Miracle of the Eucharist of Offida
The Lord allows Himself to be drawn back to Lanciano again. This could very well be called THE EUCHARISTIC MIRACLE OF LANCIANO II, because what we call the Miracle of Offida actually happened in Lanciano in the year 1273. Why did Jesus pick Lanciano yet a Second Time? What was the need for Him to manifest Himself again in this town in another Miraculous way? To the inquisitive mind, the scientific mind, there has to be a logical explanation for a phenomena such as this. It has to be broken down into an understandable equation. In my mind, it conjures up enormous excitement. We don't know what the Lord's plan is, what His thinking is.
There's no way that we can anticipate His actions because they defy the laws of logic. I sometimes believe He does this intentionally. WE CAN NEVER BE BORED! St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Doctor of the Church and one of the most brilliant minds the world has ever known, was given a revelation towards the end of his life. Afterwards, he stopped writing and dictating his great SUMMA THEOLOGICA. When asked why he was abandoning his work, he replied, ìThe end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me. We are thrilled about the prospect of what God will reveal to us when we meet Him in the Kingdom. But until that time, we can only try to speculate on the mysteries of God's ways. The Second Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano, or as it is better known, THE EUCHARISTIC MIRACLE OF OFFIDA falls into one of the mysteries of God's way.
The principal characters in this miraculous account are a newlywed couple, Ricciarella and Giacomo (James) Stasio, their mule, and a witch. Apparently, the newlyweds' marriage was not made in heaven. They had nothing in common. Giacomo cared more for his mule than for his wife. There is no indication as to what was the cause of their problem, whether the wife was at fault or the husband. We do know that the wife, Ricciarella wanted a better life for them. She thought if they had a better sex life, they would be more happily married. She never considered getting even with her husband for his treatment of her, or of having extra marital affairs. She just wanted a better life with him. To this end, she enlisted the services of a local sorceress, or witch. The witch had a powerful reputation for bringing the excitement back into marriages whose fire had gone out. The witch prescribed the following potion: ìGO TO COMMUNION, BUT DON'T SWALLOW THE HOST. TAKE IT HOME, PUT IT ON THE STOVE, AND BURN IT. TAKE THE ASHES, AND THROW THEM INTO HIS WINE OR HIS SOUP. THEN LET ME KNOW THE EFFECT. YOU'LL SEE THAT HE WILL ëWALK IN HEAT LIKE CATS ON A FENCE'î This description of how her husband would react to the potion gave Ricciarella just the incentive she needed to justify committing this terrible act. She knew, because of her upbringing in the faith, that this was an act of Sacrilege.
We have to wonder how she must have wrestled with her conscience before she made the decision to perform this horrible act. Whatever justification finally gave her the courage, she set out for the church to take part in the Mass, and receive Our Dear Lord Jesus in Communion. Her heart pounded as she rehearsed the plot over and over again in her mind. At the proper time, Ricciarella, looking like a little saint, went up to the priest to receive Communion. After having received the Host, she turned away from the priest quickly, so that she could remove the Lord from her mouth. She made sure she was not caught in the act. She left the Church and ran through the streets of Lanciano until she reached her home. Her hands shook violently. She started a fire under an earthen pot. Then, when it was very hot, she took the Host, and placed It in the pot. It began to smoke. She could not take her eyes away from the wickedness she was performing. The driving force that prevented her from stopping this madness was the change she fantasized would take place in her husband towards her. The outside of the Host turned into flesh, and began to bleed profusely. The center of the Host retained its original form. The blood gushed from the Host Turned Flesh. She panicked. She didn't know what to do. The blood covered the bottom of the pot, which was filling quickly.
She took wax and dirt and threw them into the pot. She filled the pot with dirt, but the blood seeped through the dirt, rising to the top of the pot. She grabbed a huge linen table cloth and wrapped the pot in it. She didn't know where to put it. She ran out to the stable, and dug a hole in the dung of the mule. She buried the table cloth and the pot with the Eucharist inside. When her husband returned home that evening, he noticed that the mule was acting more stubborn than usual. The animal did not want to go into the stable. Giacomo was used to a certain amount of obstinance from the mule, but this was the worst the animal had ever behaved. Giacomo tried pushing the mule, and then slapping him, all to no avail. Finally he got a whip and began beating the animal. The pain being more than the mule could endure, he reluctantly stumbled into the barn. The animal fell prostrate near where the dung was located, almost in a position of adoration. Giacomo never needed an excuse to be unkind to Ricciarella, but if he had, the incident with the mule provided him with perfect justification. He blamed her for the behavior of the mule, accusing her of putting some spell on the stable. He gave her a few cracks with the same whip which he had used on his beast. For Ricciarella, this was the beginning of living Hell. She felt great pangs of conscience for her sin. She came to realize more and more the seriousness and consequences of her actions. She was also beginning to wonder just how powerful the witch was, by the way her husband was treating her. The desired results of her sin never materialized. If anything, their relationship got weaker, while the feelings of guilt and remorse grew stronger by the passing day. Ricciarella lived with this situation for SEVEN YEARS.
The torture she inflicted on herself was maddening. The way that her husband continued to treat her, she believed was a punishment by God. She lost all hope. She could not accept that she could ever be forgiven by God. The pain she felt was mostly for having committed such an inexcusable crime against a God who had never hurt her. Tales of the Good God, that her mother had told her when she was a child, echoed in her mind. She yearned to confess her sin, and relieve the burden of her heart and soul. But she didn't have the courage to accept the shame she would inflict on herself, she thought, by confessing to a priest. Finally, when she could no longer live with herself, or the self-inflicted pain she had suffered for seven years, Ricciarella contacted the prior of the local Augustinian monastery in Lanciano. This friar was a native of OFFIDA, which will become important as our story unfolds. Ricciarella confessed her grave sin to the priest. He accompanied her back to her home. They went into the stable, and dug through the dung which had accumulated over the seven years. When the friar pulled the table cloth out, and uncovered it, he found that the contents of the pot, the bleeding Flesh and the Host, had remained incorrupt over the years. He took the table cloth and the earthen pot containing the Host away with him. He told no one of the incident. Ricciarella was relieved because her scandal would not be spread all over the province, and her deteriorated relationship with her husband would not worsen. We're not sure what the friar's motives were. He wanted the Eucharistic Miracle taken away from Lanciano, that is known. Was it because he was sincerely afraid that if the miracle were revealed, Ricciarella would be implicated? Or did he want the glory of an incorrupt Eucharistic Miracle to be given to his home town Offida? On a pretext, the Friar received permission from his superiors to leave the monastery. He left Lanciano in secrecy a few days later.
He took the Sacred Host to a Fr. Michael Mallicani, who was the prior of the Augustinian monastery of Offida. Fr. Mallicani embraced the miracle as the property of Offida, and immediately created a sanctuary for It in that town. This was in the year 1280, seven years after Ricciarella had committed the Sacrilege. Fr. Mallicani moved quickly. He and another friar went to Venice in the same year to have a beautiful reliquary built which was to become the home of the Eucharistic Miracle. They commissioned a goldsmith to do the work under secrecy. After he had finished the beautiful reliquary, and the priest had placed the Eucharistic Miracle inside, the friars left by boat to return to Offida. It was then that the goldsmith decided to tell the local Duke of Venice what had transpired. The Duke, anxious to get hold of a genuine Eucharistic Miracle for his own province, ordered a ship to intercept the one carrying the two friars back to Offida. The Lord intercepted! As the Duke's ship was about to overtake the friars, the Adriatic Sea became violent, allowing the friars to disembark at Ancona, and return safely to their monastery in Offida. The reliquary was installed in the Church in Offida. It is still there to this day. Why was there so much intrigue and deception involved with this miracle? The Miraculous Host, which was given to us in Lanciano, was stolen by a member of the clergy, and brought to Offida, in another province. The friars in Offida were accomplices to the larcenous deed.
They compounded it by going to Venice to have a reliquary made. This would, in their eyes, and the eyes of the city, validate the authority of Offida to keep the stolen Sacred Host. Why was it so important to the people involved that they would go through all that they did? We can give light to part of the reasoning. In those days, and even today, for a town to have the reputation of having a famous saint buried there, or even better, a Eucharistic Miracle, as in this case, was for that town to become famous.
People flocked from miles around to come and venerate the Miracle. Whether they were pilgrims or curiosity seekers was not important to the town. What was important was that people came and spent money in their town. Venice, scandalously involved in this miracle, boasts that the faithful can venerate the incorrupt body of St. Lucy of Siracusa, Sicily in one of their churches.
There is even a big sign outside the church, facing the Grand Canal, attesting to the fact. The people from Siracusa blame the Venetians for stealing the body of the saint from their town centuries ago. On a Saturday evening in November of 1981, just hours after we had visited the Church of St. Lucy, thieves broke in and stole the body. There had been an expensive silver face mask covering St. Lucy's face, which was not taken. So robbery was ruled out. It was believed that Siracusans were responsible for the crime. St. Lucy's body has since been returned to the Church in Venice. But in the case of Lanciano, why did the Lord allow the theft to happen? OR WAS THIS HIS PLAN FROM THE OUTSET? Is it possible that all these people were doing the Lord's will without realizing it? Lanciano had been famous for its Eucharistic Miracle for centuries before this happened. Would a second shrine to a Eucharistic Miracle in the same town, say Lanciano, command the same devotion of the Faithful as it would in a different town, say Offida, that had just the one Eucharistic Miracle? We have to go back to the very beginning of this story. The more we study the workings of the Lord, the Scripture passage THE LORD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS, HIS WONDERS TO BEHOLD becomes increasingly apparent. We'll have to wait until the end of the story, when we meet Him in Heaven, to find out what He was doing. But in the meantime, WE'LL NEVER BE BORED!