The Sorgue River that runs through Avignon tended to overflow every few years.
When these acts of God occurred, the water came up the banks of the river, and flooded homes and farms in the immediate vicinity.
A particularly mighty flood came after heavy rains during late November of 1433. The water exploded the banks, moving farther inland than in previous years. It was one of the worst floods known to the little area.
THE AVIGNON MIRACLE
On the evenings of November 29 and 30, the water level rose to a dangerous peak.
The banks of the river overflowed, going into all the homes in the area.
The Grey Penitents of the Franciscan Order were sure that the little church that King Louis VIII had built, where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed day and night, was flooded. T
hey had an urgency to go there to save the Consecrated Eucharist and bring It to dry land.
Two of the superiors of the Gray Penitents got into a boat, and rowed their way to the church.
Keep in mind that when they arrived, the water was halfway up the front door of the church.
However, when they opened the door, to their amazement, they found that the entrance from the door to the altar was completely dry. Our Lord Jesus in the form of the Consecrated Host in the Monstrance, stood regally on top of the altar, completely dry. The water had piled up against the walls.
It was reminiscent of the Bible account of the Parting of the Red Sea.
Indeed, it appeared that way to the Gray Penitents also.
They looked for some other members of the Gray Penitents, who came and verified the Avignon Miracle.
The four Friars prayed in unison, and brought the monstrance, containing the Blessed Sacrament to a Franciscan Church on dry ground.
When they had placed the monstrance on the altar, they read from the book of Exodus regarding the Parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21).
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night, and so turned it into dry land. When the water was thus divided, the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.
The Franciscans wrote the account of the four Friars into the records of their community, where it is preserved till today.
A tradition surrounding the Avignon Miracle was created at that time, which is still in practice.
On the 30th of November each year, in the chapel of the church in Avignon, the Gray Penitents put a rope around their neck, and, devoutly crawling on their hands and knees, they recreate the incident, retracing the steps of their predecessors, following the same path that was taken on the evening of the Avignon Miracle.
There is nothing left but the church, and the tradition of the Avignon miracle.
But in the tradition, these Friars give thanks to the power of Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, for having given them a sign, no less than that which saved the Jews from the hands of the Egyptians during their Exodus. Pilgrims, especially those with a hunger for the Eucharist, still visit the little Church on the banks of the river, to venerate and give thanks to the Lord for giving us this special gift at a time when we needed His Strength.
What is the significance of this Avignon miracle?
Why were the symbols of the Exodus of the Jews from Captivity used to bring about the miracle? Nothing is known for sure.
Speculation abounds by many who have studied this special situation. Could it be that the Lord was using this sign of the Eucharistic Miracle to free His people from the bondage that they found themselves in, and had possibly created themselves, at this time in History?
In today’s world, we find ourselves captives of another sort, subtler, but deadlier.
We’re in a world of materialism, consumerism, permissiveness, atheism.
Our lives are ruled by a peer pressure, manipulated by movies, magazines, records and television advertising.
Drugs, Alcohol, abortion, pre-marital sex, disdain for parental guidance, self-centeredness and a host of others are just some of the lessons we’re being taught daily.
If we don’t conform to this way of life, we find ourselves imprisoned by non-acceptance and loneliness.