Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Miracle of the Week

AP, via Yahoo News, is reporting the latest miracle statue story. Apparently there’s a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in Sacramento, CA that appears to be crying.
It was first noticed more than a week ago, when a priest at the Vietnamese Catholic Martyrs Church spotted a stain on the statue's face and wiped it away. Before Mass on Nov. 20, people again noticed a reddish substance near the eyes of the white concrete statue outside the small church, said Ky Truong, 56, a parishioner.
The news article does make a couple of token statements about the frequency of such occurrences, also noting that they’re routinely found to be hoaxes or natural events.

Thousands of such incidents are reported around the world each year, though many turn out to be hoaxes or natural phenomena.
Reverend James Murphy, minister of the mother church of the diocese, is also responding pretty calmly.

For people individually seeing things through the eyes of faith, something like
this can be meaningful. As for whether it is supernatural or a miracle, normally
these incidences are not. Miracles are possible, of course.

Some parishioners, of course, are quick to assume that this event is a miracle, resulting in these credulous comments…

There's a big event in the future — earthquake, flood, a disease…We're very sad.

I think that it's incredible. It's a miracle. Why is she doing it? Is it something bothering her?

It's a call for us to change ourselves, to love one another.

I don't know how to express what I'm feeling. Since religion is the mother of believing, then I believe.
I’d say it’s far more likely that this concrete statue has an iron or steel framework inside, and rusty fluid is leaking out through a crack. A finely-detailed area like the eye is just the sort of place where moisture might accumulate and help any iron in the statue to oxidize. I’m sure that if the church allows some reputable scientists to examine the statue, they’ll quickly find a perfectly natural explanation.

That won’t stop the believers from calling it a miracle, of course, and I don’t suppose there’s any reason they should. If believing that God set this statue to crying makes them feel better, good for them. If it motivates them to do something to benefit their fellow human beings, as in the third comment above, even better. On the other hand, if it leads them to depression because they fear an impending disaster (see the first comment), maybe it’s not good at all. Disasters happen all the time, so it will be easy to find one to connect to this event.

I’m trying to be open-minded about this. Just a quick glance at the photo told me I was probably looking at a rust stain, but any believer would tell me that God could cause a rust stain anytime and any place that He pleased. From a grand perspective, though, I’m not sure what we should make of this incident even if it turns out to be supernatural. I think that God should be able to come up with something more definitive if he really wants to send a message. It’s like putting up a blank road sign; if you can’t even tell whether it’s a warning or an instruction, what good is it?


Mr. Concrete Statue said...

I'm pretty sure a concrete statue cannot cry, so this must be given at least some significance.

Lord Runolfr said...

If you could show that it was actually crying instead of just leaking rusty water from a crack around the eyes, I would probably grant it some significance. You have to eliminate the mundane explanations before leaping to the supernatural.