Sunday, December 4, 2011

Santarem, Portugal

On our drive home from Fatima, we took a short detour to Santarem, Portugal. Santarem is a small town about 45 minutes north of Lisbon. I had never heard of it until about a month before I found out that we were coming to Portugal. I was reading a book, and the book mentioned a Eucharistic Miracle that had occurred in Santarem in the 13th century.

The basic story is this: A husband and wife were living in Santarem, and for some reason (I think that the husband was being unfaithful), the wife decided to seek help from a sorceress. The woman wanted the sorceress to put some sort of a spell on the husband so that he would love her. The sorceress told the woman that she could help, but first, the woman had to bring her a consecrated host. The next time that the woman went to Mass, she received Holy Communion but immediately took the host out of her mouth and put it in a handkerchief. The host started to bleed, and others at the church started to notice the blood, thinking that the woman was hurt. Some tried to see if she was ok, but she ran from the church. When she arrived home, she was frightened so she put the host in a chest in her bedroom. That night, a bright light began shining from the chest, and it woke up the woman and her husband. She told him what she had done. The two of them spent the night kneeling in adoration. The next day, the woman informed the local priest, and he came and took the host back to the church, placing it in a wax reliquary where it continued to bleed for three days.

In 1340, nearly 80 years later, another miracle occurred. When the priest opened the tabernacle, he saw that the wax reliquary which had previously been holding the Sacred Host, had been broken into many pieces. In its place was a beautiful crystal vase. To this day, it is still possible to see this miracle.

When we arrived in Santarem, we didn't really know where to go. The book I had read said that the miracle was in the Church of St. Stephen. I asked a couple of people where that church was, but they didn't know what I was talking about. Finally, I was able to explain that we wanted to see the Eucharistic Miracle. A taxi driver was very helpful and explained that the church is now known simply as the Church of the Miracle. He gave absolutely perfect directions which was very impressive because the church is located on a very narrow street almost hidden between buildings - we never would have found it without help!

When we arrived at the church, we saw pictures and information explaining the miracle. As we were about to enter the church, Jen and I heard people singing in English - and it was a song we knew! We walked in and realized that they were finishing Mass, so we waited quietly in the back. When Mass was over, someone announced that it was possible to walk up the stairs behind the altar to get a closer look at the miracle (all of this was being said in English). We got in line with the group, and as we were waiting, we discovered that the group was on a pilgrimage. Half of the group was from the Philippines, and the other half was from Southern California (specifically Riverside - basically the same area where Jen is from). Jen and some of the other people were talking about where they go to church and different priests they know - such a small world! It was pretty cool that we just happened to be at the church at the same time as this group!

Getting to see this miracle was incredible. Whenever I am able to read about or see something like this, it just really causes me to stop and think about what an indescribable gift we have in the Eucharist. Praise Jesus! :-)

If you want to read more about this miracle, here are two links:

Church of the Most Holy Miracle (Igreja do Milagre)

The words above the altar say: "Surely the Lord is in this place"

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