Days of working with my 8 year old on her First Communion packet has made me continually say to myself day after day, I believe He comes to us as flesh and blood. Julia has been taught to repeat as she walks up to receive Him, "My Lord and my God". "My Lord and my God". And if I ever had any question in my mind, any doubt that He comes as flesh and blood, I remember the small town of Santarem, Portugal that I was fortunate enough to visit last summer. Completely out of the way but not too far from Fatima, the Eucharistic Miracle is housed in the middle of the small inside a small church. The story follows.
The story of the miracle centers on an early-13th-century woman with an unfaithful husband. Desperate to regain his faithfulness and save her marriage, she consulted a sorceress. The sorceress said she would cure the husband's infidelity for the price of a consecrated host (Eucharistic wafer). After much deliberation, the woman decided to commit the sacrilege.
The next time she attended Mass at the 12th-century Church of St. Stephen, she took the consecrated wafer from her mouth, wrapped it in a veil and headed quickly for the door. But before she had taken more than a few steps, the host began to bleed. It bled so much that concerned parishioners thought she had cut her hand and attempted to help, but she ran out of the church.
Back at home, she threw the bloody host in a trunk in her bedroom. Her husband did not come home until late, as usual. In the middle of the night, they were both awoken by a mysterious light emanating from the trunk. The woman confessed to her husband what she had done and they both knelt in repentance before the miracle. The next morning, the couple told the parish priest what had happened. The priest placed the miraculous host in a wax container and returned it to the Church of St. Stephen. Word spread quickly, and the townspeople hurried to the church to see the miracle.
The next time the priest opened the tabernacle that contained the miraculous host, another miracle occurred! The wax container was found broken into pieces, and the host was enclosed in a crystal pyx. This pyx was placed in a silver monstrance, where it can be seen today.
I entered the small, dark church with my mother and my two older daughters to find no one but an old woman seated praying. She was dressed in what I would call peasant clothing and turned to look at us, then went back to her prayers. We walked around not knowing exactly what we were looking for. As Beth and I walked towards the front, the old woman began motioning toward a tabernacle high above another tabernacle at the front behind the altar. We smiled and as my mom and Sarah joined us, we told them that the Eucharistic Miracle must be up there. An old man came up behind us and asked if we wanted to see and again the old woman looked around and motioned for us to watch. The man held what looked like a remote control. He pushed the button and noise began and the gold doors opened and a monstrance moved out for us to see. We all knelt out of reverence but we couldn't really see much but the monstrance. Suddenly the old woman started moving her arms around and speaking to the man. He looked, pushed the remote to send the monstrance back and close the doors. He motioned for us to follow. Around the back of the tabernacle was a steep set of stairs and he motioned for one of us to climb up. One by one we climbed the stairs and one by one each of us came face to face with the flesh and the blood of Jesus. To the left of the railing at the top was a small plaque that stated when Pope John Paul II had been in that very same spot. We seemed to have followed him all over Portugal. I was filled with goose bumps and tears. It was overwhelming and all I can think to say to this day is, "My Lord and my God".