Spirit Daily

From Trees To Now A Seashell, Many Are The Reports Of 'Miraculous' Images

By Michael H. Brown

Many are the reports of images that appear in objects. There are photos of what seem like miraculous formations in trees, rocks, and other formations. The media likes to spoof the ones that seem far-fetched -- and sometimes it does take a bit of imagination, as when a holy figure is seen in pizza dough -- but other times there is the ring of holiness. We think here of the image of Mary that seemed to appear in a tree in Salt Lake City several years back or the one formed by sap in a tree in the Upper West Side of Manhattan shortly before September 11.

Granted, any scientist could rationalize most of it away as the quirks of nature (the earth is a big place, and erosion is bound at times to form what seem like holy patterns). However, we're not much for coincidence here -- especially in these times -- and frequent are the cases in which such patterns, while not definitive proof in and of themselves, are accompanied by the feeling of grace.

Simply put: every once in a while, God seems to peek at us.

One such case comes to our attention this week via a reporter named Kathy Shaw of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, which carried the account of how the family of Daniel O'Malley in Worcester has been touched by a formation that was found, of all places, in a seashell (above). "It happened about a month ago, when Ann McDougal of Paxton, who is not Catholic, had promised Mrs. O'Malley she would bring back a shell when she went to Florida in February," reports the newspaper. 'It was my assignment,' she laughed.

"She went to
Memorial Island, a veterans park at Vero Beach, to watch the sunset. She was walking along the water when she spotted part of a shell sticking up. She lifted it from under a tree root and washed off the sand. 'Whoa!' she cried." Although she herself is not Catholic, she immediately she thought that the shell resembled the Blessed Virgin Mary. "In looking over the contours of the shell, the bottom part, which resembles the hem of Mary's robe, was sticking up while the rest was buried, she said. She knew this shell needed to go to Mrs. O'Malley, who regularly wears a Miraculous Medal honoring Mary around her neck. Both work at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center."

In the clouds.Now, we could leave it off there except for the effects: O'Malley says the shell has taken on a life of its own within the household. It became "she" and "her," noted Shaw. One day O'Malley picked up a copy of a prayer to Mary at Our Lady of Mount Carmel that referred to Mary as Star of the Sea. "So began the travels of an oyster shell that some people believe looks like a statue of Mary, mother of Jesus."

When we caught up with Daniel -- who owns a window-dressing shop, Budget Blinds, in Worcester -- he explained that these events began a month ago. The businessman had carried a lot of anger in his heart since a child of theirs, only five at the time, died in an accident thirty years ago. He had not been to Confession since. He was only an "occasional" Mass-goer. When he did go, he refused to go to Communion. But the very presence of the shell has caused remarkable changes in his heart. In the past few weeks he was been going to Mass many mornings.

"Mary directed me while I was reciting the Rosary to the prayer of the First Saturdays, and that's when I finally broke down, cried for a long time, and she was asking me to go to Confession and Communion, so I did," he told Spirit Daily. He is not referring to locutions so much as infusions of thought -- things that come into his head now when he prays the Rosary. "I know she is leading me," he says. "She wants everyone to go to Communion and Confession. She just seems to be on me all the time."

She can't help anybody, he notes, until they begin to help themselves. "Everybody needs to go to Confession to start the process. The process won't work without a pure soul. You can't ask God without giving something of yourself. You have to prepare yourself, and then they can prepare to help you."

The root of all this could be his mother, who lived in Florida and died several years ago -- a devout woman who was dedicated to Mary, the Rosary, and St. Anthony (the patron of things found). "I have no doubt about it," he says of the role he now believes his mother plays from Heaven. The O'Malleys, who are members of Immaculate Conception parish and took the shell to their pastor, the Rev. William E. Champlin, who blessed it.

And so a seashell joins other objects like tree trunks or (at left) rocks that seem to have images of Jesus or Mary in them, at least for many who see them. The O'Malleys, who are protecting their privacy, said the shell will be on public view as part of events such as Bible study being held in their parish and they accept e-mail at the address posted at the bottom of this article. "I just knew once she came into the house I needed to do something," he further explains. The very presence of the seashell has helped him immeasurably in his own emotional healing -- which argues for it being more than a simple case of natural distortion. God often works through nature. "We keep it right on the stove, so all my grandchildren can see it when they walk by," says Daniel. "We just keep it in their faces." As for Mrs. O'Malley, who works in the accounting department of the hospital, and has always been devout, "she's getting a kick out of Mary bouncing me around," Daniel says. 



April 2004

[The O'Malleys can be contacted here]

[Resources: The Last Secret]

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