Ferrara - 1171 The Blood of Christ
On our Journey of Faith to explore more shrines that show us proof of how the Lord shows His love for us through Miracles of the Eucharist, we go to the province of Emiglia Romagna, in the northeastern part of Italy, to Ferrara, a city known for its peace and quiet. There is an ancient section there, called the Borgo Vado near the Po river. They never knew if they would be flooded by a sudden rise in the river, or if their men would be caught in the current, and pulled underwater. The inhabitants have always had strong faith. Here, we found not only the Lord through the Miracle of the Precious Blood, but His Mother, Our Lady of the Precious Blood. We had been given this Miracle of the Eucharist, to research, by Father Giannini1 back in 1981, but it took till 1992 for us to go and discover this remarkable way, our Lord and His Mother chose to touch and reach us. This Miracle took place in 1171; Father Giannini told us of it in 1981, 810 years later. And now, 823 years after the Miracle, we are bringing it to you. Why now? As so many have asked, when we wrote our first book on the Miracles of the Eucharist.2 Stay with us, and let us try to discover the answer, together. It was 1992; we were on pilgrimage, and it was time to investigate the Miracle of Ferrara. I still remember that first time, we went to the church on Borgo Vado. Before leaving on pilgrimage, we telephoned Father Peter Mercurio, the custodian, advising him, we would be bringing pilgrims and wanted to videotape the Miracle. When we arrived, it was obvious that Father and the Altar Society had worked extremely hard to prepare the churchfor us. Everything was cleaned and polished. The lights were brightly lit. The only problem was that Brother Joseph and the camera had to return home before the pilgrimage was over, as it had jammed up at another shrine of a Miracle of the Eucharist, in Blanot, France, and was not working. The Altars were covered with white flowers. The candelabras were shining from the loving rubbing that had been done. The crystal chandeliers sparkled. The priest was ready! The church was ready! We were not ready! I can still feel the deep sadness in my heart. Father never said anything, but this must have been a great disappointment. We vowed, we would return the following year and film the Miracle. The next year (1993), Father Peter Mercurio, was not there; he was on holiday. The sacristan cordially assisted us in the taping and in preparing the Altar of the Miracle of the Eucharist, for Mass. We taped a lot of great footage, but Father Peter was not there, and we knew we could not complete the program until he was available. We would have to return to interview this holy priest. Father Jay Voorhies of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana was our spiritual director. You know, we tape and tape, and we do not know what the Lord has prepared for His children, until we begin editing. As Brother Joseph was preparing our new programs on Miracles of the Eucharist for Eternal Word Television Network, he called us into the editing studio. Some of the most powerful teaching on the true presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist was imparted by Father Jay, in his homily at the Altar of the Miracle of the Eucharist. Does this surprise us? Only when we forget that the Pope, our Bishops, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen; all turned to the Blessed Sacrament for inspiration. Wherever you find the Mother, there you will find the Son. We returned in 1994, and we discovered Mother Mary, once more, involved in Her Son’s ministry and in the lives of her children here on earth. In the church of the Miracle, there is a fresco of a ship with Mother Mary in the middle of the boat. Father Mercurio said that through the Miracle, occurring at the Altar of Our Lady of the Precious Blood, we learn, once more, that wherever the Lord is, His Mother is; and through the painting, wherever the Church is, Mary, Mother of the Church is, guiding her Pope and the Church to shore. Santa Maria in Vado The church, where the Miracle occurred is called “Santa Maria in Vado” (Blessed Mary in the water). Father Mercurio told us that it got its name because the Faithful had to walk through water to get to church. The original church was located along the left bank of the Po river. The Borgo Vado district for many Christians was the center of devotion to the Sacred Image of Our Lady from, as far back as, ancient chronicles tell us, the fifth century. The Image of Our Lady, has been reported as having been painted by St. Luke. [Now, some skeptics say, How many paintings did St. Luke create? Saint John Bosco, in addition to founding a home for hundreds of boys and starting a Religious Order of priests, brothers and nuns, wrote more than 139 books. Why couldn’t St. Luke have painted many pictures of the Blessed Mother?] When Christians from Borgo Vado, wanted to be baptized, they had to cross the river, which was at best unreliable, and could turn on you and become treacherous in a minute. But this was the only way they could get to the Cathedral of St. George, on the other side. This became a problem for the Faithful, to the degree that many waited, till a safer time to cross, till the water was not so high, till it was not so treacherous, till almost the point of death, to be baptized. What did they do? They built a little church in honor of our Lady. No one knows how far back that was, but they do know that since the seventh century, the Faithful have prayed to our Lady there and she has answered them. Our Lady came to this little district, to a community of Faithful in need. How, no one knows. Since the fifth century, she has been venerated, especially by the devout of the area. In the middle of the seventh century, in around 656, a small chapel was built; now the children of God would be able to attend Mass and be baptized on this side of the river. To give honor and thanksgiving for the church that was built, and for all the favors received through her intercession, the chapel was named after her and the special favor the Faithful had received: “Santa Maria in Vado,” Blessed Mary in the water. The area was also renamed after the miraculous intercession of Mother Mary, “Borgo Vado” - Burgh3 Way. Many miracles came about through the intercession of our Lady in the Water. The Faithful flocked to the little chapel. They reached out to her, asking for her help. And she was there for them. To her, the fishermen entrusted their lives, imploring her intercession that they would return safely from the sea; and bring in a good catch, so that they could feed their families. But did our Lady want the people to focus on her? Just as she did, when her Son walked the earth, she pointed to Him! But her priest and bishops were being deluded by heretics like the Albigensians and through them, the Faithful had lost belief in the true Presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. They still came to pray to the Mother, but they ignored the Son. Something had to be done! How would Mother Mary turn her children back to their Lord? The Miracle In 1135, Bishop Landolfo officially turned the custody of the little chapel over to the Canons Portuensi of Ravenna. On March 28, 1171, Easter Sunday, the small church was filled with the devout and the twice-a-year Easter/Christmas church-goers.4 The Prior of the Canon Regulars Portuensi, Father Peter of Verona, ascended the Altar to celebrate Solemn Mass, assisted by three of his Canon Regulars, and several Altar Boys. Before distributing Holy Communion to the Faithful, at the moment he broke the consecrated Host into two, the Host turned into Flesh and from the Flesh, Blood sprayed from the Host and splattered on the vaulted dome behind the Altar. As we looked upon the blood-splattered dome, which, after 813 years, still graphically evidences the Blood Which burst forth from the Host, our minds and hearts went back to the 8th century and the Miracle of the Eucharist of Lanciano, when the Host turned into a Human Heart and the wine into Blood (which later petrified into five pellets - the five wounds of Christ). On the Cross, when the centurion Longinus pierced Our Lord’s Heart with a lance, Blood and water gushed forth from His Side. Longinus became the first Christian, as he beheld the Precious Blood of Jesus being poured out, out of love for him and all mankind. We believe that the Church flowed from the Heart of Christ that day, at that moment, and we were all saved. At the time of the Miracle, when His Blood gushed forth onto the dome, was Our Lord’s Heart being pierced, once again, out of love for the people who no longer believed in Him and His Words: “This is My Body, This is My Blood, the Blood of the New Covenant which will be shed for you.” The Miracle that took place before their eyes, both astonished and touched those who were blessed to be eye-witnesses. But, there were those who saw, in addition to the crimson Blood splattering on the wall, the Figure of a Child. To those who might find the latter difficult to accept, the indisputable truth, before our very eyes, over 800 years later, is a wall still stained red by the Blood shed by Our Lord in the Eucharist. And if you still have a problem, then come with us on Pilgrimage to Italy (or in your own home5 ) to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Vado where you, too, will witness how far Our Lord will go, even to putting aside that which He has created, Mother Nature, to glorify His Name, and save His Children. What had transpired was immediately reported to Bishop Amato of Ferrara and Archbishop Gerard of Ravenna. They came, and ascertained unequivocally that the irrefutable evidence of the Blood on the vaulted wall, was conclusive proof that a Miracle had come to pass. They came; they saw and Jesus conquered their minds and hearts. We have seen and witnessed the hearts of our pilgrims when they too have knelt before this Miracle of the Eucharist. There is a document by Gerald Cambrense, authenticating the Miracle, which dates back to the year 1197. It is conserved in the Library Lamberthiana of Canterbury. It goes as follows: “In Ferrara, Italy, in these our times, the Host on Easter Day, was transformed into a small piece of meat. The Bishop of Ferrara was called, and having verified the Miracle, the citizens of that city who had been Patarini and had professed heretical ideas on the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, returned to the Truth.” Being able to appraise it with authentic proof from those giving testimony who were alive and had witnessed the Miracle, the Miracle was clearly affirmed. The Miracle came about, to lift the fog of the heretical smoke screen with which the enemy had clouded the minds and hearts of the Faithful, as to the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and to the reality of the Lord’s resurrection. A Bull was issued by Cardinal Migliorati on March 6, 1404. During the middle of the 1500s, a copy of this Bull arrived, and was placed in the Archives of the Canon Regulars of the Lateranensi in Rome (which has ancient writings speaking of the Miracle of Ferrara), a Bull which granted Plenary Indulgences, under the proper conditions, to those who render homage to the Precious Blood. This ancient document written in 1197, contains the history of the antiquity of the Chapel, of the vaulted ceiling stained with Blood and the testimonies of those who had witnessed the Miracle. Even more authoritative is the Papal Bull issued by Pope Eugene IV, on March, 1442, which proclaimed that a Miracle had truly occurred. He based his acceptance on the unshakable memories, of believers who had been passing on the tradition of the Miracle, which concurred with the testimonies written by witnesses at the time of the Miracle. November 12, 1519, the Bishop of Albano, Cardinal Nicholas Fieschi who was also administrator of Ravenna, granted other Indulgences. Many other bishops came and investigated over the centuries and all agreed that the Lord had truly brought about a Miracle to make us aware that He was alive and His Precious Blood is not ancient but is, was and always will be with us. A new church was begun in 1494, and completed in 1518, still under the Canon Regulars. The vaulted dome was transferred to the new church in 1501. From 1594 to 1595, Alphonse II had a chapel, devoted to the Miracle, built in the new church, which was raised to a Basilica. It stands there, till today, available for the Faithful to see and be reminded, what really happens on the Altar is the ongoing Sacrifice of the Cross. Kneeling before its vaulted dome, it calls us to the foot of the Cross with Mother Mary, now and forever, as Her Son Jesus pours out His Blood for the redemption of sin. The Precious Blood still there, for us, brings our minds and hearts to the Tabernacle, and Who it is Who is waiting in what resembles a golden box but is in reality, a palace for a King. It is for Our King - for Our Lord Jesus, alive and waiting - for us! As our priest Father Harold Cohen began the celebration of the Mass, assisted by our other two priests on pilgrimage, in front of them6 was the painting showing the Host bursting and splattering Blood on the dome. Here we were, over 800 years later, in this small chapel devoted to the Miracle of the Precious Blood, awaiting our Lord in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Here, once again, a priest would break a Host into two. What would we see? Would we see Our Lord lifted up high on the Cross, crucified? For you see, that’s what it’s all about. The Basilica was under the custody of the Canon Regulars until 1797, when the terrorism of Napoleon, with its oppressive and subversive laws against the Church, caused them to be expelled from it. But unofficially, they continued to serve till 1847. Then, the Basilica changed hands from the Canons Regular, to Diocesan priests, to Camilliani priests for a short time, to Missionaries of the Precious Blood in 1930 when the custody of the Basilica was placed in their hands. The Missionaries were founded by Saint Gaspar of Bufalo, a Roman priest who Pope John XXIII called “The true and greatest apostle of the Blood of Jesus in the world.” Years of candles had caused a haze to cover the dome. In 1970, they removed the smoke from burning candles with a drop of alcohol swabbing it carefully. Although the Basilica has been cleaned, and been restored several times, the vaulted dome is as it was 823 years ago; nothing has been done to preserve the Blood stains; They have never been touched. On Sunday, May 19,1957, on the occasion of the Feast of the Precious Blood, the restoration having been completed, the Faithful processed into the Basilica, with the Bishop and clergy of the Basilica following, carrying the miraculous Image of Our Lady which had been over the dome where the Miracle had taken place. The miraculous Image of Our Lady was placed, where she is till today, over the Altar where the Miracle took place March 28, 1171. The people of God, the Faithful of Ferrara, have always believed in the Miracle of the Precious Blood and have passed on that belief from generation to generation. In 1971, the Archbishop of Ferrara, Bishop Natale Mosconi, came to officiate over the 800th anniversary of the Miracle. He said that it was his wish that this not be an empty splendid festival not that the Miracle was not worthy of such ceremony, after eight centuries of renewed belief in the Miracle, but that it be more for renewed awareness and new faith in what happens on the Altar during each Mass, and Who is alive in the Tabernacle. He said, it called them (and us) to a new calling to live a Christian life, being the new creation formed by our union or Communion with Jesus in the Eucharist. God was asking us to share that what happened (with this Miracle), when the Host was broken into two parts, came about to point to the reality of the Eucharistic Statement that Jesus made, and his Faithful priests have made for almost 20 centuries, that at the moment that the Host is broken in two, after the Host has been consecrated, it is first Sacrifice and then Communion. 7 The Archbishop’s words re-echo, reverberate and renew what Pope Paul VI said in his Encyclical: Misterium Fidei, in 1967, when he recalled Christians to the certainty of the “Real Presence”, to the true reality of the “transubstantiation”,8 to the celestial intangibility of the Eucharistic Dogma, that is to the center of the life of the Church, like a “sign of unity and bond of charity.” Pilgrims, till today, 823 years later, come to pray before the Mother of Christ, Our Lady of Vado, at her Chapel where her miraculous Image is reserved; she then leads them to the Body of Christ, the Eucharist, where they kneel in adoration to Our Lord Who is present in the Tabernacle and no less present in His Blood on the vaulted dome through the Miracle of the Precious Blood. We know that Mother Church teaches us that when we consume from the Chalice, we receive the Body and the Blood of Jesus, and when we consume the Host, we likewise receive the Body and the Blood of Jesus. Therefore when we worship Our Lord Whose Blood is miraculously before us, on the vaulted dome, we are adoring Our total Lord9 in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Eucharistic Blood, shed on the vaulted dome can be equated to the living memory of the Passion of Jesus Christ, to which we owe our salvation. As St. Augustine cried out: “Learn, O Man, perceiving how you are and how you should be, and the great heights to which the Redemption raises you, you blush at your faults. You for whom Pity was flagellated instead of heartlessness; Learning was mocked instead of stupidity; Truth was immolated instead of the liar; Justice was condemned instead of corruption; Compassion was tortured instead of cruelty; Purity drank vinegar in place of the defiled one; Sweetness was saddened by bile in place of bitterness; Innocence was punished instead of guilt; He Who was Life died instead of he who is death; All nature is frightened of the wickedness of men, and the earth trembles and the sun hides from sight, attesting that the Master of the world, that King of Heaven, is He Whom the disowned creature rebels against.” Isaiah the prophet, foretelling the price Jesus would pay, said: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed What did we come away with from this Miracle, this Basilica? Before we left the Basilica to go on to Padua and St. Anthony and the Miracle of the Eucharist, we paused in front of a fresco. When they built the 2nd church, which became a Basilica, they had this fresco painted on one of the walls. In the painting, we see a ship with Mother Mary standing in the center of the craft. On the sail of the ship we observe signs of the Eucharist. Is this painting not affirming the Catholic Catechism which teaches: “The summit and center of the Church is the Eucharist.” There are two angels; wherever you see Mary, you will see her Heavenly escort accompanying her. Here one is shoring and the other is steering the vessel. Part of the ship which is the Church is the Gospel. The angel and the Gospel are synonymous (the Greek word for Gospel - Evangelicum contains the word angel). Peter is not in the center but Mary, who is helping him guide the ship of the Church to shore. This painting also says that Peter guides the Church, but Mary guides him. And if you do not believe the painting, ask our Peter, Pope John Paul II. What has the Lord been saying to us, at this time, with this Miracle? “I am here, with you till the end of the world, offering Myself, shedding My Blood for you. Be not afraid. I have not left you orphans. I am with you, in the Word. I am with you in My Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist. I am with you through My Mother.” What is Jesus saying? Honor His Mother. For without Mary, there is no Jesus. Without Mary, there is no Church. On April 26, 1994, thieves broke into the Basilica and stole the miraculous painting11 of our Lady of the Precious Blood, the Image venerated for over 1500 years. When a new church was built the Image was placed on the wall where the Miracle had originally happened. The police said they found many paintings when they searched the house of the thieves, but not the paintings of the Basilica. They were about to leave, when the police chief felt something, a voice that said, “Return to the house!” There was an armoir with a false back. The chief of police decided to open the wall of the armoir; for it was suspiciously of a different color and type of wood as the rest of the armoir. When they lifted the wall, they found the Image of our Lady. And so, Our Lady has returned, just as she has in our Church. In the 60s, there were some who tried to throw her out of the Church, but she has returned more present than ever, with her rightful place beside her Son, just as she was at the foot of the Cross. What has this Miracle and the miraculous Image of Our Lady said to us? During the ongoing Sacrifice of the Cross which is the Sacrifice of the Mass, remember, it is not only Jesus’ Blood which was shed, but the Blood of Mother Mary’s Son, and she stood there and she said yes - for you and for us and our salvation. What will it take for Jesus and Mary to get our attention? If Jesus came for the second time would we pay attention!