Posts Tagged “virgin mary”

Our Lady of Fátima and the Children - Igreja de São Domingos - LisbonIt’s the hundredth anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s famous appearance at Fátima, Portugal. Pope Francis celebrated it by going on a pilgrimage there, and as the Jesuit America magazine reports, he canonized two of the children who saw the apparition (WebCite cached article):

History was made at the shrine of Fatima at 10:30 a.m. on May 13 when Pope Francis declared that Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta are saints. Francisco and Jacinta are the first child saints who are not martyrs in the history of the church.

Francisco, Jacinta and their cousin Lucia are buried here side by side in the basilica. Before Mass, Francis prayed in silence at the tombs of the three shepherd children. When Jacinta’s body was exhumed before being brought here, 15 years after her death, it was found to be totally uncorrupted. Because of this, the local bishop asked Lucia, by then a contemplative nun, to write the memoirs of Jacinta and Francisco, detailing the extraordinary events that have so powerfully impacted the lives of believers ever since [cached].

The Fátima sighting, of course, was not just a single event: it was six of them. Today is the anniversary of the first of these appearances; the last was 5 months later in October of 1917. The now-famous “three secrets” were delivered during the third of the six appearances, in July.

These secrets — mainly, the third — are the subject of more than a little conspiratorial thinking. The third was withheld, and put in writing in the early 1940s by the surviving witness (at that time), Lúcia dos Santos (who had become a nun), sealed in an envelope by her. It was not to be opened until 1960, for some reason; Pope John XXIII read it at that time, but decided not to disclose it. John Paul II finally revealed the “third secret” in 2000, and the Church decided then that it had referred to the assassination attempt against him in 1981. It’s been published, and is even available on the Vatican’s Web site (cached).

The Church’s interpretation of the “third secret” is rather deficient, by any standard. Its vision of a bishop in white being killed by soldiers does not, in any way, reflect the shooting of John Paul II. This, plus the sketchy way the “third secret” was treated, fostered conspiracy theories. Many of these theories assume the Vatican’s published version of the “third secret” is either incomplete or fraudulent, and the actual “third secret” is being withheld for nefarious reasons (which they’ve spun out of thin air, having nothing else to base them on).

There’s just one problem with all of this: Sister Lúcia was alive in 2000, and published commentaries on the “secrets” as late as 2001, and died in 2005. She never contradicted the Vatican’s released version of the “third secret.” (This is why Lúcia wasn’t sainted along with her two friends today; they died long ago due to the Spanish flu pandemic and qualified for canonization already; Lúcia’s sainthood cause has yet to run its course.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The Assumption of the Virgin (1612-17); Peter Paul RubensSomething I’ve long warned American Catholics about is their alliance with the Religious Right. This movement had grown out of the Southern Baptist Convention initially as pushback against segregation (WebCite cached article). And its membership remains primarily evangelical Protestant … even though the Roman Catholic bishops have joined ranks with them, and there are plenty of Catholic politicians (e.g. Rick Santorum, Sam Brownback, Newt Gingrich, and others) who are definitely part of the R.R. The reality of this Catholic/R.R. alliance is that it’s tenuous at best, predicated on only a few points in common, such as opposition to abortion and contraception. The reality is that they’ve been ecclesiastical rivals for centuries, and while they’re no longer at war with one another, each maintains its own distinct vision of Christ and Christianity.

What a lot of Catholics fail to understand — or even know about — is the degree of hatred a lot of their supposed allies in the R.R. have for them. They don’t often make a point of it, but there are occasions when evangelical Protestants find themselves unable to contain their contempt for those “saint-worshipping papists.” An example of this phenomenon emerged when TX gov. Greg Abbott — a Catholic — posted something recently to Facebook (cached):

Texaas Governor Greg Abbott (R) got a lesson in religious tolerance over the weekend after posting an image of the Virgin Mary accompanied by praise on his Facebook page, according to the San Antonio Express-News [cached].

On Saturday the governor, who is Catholic, posted an image of the mother of Jesus [cached] on his Texans for Abbott Facebook page, accompanied by the comment: “The Virgin Mary is exalted above the choirs of angels. Blessed is the Lord who has raised her up.” Saturday was the celebration of the Assumption; the day when the Holy Mother is believed to have been accepted into Heaven.

Responses from followers on Facebook were fast and furious, with many joining in with the governor and praising the Virgin Mary, while others less accepting of his Catholicism accused him of idolatry.

“So you’re Catholic Mr. Abbott? So what? You worship idols; not something I’d be telling everyone,” one commenter wrote, while another seconded the comment, writing: “This is nothing more than idol worship.”

Another pointed out that “Jesus is The Blessed and Holy One!!!” before asking “Were you hacked ?????”

Comments ran to over 900 as people of various faiths battled over whose religion was the most righteous, argued over Scripture, and even questioned the accuracy of the Bible and whether Jesus wrote it.

Honestly, I hadn’t known the Republican Abbott was Catholic. And I suppose a lot of folks (of the evangelical Protestant sort) even in Texas didn’t know it — which is why his Facebook post elicited so much sanctimonious outrage. Had his Catholicism been more widely known, the reaction probably wouldn’t have been as extensive or vitriolic as this, because those evangelical Protestants would already have been steeled to Abbott’s Catholicism and held their tongues.

At any rate, this should provide a lesson to any Catholics out there whose political leanings are toward the Religious Right. Pay attention: These people are not your friends. Many don’t even consider you to be Christians! They may not be up-front about it, or let it show very often, but the bottom line is that they hate Catholics almost as much as they hate Muslims and atheists. If they manage to seize control of the country and make it into the “Christian nation” they’ve been screaming for, once they’ve dispensed with both of those groups, Catholics — followed closely by Orthodox Christians — will be next on their hit list. They won’t give a shit that you helped them establish their Christocracy; they’ll persecute you mercilessly in spite of it, because you’re un-Christian idolaters, as they see it. And they’ll be happy to go after you with everything they’ve got.

So Catholics, be careful. Very, very careful.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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People who got out of their cars form a line to get a look at the cross atop the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Sandor Bodo/The Providence Journal)Once again we have yet another example of a Virgin Mary sighting. And once again, people line up to gawk at this claimed apparition. This time, as reported by The Providence Journal, it’s atop a church in North Providence, RI (WebCite cached article):

A steady stream of people gathered Friday in the rain at the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to witness what some believe is an image of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.

“It’s her. It’s amazing,” said Zumma Canedo, of North Providence.

Canedo, a native of Bolivia, said she had prayed the rosary while standing in the rain outside the church on Mineral Spring Avenue. “She’s saying something,” Canedo said.

A darker profile, interpreted by believers as that of the Virgin Mary, can be seen against the gray copper cross atop the church. Bystanders remarked that the profile did not fade despite the pouring rain.

Imagine that! Stains in a metal cross don’t fade in the rain! How fucking impressive is that!? (Answer: It’s not!) Oh, and not only does the Virgin Mary deign to appear on this cross, she’s talking to people, too! I’d love to hear a recording of what she said … if one exists (and I suspect it doesn’t).

Here’s the cross in question, adorned with this presumed Virgin Mary:

Some people are claiming to see an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a cross outside the the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in North Providence. (Sandor Bodo/The Providence Journal)

Some people are claiming to see an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a cross outside the the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in North Providence. (Sandor Bodo / The Providence Journal)

I’m sorry to report, as with so many of the other Virgin Mary apparitions I’ve blogged about, I just don’t see it. Maybe that’s because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and am just not capable of perceiving such important and other-worldly things.

Only at the very end of the article does the ProJo concede this might not be what people say it is:

Brian Dowling, associate director at The Steel Yard, a nonprofit community arts program in Providence, said the discoloration is probably a chemical reaction.

“Like patina,” Dowling said referring to the tarnish that forms on copper from oxidation and other chemical reactions. Copper, Dowling said, yields a wide spectrum of colors, from greens to browns to reds.

While this might seem a reasonable explanation that can satisfy rational people, ardent believers will, no doubt, reject it out-of-hand without admitting it even as a remote possibility. Absolutely nothing gets in the way of them arriving at the conclusion they’re determined to arrive it. Not even facts to the contrary … including the fact that all copper items left outdoors long enough will, inevitably, show stains and discolorations.

As I always do, I’ll remind my readers that this is nothing more or less than an example of pareidolia, or recognizing things in something that was otherwise randomly generated. It’s no different from seeing familiar people or objects in cloud formations, which many people — particularly kids — are wont to do, or seeing Richard Nixon in a potato. That’s all this is, folks. Really. Honest. Now go the hell home already and stop getting in the way of funeral processions, fercryinoutloud.

One more thing: This cross, stained to appear to some as though the Virgin Mary impressed her sacred image on it, is on top of a church. One called “the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” no less! How do we know this image hadn’t been put there purposely by the church or its parishioners? We don’t, of course. Not at all! That said, I don’t believe this was purposeful, a hoax or a pious fraud. Had it been, a resemblance to the Virgin Mary would probably have been much clearer than this. All I’m doing is pointing out there are more than one fully non-supernatural explanations for this Marian apparition.

Photo credit (both): Sandor Bodo/The Providence Journal.

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Our Lady Of Guadalupe; Virgin Mary Tree (credit: CBS 2, NYC)The phenomenon of Virgin Mary sightings shows no sign of letting up. Almost since the start of Christianity, the religions followers have found her in any number of weird places. Clearly, they are determined to see her everywhere … and, unsurprisingly, they do! Her latest appearance, as USA Today reports, is in the bark of a tree in West New York, NJ (WebCite cached article):

People are flocking to a tree in New Jersey where some say they see the image of the Virgin Mary.

People have been praying, crying and leaving flowers and candles as they look at the small opening where the bark was stripped away.

Since this is close to the heart of the nation’s largest metropolis, it’s attracted more than a little attention, which had to be accomodated:

A fence and other barricades also have been set up around the tree, which is in a sidewalk along a commercial strip in West New York.

The local Catholic principality is a bit circumspect about this Marian apparition:

Newark Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness tells The Journal newspaper of Jersey City the image is likely “some discoloration that resembles Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

The picture above, courtesy of CBS New York, shows Our Lady of Guadalupe and the West New York Mary side-by-side, providing an excellent comparison. Frankly, I don’t see the resemblance. Yes, I concede the torpedo-shaped bark split that surrounds the presumed image of the Virgin Mary does, indeed, resemble the capsule surrounding the famous Guadalupe painting. But what’s inside the West New York image, doesn’t look anything like what’s inside the Guadalupe image. It’s not similar at all. These Virgin Mary-spotters and -worshippers are causing a ruckus over nothing.

This sort of madness really needs to stop. As I’ve blogged so many times before, this is nothing more than pareidolia at work, the well-known tendency of humans to see familiar patterns in otherwise-unremarkable formations. Get over it already and go back to your lives. OK?

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: CBS 2 via CBS New York.

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Satellite image of Virgin Mary in a sandpit: Preston, Lancashire, UK (small image)People continue to find the Virgin Mary in the strangest places. This time, they think she chose to manifest herself in a massive sand formation at a construction site in Preston, Lancashire in the UK. The Daily Mail reports on this astounding and compelling new discovery (WebCite cached article):

Stunned workers at a construction site near the M6 claim to have found an image of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus in a satellite image.

Contractors Steve Hirst and Carl Richards were researching for a project they were working on and decided to look at a half-acre sand and mud site on Google Maps.

While looking at the photo they say the image of a hooded figure holding a baby was clearly distinguishable – just off the M6 motorway near Preston.

They know it can only be a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary, because … well … they just know it:

Carl, 42, from Bolton, said: ‘We both looked at each other for a few seconds without saying anything. It is an amazing image of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms.

‘It is so clear. We were looking at the layout of the area for some work we are doing and we were zooming in and it caught our eye.

‘We were stunned into silence and Steve joked he had seen the light.’

Aha! I guess that pretty much nails it, then!

The problem is that this satellite image is dated, and the Virgin Mary is no longer visible on the site:

Project manager Ian Selby said: ‘The machinery in the picture would suggest it was taken a few years ago and there are trees planted on it now.

Woops! I guess the Virgin Mary neglected to get the word out about her sacred presence on that holy site, in time for people to have really appreciated it when it was still there. I’m sure clergy and believers in the UK would have agitated to leave the construction incomplete and the image of the precious Virgin Mary intact, had they been aware of it. But as it stands, they’ve lost that opportunity. Sorry, Marianists!

I note that, in this image, the Virgin Mary is posed in front of some equipment that appears to be an upside-down cross. But the upside-down cross is considered profane, not sacred. Why would she have done this? I have no idea. I’m sure she must have had her reasons!

This is yet another case of the well-known psychological phenomenon of pareidolia, or seeing things in otherwise-ordinary patterns.

The only thing missing from this story is the claim that the construction workers intentionally created the image of the Virgin Mary on the ground in order to appeal to her as the Queen of Heaven, along the lines of the common belief that the Nazca lines are “proof” that extraterrestrials had visited the earth in the primeval past and the people of that area were trying to communicate with these visitors from the sky. Or something like that.

Hat tip: Skeptic’s Dictionary.

Photo credit: Google Earth via the (UK) Daily Mail.

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Photo of the Virgin Mary ice, by Jennifer Bloomer, Dearborn Heights, MIPeople seem to love seeing the Virgin Mary in all sorts of things. It’s a hobby I’ve blogged about many times before, and will likely continue to blog about in the future. (Human beings are just too damned predictable!) WXYZ-TV in Detroit reports that the Virgin Mary appeared in Dearborn Heights MI as a blob of ice under a dripping outdoor faucet (WebCite cached article):

Jennifer Bloomer of Dearborn Heights sent us three photos that appear to show the likeness of the Virgin Mary in ice. We’ll be honest when we received these pictures we noticed it too! …

“A little miracle showed up at work today,” she told WXYZ.com. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

CBS News provides a brief video report on this major “discovery” (cached):

As though the Virgin Mary has nothing better to do with her time, than appear in the form of ice under a faucet at a storage facility. Yeah, that’s the way for her to make her presence known to humanity! Why, of course! It makes perfect sense! The Virgin Mary couldn’t have found any better means of presenting her message to the world!

</sarcasm>

I don’t really see the resemblance myself, but I suppose someone else might. Given the millions of blobs of ice that exist in the world, it’s natural that one or two are going to resemble something recognizable. That it happens in these couple of instances, does not mean anything.

Here again we see the power of the psychological phenomenon of pareidolia in action. That’s all this is … a trick of the eye, an optical illusion, a mere coincidence.

Hat tip: NESS Rogues Gallery blog.

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The Madonna rocks in Granbury TXMary and Jesus have manifested, together, in Granbury TX. They showed up in the form of a pair of rocks discovered by one Stephanie Madden. A report on this amazing discovery is courtesy of KTVT-TV in Dallas (WebCite cached article):

To Stephanie Madden of Granbury, a pair of ordinary rocks are as precious as rubies. …

When Madden first spotted the stones on the ground in Granbury, she didn’t think much about it, but a closer look was all the confirmation she needed.

“It was like the closer I got to God the more I saw him in things,” she said, “That looks like Mary holding baby Jesus to me.”

There is an accompanying video provided by CBS News:

The video even includes a helpful graphic overlay to show the resemblance … just in case you (like me) can’t manage to see a “madonna” in these rocks:

Madonna Rocks in Texas - helpful overlay courtesy of CBS News

Ms Madden ostensibly concedes this is a “coincidence,” but just as quickly declares that it cannot be one — for reasons that remain unclear, even though she thinks she explained them:

The resemblance she admits could be a mere coincidence.

“Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous,” she explained, “In the bible it says that people who do believe, will see.”

I simply cannot make sense of her claim that “coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.” It’s gibberish. Completely nonsensical.

She’s all the more convinced her rocks are divine, because someone else pointed out a Biblical connection to her:

“I was showing them to people at church Sunday morning and one of the members said ‘hey do you know in the bible it says, in Luke 19:40, ‘If my people become silent that even the rocks will cry out’.” She said, “That hit me as confirmation that I’m supposed to say something.”

Well, that does it, I guess. For her, anyway.

Folks, there’s nothing to see here. Literally! This is merely another case of pareidolia, a well-known phenomenon of psychology in which the brain tries to make sense of something vague or amorphous. It’s no different from the other examples of pareidolia I’ve already blogged about … such as the Virgin Mary in a door or between panes of a window or in a chunk of wood, or Jesus on a laundry iron, or a cross on a calf’s head. It’s also no different from the “grilled cheese Virgin Mary” that made headlines a few years ago (cached). So yes, Ms Madden, this is “coincidence” and nothing more, no matter how much you might wish it to be otherwise.

Photo credits: Screen shots from CBS News.

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