Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, first celebrated on August 31, 1670 in Rennes, France. Devotion to the Sacred Heart became a universal celebration based on the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque on June 16, 1675, thus establishing the solemnity to be celebrated during the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi.
For Catholics, Eucharistic miracles form a scientific connection to this feast day. One of the most famous Eucharistic Miracles is the miracle of Lanciano, Italy. In the year 750 in the Church of St. Francis, a host turned to flesh during the consecration at Mass. To this day, that Host is intact and kept in a reliquary in Italy.
In 1970, the Archbishop of Lanciano ordered a scientific study of the relic. Dr. Edward Linoli, a professor of anatomy, histology, chemistry, and clinical microscopy studied the mysterious flesh, 1200 years after it appeared on an altar. On March 4,1971, he released a detailed study that concluded the substance was authentic flesh consisting of muscular striated tissue of the myocardium, that is heart muscle.
In the 1990’s a similar transformation of the Host occurred during Mass at a church in Argentina. The flesh was studied by a pathology lab with this result:
This sample is a fragment of a human heart. There were many white blood cells. This means the heart was alive when the sample was taken. White blood cells will die without a living organism. In addition, the white blood cells penetrated the tissue. Therefore, the heart was under severe stress as if the owner was severely beaten.
What a powerful meditation this is for us as we approach the sacred Host, prepared to receive the tremendous gift of Jesus in the Eucharist, not a symbol, but His Real Presence.