Mystery Deepens As Images Claimed To Be Supernatural Resemble A Mexican Relic
Whether it's on an underpass in Chicago, an office near Tampa, a tree in Utah -- or, as was most recently the case, one in Colorado -- those reporting what seem like the miraculous formation of holy images are reporting one with special frequency.
The image they say they see (and now we have reports of a second one in Illinois, this time Moline, and in Dallas) most closely matches the miraculous image of Guadalupe.
That's the incredible "painting" of Mary that miraculously appeared on the tilma of an Indian named Juan Diego in 1531 and remains inexplicably intact in a display case at a basilica near Mexico City.
Known as an acheiropoietos image ("not made with human hands"), it caused the conversion of an estimated eight million Indians in just seven years, and stands today as the religious symbol of Mexico.
The question: why is it that this particular image seems most frequently to fit with what seem like miraculous silhouettes of Mary? And why now? Why in the U.S.?
One explanation may reside in the fact that the Virgin of Guadalupe is patroness of the Americas. She has been formally declared as such by Rome. That's number one. This is her turf and this is a special time. The U.S. as yet has no approved site of apparitions, and so it seems that this one has been imported.
Add to that the immigration. Millions of Mexicans have flooded into the U.S., the vast majority raised Catholic -- and virtually all familiar with this image, which is a staple of their homes and even displayed in most cabs that roam the nation's largest city.
Mexicans venerate the image of Guadalupe like few people venerate any religious icon and that veneration is spreading to the U.S.
Indeed, while many Mexicans switch from Catholicism to nondenominational Pentecostal-style churches once they get here, most remain Catholic or at least keep their reverence for Mary -- to such an extent that some Mexican-laden Protestant and Pentecostal churches now recognize the feast day of Guadalupe and hang the image!
Incredible is the possibility that Mary is taking over large chunks of turf through the Mexicans precisely because she has been ignored by what -- until now -- has been a dominantly Protestant country. Is she claiming it through the immigrants -- and will they end up bolstering the Catholic population as much as seems possible?
According to projections by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in the U.S. is expected to triple by 2050 -- mushrooming from about 36 million to more than 100 million and forming almost 25 percent of the population.
Although far more vague, many "miraculous" formations bear the general form of Guadalupe and some are startlingly proportionate. Glass experts believe such a formation in Clearwater, Florida (above) was created by a chemical reaction and corrosion of the metallic elements in the glass coating, but they can not explain why it took the shape it did. The windows were broken last year.
Of course, the simple fact that Guadalupe is now so popular could be used by skeptics to explain such images away. It is simply what many would see into a formation, because of that popularity, they argue. "It's a Rorschach test. It's in the eye of the beholder," said one. "We always pick patterns out of randomness."
Others might say that the honoring of Mary in the devotional manners of Guadalupe has caused God to form Guadalupe-specific grace.
In Ireland, many have a special devotion for Lourdes, and Mary has often been seen there as the Immaculate Conception.
Then there are the simple sign of our times. The Americas are in the throes of a purification -- the very onset of one -- and she is the patroness. The presence of such an old image may be a bellwether. The question now: has she manifested with such frequency to single out the U.S. and prepare it for events ahead?
Many take the image in Mexico to be that of a pregnant Virgin, and as such she also has been a symbol for the Catholic pro-life movement: a relic raised against abortion. Is she saying something about abortion in all these likenesses -- these alleged likenesses?
We can only say that it remains an interesting time, and that the consistent display of phenomena in the pattern of Guadalupe (Fatima would have been as logical, or Lourdes itself), lends itself to interpretation.
Let us note that the image of Guadalupe has miraculously escaped floods and even a bomb at the shrine in Mexico City. Is it now spreading its powers of protection? The apparitions to Juan Diego occurred at the same time as a "smoking star" or comet. An earlier image of Mary from a shrine of the same name in Spain was carried on a ship during the famous battle of Lepanto, during which Muslim Turks attempting to conquer Europe were miraculously defeated.
Meanwhile, a little secret here. In 1981 was the discovery of another "coincidence": the number of stars in the Guadalupe Madonna's blue mantle -- 46 -- is the same as the number of chromosomes in the human being at a time not just of abortion but of cloning and human embryo research.
[see also: In stunning trend, Guadalupe devotion crossing into Protestant denominations and Surge of Mexican immigrants brings prospect of huge increase in Catholic population and
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