Note: According to Fr. Robert Spitzer, a Jesuit priest and doctor of astrophysics, a recent Jesuit survey has revealed that, far and away, the greatest cause today for people losing their faith and becoming either agnostic or atheistic in our country is the perceived conflict between faith and science. In fact 93% of those who lose their faith say the claims of religion do not hold up to the scrutiny of what we know through modern science. Put another way, these individuals have simply shifted their faith in God to faith in science (i.e. “scientism”) as the definitive way of knowing truth. The Church position is that faith and reason are simply different ways of coming to know truth, either through divine revelation or through careful observation of the created universe. They can never truly be in conflict because God, who is The Truth, is both the creator of the ordered, observable universe and the very author of science. However, to try to reach those who have lost their faith in this way and who perhaps do not share the Church’s view on truth, Spitzer has suggested featuring miracles of the Church that have undergone intense scientific scrutiny, where “the finger of God” has stumped all scientific explanation. In fact, one of the definitions of “miracle” is “an event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of divine agency”. Understood in this way, the existence of miracles should lead one to faith. And so, I give you a new series which I call “Did I Blow Your Mind?” Feel free to share these stories with others.
Episode 1: The Eucharistic Miracle of Buenos Aires, Argentina
One of the most interesting aspects of this miracle was that it involved then Auxiliary Bishop Jorge M. Bergoglio (now known as Pope Francis) of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The miracle took place in 1996 in the following way:
“At seven o’clock in the evening on August 18, 1996, Fr. Alejandro Pezet was saying Holy Mass at a Catholic church in the commercial center of Buenos Aires. As he was finishing distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to tell him that she had found a discarded host on a candleholder at the back of the church. On going to the spot indicated, Fr. Alejandro saw the defiled Host. Since he was unable to consume it, he placed it in a container of water and put it away in the tabernacle of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. On Monday, August 26, upon opening the tabernacle, he saw to his amazement that the Host had turned into a bloody substance. He informed Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Auxiliary Bishop at that time), who gave instructions that the Host be professionally photographed. The photos were taken on September 6. They clearly show that the Host, which had become a fragment of bloodied flesh, had grown significantly in size. For several years the Host remained in the tabernacle, the whole affair being kept a strict secret. Since the Host suffered no visible decomposition, Cardinal Bergoglio decided to have it scientifically analyzed.
On October 5, 1999, in the presence of the Cardinal’s representatives, Dr. Castanon took a sample of the bloody fragment and sent it to New York for analysis. Since he did not wish to prejudice the study, he purposely did not inform the team of scientists of its provenance. One of these scientists was Dr. Frederic Zugiba [of Columbia University], the well-known cardiologist and forensic pathologist. He determined that the analyzed substance was real flesh and blood containing human DNA. Zugiba testified that, “the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves…The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken…since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.” [It was at this point that Dr. Zugiba informed the research team that police authorities should be notified because a violent crime had likely occurred. It is also worth noting that the sample’s condition is consistent with the effects of death by crucifixion].
Two Australians, journalist Mike Willesee and lawyer Ron Tesoriero, witnessed these tests. Knowing where the sample had come from, they were dumbfounded by Dr. Zugiba’s testimony. Mike Willesee asked the scientist how long the white blood cells would have remained alive if they had come from a piece of human tissue, which had been kept in water. They would have ceased to exist in a matter of minutes, Dr. Zugiba replied. The journalist then told the doctor that the source of the sample had first been kept in ordinary water for a month and then for another three years in a container of distilled water; only then had the sample been taken for analysis. Dr. Zugiba was at a loss to account for this fact. There was no way of explaining it scientifically, he stated. Only then did Mike Willesee inform Dr. Zugiba that the analyzed sample came from a consecrated Host (white, unleavened bread) that had mysteriously turned into bloody human flesh. Amazed by this information, Dr. Zugiba replied, “How and why a consecrated Host would change its character and become living human flesh and blood will remain an inexplicable mystery to science—a mystery totally beyond her competence.”
[One last detail of the study should be added and that is the determination that the blood type of the sample came from the AB blood group. This is a rare blood type and is the same blood type which seems to appear over and over again in other studied Eucharistic miracles, such as the one documented in Lanciano, Italy, as well as the blood type discovered on the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium (or face cloth) of Oviedo associated with it.]
The Eucharistic miracle in Buenos Aires is an extraordinary sign attested to by science. Through it Jesus desires to arouse in us a lively faith in His real presence in the Eucharist. He reminds us that His presence is real, and not symbolic…There is no need to actively seek out wondrous signs. But if Jesus chooses to give them to us, then it behooves us to accept them with meekness and seek to understand what He desires to tell us by them. Thanks to these signs, many people have discovered faith in God. [Signs like this one call to mind the words of Jesus to his disciples, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe’ (Jn 4: 48).” (magiscenter.com)