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AN EXPLOSION OF HOLY 'IMAGES': CAN IT BE A MESSAGE FROM GOD OR SIMPLY RIDICULOUS?

A trickle and then a flood is now a tidal wave. There has never been anything like it. First once a month. Then once a week. Now, nearly every day (and recently, three cases in one twenty-four-hour period).

Across the West are reports of folks who claim to see the etchings or silhouettes of holy figures everywhere, in every place.

We have commented on this before.

They are mainly local reports. Frying pans. Doors. Windows. Now, even pancakes and the fur of the cat. They range from the heights of the sky (in clouds, or even nebulae) to the grime of a household drain, raising the question: is this to show that Christ is everywhere, that He and His Blessed Mother are reaching out to every part of the country, or is it simple mockery?

Local newspapers and television stations have been having a field day with it, although more often than not with a surprisingly restrained and respectful tone. That's because such images -- whether or not they can even be seen -- inspire a feeling of devotion that the media are wary to offend.

Still, even those who believe in such supernatural phenomena as apparitions and weeping statues are having trouble with it -- often irritated at reports as last week of a cheese cracker that resembled the Crucified Lord (and was declared, perhaps in ridicule, as "Cheesus").

Is such blasphemous -- the devil's mockery -- and is it discrediting the miraculous in general?

Clearly, it takes quite an imagination to see some of the images, and also, clearly, such likenesses appear in certain places that are prone (as in a pancake, or the grit of a drain) to mockery.

In other cases, the images are startlingly evident -- formed in such a way as to stretch the notion of so many coincidences.

If at least some are real, the question then becomes whether it is part of an extraordinary upsurge in grace and signs as we approach purification. At Medjugorje, the Blessed Mother allegedly said she would appear in every household if necessary, and at a Church-approved site in Venezuela, the mystic attached to visions there foresaw Jesus "knocking on every door." Could images be what was meant -- in some cases?

In Lockport, New York (near Niagara Falls), a woman who first saw an image in a tree now asserts that she receives messages and actual apparitions of Mary -- indicating, if she is to be believed (and the news media have treated her seriously), that there was indeed a supernatural element attached to this particular vagary.

"Two years have passed since Antonina Filipertis first heard what she believes is the voice of the Virgin Mary," said the local newspaper last Saturday. "The 84-year-old was walking in her driveway August 29, 2006, when she heard instructions to look at the tree in front of her house at 96 Harvey Ave. in Lockport. 'I heard a voice that said, "Look in your tree. I turned around, but there was nobody behind me,' she said.

"When she looked in her tree, an old maple that stands near the curb in front of her house, she said she saw images of the Virgin Mary in three places, embedded in the knotholes of the old tree. Her life has dramatically changed since then."

The newspaper said she has experienced several apparitions of the Virgin Mother since, including one where "she was so beautiful. She came to me and said, 'You donít have to use the walker any more.'" The woman claims a miraculous healing then took place.

Why the Lord would manifest in such a way (if a manifestation it is) becomes the next question -- although such cases have afforded the devout an avenue to spreading their devotion. Typically, hundreds and even thousands gather. Could it be an indication that God is in everything at a time when many don't see Him in anything?

Or is it all just a product of the internet, which has given such more currency?

See here for "Jesus" in laundry.

See here for the pancake.

See here for the fur.

See here for a shirt.

See here for a TV cabinet.

See here for a "cross" on a palm tree?

And here for other strange places.

Strange they are. They even make national news. In some cases, perhaps, ridiculous. Goofy. Or so it seems. Laundry. The grime of a drain? Might the Lord be showing Himself in the most humble of fashions?

Perhaps, some or even many are ridiculous. But let there be caution with those who are the first to toss the stone. For whatever the images are or are not, if they inspire prayer, they exist in a reality that in some way (large or small) has been sanctified.

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