68 – Francis and the curious miracle of the non-multiplication of the loaves

It’s probable that many of our readers received their catechism classes during the turbulent years of the 70’s, and may have heard, wide-eyed and scandalized, that the well-known miracle of the multiplication of the loaves – transmitted in the Gospel – was nothing more than a metaphor to symbolize the power of sharing with others. It was a time in which many things in the Church were re-interpreted by some…and much innocence was lost.

Despite such misguided flights of imagination, the fact is that this particular miracle of the multiplication of loaves appears on two different occasions in the Gospels, the first of which is narrated by all four Evangelists – perhaps the only miracle that receives this attention. That’s why it’s not difficult to have quite a complete picture of the circumstances that surrounded the happening: we even know what type of loaves they were, and where they came from. According to Saint John, they were barley loaves provided by a young boy. The four Gospels carefully recount the number of those benefited: more or less five thousand men, without counting the women and children.

Therefore, it was a miracle experienced by a significant number of witnesses who were hungry and were aware of the lack of food, but who ended up satisfying themselves on the loaves and fishes. Moreover, they could attest to the reality of the miracle by the leftovers collected afterwards by the disciples. The same happened with the second multiplication, narrated in the Synoptics: in this episode, Jesus fed around four thousand people with seven loaves and a few small fish. And though Jesus was accused by his detractors of all sorts of lies, even they could not o so far as to deny this miracle, which was so amply witnessed.

In light of such a clear narration, would it be licit for a catholic to doubt the power of Christ? Wouldn’t he who walked on water and transformed water into wine have the power to multiply loaves and even produce them out of nothing? Just as those who sought Jesus, eager to learn his doctrine, the Church also transmits very firm and accessible teachings to all of us regarding the divine power of our Redeemer, and these specific episodes, as well as indicating how the other facts narrated in the Gospels should be interpreted.

Francis

 

Quote A

Regarding the loaves and fishes, I would like to add a new perspective. They didn’t multiply, no, that’s not true. The loaves simply didn’t come to an end. Just like the flour and the oil of the widow that didn’t run out. When multiplication is spoken of, it might be confused with magic, no. No, no, the grandeur of God is so great, and the love he puts in our hearts, that if we wish, that which we have will not run out. Lot’s of confidence in this. (Address to the Caritas International Executive Committee, May 16, 2013)

Quote B

Jesus reasons with God’s logic, which is that of sharing. How many times we turn away so as not to see our brothers in need! And this looking away is a polite way to say, with white gloves, ‘Sort it out for yourselves’. And this is not Jesus’ way: this is selfishness. Had he sent away the crowds, many people would have been left with nothing to eat. Instead those few loaves and fish, shared and blessed by God, were enough for everyone. And pay heed! It isn’t magic, it’s a ‘sign’: a sign that calls for faith in God, provident Father, who does not let us go without ‘our daily bread’, if we know how to share it as brothers. (Angelus, August 3, 2014)

Quote C

Those words of Jesus have a particular resonance for us today: No one needs to go be excluded, no one has to be discarded; ‘you yourselves’, give them something to eat. Jesus speaks these words to us, here in this square. Yes, no one has to be discarded; ‘you’, give them something to eat. Jesus’ way of seeing things leaves no room for the mentality which would cut bait on the weak and those most in need. Taking the lead, he gives us his own example, he shows us the way forward. What he does can be summed up in three words. He ‘takes’ a little bread and some fish, he ‘blesses’ them and then ‘gives’ them to his disciples to share with the crowd.And this is how the miracle takes place. It is not magic or sorcery.With these three gestures, Jesus is able to turn a mentality which discards others into a mindset of communion, a mindset of community. I would like briefly to look at each of these actions. […] The hands which Jesus lifts to bless God in heaven are the same hands which gave bread to the hungry crowd. We can imagine now how those people passed the loaves of bread and the fish from hand to hand, until they came to those farthest away. Jesus generated a kind of electrical current among his followers, asthey shared what they had, made it a gift for others, and so ate their fill. Unbelievably, there were even leftovers: enough to fill seven baskets. A memory which is taken, a memory which is blessed and a memory which is given, always satisfies people’s hunger. (Holy Mass in Christ the Redeemer Square, Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Bolivia, July 9, 2015)

Quote D

Those words of Jesus have a particular resonance for us today: No one needs to go be excluded, no one has to be discarded; …. ‘ (Holy Mass in Christ the Redeemer Square, Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Bolivia, July 9, 2015)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of Contents

I – Christ’s miracles prove his divinity
II – Tradition and Sacred Scripture: the deposit of the Word of God confided to the Church
III – The teachings of the Church regarding the miracles of the multiplication of the loaves
_____________________________________________________________________

 I – Christ’s miracles prove his divinity

Sacred Scripture
– Jesus himself considers his own miracles as a proof of his Divinity for others
– Those who do not believe in Christ have his miracles as a proof of his divine power
– Jesus became famous because of his mighty deeds, wonders, and signs

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– The miracles of Christ showed that His supernatural doctrine was from God

Catechism of the Catholic Church
– Christ’s deeds, miracles and words: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission

Leo XIII
– Christ proves His own divinity and the divine origin of His mission by miracles

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)
– God willed that external proofs of His revelation, namely miracles, should be joined to the internal aids of the Holy Spirit

John Paul II
– The whole primitive Church saw in each one of the miracles the supreme power of Christ over nature and laws
– Christ’s miracles were not denied even by his adversaries – unable to do so, they sought to attribute them to the power of the devil
– Saint John speaks of the miracles as ‘signs’ to demonstrate the action of God in person, Christ

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)
– Anathema: for anyone considers the miracles in Sacred Scripture as fables and myths


II – Tradition and Sacred Scripture: the deposit of the Word of God confided to the Church


Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)
– The Magisterium must serve the Word of God

Saint Irenaeus
-If anyone does not agree with the Gospels, he despises Christ and stands self-condemned

Benedict XV
– Those who overturn the fundamental truth of the Bible destroy Catholic teaching handed down by the Fathers

Leo XIII
– Illicitude of interpreting Holy Scripture contrary to the true sense which the Church has always held
– Interpretation which oppose the teaching of the Church are senseless and false

Pius X
– Those who go beyond the limits determined by the Fathers and the Church in the interpretation of Sacred Scripture fall into serious errors
– Condemned: the idea that the Evangelists recorded false things which would be profitable for their readers
– Excommunication latae sententiae for those who defend propositions, opinions or teachings condemned in the decree ‘Lamentabili sane exitu’

Pontifical Biblical Commission
– Those who teach the faithful must abstain from proposing insufficiently proven novelties that do not correspond with the truth

Leo XIII
– The announcers of novelties approach the faulty cisterns of human wisdom
– Detestable errors of those who consider that the miracles are not what they are said to be, but the effects of natural law, or tricks and myths


III – The teachings of the Church regarding the miracles of the multiplication of the loaves


Sacred Scripture
– They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full
– Moved with pity for the crowd Jesus multiplied the loaves a second time
– When the people saw the sign Jesus had done they wanted to carry him off to make him king

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– The multiplication of the loaves was not by way of creation, but by an addition of extraneous matter

Saint Augustine of Hippo
– He who multiplied the five loaves is the same One who multiplies the fruits of the seeds

Saint Ambrose of Milan
– In multiplying the loaves, Jesus showed his power over material nature

Saint John Chrysostom
– The remains of the multiplication exceeded as fragments so that the absent might learn of the miracle
– The fragments showed that what had taken place was no illusion

John XXIII
– With the multiplication of the loaves, Christ desired to manifest his power to the multitudes that followed him

John Paul II
– This miracle marks the beginning of the uninterrupted multiplication of the Bread of new life in the Church

Sacred Scripture

  • Jesus himself considers his own miracles as a proof of his Divinity for others

But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. (Jn 5:36-37)

  • Those who do not believe in Christ have his miracles as a proof of his divine power

If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize (and understand) that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. (Jn 10:37-38)

  • Jesus became famous because of his mighty deeds, wonders, and signs

You who are Israelites, hear these words, Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. (Acts 2:22-23)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • The miracles of Christ showed that His supernatural doctrine was from God

God enables man to work miracles for two reasons. First and principally, in confirmation of the doctrine that a man teaches. […] Secondly, in order to make known God’s presence in a man by the grace of the Holy Ghost: so that when a man does the works of God we may believe that God dwells in him by His grace. Wherefore it is written (Gal. 3:5): ‘He who giveth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you.’ Now both these things were to be made known to men concerning Christ—namely, that God dwelt in Him by grace, not of adoption, but of union: and that His supernatural doctrine was from God. And therefore it was most fitting that He should work miracles. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica III, q.43, a.1)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • Christ’s deeds, miracles and words: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission

The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith (cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24) and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery (cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7). His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that ‘in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily’ (Col 2:9). His humanity appeared as ‘sacrament’, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 515)

Leo XIII

  • Christ proves His own divinity and the divine origin of His mission by miracles

Christ proves His own divinity and the divine origin of His mission by miracles; He teaches the multitudes heavenly doctrine by word of mouth; and He absolutely commands that the assent of faith should be given to His teaching, promising eternal rewards to those who believe and eternal punishment to those who do not. […] Whatsoever He commands, He commands by the same authority. He requires the assent of the mind to all truths without exception. It was thus the duty of all who heard Jesus Christ, if they wished for eternal salvation, not merely to accept His doctrine as a whole, but to assent with their entire mind to all and every point of it, since it is unlawful to withhold faith from God even in regard to one single point. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Satis Cognitum, no. 8, June 29, 1896)

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)

  • God willed that external proofs of His revelation, namely miracles, should be joined to the internal aids of the Holy Spirit

[That faith is consonant with reason ].However, in order that the ‘obedience’ of our faith should be ‘consonant with reason’ (cf. Rom 12:1), God has willed that to the internal aids of the Holy Spirit there should be joined external proofs of His revelation, namely: divine facts, especially miracles and prophecies which, because they clearly show forth the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are most certain signs of a divine revelation, and are suited to the intelligence of all [can. 3 and 4]. Wherefore, not only Moses and the prophets, but especially Christ the Lord Himself, produced many genuine miracles and prophecies; and we read concerning the apostles: ‘But they going forth preached everywhere: the Lord working withal and confirming the word with signs that followed’ (Mk 16:20). (Denzinger-Hünermann 3009. Vatican Council I, Session III, Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith, April 24, 1870)

John Paul II

  • The whole primitive Church saw in each one of the miracles the supreme power of Christ over nature and laws

As many as the discussions that would like to create, or that in fact, have been instigated regarding the subject of miracles (to which, on the other hand, the Christian apologists have already responded), it is certain that the ‘miracles, prodigies and signs’, attributed to Jesus and inclusively to his Apostles and disciples who worked ‘in his name’, may not be separated from the authentic context of the Gospel. […] Whatever may have been the subsequent rebuttals, from the genuine sources of the life and teachings of Jesus a first certainty emerges: the Apostles, the Evangelists and the whole primitive Church saw in each one of the miracles the supreme power of Christ over nature and laws. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 1, December 2, 1987)

  • Christ’s miracles were not denied even by his adversaries – unable to do so, they sought to attribute them to the power of the devil

The analysis not only of the text, but also of the context, speaks in favor of their ‘historic’ character, testifying that they are facts which occurred in reality, and truly performed by Christ. Those who approach them with intellectual uprightness and scientific expertise cannot lay them aside with just a word, as if they were merely posterior inventions. With respect to this, it is well to observe that these facts are not only testified and narrated by the Apostles and by the disciples of Jesus, but they are also confirmed in many cases by his adversaries. For example, it is very significant that the latter did not deny the miracles performed by Jesus, but rather they sought to attribute them to the power of the ‘devil’. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 3-4, November 11, 1987)

  • Saint John speaks of the miracles as ‘signs’ to demonstrate the action of God in person, Christ

In the Gospel of John we do not find similar forms, but rather the detailed description of the seven happenings that the Evangelist calls ‘signs’ (and not miracles). With this expression he wishes to indicate that which is most essential in these occurrences: the demonstration of the action of God in person, present in Christ, while the world ‘miracle’ indicates more the ‘extraordinary’ aspect that these happenings have in the eyes of those who have seen them or heard of them. However, before concluding his Gospel, John also tells us that ‘Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book’ (Jn 20: 30). And gives the reason for the choice that he made: ‘But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name’ (Jn 20: 31). To this purpose the Synoptics as well as the fourth Gospel are directed: to show through miracles the truth of the Son of God and lead to the faith, which is the beginning of salvation. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 6, November 11, 1987)

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)

  • Anathema: for anyone considers the miracles in Sacred Scripture as fables and myths

[The demonstrability of revelation] If anyone shall have said that miracles are not possible, and hence that all accounts of them, even those contained in Sacred Scripture, are to be banished among the fables and myths; or, that miracles can never be known with certitude, and that the divine origin of the Christian religion cannot be correctly proved by them: let him be anathema. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3034. Vatican Council I. Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith, April 24, 1870)


II – Tradition and Sacred Scripture: the deposit of the Word of God confided to the Church


Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

  • The Magisterium must serve the Word of God

Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort (cf. Pius XII, , ‘Munificentissimus Deus,’ Nov. 1, 1950; St. Cyprian, Letter 66, 8). But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on (cf. Vatican Council I, Dz 1792 (3011)), has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church (cf. Pius XII, ‘Humani Generis’ Aug 12, 1950), whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed. It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls. (Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, no. 10, November 18, 1965)

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

  • If anyone does not agree with the Gospels, he despises Christ and stands self-condemned

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith (1 Tim 3:15). […] These have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ the Son of God. If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies, III 1,1:1,2)

Benedict XV

  • Those who overturn the fundamental truth of the Bible destroy Catholic teaching handed down by the Fathers

Then there are other assailants of Holy Scripture who misuse principles – which are only sound, if kept within due bounds – in order to overturn the fundamental truth of the Bible and thus destroy Catholic teaching handed down by the Fathers. If Jerome were living now he would sharpen his keenest controversial weapons against people who set aside what is the mind and judgment of the Church, and take too ready a refuge in such notions as ‘implicit quotations’ or ‘pseudo-historical narratives,’ or in ‘kinds of literature’ in the Bible such as cannot be reconciled with the entire and perfect truth of God’s word, or who suggest such origins of the Bible as must inevitably weaken – if not destroy – its authority. What can we say of men who in expounding the very Gospels so whittle away the human trust we should repose in it as to overturn Divine faith in it? They refuse to allow that the things which Christ said or did have come down to us unchanged and entire through witnesses who carefully committed to writing what they themselves had seen or heard. They maintain – and particularly in their treatment of the Fourth Gospel – that much is due of course to the Evangelists – who, however, added much from their own imaginations; but much, too, is due to narratives compiled by the faithful at other periods, the result, of course, being that the twin streams now flowing in the same channel cannot be distinguished from one another. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3654. Benedict XV, Encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus, September 15, 1920)

Leo XIII

  • Illicitude of interpreting Holy Scripture contrary to the true sense which the Church has always held

The Synod of the Vatican adopted the teaching of the Fathers, when, as it renewed the decree of Trent on the interpretation of the divine Word, it declared this to be its mind, that in matters of faith and morals, which pertain to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of Holy Scripture which Mother Church has held and holds, whose prerogative it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of Scripture; and, therefore, it is permitted to no one to interpret the Holy Scripture against this sense, or even against the unanimous agreement of the Fathers. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3281. Leo XIII, Encyclical Providentissimus Deus, November 18, 1893)

  • Interpretations which oppose the teaching of the Church are senseless and false

Wherefore, it is clear that that interpretation must be rejected as senseless and false, which either makes inspired authors in some manner quarrel among themselves, or opposes the teaching of the Church. . . . (Denzinger-Hünermann 3283. Leo XIII, Encyclical Providentissimus Deus, November 18, 1893)

Pius X

  • Those who go beyond the limits determined by the Fathers and the Church in the interpretation of Sacred Scripture fall into serious errors

With truly lamentable results, our age, casting aside all restraint in its search for the ultimate causes of things, frequently pursues novelties so ardently that it rejects the legacy of the human race. Thus it falls into very serious errors, which are even more serious when they concern sacred authority, the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and the principal mysteries of Faith. The fact that many Catholic writers also go beyond the limits determined by the Fathers and the Church herself is extremely regrettable. In the name of higher knowledge and historical research (they say), they are looking for that progress of dogmas which is, in reality, nothing but the corruption of dogmas. (Pius X. Decree Lamentabili sane exitu, July 3, 1907)

  • Condemned: the idea that the Evangelists recorded false things which would be profitable for their readers

[Condemned and proscribe]: 14. In many narrations the Evangelists recorded, not so much things that are true, as things which, even though false, they judged to be more profitable for their readers.

Until the time the canon was defined and constituted, the Gospels were increased by additions and corrections. Therefore there remained in them only a faint and uncertain trace of the doctrine of Christ. (Pius X. Decree Lamentabili sane exitu, July 3, 1907)

  • Excommunication latae sententiae for those who defend propositions, opinions or teachings condemned in the decree Lamentabili sane exitu

Moreover, in order to check the daily increasing audacity of many modernists who are endeavoring by all kinds of sophistry and devices to detract from the force and efficacy not only of the decree Lamentabili sane exitu (the so-called Syllabus), issued by our order by the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition on July 3 of the present year, but also of our encyclical letters Pascendi dominici gregis given on September 8 of this same year, we do by our apostolic authority repeat and confirm both that decree of the Supreme Sacred Congregation and those encyclical letters of ours, adding the penalty of excommunication against their contradictors, and this we declare and decree that should anybody, which may God forbid, be so rash as to defend any one of the propositions, opinions or teachings condemned in these documents he falls, ipso facto, under the censure contained under the chapter ‘Docentes’ of the constitution Apostolicae Sedis, which is the first among the excommunications latae sententiae, simply reserved to the Roman Pontiff. This excommunication is to be understood as salvis poenis, which may be incurred by those who have violated in any way the said documents, as propagators and defenders of heresies, when their propositions, opinions and teachings are heretical, as has happened more than once in the case of the adversaries of both these documents, especially when they advocate the errors of the modernists that is, the synthesis of all heresies. (Pius X. Motu Proprio Proprio Praestatia Scripturae, November 18, 1907)

Pontifical Biblical Commission

  • Those who teach the faithful must abstain from proposing insufficiently proven novelties that do not correspond with the truth

Finally, those who instruct the Christian people with sacred preaching have the necessity of the greatest prudence. Before all else, teach doctrine, remembering the recommendation of Saint Paul: ‘Attend to yourself and to your teaching, persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you’ (1Tim 4:16). Absolutely abstain from proposing vain or insufficiently proven novelties. Present new opinions, if necessary, that have been solidly demonstrated with caution, keeping in mind the condition of the listener. While narrating biblical facts, do not add fictitious circumstances that do not correspond with the truth. This virtue of prudence should be above all a characteristic of those who spread writings of circulation for the faithful. Your preoccupation should be in putting the riches of the divine word with clarity ‘so that the faithful feel moved and encouraged to better their own lives’ (Encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu). Be scrupulous in not ever separating from the common doctrine or from the tradition of the Church, not even in small things, taking advantage of the progress of biblical science and the results of the modern investigators, but avoiding all of the rash opinions of the innovators (cf. Apostolic Letter Quoniam in re biblica; Pius X Acta, III, p. 75). It is severely prohibited to you to spread, to collaborate with a pernicious aspiration for novelties, some attempts for the resolution of the difficulties, without a prudent selection and serious examination, confusing in this way the faith of many people. (Pontifical Biblical Commission, The truth about the Gospels, no. 4, April 21, 1964)

Leo XIII

  • The announcers of novelties approach the faulty cisterns of human wisdom

The Bible is then, the principal and most accessible source of sacred eloquence. But those who constitute themselves as announcers of novelties, do not nourish the ensemble of their speeches from the font of living water, but rather foolishly and mistakenly approach the faulty cisterns of human wisdom; consequently, putting aside the doctrine inspired by God – or that of the Fathers of the Church and of the Councils – all they do is expose the names and ideas of profane and contemporary writers, still living: these ideas frequently give rise to ambiguous and very dangerous interpretations. (Leo XIII cited by St. Pius X. Moto Proprio, Sacrorum Antistitum, The Oath against Modernism, September 1, 1910)

  • Detestable errors of those who consider that the miracles are not what they are said to be, but the effects of natural law, or tricks and myths

They deny that there is any such thing as revelation or inspiration, or Holy Scripture at all; they see, instead, only the forgeries and the falsehoods of men; they set down the Scripture narratives as stupid fables and lying stories: the prophecies and the oracles of God are to them either predictions made up after the event or forecasts formed by the light of nature; the miracles and the wonders of God’s power are not what they are said to be, but the startling effects of natural law, or else mere tricks and myths; and the Apostolic Gospels and writings are not the work of the Apostles at all. These detestable errors, whereby they think they destroy the truth of the divine Books, are obtruded on the world as the peremptory pronouncements of a certain newly-invented ‘free science;’ a science, however, which is so far from final that they are perpetually modifying and supplementing it. And there are some of them who, notwithstanding their impious opinions and utterances about God, and Christ, the Gospels and the rest of Holy Scripture, would be considered both theologians and Christians and men of the Gospel, and who attempt to disguise by such honourable names their rashness and their pride. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Providentissimus Deus, no. 10, November 18, 1893)


III – The teachings of the Church regarding the miracles of the multiplication of the loaves


Sacred Scripture

  • They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full

And he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children. (Mt 14:19-21)

  • Moved with pity for the crowd Jesus multiplied the loaves a second time

Jesus summoned his disciples and said, ‘My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way. ‘The disciples said to him, ‘Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?’Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ ‘Seven,’ they replied, ‘and a few fish.’ He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over – seven baskets full. Those who ate were four thousand men, not counting women and children. (Mt 15:32-38)

  • When the people saw the sign Jesus had done they wanted to carry him off to make him king

So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets 8 with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.’ Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone. (Jn 6:13-15)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • The multiplication of the loaves was not effected by way of creation, but by an addition of extraneous matter

The multiplication of the loaves was not effected by way of creation, but by an addition of extraneous matter transformed into loaves; hence Augustine says on Jn 6:1-14: ‘Whence He multiplieth a few grains into harvests, thence in His hands He multiplied the five loaves’: and it is clearly by a process of transformation that grains are multiplied into harvests. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica III, q. 44, a.4, ad.4)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

  • He who multiplied the five loaves is the same One who multiplies the fruits of the seeds

A great miracle: but we shall not wonder much at what was done, if we give heed to Him That did it. He multiplied the five loaves in the hands of them that brake them, who multiplieth the seeds that grow in the earth, so as that a few grains are sown, and whole barns are filled. But, because he doth this every year, no one marvels. Not the inconsiderableness of what is done, but its constancy takes away admiration of it. But when the Lord did these things, He spake to them that had understanding, not by words only, but even by the miracles themselves. (Saint Augustine. Sermon 130, no. 1)

Saint Ambrose of Milan

  • In multiplying the loaves, Jesus showed his power over material nature

But what is divine is that the five loaves were more than sufficient for five thousand people, for clearly it was not this little food that had satisfied the people, but its multiplication. As you have seen, as though by an irrepressible font abounding from the hands of the distributors the fragments that they had not yet divided, and without daring to touch them with their fingers, the pieces spontaneously appeared. When such things are read, how can we be surprised with the perpetual movement of the waters or become amazed that the liquid fonts flow without ceasing when a solid substance expands in abundance? This happens to make us see that which we ordinarily do not see. By one thing He has manifested with such evidence that he is equally the Author of the others and the Creator of all of material nature, that was not found, but made, and supplies his successive contributions to the production of all things. (Saint Ambrose. Treatise on the Gospel of Saint Luke, bk. VI, no. 84-85)

Saint John Chrysostom

  • The remains of the multiplication exceeded as fragments so that the absent might learn of the miracle

‘And He brake and gave to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.’ The five loaves He brake and gave, and the five multiplied themselves in the hands of the disciples. And not even here doth He stay the miracle, but He made them even to exceed; to exceed, not as whole loaves, but as fragments; to signify that of those loaves these were remains, and in order that the absent might learn what had been done. (Saint John Chrysostom. Homily on Matthew, Homily XLIX)

  • The fragments showed that what had taken place was no illusion

And I marvel not only at the quantity of loaves created, but besides the quantity, at the exactness of the surplus, that He caused the superabundance to be neither more nor less than just so much as He willed, fore-seeing how much they would consume; a thing which marked unspeakable power. The fragments then confirmed the matter, showing both these points; that what had taken place was no illusion, and that these were from the loaves by which the people had been fed. (Saint John Chrysostom. Homily on the Gospel of Saint John. Homily XLII)

John XXIII

  • With the multiplication of the loaves, Christ desired to manifest his power to the multitudes that followed him

But thanks to the multiplication of indispensible material nourishment, Christ desired, twice in his mortal life, to manifest his power to the crowds that followed him. And he employed the miracle in order to direct spirits toward spiritual realities, but not failing to first of all satiate the famished bodies. (John XXIII. Address to the participants of the 10th International FAO Conference, May 3, 1960)

John Paul II

  • This miracle marks the beginning of the uninterrupted multiplication of the Bread of new life in the Church

This is an amazing miracle which marks in a way the beginning of a long historical process: the uninterrupted multiplication in the Church of the Bread of new life for the people of every race and culture. This sacramental ministry is entrusted to the Apostles and to their successors. And they, faithful to the divine Master’s command, never cease to break and distribute the Eucharistic bread from generation to generation. (John Paul II. Homily on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, June 22, 2000)

4 thoughts on “68 – Francis and the curious miracle of the non-multiplication of the loaves

  1. For me, distribution of wealth to make the world a better place = communist jargon. Francis is a communist. he’s trying to make people think that jesus too was a communist by denying this miracle.

    Liked by 1 person

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