“The Lord of the whole world is here”
On January 29, 1568, in Alcoy a small yet prosperous village of the Kingdom of Valencia (under the reign of Aragon), occurred an event that marked its history and faith. Juan Prats, a French resident of Alcoy, profaned the tabernacle of the neighboring parish, Saint Mary, taking the ciborium and a small golden box (used for the viaticum for the sick) which contained a few consecrated hosts. Returning to his house, he consumed all the hosts and buried the sacred vessels in the basement which served as a stable. The parish priest, upon entering the Church to pray, discovered what had happened and going out to the streets he yelled: “Devout Christians, go and find the Lord of the whole world which has been stolen from our tabernacle!”
All of Alcoy, deeply moved and disturbed, went out through the streets and ways, fields, towns and cities, looking for the Blessed Sacrament that had been stolen. All authorities had been notified, both ecclesial and civil. The records of that time state that upon hearing of such an event, King Philip II along with his court dressed in mourning, until its finding was reported. “Know that I have been informed that in the Royal Village of Alcoy the King of Kings in the Blessed Sacrament has been stolen, and although with great diligence, such high Monarch has not yet been found, and it is just that before such an act of irreverence committed against the Divine King, every human king must show himself in sorrow”, these were the words of Philip II to his courtiers.
The search continued for three days, and for three days our Lord was buried in the stable, as a new Holy Sepulcher. On January 31, Maria Miralles, neighbor of Juan Prats and owner of both houses, seeing that they were unable to find the Blessed Sacrament, knelt before an image of the Child Jesus that she had in a room, above Juan Prats’ workshop. This image was very well-known, since many people would gather in Maria’s home to pray before the Child. The image of the Child Jesus was also taken to visit the sick and was present when the responses for the dead were recited. For this reason, many in Alcoy knew its appearance, the material with which it was made (pressed/plastered fabric and wooden hands and feet) and his posture: standing upright, with fingers pointing to the sky, as if giving a blessing.
That day Maria, kneeling before the Child, noticed with great amazement that his posture had changed: his body had leaned forward as if making a reverent bow, and his right hand, on which his fingers had always pointed to the sky, were now downward pointing to the ground, without breaking or harming any part of his body.
At that moment, Juan Esteve from the town of Alcoy, was once again registering the house of Juan Prats. The news of this miracle served to confirm the suspicion that the Blessed Sacrament was there. When they began to dig in the place the Child was pointing at with his finger (the stable), Our Lord was found, under a pile of dirt, manure and a bundle of firewood.
Then, why do we say, “Our Lord was found”? Sure enough, Juan Prats, before burying the precious object he had stolen, consumed all the consecrated hosts that were found in the golden box and in the ciborium. When it was brought up, three hosts were found inside, and immediately the priest present in the moment of the finding, took them in procession along with the whole town until reaching Saint Mary’s Parish. Afterwards, they asked Juan Prats (who had been arrested when the theft was discovered) where he had hidden the rest of the consecrated hosts. He affirmed that he had consumed all of them. When he was informed that three hosts were in the ciborium, Juan Prats exclaimed: “It is a Miracle of God!”
The amazement of the two-fold miracle and the profound devotion of the town deeply moved the residents of Alcoy to make a vow, signed by the city council: to celebrate annually this date and perpetually the feast of the finding with a Eucharistic procession, in which the Blessed Sacrament would be rendered all great honor.
The place where the Blessed Sacrament was found was immediately turned into a Chapel, where the Holy Mass is celebrated, and the miraculous image is kept. Later, the place was enlarged, occupying the site where the two houses, among others, had previously been. Years later began the construction of a Church. Saint Juan de Ribera, who had been named Archbishop of Valencia at that time, when hearing the story of the Miracle and the project of the faithful in Alcoy to build a church in its honor, suggested that next to the Church a monastery be built for cloistered nuns who would dedicate their lives to reparation through adoration. That is how the Discalced Augustinians began, founded by the Holy Patriarch.
In the next chronicle we will recount our arrival to this place and the inauguration of our presence here, precisely on the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the “Theft and Finding of the Sacred hosts”…
In Christ and Mary,
Sr. Maria del Espiritu Santo