Mark Martin’s enthusiasm for the Eucharist and desire to evangelize led him to educate others through a creative effort involving posters of eucharistic miracles for people to peruse in a leisurely visit — a traveling mini museum of sorts to bring the real meaning of the Eucharist home to people.
He wants children and adults to understand that “Christ has reached out not only recently but throughout history to prove that the Body and Blood of Christ is in the Eucharist. The exhibit shows that even some priests had a crisis of faith and something miraculous happened with the Eucharist,” he said.
Martin learned from his sister that a teenager from Italy, Blessed Carlo Acutis, had researched and compiled what is now known as the Vatican International Exhibit of Eucharistic Miracles of the World. The exhibit includes reports on more than 150 eucharistic miracles recognized by the Church. The display and presentation of scientific studies, miracle stories and the scriptural basis for our belief in the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was featured at the Florida high school where his sister, an Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is principal. It has photographs and historical descriptions of Church-approved eucharistic miracles that have taken place throughout the centuries and around the world.
Martin quickly looked into the display created by Acutis, who was beatified Oct. 10, and decided to act.
“Since St. Louis is such a huge Catholic city, why not start in my hometown,” Martin said. “We were going to bring the traveling exhibit from Florida here. But when COVID hit, that stopped that opportunity. I learned that I could have an exhibit myself, get it produced and set it up after some training. My thought was to get it started in St. Louis, have it travel to each parish.”
Martin’s assemblage of posters on easels was displayed on three weekends in November at his parish, Our Lady of the Pillar in Creve Coeur. It’s much smaller than the more than 150 on display in the traveling exhibit in part due to the need for social distancing. Martin is working with the Archbishop’s Committee on Eucharistic Adoration to make it available to other parishes.
He knew he had to do something when he read that a Pew Research study showed that 69 percent of Catholics don’t believe the Eucharist is the the Body and Blood of Christ. Martin read the article about the 2019 study showing that only 31 percent of Catholics accept the Church’s central teaching on transubstantiation — that during Mass, the bread and wine used for Communion become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ — is central to the Catholic faith. Seven of 10 respondents instead saw the bread and wine as symbols.
A semi-retired businessman, Martin grew up in a devout Catholic family, one of seven children. A graduate of De Smet Jesuit High School and Saint Louis University, he said that “we’ve had too many of us fall away from the Church. To me, the reason for the absence of our faith is this misunderstanding of the Eucharist. Christ is living, He’s alive, He’s actually there.”
Several years ago he asked his nieces and nephews, at a time when St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire was still a well-known baseball figure in St. Louis, whether they would like to visit if McGwire asked them to come to his house every Sunday. “They said, ‘Oh, yeah, oh yeah, sure we would, we’d love to. Do you know him, Uncle Mark, would you take us?’”
Then, Martin would reveal that his point was a setup for the opportunity for an every-Sunday visit with somebody much more important: “If God was there, would you go there?”
Obviously, Martin said, if people understood and believed that God is giving Himself through the Eucharist and they understood the power that has, “you couldn’t keep people out of church. The problem is that people don’t really believe that nor understand the miracles, what Carlos Acutis has done. He’s documented this from the beginning of our faith ’til now. With some of these miracles, such as Poland in 2008 and 2013, Buenos Aires in 1996, we have the ability to apply modern science to it so we can do blood sampling, DNA analysis, spectrum analysis, all kinds of things to verify that a host, something that was once unleavened bread, is now myocardium tissue from the left ventricle of a heart and is actually living tissue. It’s alive. It’s not just dead tissue.”
Martin knows the story of each of the eucharistic miracles. He pointed out which ones are particularly appealing to children. He observed that the most recent ones are particularly interesting because modern science can’t explain them.
Marianist Father Thomas J. French said the exhibit is “such a great faith formation for the students.”
He appreciates Martin stepping up for the project. “When Mark came to me with this, I knew he was going to follow through with it because he has a passion,” Father French said.
>> About the exhibition
The Vatican International Exhibition is comprised of a set of 166 posters about miracles related to the Eucharist that happened around the world. The verified accounts date from as early as the third century, the latest in 2013. It’s purpose is to increase the awareness of the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist: the consecrated bread becomes His Body and the consecrated wine becomes His Blood.
The most famous miracle is the one of Lanciano (Italy- 750 A.D.): while a priest who was having doubts was celebrating Mass, the consecrated Host took on the physical attributes of human flesh and the Precious Blood coagulated.
Complete descriptions of the miracles in 10 different languages at bit.ly/2HwbgEg.
To schedule the exhibit that was at Our Lady of the Pillar, call (314) 792-7231.