“Expect a miracle,” Oral Roberts used to say, “and a miracle is yours today.” The famed Evangelical probably didn’t have Catholic-variety miracles in mind, although a story on the Catholic News Agency does. Miracles come in big and small varieties. In case you’re feeling encrusted in materialism, there are plenty of things science hasn’t yet explained. It helps to have a little wonder in your quotidian routine. So what was this miracle? It took place in Hartford, Connecticut. Specifically, at St. Thomas in Thomaston. In case you’re not Catholic, or high church Episcopalian, a brief explanation: after the consecration of the host (communion bread), ordained clergy pass communion wafers to those who come forward to receive them. Believing in transubstantiation, this is done with a great deal of attention to detail.
The vessel that holds communion wafers is called a ciborium. (My years at Nashotah House were good training for this.) Since consecrated wafers should never be defiled, only a certain amount are consecrated at a time—enough to cover those present for the Eucharist, usually. Any extras are locked in a tabernacle for future use. In this miracle, a minister handing out the wafers noticed he was running out. Believe me, this is something to which clergy pay close attention. Then suddenly there were more wafers in the ciborium. A multiplication of loaves, but in much smaller and pre-ordered form. One child called them, I once heard, “tiny little quesadillas.” Perhaps a small miracle, but we take what we can get.
A miracle is defined as “an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.” Since we can’t observe all phenomena all the time, they do occur now and again. What happened in Connecticut? I don’t know. No scientist was observing, and no vestment cams were in use. We have the word of a clergyman with no cause to lie. Maybe something unusual did happen. Yet I can hear the evangelicals protesting that if God were to perform a miracle it would have something to do with Donald Trump rather than some popish fetish. That’s the problem once religions get involved around miracles. Too much is left to interpretation. Sometimes I think of the miracle of the sun at Fatima, Portugal. Or of people miraculously healed from late-stage fatal diseases without medical intervention. These things happen and when people are pressed for an explanation they tend to turn to the divine. Perhaps, however, things just aren’t what they appear to be.