Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, Ph.D., is president of the Garden Grove, California-based Magis Center of Reason and Faith, which produces educational materials defending the complementarity of science, philosophy and faith, and host of EWTN’s Father Spitzer’s Universe.Father Robert Spitzer Expounds on Eucharistic Miracles, Blessings of Holy Mass| National Catholic Register
Born in Honolulu in 1952, Father Spitzer entered the Society of Jesus in 1974 and was ordained a priest in 1983. He has taught in a variety of positions and served as president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. He is a prolific writer and public speaker and regularly appears in the media defending the harmony of faith and science.
You have made a focus of educating young people about the compatibility of faith and science. Why is this important?
When I left my role at Gonzaga University in 2009, I spoke to [Southern California businessman] Tim Busch about starting the Magis Center. I told him that the No. 1 reason young people were leaving the Church is that they have come to believe that faith and science are incompatible. Since then, there have been Pew surveys confirming this. Furthermore, we’re seeing that the average age young people who are leaving the Church for this reason is 13. Like I was at their age, they are looking for evidence of God.
A refrain we frequently hear among those on secular college campuses is: “I don’t believe in God, I believe in science.” How would you respond?
I do so in four stages. The first stage is that I demonstrate that there is a ton of evidence for God from science. Second, I dispel the myth that scientists are atheists. In fact, about 51% say they are believers in God or a higher transcendent power. Among scientists age 40 and younger, that number is 66%. Among physicians, 76% believe in God or a higher transcendent power. Why do they think this? Maybe it is because there is evidence for God.
Third, I talk about proofs for a transcendent soul, a soul that can survive bodily death, by using studies of near-death experiences. These experiences have been documented and come to a resounding conclusion that your consciousness will not die when your body dies.
And, fourth, I don’t waste time. I get to Jesus right away. If not, young people may come to think they can have their own private spirituality. I like to go to the Shroud of Turin [which many believe is the burial cloth of Christ], that we have a substantial amount of scientific evidence [pointing to how it] bears a miraculous image of Christ. Do we have absolute proof? No, but we have a preponderance of evidence that suggests it is authentic.
You are a featured presenter at Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry’s and the Diocese of Orange’s “I Thirst Orange County” on Nov. 19, speaking on scientific analysis of Eucharistic miracles. Can you give some details on your presentation?
Hosts from three recent Eucharistic miracles have been subject to considerable scientific examination. The first occurred in Buenos Aires in 1996 and was investigated at the direction of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis. A Host discarded on a candleholder in the back of the church had transformed into a piece of bloodied tissue, which upon examination was revealed to be from the left ventricle of a human heart. It had two peculiar features. First, it had white blood cells, which cannot be explained, as they would die once the living heart tissue is disconnected from a live body. Second, they were embedded in the ventricle wall, which would only happen if a person were undergoing trauma, such as being beaten or tortured [as happened to Christ].
The next miracle occurred in Tixtla, Mexico, in 2006. In this case, heart tissue was growing out of the middle of the Host and was exuding blood. The tissue was bleeding from the inside out, yet it is not visibly connected to a circulatory system. How is this possible? There is no scientific explanation. I believe there is a preponderance of evidence that it is a supernatural occurrence.
The third occurred in Sokolka, Poland, in 2008. This one has human heart tissue growing out of the substance of the Host, with the integration of the Host and the heart tissue so refined it exceeds anything a NASA technician could reproduce.
If you combine all three of these Eucharistic miracles, you are left with a scientific enigma at the very least, or, at the very most, these Hosts are exactly what the Catholic Church has declared them to be: the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
How do you think understanding this science might help the faith of participants?
When we receive feedback from young people who have listened to our presentations, many note how helpful Eucharistic miracles are for their faith. We want people to see that, in our scientific age, that God has given us a wide breath of evidence to help us.
Additionally, I try to conclude my talks with a devotional component. When Jesus gave us the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper He was giving us his Body and Blood to transform us, to heal us and to forgive us. I think this fits in well with the program of the U.S. bishops to encourage Eucharistic revival.
How important has the Eucharist been to you personally and to your vocation?
It has been transformational. Before I became a priest, for example, a friend suggested I go to daily Mass for Lent. I did, and things started changing rapidly. I began to fall in love with Christ and had a sense that the Church held the truth — and of Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Things began to galvanize, Mass became addictive, and when Lent ended, I kept going to daily Mass. People would say to me, “Spitzer, you’re changing. You are still a hard-facts, insensitive boor, but not as much.” [laughing] The Eucharist was transforming me.
Where are you located, and how can people follow your work?
We are located on the grounds of Christ Cathedral — formerly the Crystal Cathedral founded by Robert Schuller — in the Diocese of Orange, California. It’s also here on these grounds that we’ll be having the “I Thirst Orange County” event. I think people will find it a place of holiness and reverence.
I invite people to visit our website at MagisCenter.com for access to many articles, videos and other helpful resources.
You have lost your eyesight over the course of your adult life. How has this affected you personally and professionally?
I get by with the help of my “eye-Joan.” Joan Jacoby is my assistant, and she reads my emails to me and types responses as well as doing what needs to be done around the office. I have other friends who help, too.
When I give a talk somewhere, I tell those organizing the talk I am blind, and I need to be picked up curbside and taken to my hotel. When I’m there, I give my talks out of my head. When I read books, I have to have people read them to me.
Like Paul, I have been given a “thorn in my flesh,” an angel of Satan to “beat” me to keep me from getting proud, and I underline that word: “proud.” Like Paul, I know my weakness is my strength; as I grow weaker, Christ grows stronger in me. My dependency on people helps Christ to grow stronger in me and makes me a better person.