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It's a mystery, as so many things are a mystery: why oil is associated with healing.

We have written of this before. And the speculation runs from the fact that oil (and specifically olive oil) is a health food that heals internally while use of it externally is like a balm.

One can start with that and the reports that oil or an oily substance has exuded from hundreds of statues of the Madonna from around the globe. The most famous current case: a bronze corpus of Jesus in Medjugorje.

Many are those who claim that healings and other miraculous happenings have accompanied such exudations, and oil collected from statues is frequently saved on cotton and used by the seriously infirm.

So there is the mystery of how God's Power is transferred through a liquid and the mystery grows with certain cases in which such oil is said to be anointed for healing when it is in lamps burning before miraculous statues.

Such was true of icons in an Orthodox church on Long Island. They are in Hempstead at St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church, where the exudation of tears began in the 1960s and gained the attention even of President Richard Nixon.

Now the issue is brought to the fore again with the announcement that an apparition in France known as Laus has been approved by the Church.

One day in the winter of 1665, the seer there, Benoîte Rencurel, was advised by the Virgin Mary to invite those with illnesses to apply oil to their afflicted members. Our Lady said to her that "if they take oil from the lamp in the chapel and apply it to themselves, and if they have recourse to Her intercession and have faith, they will be healed."

This is remarkable.

"The oil from the sanctuary lamp burning before the Blessed Sacrament, and the maternal presence of the Virgin Mary having appeared on the site, are to Laus what the waters of the spring are to Lourdes," notes a website. "Physical and moral cures were granted in great number by means of this oil applied with faith. A certain quantity is regularly taken from the lamp for the pilgrims' use, and its beneficial effect is still active today."

The same is true at St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, where oil is used from the sanctuary lamp to heal the sick, with the intercession of St. Joseph (at this shrine linked to Blessed Andre, who healed with St. Joseph oil).

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