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A Matter of Faith, a Matter of Fact
As Catholics, we take the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist as a matter of faith. But a recent presentation at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass., provided evidence for non-believers that the Real Presence should be taken as a matter of fact.
At the invitation of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, famed scientific researcher Ricardo Castanon, Ph.D., presented findings of Eucharistic miracles and other phenomena. As western society's drift from religion continues, Dr. Castanon says these findings should prompt a dialogue between science and faith, two systems of thought frequently viewed at loggerheads.
"After you see this, your Communion will not be the same because you will see a miracle," Dr. Castanon, a native of Bolivia, told a full crowd at the Shine on Tuesday, Dec. 11, in introducing his presentation. "You will see that when Jesus says [in the Gospels] 'This is My Body,' that this is the truth."
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We invite you to listen to a podcast of Dr. Castanon's entire talk.
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President and researcher of Grupo Internacional para la Paz in Bolivia, a non-profit consisting of self-financed research professionals, Dr. Castanon was a professed atheist until 20 years ago, soon after he was called upon to investigate mystical phenomena, including stigmata, weeping statues, and bleeding Hosts. A man whose discipline demands that claims be substantiated by science, Dr. Castanon initially expected to find cases of fraud, but instead — after meticulous study — discovered findings that science could not explain.
His research continues to this day and includes a reported Eucharistic miracle in Buenos Aires, Argentina, involving a Host that developed coagulated blood and flesh. A neuro-psychophysiologist (an expert in relating the physical and chemical activities of the brain to human behavior), Dr. Castanon has been called upon by the Vatican to conduct research throughout the world.
His presentation moved many in the audience to tears.
"I found Dr. Castanon's talk to be extremely powerful," said Shrine Rector Fr. Ken Dos Santos, MIC. Father Ken noted that the nature of Dr. Castanon's formal science education — which "taught him to be an atheist, to trust in only what he can see, touch, and demonstrate" — only underscores the miraculous nature of his current work.
"His work," said Fr. Ken, "echoes the sentiment of Blessed John Paul II who said that faith and science are like two wings leading people to God."
Beyond the Shadow of Doubt
If it's the scientific method people need to believe, then it's the scientific method that Dr. Castanon can provide.
Indeed, there may not be any better way to tear down the barrier between science and faith than by proving Christ's declaration at the Last Super when He held the bread and said, "This is My body" and held the cup of wine and said, "This is My blood" (see Mk 14:22-24).
Among the most famous examples of such proof is found in the Miracle of Lanciano, in Italy, in which a Host became Flesh and the wine became Blood in the 8th century. Studies throughout the centuries have validated the claim.
In 1999, called in to research the alleged Eucharistic miracle in Buenos Aires, Dr. Castanon discovered incredible similarities with the famous Host in Lanciano.
The Buenos Aires case began in 1996 when a Host was accidently dropped during Communion. As is custom, the priest placed the Host in a container of water and put it into the Tabernacle where it was expected to dissolve. Several days later, the priest was startled to discover the Eucharist had grown in size and was covered with red splotches. Eventually, the Host looked like a piece of flesh.
Dr. Castanon had a sample from the Host sent to Dr. Frederick Zugibe, a forensic expert in New York who was told nothing about the circumstances surrounding the case so as not to prejudice the study. Dr. Zugibe testified that the sample was a fragment of a heart muscle and contained a large number of white blood cells, which is telling.
"It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism," Dr. Zugibe said. "They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest."
'I Must Talk About This'
Dr. Castanon said that he and his colleagues were bowled over. When informed that the analyzed sample came from a consecrated Host, Dr. Zugiba replied that it was an "inexplicable mystery to science — a mystery totally beyond her competence."
Moreover, Dr. Castanon said that the blood on the Host in Buenos Aires is type AB — just like that of Eucharistic miracles elsewhere, including Lanciano, as well as the blood discovered on the famous Shroud of Turin.
"I must talk about this," Dr. Castanon said, "because we have lost respect for the Eucharist."
In his Shrine presentation, Dr. Castanon also shared studies he and his team did on a plaster statue of Jesus Christ in Bolivia that began weeping and bleeding in 1995. An X-ray revealed the statue had not been tampered with. After isolating the statue from all contact, Dr. Castanon captured the phenomenon on video.
Upon taking samples of the more than 90 scabs that had formed on the statue, tests revealed that the scabs were comprised of two-thirds human blood and one-third plant material — a thorn, possibly, that originated from a dry environment "like Palestine," Dr. Castanon said.
"When I see these things in the 21st century ... this is the hand of God," Dr. Castanon said. "I think this is a very special gift for us."