The nuns of Star of the Sea instilled the fear in me long ago. Never touch the host as Father Habit placed it upon your tongue. Suck on it gently, very gently, as you head back to your pew to pray. And, no matter how strong a vacuum it creates adhering it to the roof of your mouth, do not prod it loose with your finger and, never, never, never ever chew it before swallowing.
They insinuated that something major would occur if you violated these rules. I mean major. Like suddenly your whole pew full of people would be swallowed up by the earth or a lighting bolt would flash through the ceiling striking you dead upon the spot. They had me convinced.
Things are different today. God is more tolerant and forgiving; he no longer minds if you touch the consecrated host.
But a miracle in Ferrara left me wondering whether the nuns were wise in issuing their strong prohibitions.
Father Peter of Verona was celebrating mass in Ferrara on Easter Sunday in 1171, when he raised and broke the consecrated host, now the body of Christ. Blood sprayed and splattered upon the vault above the altar. A miracle.
Pilgrims from around Italy flocked to see the bright red proof left upon the ceiling. The church, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Vado, was expanded greatly to accommodate them in 1495, and a special vault was constructed within the sanctuary to safeguard the site.
Alas, I climbed the stairs to examine the bricks but failed to spot the spots. Perhaps that failure is the fate of lapsed Catholics – missed miracles.
On the other hand, maybe those red spots simply are faded. The evidence of the miracle appeared on that vault more than 800 years ago.