“God loves the marginal, the hidden, the simple. In an obscure village, without any social relevance, far from the urban area, the Lord chooses to manifest himself.”
These were the words of Bishop Walter Guillén Soto of the Diocese of Gracias, located in rural, western Honduras. He was referring to a eucharistic miracle that occurred in the summer of 2022 in El Espinal, a little village of about 60 families dedicated to agriculture and raising cattle, pigs and poultry.
A Sign of His Presence
On the afternoon of Thursday, June 9, 2022, José Elmer Benítez Machado came early to the village chapel, as was his custom. Benítez had been appointed an extraordinary minister of holy Communion two years earlier, and he conducted a Liturgy of the Word with Communion every Thursday, since there was no resident priest for the tiny community. As usual, about 15 families made their way into the chapel for the 5 p.m. Liturgy of the Word.
When it was time to distribute the Eucharist (previously consecrated by visiting priests), Benitéz opened the tabernacle and saw that the corporal (sacred linen cloth), wrapped around the wooden ciborium containing the hosts, showed large stains that resembled blood.
“I was amazed,” Benitéz told EWTN Noticias, the Spanish-language news program of EWTN. “My first hope was: It’s the blood of Christ.” Yet despite the emotion of the moment, knowing he had a ministry to complete, he continued with the celebration and distributed holy Communion.
At the conclusion, when it was time for parish announcements, Benitéz asked those present if they had seen anyone enter before the liturgical celebration or if they had seen any water leaking into the chapel (possibly accounting for the stains). No, they said, and he then told them what he witnessed on the corporal. They asked him to show them the cloth, which he did, to their amazement.
Pedrina García, who was one of those present in the chapel, said she did not doubt that it was a miracle—that “this is something that God has put there for us.”
The next day, two missionary priests, Father Marvin Sotelo and Father Oscar Rodríguez, who had been to the town two months earlier, came to the village chapel to corroborate what had happened. They had been told of it over the phone by the coordinator of the little parish, a witness who would later provide sworn testimony.
Father Sotelo put the corporal in a plastic bag with a hermetic seal, brought it to his rectory, and gave it to Bishop Guillén two days later. The bishop was skeptical, and he decided to place it in his personal chapel while he pondered what to do next. In a later interview with EWTN Noticias, he said, “I’m not that prone to naively believing in things. Logic makes us prudent in terms of believing things without sifting through them and analyzing them.”
Bishop Guillén waited almost three months before deciding to submit the stained corporal for scientific testing at the DISA Test Toxicological Center in Tegucigalpa. It was examined in late October 2022 by a team led by Dr. Héctor Díaz del Valle, who holds a doctorate in chemistry and pharmacy.
The Same Rare Blood Type as the Shroud and other Eucharistic Miracles
The investigators determined that the stains were in fact human blood of type AB+, the same as that found on the Shroud of Turin and in other eucharistic miracles, beginning with Lanciano in the 700s. Less than 2.5% of the population of Honduras has this rare blood type, which is three to four times more prevalent in the Middle East.
After reviewing the scientific results and the sworn testimony of eyewitnesses, Bishop Guillen recognized this occurrence as an authentic eucharistic miracle. The scientific evidence and notarized oaths of the witnesses were then sent to the Vatican.
God’s Preference for the Humble and the Poor
Bishop Guillen noted that in this miracle, Jesus showed Himself not to a bishop, priest or religious, but to a layperson. “It is the faith of the laity that has kept alive the vitality of the Church in these corners of the world,” he said. “For me and for the clergy of the diocese it has been a call to conversion to recognize the call of God in the voice of the laity.”
Father Sotelo noted that this took place in a humble, poor community, because that is how the Lord Himself grew up. “The Lord has a preference for the vulnerable,” he said.
We see this preference over and over again in God’s dealings with mankind. In the words of St. Paul, “God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing…so that no human being might boast before God.” (1 Cor 1:28-29)
Jesus is the prime example, born in a stable to humble parents, with simple shepherds as the first witnesses. And prior to His birth, the Virgin Mary, in her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, had proclaimed, “My spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness…. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him….He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.” (Lk 1:47-48, 52)
Down through the ages, one can think of many other examples of God’s preference for the poor and the humble: St. Juan Diego and the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, little St. Bernadette at Lourdes, the three peasant children of Fatima—it is a constant theme.
But the greatest example of God’s love of humility is the Eucharist itself. Who could have imagined that the Lord of the Universe would come to us under the humble appearance of bread and wine? Precisely because it is so challenging to the human mind, God has fortified our faith through more than 100 eucharistic miracles. This is the fifth to have taken place in Latin America. In the words of Father Rodríguez, “Proof that Jesus is with us is the manifestation of this miracle, which is the blood of Christ that wishes to wash us and lighten our load.”
Director of the Office for Ministries and Social Concerns
Published in the November/December 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine