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Humility before the Eucharist

Fr. Scott A. Haynes


A remarkable Eucharistic miracle took place over six centuries ago in the little village of Seefeld, Austria[1] in the Church of St. Oswald, Seefeld, on the Feast of the Annunciation March 25, 1384, which in that year, happened also to be Maundy Thursday in Holy Week.

We recall the events of that night because of a Eucharistic miracle that occurred in church that night in connection to a medieval knight and nobleman, Oswald Müsler, who attended the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that night.

This knight was a man of great power in his region. Travelling merchants and others passing through Müsler's territory were notoriously imprisoned without just cause. He did this to extort them for money. Those who refused or could not pay were allowed to rot and die in inhumane conditions.

When the knight attended Mass that evening, he came with an unusual request. Before Mass, this terrible knight made a demand that, at the time of the distribution of Holy Communion, the priest give him a large Host (usually designated for the priests) rather than the small Host (designated for the faithful). Because of the wickedness of this wealthy knight who was accustomed to always getting his way, the parish priest feared to resist. As Müsler approached the Communion rail, the priest noted that the Knight was flanked by armed soldiers.

While everyone knelt to receive the Sacred Host, the Knight Müsler would not bend his knee. He proudly stood before the priest holding the ciborium with our Eucharistic Lord and King. Once more, Müsler insisted that he receive the large Host, as he had specified before Mass.


As soon as received the Sacred Host, the imposing knight collapsed to his knees as the stone ground beneath him gave way like quicksand. As Müsler was falling, he frantically reached out for the side Altar that was near him, but as he did, the firm stone Altar melted through his fingers like a knife through hot butter.

The knight screamed out to God in agony, completely helpless. This arrogant giant was humbled like mighty Goliath. As Müsler stood before the priest, to whom he had addressed his threats earlier, he now begged the priest to remove the Sacred Host that he had unworthily received.

The ground immediately stabilized, and the knight reclaimed his footing as soon as the priest removed the Blessed Host. A large portion of the congregation noticed how the Holy Eucharist taken from Müsler’s mouth had now become brilliant red and was drippy with blood.

The now humbled knight was sorely mortified by this blatant rebuke from our Lord that he decided he must do hearty penance. So, Müsler immediately entered the nearby monastery in Stams (Tyrol). He undertook two years of arduous penance before passing away naturally, having made reparation for his arrogance before the King of Kings.

The news of what transpired that Holy Thursday spread rapidly throughout the region. This miracle reminded all of the humility required to receive the Holy Eucharist. It became necessary to build hostel to shelter the numerous pilgrims who had come to witness the bleeding Host.[2]

In time, Duke Friedrich IV of Austria ordered the building of a new church after realizing the old one was inadequate for the throngs of pilgrims coming to see the Eucharistic miracle. The Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria had a private chapel in St. Oswald's church called the "Heiligenblutkappelle" built around the blood-stained Host as their own favorite pilgrimage destination.

St. Oswald's church in Seefeld has become of the most well-liked Austrian pilgrimage sites for those wanting to humbly kneel before Jesus, truly present in this Eucharistic miracle. Today, visitors to St. Oswald's church may still see the knight's imprints on the Altar and in the floor—a witness to the humility required to approach the awesome Presence of God. The story of this arrogant knight's debasement serves as a striking reminder for Catholics about manner in which we should approach the Most Holy Eucharist.

St. Paul reminds us that we who have been united with Our Savior through Holy Baptism grow in a more intimate communion with Christ by receiving His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity:
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf."[3]
Our Lord chose to express His displeasure and rebuke’s pride at one and the same time—Holy Thursday and the Annunciation. Consider the importance of why He taught such a lesson and worked such a miracle on this one occasion.

Inasmuch as Jesus worked this miracle on Holy Thursday, he bids us remember the abasement He demonstrated as He washed His disciples' on that holy night, as the Lord showed Himself to be the servant of all. We must reflect too on the fact that this miracle was worked on the night of Mary’s Annunciation. When the Blessed Virgin proclaimed, "Ecce Ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum,"[4]we also remember her extreme docility, humility, and surrender to God's holy will.

Therefore, we must make an effort to emulate the humility of Jesus and Mary, since, as St. Augustine explained, humility is the basis for all virtues. Humility opposes the vice of pride, which is the root and foundation of all our sins. Only in humility can the soul exalt and glorify God.

Clergy have a lesson to learn from this story. Priests must labor to remind communicants to come forward to receive the Holy Eucharist worthily and in all humility, following St. Paul:
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord." [5]
It is a sacrilege to receive any sacrament while in mortal sin.[6] To receive the Most Holy Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin would be a great offense against God, because it is an abuse of what is most sacred—the Lord’s own Body and Blood. Thus, St. Paul exhorts us:
"But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly."[7]
We must take note of the lesson provided by our Lord's rebuke of this knight, who so blatantly abused privileged position and authority by wrongfully imprisoning and starving to death traveling merchants. We must not be intimidated by the powerful who today reject the dignity of the weak, helpless, and powerless. Those who are in manifest public sins must be corrected, as the Prophet Ezekiel says:
"If you do not speak to warn the wicked man from his way: that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at your hand" (Ezekiel 33:8).
Recalling the story of the knight and nobleman, Oswald Müsler, we know that “God is no respecter of persons.”[8] The Lord does not show partiality among men, but we must all must listen to the voice of the Psalmist:
"Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling." [9]
Our Lord knows the secrets of our hearts. We ought to strive to live always in a state of grace and be just towards our fellow man. Let us approach the Lord our God in a state of grace and with humble heart. This is the lesson of the knight and nobleman, Oswald Müsler.

Notes: [1] Today there are about 3,000 residents in Seefeld. [2] The gold-plated monstrance, which still holds the miraculous Host even today, would be a gift from another knight, Parzifal von Weineck. [3] 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. [4] “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to Thy word.” [5] 1 Corinthians 11:26-27. [6] "Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin." Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1859. St. Jerome writes: "There are venial sins and there are mortal sins. It is one thing to owe ten thousand talents, another to owe but a farthing. We shall have to give an accounting for an idle word no less than for adultery. But to be made to blush and to be tortured are not the same thing; not the same thing to grow red in the face and to be in agony for a long time. . . . If we entreat for lesser sins we are granted pardon, but for greater sins, it is difficult to obtain our request. There is a great difference between one sin and another."  Against Jovinianus, 2:30. [7] See, 1 Corinthians 11:28-29. If we are in mortal sin, we must first go to the Sacrament of Confession before returning to Holy Communion. "Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession." Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1457. [8] Acts 10:34. [9] Psalm 2:11.

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