Spirit Daily


Gibson Movie And Destruction Of Image In Florida: A Sword Is Piercing Many Hearts

By Michael H. Brown

I wonder if the smashing of that image of Mary in Clearwater, Florida, was a prophetic event. I do think those panes of glass went beyond the normal. It may have been the process of oxidation that technically caused the coloration, but the fact that the shape can be perfectly superimposed on the image of Guadalupe and the fact that it flowed without interruption across at least nine separate panes of glass argues forcefully for the miraculous.

And so what are we to make of the fact that it is now smashed -- that a week ago someone with evil inclinations apparently shot at it with a slingshot and caused the glass on that famous office building -- where the contours of Guadalupe have been seen since 1996 -- to come tumbling down?

Let me say first that I am surprised that the Church did not take steps to preserve the image, or at least show a bit more interest. I'm sure the bishop has his reasons, and we respect his discernment. I just don't know what it was. When I first viewed it, I expressed the opinion that it should be kept in a basilica like the one called Queen of the Universe Shrine in Orlando -- even in the basement, if the bishop did not see fit to as yet exhibit it publicly. One can argue that it was meant to stay where it was, but how about a security guard?

It was a simple matter of safekeeping. When apparently miraculous images are in formal church settings they have survived tremendous attacks. We note that not even fires have been able to destroy the Shroud of Turin (kept as it has been behind the altar of a church) and that a terrorist explosion in 1921 at a basilica that housed the Guadalupe image near Mexico City bent over brass candlesticks but caused no harm to the image itself. "So severe was the explosion that it shattered all the stained-glass windows in the basilica and uplifted whole chunks of marble and masonry from the sanctuary," noted one scholar. "A huge bronze crucifix that stood above the altar was twisted as though it were made out of putty. When the smoke lifted, the stunned congregation was amazed to see that no one was hurt, not even the celebrants at the altar. And expecting to see the miraculous Image severely damaged, they looked up to her and, lo and behold, there she was, totally unscathed by the blast, and not even a crack on the protective glass that shielded her!"

The Clearwater image had no such luck -- attained no similar protection. We have to wonder why. Was it in God's plan -- a sign -- to end the way it has? Let us note that the image went dark for the only known time just before September 11. Is its smashing a simple criminal act -- or a similar portent? Is it a coincidence that Terri Schiavo, the severely disabled woman whose parents are fighting to keep her alive, was literally a block away -- a stone's throw -- at the Park Place Assisted Living Facility, 2750 Drew Street, at the time of the vandalism?

Whatever the case, the image and the building on which it formed fell under the control of a well-meaning group called Shepherds of Christ from Ohio and obviously they did not have the wherewithal to protect it. Why was the diocese not more involved? "We haven't been asked to issue a statement, and we haven't done that," says the bishop's spokeswoman, Mary Jo Murphy, when asked about the situation. "No one ever asked us to do anything officially with it. We have never issued a statement." She said it takes the Church a long time to evaluate an alleged miracle and had no further comment.

Historically, bishops in Europe immediately visited sites of alleged miracles and placed them under Church domain. There are dozens if not hundreds (literally) of examples. With all due respect: it is time for the bishops in our own time and our own culture to begin more seriously considering the tremendous indications of the miraculous.

Meanwhile, the destruction of this image raises other, more prophetic questions.

"And a sword will pierce your own soul too," says Luke 2: 35, "so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare." Those are the words of Simeon to the Blessed Mother when she brought Him to the temple.

And they come winging to mind in this year that has seen the smashing -- the thrust of a spear -- into the Clearwater image at the very same time that there was release of a movie that has caused tremendous soul searching.

I am speaking here of the Mel Gibson movie -- which seems like another example of a "sword." Is it a final time of separating the goats from the sheep, the believers from those who do not believe, the spiritual from the secular? Is it part of a year prophesied to involve "rivers" of heavenly light? Are we not in a period (yes, call it an illumination of conscience) when we will see deeper our own souls and the souls of those around us?

We must say: the movie seems to cleave the shell of the soul. It makes us look inwardly. The Blessed Mother is there throughout the movie, and as in the temple we are pierced with her. There is a mystical effect. And here again we are confused by the bishops. Indeed, there are doubtless defects in any movie, but the reaction of the bishops through their official review, if well posited, and often highly perceptive, seemed very secular and if you will pardon an observation, missed the movie's mystical effect.

We are a Church of signs and wonders. Did not Christ heal? Did He not appear in apparition? Did He Himself not experience apparitions? Do not locutions dominate the time of Exodus? Were there not miraculous healings? And signs in the sky? Was Christ not an expert at exorcism?

Were it not for miracles, Christ Himself would not have been believed. It is what substantiated His claims. It is what still substantiates His claims. And we urge the bishops to take this into consideration and begin to take the "signs and wonders" as seriously as they deserve to be taken and to steer the

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