHS about "The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano" in the parish library, he said angrily, "Get rid of it, it's heresy!" (Well, I wouldn't have gone quite that far. I'd have called it just silly.) The thing is, the Catholic tradition holds that the "species" (the consecrated bread and wine) become the actual Body and Blood of Jesus, this being God's loving way of sharing the Divine Essence with humanity as intimately as possible. Now, finding this principle a worthy base for my spiritual life, I absolutely revolt at the idea that this great and all-loving God would cancel out the sublime and meaningful wonder by turning the species into a form that most civilized worshipers can't comfortably consume. Sort of defeats the whole purpose, doesn't it? What a pitiful cheapening of the greatest miracle of all! What, does Jesus want us to barbecue His dead raw flesh and make czarnina (Polish duck's-blood soup) of His disembodied blood? And what ELSE can one do with Communion species that have been "miraculously" rendered inedible? I guess where such things are purported to happen, that's what the churches concerned in fact do ... but what a housekeeping nightmare! Of course, they can always trot them out for paying tourists to look at, so I guess it's a source of income ... As for the alleged "scientific" testimony: well, say you've miraculously got something you think might be the actual substance of Jesus: doesn't your sense of responsible belief demand that you turn samples over to none but scientists you can trust to handle and test it with Abject Respect? The very scientists who are most likely to bring in exactly the right results to bolster your belief. Not that atheistic scientists would be any better or less biased! As for the scientific results: as I remember that Lanciano VHS, they have seven separate lumps of purported human flesh, and all seven weigh exactly the same as a single one. What the heck is that supposed to prove? I was always taught that the entire Christ was present in every individual Host. So shouldn't even a fragment of one of those seven lumps weigh as much as Jesus Himself weighed in life? For that matter, what do we have, even by the most pious "miracle" interpretation, but DEAD human flesh? Myself, I trust, hope, and pray that all these things are either outright hoaxes or some have some such explanation as bacteria. IF they are in fact actual dead human flesh and blood, then either we have a rather cruel practical joker of a God, or the Devil's hand is more likely to be in it than that of the "Good God" (though for myself, I can't stop toying with the idea that the Devil is simply the "Shadow Side" of God), or we have evidence that would seem to favor the theory, which I understand has become respectable in scientific circles, that we are all of us living inside a computer simulation, and we've got mischievous programmers. My best understanding is that the Catholic Church does not require all its members to believe any miracles at all outside the ones recorded in the Bible: Rome simply declares certain alleged miracles, after due investigation, to be "worthy of belief," meaning you may or may not believe them, as you consider best. I consider best to regard such "miracles" as those of Lanciano as at best pieces of folklore. I don't believe that the famous Shroud of Turin was the burial cloth of Jesus, either ... but won't reopen that particular can of worms just now. And happens I also think that to "believe" in the miracles recorded in the Bible is not necessarily to believe they literally and historically happened. Many of them, especially those in the Gospels, may well have allegorical and symbolic meanings. As for the famous O.T. one when Josue made the sun stand still: I have long suspected there was some kind of idiom in the original language conveying the idea that they had plenty of time for what they needed to do, and later generations forgot the idiom, and/or translators were unaware of it, and so took literally what had been no more than an exaggerated figure of speech.