In 750 A.D. in Lanciano, Italy, a Catholic priest was celebrating Mass but had doubts about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. When it came time to consecrate the host, a miracle happened.
“The host literally turned to human flesh … and the wine in the chalice gained the appearance of real human blood,” said Jim Barre Jr., a member of St. Joseph Church in Fayetteville. “It has been preserved at the church.”
As recent as 1970, an Italian pathologist confirmed the host is heart tissue and the wine is fresh blood. For the Catholic faithful that are unable to take the more than 5,000-mile trip to visit the church in Lanciano, they can view the Eucharistic Miracles of the World exhibit, which Barre and his wife Janice take to churches throughout the state.
It includes information and photos on about 145 Church-documented Eucharistic miracles on 160 panels. Eucharistic miracles are represented from 17 different countries, with the most recent in 2001 in India, where the image of the Lord appeared in a consecrated host.
“We know the Eucharist is the source and center of our faith. Those realities have been driven home to me and my wife on a deeper level through the exhibition,” Barre said.
The exhibit is part of a larger adoration for the Blessed Sacrament spurred primarily by the Year of the Eucharist by Pope John Paul II in 2004-2005. The organization, The Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association (therealpresence.org) has made the exhibit accessible to parishes around the world by releasing the images to those who are willing to take it to churches as a traveling exhibit. It is an international exhibit approved by the Vatican, Barre said.
In 2008, Barre, his wife and daughter Sydney first saw the Eucharistic miracles exhibit while attending a Catholic Family Conference in Wichita, Kan.
“It was something about seeing this and the miracles depicted in the panel that really go back to the Last Supper … It’s just a part of our heritage and really unknown to our Catholic brothers and sisters and that needs to be remedied,” Barre said.
After reaching out to the organization’s Illinois headquarters to acquire the artwork, getting permission from Bishop Anthony B. Taylor and creating the panels with the images, Barre began bringing the exhibit to Catholic churches in Arkansas in 2009. So far, he’s been to six parishes in the state, Subiaco Abbey and parishes in Tulsa, Okla. and Branson, Mo.
“There’s no fee involved. That’s one of the things we wanted to make sure, so more parishes would get involved,” Barre said, adding that the only requirements are an appropriate, spacious room and 20 eight-foot tables supplied by the parish.
The panels, fitted table cloths — which are required to be steamed by parish members helping to set it up — and the travel are all done by the Barres. Barre, owner at real estate Spectrum Management Company, said he also hands out free brochures and wooden rosaries, made by a priest friend in South America, to exhibit visitors. A book that includes the entire exhibit information and photos is $25.
Typically, parishes house the exhibit for about 16 days and the responses from parishioners have been life-changing, Barre said. He pointed to a man who had called to explain how he was a cradle Catholic but always wavered on Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.
“It strengthened his belief in the real presence and he brought two of his friends, Baptist and Methodist ministers, to the exhibit,” Barre said.
Other responses have been even more emotional.
“A lady came up to me in tears and said, ‘I had no idea, no idea these miracles had occurred,” Barre said. “The real presence of our Lord is a reality. It’s been diminished in the last few decades, but we want that cognizant of that reality to be rekindled in the hearts of Catholics.”
For Barre, it’s an understandable reaction given the sheer spiritual mystery of the miracles.
“Different miracles speak to different people. There’s one from Mogoro (in the Italian region Sardinia) that I’ve found always intrigued me. In 1604, a couple of men approached to receive Communion and they were not in a state of grace. The priest placed the host on their tongue and the host burned their tongues. They spit it out and the host fell to the stone flooring leaving an imprint of the host that you can see today.”
The exhibit’s next stop will be at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Benton in honor of its 15th anniversary of perpetual adoration. The display will be available to the public from Feb. 28 to March 11.
Taffy Council, who coordinates the parish’s perpetual adoration, said people have lost touch with the supernatural, things we cannot see.
“When I sit before the Blessed Sacrament I am so full of joy along with so many memories. I think about the Mass and how the Mass means for us to remember,” Council said. “By having this exhibit of these Eucharistic miracles, which are approved by the Vatican, we each have an opportunity to make a pilgrimage back in time and be in awe of the supernatural aspect of the mystery of the Eucharist and the real presence of Christ.”
For parishes interested in displaying the exhibit at their church, contact Barre at .
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