New Manifestations Complicate Process Of Discernment, From Photos To 'Thorns
How to discern? In what way do we tell if something is really supernatural, and, if so, whether the supernatural source is a good one?
Those are questions we grapple with on a daily (and at times an hourly) basis. Visionaries, locutionists, and healers (now too, stigmatics) arrive on the scene like clockwork. Recently we referred to one visionary from the Midwest who had been promoted by a well-known priest, only to learn that the archdiocese with authority over the case had expressed serious reservations.
An alleged seer in Russia who was the focus of a more recent story is also the focus of controversy.
And we are in contact with experts as we still try to discern whether a report of bleeding icons in a remote part of Italy is authentic. (More on this soon.)
Most baffling is the explosion of reports of images that seem to manifest themselves in common objects -- from trees, mirrors, and window panes to food items (most recently, pretzels). Some of it seems absurd (eBay sold a mysterious formation that appeared on a grilled cheese sandwich, and there have also been images in tortillas and a myriad of other foodstuffs). But, then, who are we to say how God and the supernatural work?
We know only that the Lord can interface with our dimension any time He feels like it.
At left is one alleged example. It was reported by Antoinette Santangelo of Cedar Knoll, New Jersey, as taking place Sunday, January 16.
On that day at about one in the afternoon Antoinette had filled her one-year-old grandson's bottle with milk at the sink, and in her rush, a spot of it fell onto the ledge in front of her sink, which she discovered only on her return four hours later.
"Since I had a pot in the sink, I set out to wash it," she recalls. "However, before I could do so, I felt a strong force pushing me back from the sink. I wondered why this was so strong."
When the New Jersey grandmother went back to washing the pot, it was then that she noticed the milk drop. On closer examination she was "filled with emotion to see the suffering Face of Jesus" on it. "It was so plain to the eye and I wondered how this could be!" she testified on a letter that has found itself into general circulation.
Antoinette immediately called her husband, she says, a skeptical type who nonetheless recognized it immediately "as the Face of Jesus."
The same was true of a son who tried to snap digital photographs of the image but was unable to get any to "take."
At about 6:30 p.m. a friend who is a nun arrived and took photos with a simple, old-fashioned camera, relates Antoinette. It was a new roll of 24 pictures and the nun took photo after photo, until that film was finished.
The next day, when the nun, a Sister Dolores, went to develop the film, says Antoinette, the technician told her that only one photo had come out -- and he was so intrigued by the situation that he too stopped over at the house with a professional camera. When he went to develop his own film, not one picture succeeded.
A priest too came and "found this incredible," says Antoinette, who adds that the image remained until Thursday (four days later), when, finally, after a wondrous week, it disappeared...
What to make of it?
Then there is Olivia Smith of Petrolia, Pennsylvania, who has been trying to discern a new alleged phenomenon.
The beads on rosaries, she asserts, at times feel as if they are growing spurs that are like thorns, and that then fade away or disappear.
"I joined this prayer group at Troy Hill in St. Anthony's Chapel," she wrote us. "We were honoring the Infant Jesus that day. I believe it was the last Saturday in June. I went with another Legionary of Mary whose name is Lori and again they were having Adoration of the Holy Eucharist.
"We knelt close to the front of the chapel, about two rows back and were praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. We were at the scourging of the pillar when I noticed a thorn on the wooden bead. I showed Lori. Simultaneously a thorn had also appeared on her rosary. It was sharp and pointed -- not large but there was no question it was a thorn. We were surprised and in awe!"
In this case, claims Olivia, it happened with one rosary after another. It seemed like a nearly "contagious" phenomenon. What to make of it? "The thorns kept coming and the oil as well, especially in front of the Blessed Sacrament," she reports (you discern). "I shared this with only a few people. They have had similar findings with wooden beads, plastic, and even glass. Sometimes it may seem as if there are imperfections in the beads, but as you pray, you will notice that the thorns will appear and sometimes just as suddenly vanish. Or, when the Rosary is through, you may look for them and they will be gone. Sometimes there are many less thorns and a few remain."
Again, you decide.
If nothing else, the claims are appropriate to Lent. And we have no reason to doubt the sincerity of those many who write to us. If indeed a phenomenon is from God, it is never to be ignored as trivial -- although it is impossible to launch a thorough investigation of each such claim. We simply try to remain open. One rosary has four "thorns," says Olivia, and her friends also experienced the phenomenon on rosaries she gave to them.
"I haven't noticed thorns in the last couple of weeks," she said, last time we heard from her. "The thorns were very frequent before the Pro-Life March, and when I was praying for the unborn and with those intentions. Sometimes, though, it would happen with a particular intention that I had and was praying before the Blessed Sacrament. I think sometimes when these things happen, and if they happen to more than one individual, that the message is for all.
"At this time, I believe Our Lady is gathering souls in preparation for what lies ahead. Read Ephesians, chapter six, verse 13. We are all part of the Mystical Body of Christ, and God is speaking to us in this way, mystically.
"I'm not certain of the whole meaning of the thorns (suffering), but I am sure that it also strongly pertains to our priests because the first occurrence of the thorns was at St. Anthony's chapel during the second decade of the sorrowful mysteries, while we were praying for priests," she adds.
As for Antoinette in New Jersey, her interpretation: "If we wish to transform this sorrowful Face to a joyful One, let us together continue to shower Him with our love and prayers for peace in our troubled world."
03/10/05You are at www.spiritdaily.org