Images Are The Bane Of Skeptics But Are They Also Among The 'Signs Of The Time'?
Long the bane of skeptics -- including and even especially members of the hierarchy -- photographs purporting to show religious images, once dominated by Mary-like profiles, are increasingly presenting what observers take to be images of Christ. Are they real or reading much into lines and shadows?
Silhouettes of Jesus have been indicated in clouds, in Communion Hosts, and in the sun with a frequency that seems to have markedly increased during the past year. Such have occurred at the same time that many claim to be receiving prophetic "words" about the world and what many believe will be purifying events.
Skeptics decry them as "in the eye of the beholder": vague works of light and coincidence. Believers see them as signs of the times -- signs that of late seem to be shifting as well as proliferating.
Whatever one's purview, a number of images present interesting cases for evaluation, including several that were spawned at World Youth Day, presided over by Pope Benedict XVI in August of 2005 at Marienfeld, Germany.
During a vigil in which the Host was adored, the profile of what looks like a man appeared in the center of it. Folks saw it on TV coverage of the event as well as in person there in Germany and e-mailed us [see left and right].
This apparently occurred during or just after the Pope led Adoration on Saturday night, August 20.
Coincidence? There are many. If they are real, John Paul II once said: "Their essential purpose is to indicate that the human person is destined and called to the kingdom of God. These signs therefore confirm in different ages and in the most varied circumstances the truth of the Gospel."
"The universe in which man lives is not limited to the order that can be ascertained through logic or the senses," the great Pope went on. "A miracle is a 'sign' that the order we perceive is superseded by a 'Power from above.'"
In both Catholic and Protestant realms have been images of clouds or the sun in strange formation. The same has been occurring with smoke from fires in the news. Not all are recent. At right is one that was taken by a New Jersey man and shows what many perceive to be images at the top left. It was originally called "The Divine Sun."
"This amazing photo was taken by me late September, 1989," says the photographer. "I was walking alone on the beach in the Bahamas, and the sky was so beautiful I decided to take a picture. The colors of the setting sun were perfect and the family walking along the beach gave me an overwhelming sense of love. So I decided to take some pictures that ended up being very attractive in and of itself. In fact, this photo was entered (and won) multiple amateur photo contest years before the profile of Jesus was discovered in the clouds!"
It wasn’t until much later, during a particularly trying time for his own family, that the New Jersey man noticed what he took as the clear profile of the Lord in the clouds. “It was miraculous -- I immediately made another copy from the negative and the image was there clear as day! The image appears on the actual negative just as on the print. After being examined and reprinted, now it’s called ‘The Divine Son.’”
Tricks of the eye -- or even the enemy? In many are a mix: what look like both holy and demonic visages. A snapshot of spiritual warfare? "Behold, He cometh with the clouds," says Revelation 1: 7. And so there is also the photo at the left. It was taken in the Buffalo, New York, area just before the Katrina disaster many miles to the south, by Joe Galster of Hamburg (a Buffalo suburb).
"It is of a brilliant cloud formation on August 22, 2005, over my neighbor's house across the street from our house," says Galster. "At first I did not notice anything; it was only after I made the picture the wall paper on my cell phone (which seriously miniaturized it) that the image became apparent. This photo remains the wallpaper on my phone to this day. It appears to be the face of Christ. Later I noticed a chalice as well in the far left hand corner. The image is best discerned when the photo is small."
Then there are the more conventional reflections of light that seem to come at poignant times. Sometimes, they are not quite reflections. Call them "luminosities."
"I believe the image with a miraculous cross that appeared on my backyard fence is a sign from God of His shield of protection for my family," wrote Loci B. Lenar of Mine Hill, New Jersey, of the image to the right. "My wife Teresa and daughter Lauren checked windows and rooms for reflections and found none. The interesting point is that the sun was behind the fence in the east, while the image appears in the front, as if the sun is shining onto the fence from the west! I supplied several prints of the image to a priest at Saint Mary's Church, Denville. The phenomenon was photographed with my HP Photo Smart 945 digital camera in 2005."
The Lord operates and communicates constantly in the framework of nature in ways large and "small." You can discern these coincidences as you look at other interesting "signs" of our time. There are certainly enough of them! Many serious Catholics, of course, don't take such seriously. And we are certainly open to skepticism. Many call claims like the examples above "frivolous." But our question: if they are supernatural, and from the Lord, would God do anything frivolous? Is there frivolity in a spinning sun [see this video] or a weeping statue, if such are authentic?
John Paul explained how it occurs when he said about miracles: "The potentiality of the forces of nature is actuated by Divine intervention which extends this potential beyond the sphere of its normal capacity of action." They seem to happen in a special fashion in situations attached to the Eucharist -- and Adoration.
We scoff at such -- without first contemplating -- at our own potential loss. For it is the "little" touches that often have an effect in our lives, sometimes even a huge one.
[photo at left of Madonna was at Apparition Hill in Medjugorje during spinning sun, taken by an Aboriginal Canadian from northern Manitoba; at right taken in the U.S., contrails or clouds forming what looks like Crucifixion]
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