Eucharistic miracle in Minnesota?

Eucharistic miracle in Minnesota? July 15, 2011

Officials are investigating, according to this report:

The mystery centers on a consecrated host that the Rev. John Echert of St. Augustine Church said fell to the floor last month during Holy Communion and turned “blood red” after being placed in a cup filled with water. It has yet to fully dissolve, he said.

“It was notable enough that, clearly, it was some phenomenon and not the ordinary way in which a host would dissolve…that we’re familiar with,” Echert said.

The archdiocese, which now has the host, is taking a “very cautious stance on the matter,” spokesman Dennis McGrath said.

“I make no claims, and the archdiocese makes no claims, as to the likelihood of this being supernatural,” Echert said. “But it is enough of a phenomenon, or unusual, that we will continue to examine this host.”

He added: “I’ve never in my 24 years as a priest seen or been aware of a phenomenon where a consecrated host placed in water turns to this bright-colored red and continues in what I would call the blood-red color.”

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13 responses to “Eucharistic miracle in Minnesota?”

  1. I remember something similar happening a few years ago, but I can’t remember if it was Texas or Chicago. The red turned out to be a kind of mold.

  2. The interesting thing about this, as with all explanations of seemingly miraculous or preternatural phenomena, is that the “natural explanation” may apply to *some* cases but not all. A few years ago, for example, a priest in Poland found a red spot on a host in a vessel of water, and had it tested, and it was human myocardial tissue.

    Apparently, this red mold/bacteria effect happens after an extended period of time, so it doesn’t explain hosts that turn red almost instantly.

    Here’s a blog post I wrote a while back summarizing some recent cases of alleged Eucharistic miracles:

  3. With the link being broken, here is the full article…..

    Could there have been a Eucharistic miracle in South St. Paul?

    Catholics are speculating, and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is investigating.

    The mystery centers on a consecrated host that the Rev. John Echert of St. Augustine Church said fell to the floor last month during Holy Communion and turned “blood red” after being placed in a cup filled with water. It has yet to fully dissolve, he said.

    “It was notable enough that, clearly, it was some phenomenon and not the ordinary way in which a host would dissolve…that we’re familiar with,” Echert said.

    The archdiocese, which now has the host, is taking a “very cautious stance on the matter,” spokesman Dennis McGrath said.

    “I make no claims, and the archdiocese makes no claims, as to the likelihood of this being supernatural,” Echert said. “But it is enough of a phenomenon, or unusual, that we will continue to examine this host.”

    He added: “I’ve never in my 24 years as a priest seen or been aware of a phenomenon where a consecrated host placed in water turns to this bright-colored red and continues in what I would call the blood-red color.”

    Word of the wondrous wafer eventually landed on several Catholic websites and blogs, sparking discussion and conjecture by some that it resembles the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Others suggest a bacterium may be the cause.

    Echert and McGrath both said they have heard firsthand from curious Catholics. Some have called St. Augustine Church,

    which served about 275 households until its July 1 merger with nearby Holy Trinity. Both churches remain open.
    “I have received many phone calls from priests and others throughout the state,” Echert said. “I’ve not been going around advertising it, but if someone asks me, I don’t deny that there’s something that’s under consideration, that it’s a phenomenon that I’ve never seen and that my brother priests have never seen themselves.”


    Echert said the host fell to the floor as a member of the laity who is appointed to assist priests was distributing Communion at the 7 a.m. Mass on June 19, the Feast of the Holy Trinity. It was put in a ciborium, a container for the Eucharist – which is typical practice – with the expectation that it would be poured in a sacraium, a kind of special sink where items are washed into the ground not into a sewer system.

    When the Rev. Robert Grabner, the church’s parochial vicar, next looked at the cup the following Sunday, Echert said, “he noted a red color in the ciborium.” Normally, he added, the host would dissolve in water within a day or two.

    Grabner asked Echert to examine it.

    “The host was a very bright red,” Echert said. “On one side, it was completely red, and on the other side, it was red around the perimeter and it looked almost like the white of the host tended to have an appearance of a cross.”

    Echert said he transferred it to a glass bowl the next day. A day later, he saw the blood-red color.

    “It appeared to be like the blood red of tissue,” he said. “If I had not known what it was, I would have thought that there was maybe a small bloody piece of tissue. It was striking enough that there was no way I could have disposed of the remains of the host at that time with good conscience.”

    Echert said he removed as much of the water as he could, yet the host remained red. When the archdiocese took the host from St. Augustine on Tuesday, it was about the size of a large pencil-head

    The Rev. John Echert is the pastor at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in South St. Paul, where a dropped Communion host was placed in a chalice and turned blood red. (Pioneer Press: Richard Marshall) eraser.

    One blogger has raised the red bacterium, Serratia marcescens, as a possible explanation for the communion wafer turning red.

    According to Microbe Zoo, a website developed by the Center for Microbial Ecology at Michigan State University, the bacterium grows on bread and communion wafers that have been stored in a damp place.

    The site goes so far as to cite Serratia marcescens as the probable cause of the bloodlike substance that a priest discovered on communion bread in 1263, referred to as “The Miracle of Bolsena.”

    More-recent incidents have pointed to bacterium contamination, including a highly publicized instance in 2006 when people flocked to a Dallas-area church after a host turned red in a glass.

    According to a report on Texas Catholic Online, the Dallas Diocese had the host analyzed by two University of Dallas biology professors who concluded it was anything but a miracle.

    In a letter to the parish priest, Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann wrote “… the object is a combination of fungal mycelia and bacterial colonies that have been incubated within the aquatic environment of the glass during the four-week period in which it was stored in the open air.”

    Echert has heard about the claim of the red bacterium in other incidents. But he added he could only go off his own experience.

    “I think your ordinary priest would have experienced such a phenomenon, if there is such a thing,” he said. “But I don’t discount it as a possibility. I just don’t have any familiarity of a host dramatically changing colors.”

    When it comes to researching miracles, it is difficult to obtain scientific proof, said Terence Nichols, a theology professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

    “For one thing, the judgment of science is reserved – ‘Well, we just can’t explain this, ‘ ” he said. “But usually, they’re fairly difficult to establish. And the Church has historically has been very, very careful about declaring an event to be a miracle.”

    McGrath, the archdiocese spokesman, said that Vicar General Rev. Peter Laird is looking into the matter and that it is too early in the process to issue a judgment. McGrath was unsure Thursday whether the process would include scientific analysis.

    “The Church does not presume supernatural causes for things that can have a natural explanation,” he said in a prepared statement. “While recognizing that God can work in extraordinary ways, the Church presumes that God ordinarily works through the ministry of the Church and through natural laws.”

    Nick Ferraro can be reached at 651-228-2173.

  4. I tend to take these “miracles” with a grain of salt. It certainly is not going to change my faith.

  5. I agree with you, Will.

    A few years ago, in a different parish, my wife and I went to Adoration. It was during the Easter season and our pastor had a small waterfall fountain going up near the altar. As we came in to the Nave a few ladies ran up telling us they could see an image of Mary in the waterfall. I went up near the fountain and could make out an image of Jesus, but not Mary. The ladies were all excited about it and I told them I couldn’t see Mary, but I saw what looked like Jesus. They ran back up to the fountain and suddenly they could see both Jesus and Mary. Of course, it was simply an image created by the flow of the water over the rocks and our own minds which tend to put pictures together, but these women were ready to go in to ecstasy. Our pastor got wind of it and wisely unplugged the fountain. That was the end of our “apparition.”

    I’m quite happy seeing Jesus in the Eucharist.

  6. Allow me to wear my microbiologist’s hat for a moment. There is a bacterium that is uniquitous in the environment called, Serratia marcescens that grows on bread and loves moisture, and produces the exact color pigment as seen in the picture. It has been held out as a possible explanation for the Eucharistic miracles of the middle ages. Go to the Wikki article and see the pigment on the Petri dish and read about it.

    It’s entirely possible that the host picked up the bacteria when it fell, and provided a nutrient source for them to grow.

    Some excerpts:

    “Serratia marcescens is a species of Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium in the family Enterobacteriaceae. A human pathogen, S. marcescens is involved in nosocomial infections, particularly catheter-associated bacteremia, urinary tract infections and wound infections,[1][2] and is responsible for 1.4% of nosocomial bacteremia cases in the United States.[3] It is commonly found in the respiratory and urinary tracts of hospitalized adults and in the gastrointestinal system of children.

    “Due to its ubiquitous presence in the environment, and its preference for damp conditions, S. marcescens is commonly found growing in bathrooms (especially on tile grout, shower corners, toilet water line, and basin), where it manifests as a pink discoloration and slimy film feeding off phosphorus-containing materials or fatty substances such as soap and shampoo residue…

    “Because of its red pigmentation, caused by expression of the pigment prodigiosin,[13] and its ability to grow on bread, S. marcescens has been evoked as a naturalistic explanation of medieval accounts of the “miraculous” appearance of blood on the Eucharist that led to Pope Urban IV instituting the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1264. This followed celebration of a mass at Bolsena in 1263, led by a Bohemian priest who had doubts concerning transubstantiation, or the turning of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass. During the Mass, the Eucharist appeared to bleed and each time the priest wiped away the blood, more would appear. While it is possible that Serratia could generate a single appearance of red pigment, it is unclear how it could have generated more pigment after each wiping, leaving this proposed explanation open to doubt. This event is celebrated in a fresco in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City, painted by Raphael.[14]”

  7. Well said Gerald, which is why until church confirmed, I don’t get too excited about any “miracles.”

    On the other side of the coin, there is actually a Vatican Exhibit (available to anyone interested for their own group), of Church approved Eucharistic Miracles (I think there are about 150 or so to date).

    Scientifically speaking regarding the church approved miracles, the blood type ALWAYS types out to AB Pos, which is the “universal recepient” blood type. Also, when the tissue has been tested, it’s always Myocardial (heart) tissue.

    FYI, the blood type on the Shroud of Turin is also AB Pos.

    Anyone interested can google Eucharistic miracles, as they are indeed as fascinating as they are impossible (short of supernatural) to explain.

  8. Looking at the enlarged photo, it looks very much like Serratia. The size of the colony is roughly the size of the original host, it seems. This would make sense as the biomass of the host is converted to biomass of bacteria growing on the host, and forming a slime layer that holds the colony together in a biofilm.

  9. Types of red bread mold of the phylum Ascomycota are activated in warm, moist situations. Serratia marscencens or it could be N.Sitophila.

    Food source + warm air + mold particles = red color.

    Simply way to prove it, is just take a sample and place on another unconsecrated host in a similar environment.

    In science, we call this a fortuitous happenstance. In religion, we call this an affirmation of faith.

  10. This is my in-laws’ parish, and they report that the priests are taking a very cautious view of it all and telling people to let the archdiocese make examinations and decide.

    One extra feature: this is an extraordinary form parish, and communion is served to the mouth. When I asked one in-law why the consecrated host was being dissolved, he said that he heard it fell from the person’s mouth, so that opens the bacterium issue.

    Having said that. These things happen. Why NOT down the street? It makes you think.

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