13 April 2008

Church of the Holy Miracle

About forty-five miles north of Lisbon, and not far from the Shrine of Fatima, is the village of Santarém. A church is there which is the site of a miracle, and what a wonderful miracle it is. Originally dedicated to St. Stephen, because of what happened there it is now known as the Church of the Holy Miracle.

The story has all of the elements of high drama -- an unfaithful husband, a desperate wife, a sorceress, and a wicked plan to bring the philandering husband to his senses. It took place in the 13th century. Desperate to save her marriage, the woman went to a sorceress, who exacted her price if help was wanted: the wife was to steal a consecrated Host and bring it to this wicked woman. In desperation, she did it. The next time the poor wife received Holy Communion, she removed the Host from her mouth and wrapped it in a cloth. She took no more than a few steps, when the Sacred Host began to bleed, so much so that those around her thought she had cut her hand. The woman fled to her house and hid the bleeding Host in a trunk in the bedroom. Her husband, out late as usual, finally came home. In the middle of the night there was a bright light coming from the trunk. Nearly out of her mind with fear, the woman told her husband the whole story, and they spent the remainder of the night kneeling before the Host, both filled with repentance for their respective sins.

The next day they confessed to the priest what had happened. Unsure what he should do, the priest placed the Host in a beeswax container and placed it in the tabernacle. But this wasn't the full extent of the miracle. When he next opened the tabernacle, the priest saw the final stage of the drama. The wax container was broken into pieces, and the wax along with the miraculous Host was solidly encased in seamless crystal, as it remains to this very day.

When our pilgrimage visited the Church of the Holy Miracle, after we celebrated the Mass, we climbed the stairs leading up behind the tabernacle to visit the reliquary containing this miracle. How humbling and inspiring it was, having just received our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, to then be able to pray before the same Lord Jesus Christ present in this miraculous Host, consecrated some seven hundred years before.