Church investigating AOL ‘miracle’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 3, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / April 3, 1999

LAPLACE – So-called miracles crop up every few years, a Catholic Church spokesman said, but a claim from Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church is turning heads at the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

On Monday, scientific examination began of a bit of alleged flesh which many believers in the River Parishes are convinced is a manifestation of the body of Christ.

This alleged “miracle” is now under strict scientific investigation by the archdiocese, and few are talking about what has been discovered so far.

Tom Finney, spokesman for the archdiocese, said the manifestation happened in mid-February, when one of the church custodians discovered a quarter-sized crum of a blessed Host, used in communion.

The custodian turned it over to the Rev. Benjamin Piovan, who deposited ininto a container of Holy Water to be dissolved, as is the usual custom.

However, what happened then amazed and confounded many people. The bitof dried bread apparently turned into a bit of human flesh, suspended in the water, with a bit of blood adhering to it, those who’ve seen it said.

“I have not seen it myself,’ Finney said. However, the Rev. Gerald Seiler,director of Pastoral Services, has, and he’s the chief investigator for the archdiocese in the matter.

“I’m not really ready to give any observations,” he cautioned. “The peopleshould simply wait for the end of the investigation. Everybody just needsto be patient.”Finney said a molecular biologist took a tiny sample of the material on Monday and is subjecting it to microscopic and other tests to determine exactly what it is.

Results are expected by April 9.

“It’s not that we don’t believe in miracles,” Finney said. “You have to beskeptical and exhaust the possibilities.”Similar “miraculous” events crop up from time to time, Finney noted. Suchevents have included the weeping Madonna and the bleeding crucifix reported at Our Lady of Grace Church in Reserve, almost immediately after the May 7, 1975 murder in St. John Parish of the Rev. J. Alcide Clement,Sister Mary Patrick Harrington and housekeeper Leah LeJeune, and the beating of Leopold St. Pierre.Nevertheless, the Rev. Norbert Stein of Our Lady of Grace took the unusualstep at that time of writing a letter to the editor of L’Observateur to downplay the alleged miracle.

He said, in part: “It is not my intention to argue with people about what they may or may not have seen since I can no more prove they did not see what they claim than they can prove they did actually see what they claim.”He pointed out, though, “If what has happened does cause people to be more consciously faithful to the moral principles and the religious truths they profess to believe in, and if it leads back to God even a few of the many of our community who have no room in their lives for God and the practice of their religion, there may have been a good reason for God allowing all these circumstances to develop in the bizarre manner in which they have.”Seidler pointed out that masses have been celebrated for 2,000 years and “the number of occurrences of this are extremely rare.”Seidler stressed as well that according to Catholic doctrine, during communion, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.

“A miracle takes place at every mass,” he added. “When we use the wordseucharistic miracle, that takes place at every mass. I hope that doesn’tget lost in the curiosity about all this.”One elderly woman who saw the display recently following mass at Ascension of Our Lord commented afterward: “It does make you feel funny.

You have to see it.”

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