The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Fri, 26 Aug 2016 04:02:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Christ Spans the Centuries in Eucharistic Miracles: Buenos Aires & Lanciano Fri, 26 Aug 2016 04:02:34 +0000 In the Gospels, Jesus typically requires an act of faith – something difficult—from anyone asking for healing. In the age of the Church, Jesus likewise asks of everyone a difficult act of faith—belief that at the command of the priest, bread and wine changes substance into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. It is as much a stumbling block today as it was for the crowds to whom Jesus proclaimed, “the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51). But the faith Jesus demanded of them was not unreasonable. He provided the crowds with a miracle—the multiplication of the loaves and fish—and many others as well throughout his ministry. Likewise, Jesus has continued to provide miracles now and then to show that faith in the Eucharist is defendable.


Every Eucharist can be said to be miraculous in that it brings God’s power above nature. But not every Eucharist is miraculous in the full meaning of the term—namely power above nature that is clearly open to our five senses as such. Typically, God’s power is behind the veil. The bread and wine that has become the Body and Blood of Jesus still taste, smell, and feel like bread and wine.

However, there have been times when the Eucharist has been miraculous in the full meaning of the term.

The Miracle in Lanciano, Italy

In the eighth century in the Italian town of Lanciano on the Adriatic coast, a Basilian monk-priest was celebrating Mass at the monastery church of St. Lengonius. This priest, however, was having doubts about Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. At the words of Consecration, the Host in his hands turned visibly into flesh and the consecrated wine turned visibly into blood. The faithful present were overcome with wonder and awe and spread the news of the miracle far and wide. The relics of the miracle were preserved by the Basilian fathers and then the Benedictines, and they are still on display at the Church of St. Francis in Lanciano. Over 1,200 years later, the flesh, in the shape of a Communion Host, and coagulated droplets of blood from the Chalice are still in tact. Typically, flesh and blood or bread and wine disintegrate rather quickly.

Scientific examination of the relics in 1971 yielded even more insight into the miracle, in addition to showing it to be beyond natural explanation. Dr. Odoardo Linoli, a professor having specializations in anatomy, pathological histology, chemistry, and clinical microscopy, examined the relics that year with the assistance of Dr. Ruggero Bertelli, an anatomical expert. Dr. Linoli made the following discoveries: the flesh was real human flesh from the heart—a cross section including the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve, and left ventricle. It contained true human blood, of the AB variety, which is much more common in the middle east than it is in Italy—and the same as found on the Shroud of Turin. The chemicals found in the blood should have very quickly disintegrated, but instead lasted over 1,200 years. No preservatives were found. Dr. Linoli and Dr. Bertelli published their findings in an Italian medical journal in 1971.

The spiritual significance of the flesh being heart tissue, with the anatomical structures as discovered, is that this part of the flesh is responsible for pumping the lifeblood of the body, much like Christ in the Eucharist pours his life and grace into the Church and the soul to bring them to life. We might think of the prayer later revealed by Jesus to St. Faustina:

O blood and water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you.

It is interesting to note that St. Lengonius, the patron of the church in which the miracle took place and who is said to have been from this town, was the Roman centurion traditionally thought to be the soldier who thrust a lance into Jesus’ side (as in John’s Gospel) but then testified, in the Synoptic accounts, “Truly this man was the son of God!” (Mark 15:39). The town Lanciano, meaning ‘lance,’ was later named after him.

The Miracle in Buenos Aires

While one might think that Eucharistic miracles like this only took place long ago, this is not the case. While there have, in fact, been many Eucharistic miracles, one particular miracle that took place in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, at St. Mary Church in 1996 bears a striking resemblance to the miracle of Lanciano. A communicant discarded their Consecrated Host in the back of the church rather than consume it, perhaps because it had fallen on the ground. One of the faithful found the discarded Host on a candlestick holder, and reported it to the priest, Fr. Alejandro Pezet, who took the usual measures to reverently return the Host to nature. He retrieved the Host, placed it in the Tabernacle submerged in a container of water so that the Host, which was likely not safe to consume, would dissolve. So long as the accidents of the Consecrated bread and wine remain, so does the Real Presence of Christ, but the Presence is withdrawn when the accidents naturally dissipate.

Fr. Pezet returned after six days to retrieve the water into which the Host should have dissolved, so that it could be returned to nature. Instead, what he found was bleeding flesh, which had expanded in size from that of the Host. He reported the phenomenon to Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires—the future Pope Francis—who advised him to have professional photos taken and to keep silence on the matter until further advised. Fr. Pezet did so, but several years later, the flesh and blood were still in good condition. So in 1999, Archbishop Bergoglio authorized Dr. Ricardo Castanon to have the flesh and blood analyzed. Dr. Castanon is a former atheist who converted to Catholicism because of prior encounters with miraculous phenomena that he was called upon to analyze.

Dr. Castanon found Dr. Fredereic Zugiba of New York, a highly respected cardiologist, forensic pathologist, and biochemist known for his expertise in determining cause of death, and had the sample sent to him for analysis without telling him where it had come from or what it was thought to be. Dr. Zugiba examined the sample and concluded that it was tissue from the human heart (myocardium of the left ventricle) and that the blood was type AB human blood from the same body. Furthermore, based on the large presence of many blood cells which cannot typically survive after death, he concluded that the person from whom the sample was taken likely suffered traumatic blows to the chest and may even have been alive when the heart tissue was removed. The cells even appeared to be pulsing as if in a live person. Dr. Zugiba said to Dr. Castanon, “How did you take out the heart of a dead man and took [sic] it alive to me to my New York lab?”

Only after giving this analysis, Dr. Zugiba was told the source of the sample: a consecrated Eucharistic Host. Dr. Castanon then contacted Dr. Linoli, who had analyzed the samples from the miracle of Lanciano, to compare the results. They matched exactly. Dr. Linoli and Dr. Castanon are also convinced that the flesh and blood found in the Eucharistic miracles in Buenos Aires and in Lanciano—and also the blood from the Shroud of Turin—are miraculous in origin and are from the same person of middle eastern descent—namely, Jesus Christ.

Eucharistic miracles, though not part of the Church’s public revelation binding on all the faithful, are gifts from God that lift the veil for us with regard to the unswerving Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in every Eucharist. Jesus gives himself as the lifeblood of our souls and of the Church. His Body and his Blood are now ours, as with a family bloodline. As St. Joan of Arc said, “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”

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Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time Tue, 23 Aug 2016 19:00:11 +0000

Jeff Cavins offers his insights on the readings for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time.

First Reading: Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Responsorial Psalm: 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11
Second Reading: Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24A
Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14

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A Road Map for the New Evangelization Fri, 19 Aug 2016 04:54:39 +0000 In my years of leading seminars and conferences in parishes across the country, I have found that many Catholics want to evangelize. They just do not have a comprehensive way to go about it. Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde’s pastoral letter “Go Forth with Hearts on Fire,” offers many Catholics what they are looking for: a how-to guide for the New Evangelization. In this condensed version, we will explore the letter’s practical advice on being an evangelist in the twenty-first century.


Bishop Loverde states, “Each of us needs and desires a relationship with Jesus Christ in his Church.” The brokenness of our culture makes this truth more relevant than ever. As divorce, abortion, and the redefining of marriage and family prevail, the yearning for God in our hearts does not grow more faint. It just becomes less understood as we lose sight of our place in God’s great story.

“Amid such brokenness, Pope Francis’ analogy of the Church as a field hospital has never seemed more fitting,” the bishop continues. “Now is the time to find a language of mercy that is expressed in gestures and attitudes even before words.  A nearly frantic search for peace, meaning, and hope is evident all around us. Yes, we experience a true hunger and thirst within us for something more—indeed, for Someone more.”

That is why we, as baptized Catholics, need to evangelize. “When we evangelize, we meet people where they are in their lives, amid all of their joys and trials,” says Bishop Loverde. “In so doing, we help others to understand that the desires of their hearts—however they may be directed at present—are a summons from the infinite God of love and mercy, who wants them to have the fullness of life.

Evangelization allows people to become aware of the presence of God already within them, made as they are in his image and likeness. Evangelization invites others to identify that sense of yearning within themselves.”

Me, an Evangelist?

In our secular culture, it is easy to lose sight of the need to evangelize. Even among those who see the need, there is a fear that they will lose something great by witnessing for Christ.

While acknowledging this fear, Bishop Loverde encourages Catholics to believe the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who said, “If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful, and great … Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return.”

Another obstacle to evangelizing is our busy lives. When faced with a busy schedule, Bishop Loverde reminds Catholics that evangelization is not just another task to add to the list: “It is not a new ‘spoke in the wheel’; it is the entire wheel.”

We are not just dealing with another thing we should do to fulfill some personal ambition in life. Evangelization is a much more overarching matter. Faith in God is concerned with our very existence. “God created us! He did not have to, but in his desire to love human beings made in his image, male and female, he created us,” Bishop Loverde says. No other purpose has greater potential to fill us with a deep sense of mission. The bishop reminds us that our mission territory is all around us, in our homes, our neighborhoods, and wherever we go, and he recommends the following tools as we go forth in the New Evangelization:

The Evangelist’s Tool Box

  1. The Eucharist, which is the “source and summit of the Christian life,” helping us to love and be loved by Christ.
  2. Confession, where the weight of our sin is lifted, allowing us to evangelize with new energy.
  3. Daily prayer, which is essential to maintaining a close relationship with the Lord. One hour at Sunday Mass is not going to be enough.
  4. Joy, which attracts people to Christ.
  5. Acts of loving service, which are crucial to witnessing to Christ.
  6. Family time, which can be used to promote faith, virtues, and character.
  7. Strong friendships, which can build up our faith and strengthen us in love and good works.
  8. Study, which gives us the tools we need to engage others intelligently and with sensitivity. As we grow in love for the Lord, we will want to grow in knowledge as well.
  9. Humility, which strengthens us to say honestly, “I am a sinner.”
  10. Hospitality, which is an essential element of evangelization.
  11.  Mary, who has only one desire for us: that we know and love her Divine Son.
  12. One another, to encourage each other to become stronger disciples of Christ.

As Catholics, we may already know that some or all of these things are good for the soul and for evangelizing, and we may embrace one or more of them occasionally. But assimilating these powerful gifts into our daily lives can be a challenge. Bishop Loverde offers suggestions on how to make these gifts the lifeblood of a daily routine.

Evangelist’s To-Do List

  1. Think of three ways God has blessed you recently. Thank him for these blessings.
  2. Pray for and seek to develop a right relationship with Christ, which alone brings joy and right relationships with others.
  3. Allow your joy to be increased through the Eucharist and the other sacraments of the Church.
  4. Volunteer or take part in charitable service, and find ways to discuss charity with others.
  5. As part of your deepening friendship with Christ, find one concrete way to love him and to love your fellow disciples through him.
  6. Ask for forgiveness when you hurt someone.
  7.  Receive Communion on Sundays and, if possible, more often during the week.
  8. Ask God’s forgiveness each night for the sins of the day, and receive the sacrament of reconciliation regularly.
  9. Set aside time for reading or listening to the Scriptures, spiritual works, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to increase your knowledge of Jesus Christ.
  10. Look for a men’s or women’s Bible study group or a prayer group to join to receive support as a disciple and to offer your support to other disciples.
  11.  Invite others into your home to share a meal. Pray the Rosary. Consider Mary’s obedience to God.
  12. Seek her intercession for your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors.

How to Evangelize in Your Parish

The parish or local faith community is the place where we live out our calling as evangelists most fundamentally. It is the Catholic answer to the lack of answers in the secular culture. Through the parish, Catholics from all walks of life have created a culture that is not just a response to the world around us, but offers its own dynamic vision and worldview centered around Christ.

Our Catholic culture offers many things that are “good, true, and beautiful,” Bishop Loverde states. “These treasures—great literature, art, architecture, and music, among others—help us to see the glory of God’s creation and can move our hearts to love God and to understand our role in his creation.” The parish is the ideal place to express and share this Catholic culture.

The bishop continues, “Perhaps the most insidious message of the [secular] culture’s ‘anti-evangelization’ campaign is that the ‘institutional Church’ is to be ridiculed and rebelled against, like an unjust and old-fashioned parent.” The parish community needs to be ready to counteract this mentality and offer a positive vision of Christianity.

In his letter to parishes in the Diocese of Arlington, Bishop Loverde recommends that parishes ask themselves the following questions:

Parish Checklist

  1.  Do all members of our parish feel the personal love of God?
  2. Do visitors to our parish experience an atmosphere of joy in us when they arrive for Mass on Sunday?
  3. Does our parish have a sense of “mission” when participating in activities?
  4. Does service in our parish offer an opportunity for participants to grow in relationship with Jesus.
  5. Are there areas of sin in the lives of members of our parish that are common enough to warrant a teaching series on the topic?
  6. Are there routine (weekly or monthly) opportunities to build fellowship among all age groups in our parish?
  7. Does our pastoral team consciously use special events (such as weddings, sacraments, and funerals) as opportunities to teach everyone, including guests, about Christ?
  8. How much do parishioners in our parish value the Eucharist?
  9. Is there a growing acknowledgment in our parish of a need to improve our relationship with Jesus through the forgiveness of sins?
  10.  How often does our parish have groups getting together to engage in Eucharistic Adoration, lectio divina, devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Marian devotions such as the Rosary?
  11. How does educating our youth (through our Catholic school and religious education program) support the networking of families in our parish?
  12. Do adults in our parish know about opportunities to study the Catholic Faith?

Go Forth

Finally, the bishop asks, “Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, are you ready to accept your commission to evangelize in the twenty-first century? … We go forth, with hearts on fire! Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord today, tomorrow, and every day until we see him face to face in our eternal home!”

This article is an abridged version of “Go Forth with Hearts on Fire,” a pastoral letter by Bishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington. It was originally published in Ascension’s 2015 catalog.

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Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time Wed, 17 Aug 2016 04:54:58 +0000

Jeff Cavins discusses what Christ means when he says we must walk through the narrow door to be saved. The Sunday Readings are:

First Reading: Isaiah 66:18-21
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 117:1,2
Second Reading: Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Gospel: Luke 13:22-30

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The Assumption of Mary: A Sign of Good Things to Come Mon, 15 Aug 2016 04:37:53 +0000 As we joyfully celebrate Mary’s Assumption into heaven, we can reflect on this great mystery in the Catholic Faith that showcases the deep love of God toward his creation. Her being taken to heaven body and soul is a foretaste of what God also has in store for us.


There are places that traditionally mark Mary’s Assumption both in Jerusalem and in Ephesus. From the Scriptures we do not learn about the end of Mary’s life or that of many of Christ’s apostles, but we do know through what has been passed on to us through tradition about the martyrdoms of many of them. Had Mary been a martyr, there would be a tomb and shrine associated with that location as there are for other apostles, but in the case of Mary, there is no tomb to be found. (There is a place in Jerusalem called the Tomb of Mary, but this spot commemorates her falling asleep and does not contain any bodily remains.) The end of Mary’s life was different than all others and gives the faithful hope of good things to come.

Interestingly, there are other instances in the Bible of people passing from this earthly life to the next in an atypical fashion. Besides Jesus, there are at least nine instances in the Bible of people being raised from the dead including Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, Widow of Zeraphath’s son, the Widow of Nain’s son and Tabitha. All of these people went through physical death.

However, there are two other unusual instances in the Old Testament, Enoch and Elijah, in which they were taken to heaven without dying first. In the first instance of Enoch, when he was 365 years old, the Bible tells us in Genesis 5:24 that “he was not, for God took him.” And then in the instance of Elijah the Prophet, at the end of his ministry, he was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot witnessed by the Prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 2:11. In both of these instances and also in the case of the Assumption of Mary, the person was faithful to God. Mary was more faithful to following God than any other created person, so is it any wonder that the end of her earthly life was rewarded by her assumption to heaven body and soul? She goes before us in Faith and also as a first fruit of the Resurrection, of which all the faithful will experience at the end of time (1 Corinthians 5:20-21).

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a sign for us as to what is in store for those who stay faithful to her Son Jesus Christ. I hopefully look forward to that wonderful moment when I am able to experience the joy of the Resurrection and see firsthand the beautiful world where Mary, my Mother dwells, who has faithfully interceded for me and all her children since she entered the eternal kingdom, crowned Queen of Heaven.

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