The Origin of the Feast of Corpus Christi and the Miracles of the Eucharist involved

As had become his custom, he prayed before the Mass for the grace which would give him faith. He prayed fervently to God. His prayer was the same. He begged for the faith to believe without any doubt that the gift we had been given at the Last Supper, that he had been given on the day of his ordination, was truly the Body of Christ. At the time of the Consecration of the Mass, he elevated the host high above his head, and said the words of consecration. As he said “THIS IS MY BODY”, the unleavened bread turned into Flesh, and began to bleed profusely. The blood fell onto the Corporal. The priest, shocked, and not knowing exactly what to do, wrapped the host in the Corporal, folded the Corporal, and left the Altar. As he left, drops of blood spilled on the marble floor in front of the altar.

Pope Urban IV (James Pantaleon) was in Orvieto at the time, which is a short distance from Bolsena. We begin to see the Lord’s plan unfold. As they say in the theater, “The Plot Thickens”. Peter of Prague immediately went off to tell him what had happened. There’s nothing recorded in history to tell us what went on in the mind of our Pope when this priest came to him. Had this burning of Blessed Juliana for a feast day in honor of the Blessed Sacrament stayed with him all through the years? Did he get a flashback of his younger days with her?

WE DO KNOW WHAT HE DID. He immediately sent a bishop back to Bolsena to speak to the priests at the church, in order to verify what Peter of Prague had told him, and bring back to Orvieto the Sacred Host and Corporal. We also know that the Pope didn’t wait for the Bishop to return. He, followed by the entire population of Orvieto, went out to meet the Bishop. They met at a place called the Bridge of the Sun. When he saw the Eucharistic Miracle, Pope Urban IV went down on his knees at the sight of his Lord manifested before him in physical form on the Sacred Corporal.

The Pope had already made his decision, or perhaps the decision had been given to him by the Lord, that this was truly a miracle. He received the Miraculous Corporal from the Bishop and brought It back to Orvieto. He went to the balcony of the Papal Palace, raised It reverently, showing It to the people of the town. Proclaiming that the Lord had truly visited His people, he declared that the Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena truly dispelled the heresies that had been running rampant.

At about this time, a follower of Blessed Juliana’s contacted the Pope through a Bishop in Liege. She repeated the request of Blessed Juliana for a feast day in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. We are not sure of the sequence of events. Assuming that Pope Urban IV had been given the inspiration to institute the feast of Corpus Christi solely as a result of the Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena, this additional prodding by the Lord might possibly have been what was needed to convince him. We do know that throughout the next year, the Pope occupied himself almost exclusively to the task of writing the Papal Bull, TRANSITURUS, which was published on August 11, 1264. That Papal Bull instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi, in honor of the Blessed Sacrament.

Enter St. Thomas Aquinas. When the Pope made the decision to create this new feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, he asked St. Thomas Aquinas to write the Liturgy for the Mass. The Hymns created for this feast are considered to be among the greatest in our Church. O SALUTARIS and TANTUM ERGO are two of the beautiful hymns composed by St. Thomas for this feast.

But that’s not all. Our Lord Jesus had a very special reason to get St. Thomas Aquinas involved in the Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena, and the Feast of Corpus Christi. St. Thomas was a brilliant member of the Body of Christ. In 1269, St. Louis IX, King of France, asked for St. Thomas to settle an argument among the members of the University of Paris. What argument would that be, but the physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

St. Thomas prayed fervently, because he realized that he was but an instrument of the Lord, and that an answer that would satisfy intellectuals would have to come from divine inspiration, rather than from his own mind. After much prayer, he wrote a treatise which was first accepted by the University, and then later by the whole church. After having written this treatise, we’re told that he received an apparition from Our Dear Lord Jesus. In this apparition, Our Lord said to him: “YOU HAVE WRITTEN WELL OF THE SACRAMENT OF MY BODY” At this, St. Thomas went into an ecstasy, and levitated. He was above the ground so long that many of his associates were able to witness the levitation.

This is by no means the end of the story, but it does conclude the series of events the Lord put into motion many years before when he gave the sign on the moon to Blessed Juliana of Liege

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Lanciano – Bolsena Orvieto – Cascia – Siena

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