In common speech, one may call the improbable or newly discovered a miracle, but as Catholics, we know a miracle to be an extraordinary divine act of God.
Here are five unbelievable, but true miracles of the Catholic Church.
The Miracle of Lanciano
Around 700 A.D. in the city of Lanciano, Italy, a Basilian priest-monk was assigned to celebrate Mass at the monastery of Saint Longinus. Celebrating in the Latin Rite and using unleavened bread, the monk had doubts whether the Eucharist was truly the Body and Blood of Christ.
During the Mass, when he said the Words of Consecration with doubt in his heart and soul, the bread changed into living flesh and the wine change into blood which quickly coagulated into five globules of differing size.
In 1971 when the specimens were tested, they found the Flesh was human heart tissue. Both the Flesh and the Blood are blood type AB-, the same found on the Shroud of Turin and all other Eucharistic miracles.
The Miracle of the Flying Saint
Saint Joseph of Cupertino was said to have been remarkably unclever, but prone to miraculous levitation and intense ecstatic visions. On October 4, 1630, the town of Cupertino held a procession for the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. He was assisting in the procession when suddenly he soared into the sky, hovering over the crowd. When he descended and realized what had happened, he became so embarrassed that he fled to his mother’s house and hid. This was the first of many flights, which soon earned him the nickname “The Flying Saint.”
Joseph’s most famous flight allegedly occurred during a papal audience before Pope Urban VIII. When he bent down to kiss the Pope’s feet, he was suddenly filled with reverence for the Pope and was lifted up into the air. He also experienced ecstasies and flights witnessed by thousands during his last mass which was on the Feast of the Assumption in 1663.
The Miracle of the Sun
The Miracle of the Sun is a miraculous event witnessed by as many as 100,000 people on October 13th, 1917 in the fields of Cova da Iria near Fátima, Portugal. They gathered to observe the claim of three young shepherd children that an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary would appear at high noon.
After a downfall of rain, the dark clouds broke and the sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disc in the sky. It was significantly less bright than normal, casting a multicolored light. The sun then careened towards the earth in a zigzag pattern. Some witnesses reported that their previously wet clothes became “suddenly and completely dry.”
The event was attributed by believers to Our Lady of Fátima, as the children said Mary had promised to reveal her identity and provide a miracle “so that all may believe.”
The Miracle of Saint Januarius’ Blood
According to tradition, the blood of Saint Januarius was saved by a woman called Eusebia just after the saint’s martyrdom and hermetically sealed in two glass vials. Every year, the vial of dried blood is seen to liquefy miraculously. The liquefaction sometimes takes place almost immediately but can take hours or even days. In rare occasions the blood is found already liquefied when taken out of their safe or liquefies outside the usual times.
Every year, thousands assemble thrice to witness the liquefaction of the blood of Saint Januarius in Naples Cathedral: on September 19 to commemorate his martyrdom, on December 16 to celebrate his patronage of Naples and its archdiocese, and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May to commemorate the reunification of his relics.
The Miracle of Our Lady of Lourdes
On February 11, 1858, Saint Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year old peasant girl from Lourdes admitted when questioned by her mother that she had seen a “lady” in the cave of Massabielle, about a mile from the town, while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar appearances of the “lady” took place on seventeen more occasions throughout the year. Generally, each vision was focused on the need for prayer and penance, but her 16th vision the lady revealed herself saying “I am the immaculate conception.”
During one of the apparitions, she was directed to dig near a rock and drink from the spring there. There was a small puddle of mud in the place but as Bernadette dug into it, a large spring appeared.
Today, this spring is the source of the water in the grotto that millions flock to each year hoping for miraculous cures. To date, the Lourdes Medical Bureau has declared 69 cases of inexplicable cures out of thousands tested in “extremely rigorous scientific and medical examinations” that failed to find any other explanation.