Eucharistic miracles always remind me of the day I almost died. It’s a tale that went on the list of “stories I won’t tell my mother until she can see that I’m alive and in one piece.” It’s a tie between “hitch-hiking on an 18-wheeler in Spain” and “the scorpion on my pillow in Honduras” in Santarem. Santarem is actually right around the corner from Fatima, the site of several Marian apparitions in 1917. While backpacking through France and Spain, my friends and I decided to swing through Portugal and check it out.
The proprietor of our hotel suggested we not leave Portugal before stopping by Santarem. We were directed to take a right at the train station and follow the second sign to the church of the “milagre,” the first sign apparently leads to Milagre, the restaurant.
The milagre, or miracle, we sought was a consecrated host smuggled out of a church in the 13th century by a woman who was told by a sorceress that it would be the price for ending her husband’s extramarital affair.
Juicy, huh? The Kardashian family’s drama has nothing on the history of Team Catholic.
The host began to bleed as she fled the church. Panicking, she hid it in a trunk in her bedroom. In the middle of the night a mysterious light emanated from the trunk. She and her husband knelt in repentance before the host, which was returned to the church.
After being stored in the tabernacle, it was found to be miraculously encased in a crystal pyx — a miracle within a miracle.
Centuries later we knocked on the door to the church and were able to see this for ourselves. I still remember climbing the stair to the monstrance and being inches away from this miraculous host, in awe that God would allow the mystery of his presence in the Eucharist to be unraveled, just a bit, to help my faith.
Many say that belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is challenging. If you’re thinking, “gee, I think so too,” take heart. Ever since Christ said, “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (Jn 6:55), people have reacted with, “this saying is hard; who can accept it?” (Jn 6:60)
Christ giving us himself in this way is challenging to wrap our minds around. Santarem is one of 126 miracles associated with faith and worship of the Blessed Sacrament.
While not everyone is able to trek to Portugal, or even visit the exhibition touring our diocese, a Google search will reveal some pretty amazing images. While our faith isn’t based on miracles, they serve to remind us that what Christ said is true.
So why didn’t I tell my mother the story of my trip to Santarem? After leaving the church and catching the train, my faith and knowledge of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist edified, I forgot a more basic principle of life, which is to look both ways before you cross a street — or train track.
I’m grateful for Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and that train conductors in Portugal think really, really fast on their feet. Miracles all around that day.Alison Griswold is the youth director at St. Francis by the Sea Church on Hilton Head Island. She writes “Team Catholic” for The Miscellany.