Treasures of the Church- Eucharistic Miracles

The Eucharistic Miracle of Avignon, France
The Albigensian Heresy

Avignon Capilla del milagro



Perhaps the name of Avignon is familiar to your minds. It is famous all over the world for being the Sanctuary of the Popes. It was the home for the Popes from 1309 to 1377. There are other occurrences that make Avignon important, making it an important place of pilgrimage.

To better understand this we have to go back in time 217 years before the miracle of 1226. The Albigenses heresy, name taken from the city of Albi, France, was promulgating its false teachings all through the southern part of the country. The heresy condemned all the sacraments, especially marriage. Sexual freedom was especially promoted by the Albigenses. The Eucharist was completely rejected.

The Albigenses were condemned by the Church since the XI century, but it was not until the Albigenses started to attack the secular government in countries where they were strong that they were denounced and deprived of the law’s protection.

In 1226 the Albigenses were very strong, especially in the south of France where Avignon is located. To fight against the Albigenses’ attacks to the physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, King Luis VIII, father of Saint Luis IX, had a church built near the Sorgue river River in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. He also chose the date September 14th, 1226, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross to make a public act of reparation for the sacrilege committed by the Albigenses. A procession was made with the Blessed Sacrament which ended in the new Church of the Holy Cross.

The King waited for the precession to arrive at the Church of the Holy Cross. He was dressed in sac cloth with a rope around his waist and a candle in his hand. Next to him was Cardinal Legate, his court, and many faithful. The procession was directed by Bishop Corbie around the entire city. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed all night and many days afterwards until the Bishop decided that the Blessed Sacrament should stay perpetually exposed.

This custom was followed by his successors and approved by the Holy Father. The Church was in the care of the Grey Penitents of the Franciscan Order. After 200 years of perpetual adoration a spectacular miracle occurred.

The Eucharistic Miracle

The small Sorgue River passes through the city of Avignon, south of France. The river would overflow every couple of years. When this occurred the waters would flood the houses, farms, and the rest of the area. At the end of November 1433, after heavy rain, a great flood came to the region. The waters overflowed out of the river, more so than in previous years. It was one of the worst floods ever known in that small area.

On the evenings of November 29-30, the water level rose to an alarming height. The Franciscan Grey Penitents were sure that the small Church of the Holy Cross was also flooded.

The Franciscans decided to go to the Church to safe guard the Eucharist and bring it to dry land. Two of the Superiors of the order went on a boat and rowed their way into the Church. When they arrived the water level was at the center of Church door. To their surprise when they opened the door they found the entrance of the door to the altar completely dry. The water had accumulated towards the side walls (left and right) about four feet high. Our Lord Jesus, in the Eucharistic Host in the monstrance on the altar, was completely dry.

This was similar to the Bible story on the parting of the waters of the Red Sea. To the Franciscan Grey Penitents it was the same thing. They went to get other members of the order to come and verify the miracle.

The four friars prayed together and took the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament to a Franciscan Church on dry land.

As they placed Our Lord in the monstrance on the altar, they read the Bible passage from Exodus on the parting of the Red Sea ( Exodus 14:21): “Moses stretched his hand over the sea and Yahweh made a strong east wind blow all night and dry up the sea. The waters divided and the sons of Israel went on dry ground through the middle of the sea, with the waters forming a wall to their right and to their left.”

The Franciscans wrote all that occurred in the community register which is still conserved to this day.
Adoración en capilla del milagro
During this time a tradition was born which is still in practice today. On the 30th of November of every year, in the chapel of the Church in Avignon, the Franciscan Grey Penitents tie a rope around their necks, and they piously crawl on their knees and hands to re-create the incident, bringing to mind the path their predecessors went through the night of the miracle.

What remains is the Church and the tradition of the miracle. But in this tradition the friars give thanks to Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament for giving them a sign no smaller than the one given to the Jews who were under Egyptian slavery during their Exodus.
Pilgrims, especially those that hunger for the Eucharist, still visit the small Church near the river to venerate and give thanks to the Lord for giving them this special gift especially during moments so much in need of His Strength.

The significance of the miracle

What is the significance of this miracle ? Why were the Jewish symbols of slavery used in this miracle ? It is not known for sure.
It is speculated by some that have studied the miracle that the Lord used this sign of the Eucharistic Miracle to liberate His people from the slavery of sin.
In today’s world we find ourselves captive in subtle and destructive ways. We live in a materialistic, consumeristic, immoral and atheist world.

Our lives are somewhat manipulated by pressure from friends, movies, magazines, music, and television advertisements. We are exposed daily to situations involving drugs, alcohol, abortion, sexual relations before marriage, renunciation to the authority of parents, selfishness and many other things. Sometimes we find ourselves isolated from the world if we do not go along with its lifestyle.

However, we have a weapon to count on. The same miracle that occurred in the small Church of Avignon still happens every day during the Consecration of Holy Mass. Our daily miracle is the Eucharist that liberates and delivers us.

We have to hold on to this miracle of the Eucharist. We have to go fourth to embrace Jesus in the Eucharist and to take Him into our hearts. This way we will be delivered from the slavery of the world and all its false teachings. The Eucharistic Miracle of the Sorgue River is probably another way the Lord says and repeats the promises of St. Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year o f mercy.”

In the Eucharistic miracle that occurs everyday in Church is the same message of the Lord.


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