Every time we receive the Holy Eucharist during Communion, the wafer of bread and the cup of wine appear to be nothing more than bread and wine. However, during the consecration, transubstantiation takes place, where the bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist still looks the same but its essence has changed.
Our Lord is not merely present in spirit within the bread and wine: they actually are his Body and Blood. Sometimes, the faithful can see a physical change in appearance. There have been quite well-known instances in Italy, Argentina and Poland, where the Holy Eucharist has visibly changed.
The most well known was in the year 750, in the town of Lanciano, south-east of Rome. A monk was consecrating the bread and wine during the Holy Mass but doubted the occurrence of transubstantiation. The Eucharist became Flesh and Blood before him. The Flesh was a piece of human heart. The Blood was human blood; shortly after, it coagulated into five globules of different sizes, which weighed the same as each other and the same as all five globules together.
The Church investigated and declared this to be a Eucharistic miracle and since then, there have been several studies of the relics, as recently as 1981. With the passing of so many centuries, the Flesh and Blood of Our Lord have never degraded or changed in property, even though they have never been hermetically sealed in their reliquaries and never been preserved. The relics are kept in a beautiful monstrance in The Sanctuary of the Eucharistic Miracle in Lanciano.
Another occasion was in Buenos Aires in 1996. Bishop Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) was there as an auxiliary bishop under Cardinal Antonio Quarracino. A consecrated Host was found on the ground and placed in a glass of water to dissolve, as is the custom. Days later, the Eucharist turned into bloody Flesh. This was photographed and stored in a tabernacle to decompose. Three years later, it was still there. Studies found that the bloody Host was comprised of human heart muscle with the same DNA and rare AB-positive blood type, as the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano. The blood type is also the same as what is found on the Shroud of Turin.
In the year 2013, in the diocese of Legnica, Poland, a consecrated Host fell to the floor during Communion and was placed in a container of water. After a while, it turned red. Forensic studies two months later found it to be human tissue, 'similar to heart muscle ... as it appears under the strains of agony', and in 2016, was also declared to be a Eucharistic miracle.
The Eucharistic miracle is not a rare occurrence. There is a Vatican International Exhibition of Eucharistic Miracles which has so far been displayed at thousands of parishes around the world. It details one hundred and fifty two Eucharistic miracles that have taken place in twenty countries from South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Not all miracles involve transubstantiation into flesh and blood: sometimes the Host depicts images. In 1649, in Port Eten, Peru, the Divine Child appeared in the Host. The first apparition showed His face and the second apparition showed three interconnected white hearts, symbolizing the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. In 1902, on Reunion Island, the face of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns appeared in the Host for many hours.
Each time we receive the Holy Eucharist in Communion we truly are taking within us the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a privilege for the Catholic faithful to be able to go to Mass, be physically close to God and receive the miracle of Our Lord's sacrifice.
Note: The individual panels of information on each miracle displayed in the incredible Vatican International Exhibition of Eucharistic Miracles may be viewed on The Real Presence website. They are listed by country.
Catholic Answers. 2018. Who Can Receive Communion?https://www.catholic.com/tract/who-can-receive-communion
Fitzgerald, Ryan. 2016. Eucharistic Miracles Confirm Real Presence of Jesus Christ. Church Militant https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/eucharistic-miracles-confirm-real-presence-of-jesus-christ
Niles, Christine. 2016. Eucharistic Miracle Confirmed in Poland. Church Militant https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/eucharistic-miracle-confirmed-in-poland
Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association. 2019. The Eucharistic Miracles of the World http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/engl_mir.htm
Saunders, Rev. William. 2003. The Miracle of Lanciano. Arlington Catholic Herald https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-miracle-of-lanciano.html