Down the centuries there have been over 100 miracles confirming the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. One of the most stupendous is the permanent miracle of Lanciano, Italy, detailed in our October 1999 number. In that case, a Host consecrated during an eighth century Mass turned into the flesh and blood of Christ which remain incorrupt and on display to this very day for the veneration of pilgrims. Proven by the most rigorous investigation of forensic science still to contain, after thirteen centuries, the properties of fresh blood (the same rare type as on the Shroud of Turin) and flesh of the muscular tissue from the heart, it has even been declared a "unique" and inexplicable wonder by the godless United Nations! Clearly, the history which follows is not as meticulously documented and verifiable as that of Lanciano and many other Eucharistic miracles officially recognised by the Church. Nonetheless, it is a most compelling and uplifting testimony in its own right which we offer for the edification of readers, not to say Bishop Bagobiri. Thanks to Christ to the World, No. 3, 2005, in which it appeared.
Miracle of the Desecrated Host
FR. PIUS RETTOB, MSC
On Sunday, 25th October 1955, there was an important and historical event at Bunya Station, in the Diocese of Tanjung Selor, Indonesia. A Muslim man named Saleh cut a Holy Host and blood issued forth from that Host. For a long time that event was only a story and unsupported by any documentation. Saleh, who eventually converted, consented to tell the story to Fr. Rettob on November 28th, 2002. We are sorry that the other eyewitnesses had died so that we could not gather supporting data from them. However, we thought that, although the data was incomplete, better to have Saleh’s data written in this article than not to have anything for future records.
Antonius Yohannes Saleh: The man who cut the Host at Bunya Station - Tarakan Parish Diocese of Tanjung Selor, Indonesia.
Family background: Saleh
is an only child. He was born on
From childhood Saleh had been a follower of Islam because his parents and his family were Muslims. He was educated and formed in the tradition and practices of Islam. When he was five years old, he and his parents moved from Kulon Proga to Malan. In February 1953, he was married to Sumi. They had two children. Sayuti and Syani. However Sayuti died when she was 45 days old and shortly thereafter Sumi, his wife, also died.
To Bunu seeking employment
In December 1953, Saleh left Malang and went to Bunyu to seek employment. At Bunyu he was offered employment as a house servant by Mr Macma and Mrs Diny, a Dutch family, with a monthly wage of 150 Rupiahs, fifteen kilograms of rice and a carton of cigarettes, in addition to free accommodation at his master’s house which also included free food and drink. Saleh immediately accepted this offer.
In 1955 his master returned to the Netherlands. Saleh was given a separation pay of 350 Rupiahs. With this money and the wages that he had saved for two years Saleh bought a plot of land at 400 Rupiahs and then built a house on that piece of land. Meanwhile he looked for emplyment to support his life. Not too long after, he received an offer as a building contractor from a Chinese descendant named Ham Lam. The monthly wage was 125 Rupiahs. He worked for Ham Lam for a year.
Drawn to a Catholic girl
There was a Catholic girl who was diligent in attending the Liturgy of the Church. Each time she went to the church she passed by Saleh’s home. Saleh always saw this beautiful girl. On one occasion, Saleh’s heart was drawn to the girl. He was determined to greet and befriend this beautiful girl.
One day, when the girl returned from the church and passed by the house, Saleh greeted her kindly. She stopped and looked at Saleh. Saleh approached and shook hands while introducing himself to the girl. The girl kindly returned Saleh’s greeting. She introduced herself: "My name is Martha Suntrsih from Doplang, Cepu, Central Java. My parents died at Doplang and my younger brother, Warso, also died in Tawau. I am an orphan and I work at Bunyu for Mr Remuat from Manado as his maid. My monthly wage is 100 Rupiahs."
Then Saleh asked Martha where she was going and why she always passed in front of Saleh’s house. Martha answered, "I have come from the church and I am going home. I always attend the religious service at the church and pass this way."
Saleh asked her about her religion. Martha answered, "I am a Catholic." Then Martha said goodbye and continued on her way home.
Saleh’s interest in Martha grew. Every day Saleh met and greeted Martha who passed in front of his house. After several meetings and becoming more acquainted, Saleh opened his heart to Martha about his desire to betroth Martha and make her his wife. Martha asked for several days to think about her answer. Each day Saleh pressed Martha to give confirmation as soon as possible. After several days Martha accepted Saleh’s proposal.
Hatred of Christianity
From his childhood Saleh hated Christianity, including Catholicism. Saleh’s hatred was marked by his opinion that Christianity is the religion of the colonists, who at the time were Dutch. His hatred towards colonists made him also hate Christianity; hence Saleh always looked for ways to hinder this religion. At every opportunity, Saleh gathered small rocks which would be used to throw at a church building, while a congregation prayed. Quite often Saleh threw rocks at the Catholic church of Maria Renya Rosari Bunyu, where Martha was always praying.
To be Muslim or Catholic
Saleh and Martha began a new stage in their life, which was courtship. One interesting topic that was discussed together was religion. Saleh pressed Martha to follow him and to become a Muslim. On the other side, Martha defended her opinion that she would marry Saleh, only if Saleh became a Catholic.
Each one defended his/her belief; no one was willing to give up. Meanwhile, Saleh was faithful, accompanying Martha everywhere, including bringing her to the Catholic church for religious services, especially to attend the Holy Mass.
"This is the Body of My Lord"
After several times of accompanying Martha to attend Holy Mass at the church, Saleh paid special attention during Holy Communion when Martha received the Holy Host. Saleh asked her about something that was white and appeared like paper which was received and eaten by Martha in the Church.
With confidence Martha answered, "This is the Body of my Lord." Martha continued, "That is called the Holy Host, something that is most Holy and revered by Catholics." Saleh was surprised to hear that answer and sought ways to acquire the Holy Host.
The Bleeding Host
On Sunday 25th October 1955 there was a celebration of the Holy Mass at the church. Martha attended it and was accompanied by Saleh. After arriving at the Church, Saleh waited, watching from outside. Before Martha went to church, Saleh had asked Martha to bring a Holy Host home and then give it to him. If Martha did not fulfill this request then their relationship would be ended.
Martha went to the church and attended Mass as usual. During Communion, Martha went forward with the other faithful people to receive the Holy Host.
At that time the custom was that Catholics were to receive Holy Communion in their mouths. When Martha received the Holy Host from the priest, she did not immediately swallow it. Walking back to her seat she took the Holy Host out of her mouth and then she wrapped the Host and brought it home. She did this under duress and out of fear.
Upon arriving home Martha handed the Host to Saleh at the house of Mr. Suro Tempe. Saleh received the Host and put it in his pocket. At that time, there were many people preparing a thanksgiving feast for the wedding anniversary of Mr Suro Tempe. There were some people cooking in the kitchen; others were playing cards and so on.
While many people gathered at Mr Suro Tempe’s house, Saleh thought that this was the right moment to show everybody that what Martha believed was a lie or a vanity.
Saleh asked for a knife from Martha and he cut the Holy Host in front of everyone, especially before his friends who were playing cards. However, what happened? From that Host issued much blood and spurted on everyone present. Many people’s clothing including Saleh’s was stained by the blood. Saleh was bewildered and afraid. He was paralyzed with fear and did not move from his seat. The same thing happened with his friends and all present.
The news of this event was spread to people nearby. Many people gathered around. Some people, who were not present to see what Saleh had done, presumed that a murder had been committed and that the offender was Saleh.
They reported the "murder" to the security agency. Soon, four policemen, who were Mr Payong, a Catholic from Flores, Mr Stephen, a Protestant from Ambon, Maluku, and two others who were Muslims had arrived at Mr Suro Tempe’s house. They were astounded and in awe to see so much blood. Without questioning and finding out what happened, the policemen put Saleh’s hands in shackles. Saleh was confused and afraid because he was aware that he did not kill anyone. Meanwhile blood still issued forth from the Holy Host. The policemen were also afraid and were confused about it.
Mr Stephen, the policeman, had the initiative to call the priest from the church. The distance was one and a half kilometers. Coincidentally, Father Wilhelmus Yosephus Leeferink, MSF, was at the Bunyu church, and not too long afterwards, the priest arrived at the house of Mr Suro Tempe. The priest asked what happened but none answered. He repeated the same question but they were still silent. When the priest looked at the Holy Host which was issuing blood, he immediately knelt down and prayed with raised hands and then blessed the Holy Host. After the priest finished the blessing, the Holy Host stopped issuing blood. With fear and trembling, Saleh approached the priest and begged mercy and forgiveness for what he did. Once more the priest raised his hands and prayed and blessed Saleh.
Impulse to convert
During the day Saleh was filled with fear and confusion. During the night he could not sleep soundly. A conviction to become a Catholic slowly grew stronger in his heart. The next day, early in the morning, Saleh woke up from his sleep and went to the church. His intention was to meet with the priest and to declare his heart’s desire to become a Catholic and be catechized.
When he arrived at the church nobody except the priest was present: Fr. Wilhelmus Yosephus Leeferink, MSF. Saleh expressed his heart’s desire to the priest. The priest kindly received Saleh’s intention. He suggested that Saleh should return to his home to meditate about the Bleeding Host and his decision. Meanwhile the priest would find a catechist to tutor and teach Saleh. A confirmation of this would be conveyed by the priest to Saleh. Saleh said goodbye to the priest and returned home. He immediately met Martha to express his desire to become a Catholic and to study the Faith. Martha received Saleh’s good intention. A few days later in 1956 they were married in a civil ceremony at Banyu Island.
Because of the incident of the desecration of the Host, many people from other religions, especially from Islam, declared their desire to become Catholics. This caused many parties to threaten to kill Saleh.
Threats from local authorities
A few days later some people from the local authorities heard the news about the Bleeding Host. They were Muslims. Saleh and others who were present during the event were summoned by the local authorities. They strongly forbade them to speak about the incident to anyone, especially to Muslims. Every person, and especially Saleh, had their lives threatened if they spoke of this event to anyone. The incident therefore remained a secret from anyone else.
Persecution and relocation
Saleh was not at peace and was insecure living in Bunyu because of the persecution from the local authorities and the community who were mostly Muslims. Saleh and Martha decided to move to Tarakan. Saleh used this chance to study the Catholic faith at Tarakan for two weeks with Fr. A. van de Graff, MSF, who was from the Netherlands. Saleh was determined to learn Catholicism and be baptized as soon as possible.
However, the people from Banyu followed Saleh. His life was once again threatened. They then moved to Tanjung Selor. However, even there the persecution continued for 1 year. Finally they moved to Berau and stayed there.
Life in Berau
To live safely, Saleh and Martha stayed a little further at Tanjung Redeb, Berau. On arriving at Tanjung Redeb they stayed at the house of Mr Lusy Mado, a retired soldier from Flores who was a Catholic.
In Tanjung Redeb, Berau, circumstances allowed Saleh and Martha to live safely and peacefully so they decided to live there.
On the 26th October 1966, Saleh was baptised with the name "Atonius Yohannes Saleh", and also received the sacrament of marriage with Martha on the same day from Fr. A. van de Graff, MSF, at Tanjung Redeb. The baptismal godparents and marriage witnesses were: Aloysius T. Sudibo and Margaretha Tjuoc Mei Lin.
Anton Saleh, his new nickname, started his new life as a Catholic. He continued to deepen his faith with catechism lessons and strove to become a good Catholic. He proved his growing faith by assiduous prayer and liturgical worship, and was helpful towards others who also sought to become Catholics and generously helped needy and poor people. Anton Saleh’s lifestyle was fully supported by his wife, Martha.
The lives of Antonius Saleh, together with his wife, were examples for other people and many were attracted to the Catholic faith. However, this couple were childless.
They kept the Bleeding Host event as a secret for a few years. Around the 1970’s and 80’s when the situation in Bunyu was at risk, the marvellous incident slowly began to be heard at several places and spread everywhere.
After baptism in 1966 Antonius Saleh felt something strange about himself. He had a special healing charism. By using the water which was blessed by Fr. A. van der Graff, MSF, and Fr. Carlo Beriolini Yalai, OMI, or the Holy Water from Lourdes, France, or the Holy Water from the Marian Grotto in Sendangsono, Indonesia, with prayers, the water given to the sick to drink or to dab on the affected area of their bodies, resulted in many of the sick being healed, the crippled walked, the blind saw, the deaf heard and so on. Similar healings are stilled performed by Antonius Saleh, although now he has become old. He gives much thanksgiving for the graces that God has given him, especially the healing charism.
Giving witness at Bunyu
On Sunday 4th June 2000, coincidentally with the first Holy Communion of seven children, Saleh was invited by Fr. Dino Tessari, OMI, to give witness about the event of the Bleeding Host and to show the location where Mr. Suro Tempe’s house was; where Saleh cut the Holy Host. Unfortunately at that time Anton Saleh was not accompanied by his wife. She had died at Tanjung Redeb, Berau, three months before.
After Antonius Saleh gave witness, he, with F. Dino Tessari, OMI, and several leaders from Bunyu searched for the residence of Mr. Suro Tempe. With the assistance of Mr and Mrs Djoui who knew the exact location of the house they found the correct location. However, the house is not there anymore, only a field of grass remains.
The event and, above all, the witness of Anton Saleh himself have strengthened and fortified the faith of the people of Bunyu.