4 Shocking Accounts of Religious Miracles in Catholic Tradition

religious miracles

Have you heard of these religious miracles?

From a flying friar to a communion transformation, these religious miracles are among the most shocking on record in Catholic tradition.

1. Levitation (St. Joseph of Cupertino)

religious miracles

St. Joseph of Cupertino at the site of the Basilica of Loreto. Reproduction of a painting by Ludovico Mazzanti via Creative Commons

St. Joseph of Cupertino (whose real name was Giuseppe da Copertino) lived during the 17th century in Italy. As a child Joseph began having religious ecstasies, and by the time he’d become a teenager, he was accepted by the Capuchin friars as a lay brother. After working with the friars for several years, he was eventually ordained as a priest. Once ordained, Joseph began to experience extreme religious ecstasies, often falling into fits of giddiness. Before long, Joseph’s brothers in the Franciscan Order were witnessing him levitate while celebrating mass (at times rising several inches off the floor). Joseph earned his name during a ceremony at Cupertino, where he suddenly rose in a remarkable ecstatic flight over the pulpit, his arms outstretched. On another occasion, upon visiting the Pope, Joseph became so enraptured by the Pontiff that he rose into the air briefly before being commanded to return to the ground. Aside from the Pope, the Spanish ambassador to the papal court also witnessed the event with his wife, who fainted as a result. On another occasion, John Frederick (Duke of Brunswick) witnessed Joseph float above the floor during mass. Though he was a Lutheran at the time, Frederick was so amazed by what he’d seen that he immediately converted to Catholicism.

As Joseph’s ecstatic flights became increasingly common, however, the Church grew concerned by his behavior. Joseph’s powers were so threatening, in fact, that Fr. Angelo Pastrovicchi pointed them out in 1767, stating that Joseph’s ecstasies and flights “were so frequent, as attested in the acts of the Process of Beatification, that for more than thirty-five years [Joseph’s] superiors would not permit him to take part in the exercises in the choir and the refectory or in processions, lest he disturb the community.” The suspicion continued, followed by whisperings of witchcraft, and eventually Joseph was summoned by the Inquisition to Naples to stand trial on October 21, 1638. He was detained for several weeks, and though he was not found guilty of any crime, he was sent to Sacro Convento in Assisi and forced to live in exile. Seventy accounts of his levitations were included in the records of his official beatification process.

2. Stigmata (Padre Pio)

religious miracles

Padre Pio showing the stigmata. Via Creative Commons

Padre Pio (whose real name was Francesco Forgione) was born in Pietrelcina, Italy, in 1887. From a very young age, Fransesco reportedly had visions of (and communicated with) angels, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. By the time he was 15 years old, Francesco was admitted to the novitiate of the Capuchin Order of the Friars Minor in Morcone, Italy. Though he suffered from severe debilitating illnesses, he was eventually ordained as a priest in 1910. Shortly after, Francesco noticed the marks of stigmata (a representation of the wounds of Christ) on his hands, feet and side. The wounds never healed, and though they were examined multiple times, no adequate explanation was ever found. What was particularly interesting about the stigmata was the fragrant aroma that emanated from the wounds. Francesco became the first stigmatized priest in the history of the Church, and he bore the wounds for nearly 50 years before he died. He was buried in St. Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo, a site that currently attracts eight million visitors each year. On June 16, 2002, in one of the largest liturgies in the Vatican’s history, Pope John Paul II canonized Francesco as Padre Pio.

3. Incorruptibility (Saint Bernadette Soubirous)

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Bernadette Soubirous via Creative Commons

Born in Lourdes, France, on January 7, 1844, Bernadette Soubirous began having religious visions early in her life. At the ripe age of 14, she was sent with her younger sister and a friend to gather firewood, when the Virgin Mary appeared above a rosebush in a grotto. Upon seeing the Virgin, Bernadette fell to her knees, retrieved her rosary and began to pray. Three days later, Bernadette returned to the grotto with her sister, Marie. Upon seeing the vision a second time, Bernadette reportedly fell into a trance. For the next few weeks, she returned to the grotto, repeatedly witnessing the same vision. On one occasion, Bernadette claimed the Virgin Mary instructed her “to drink of the water of the spring, to wash in it, and to eat the herb that grew there” as an act of penance. On the following day, the grotto’s waters, which had been muddy previously, had miraculously become clear.

Though some suspected she was mentally ill and demanded she be placed in an insane asylum, many people in the community believed Bernadette’s claims. Followers soon began using the water from the grotto to cure the sick. With the aid of Church authorities, the French government interviewed Bernadette extensively, and the Lourdes Medical Bureau confirmed that the water did in fact cure a number of individuals of various ailments. Though the authorities used rigorous scientific and medical examinations, they were unable to explain what caused the cures.

In subsequent visions, Bernadette reported that the Virgin Mary identified herself as the Immaculate Conception and requested that Bernadette build a chapel. Convinced the vision was a genuine request from the Virgin Mary, Bernadette asked a local priest to build a chapel at the exact location where she’d experienced the visions. The actual site, which became the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, is now a major pilgrimage destination, attracting millions of visitors each year. Bernadette spent the rest of her life there working as an infirmary assistant before dying at the age of 35.

religious miracles

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. Photo by Roland Darré via Creative Commons

Upon exhuming her body 30 years later, two doctors and a sister of the community noticed that the crucifix and rosary Bernadette had been buried with had oxidized and her body had remained incorrupt (a miraculous phenomenon whereby the human body is suspended from decay and not subjected to the natural process of decomposition after death). Over the next few years, her body was exhumed repeatedly with the same result. The incorruption was cited as one of the miracles supporting her canonization, which occurred in 1933 under the supervision of Pope Pius XI.

4. Eucharistic Miracle (The Miracle of Lanciano)

religious miracles


One of the most prolific Eucharistic miracles of the Catholic Church occurred in the town of Lanciano during the 8th century AD. During Holy Mass a monk, who had reportedly doubted the validity of the bread and wine changing substantially into the body and blood of Christ, observed the miraculous transformation firsthand. Noting that the blood had coagulated into five globules of different sizes, the archbishop verified that the flesh and blood were of human origin and recorded the testimony of witnesses. During the subsequent investigation, he placed the flesh and globules of blood in an ivory reliquary. Eight centuries later, in 1574, Monsignor Rodrigues weighed the five globules in the presence of witnesses, noting that no visible signs of deterioration were present. In 1970 Pope Paul VI sought out a renowned professor of anatomy and pathological histology and a certified physician to perform a series of scientific investigations, which confirmed the previous findings. Aside from verifying that the blood was of human origin (type AB and consistent with a human being of Middle Eastern descent), they also confirmed the flesh had the same structure of the muscular tissue found in the human heart. They were unable to explain why the flesh and blood had remained in their natural state for nearly 12 centuries despite exposure to atmospheric conditions. end


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