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Notice the word "claim": We are living at a time when images of holy figures -- usually Jesus, His Blessed Mother, or both -- are alleged around the world. There are those who claim they see the subtle etching or profiles or silhouettes of them in rocks, clouds, lights, candles, windows, the side of a garage; a fence; even kitchen counters. There are those who have claimed an image in the shower, or in food. Most recently: on the ceiling of a hospital (during the Pope's visit to New York) and on the door of another hospital much farther south [in Orlando; see here, where the image was startlingly clear).

This man claims to see the Virgin in a photograph. Many are the photographs!

Is it the "silly season" -- or are we observing another sign of our time, especially in that the images seem to be getting more lucid: better defined?

God is a direct God but He is also a subtle God and so there are many times when He is a God of slight variance.

To use a variation is to nudge. It is to hint. It is a shade, a nuance, a word spoken at a level that is barely audible, a "coincidence" (God's way of remaining anonymous, goes the saying). In our lives, He nudges us to show us that He is there, to do the right thing, or to make a right decision.

Is His "nudge" also seen in what many claim are supernatural manifestations?

At a recent birthday Mass for Blessed Father Francis Xavier Seelos in New Orleans, an unusual blue bird was photographed in the church at a propitious time. Some saw holy images in photos of its breast.

And what about statues?

Many are those who feel they have experienced God's touch in the subtle way that statues seem to change or exhibit some form of unexpected feature or countenance when photographed or viewed from a slightly different angle, or at a different time (and when there is prayer in front of them). We remember years ago the photographs taken at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Youngstown, New York, of the Blessed Mother that were typical gray statuary in one shot (against a dull sky) and a nearly alive statue with cognizant eyes in the very next shot of the same statue, which now seemed to stand majestically against a brilliant azure sky, knowingly staring. It was like the entire setting had changed.

In New York City, a statue of the Blessed Mother at the far back of St. Patrick's Cathedral (in what is known as the "Lady Chapel") has been seen to suddenly "switch" expressions, as if the face is fluttering, if ever so slightly.

In Ireland, during the early 1990s, a dozen roadside grottos were said to have statue phenomena: statues that not only shifted features but seemed to turn into apparitions of the saint represented, especially St. Padre Pio and St. Therese the Little Flower, as well as Mary.

A trick of blurry eyes, or a little nudge, a grace?

Many claim that the famed image of Guadalupe in Mexico shifts according to position -- not just from the angle of view, but in the image's very colors. Others say that a few inches from the actual material, the image is not even visible -- as if the inflection of the supernatural qualities is above the material itself. We see the prospect that Heaven imbues religious objects (in the case of Guadalupe, it was miraculous to start with) and communicates gently in this fashion.

In Medjugorje, according to a viewer named Denyse, a statue in St. James Church seemed to cry on and off between December 25, 2007, and January 11 of this year. Many have noted "changes" in the countenance and expressions of this particular (and powerful) statue.

"These pictures were taken with a regular camera on seven different days by group of one or two or three pictures at a time," she wrote, attaching a slew of photos. "Of interest: the 'normal' position of the statue of Our Lady (with a blue sash, as  in the Lourdes Apparition, hence the "Medjugorje" label underneath it) observable by anyone walking in the church between 7 a.m. and after the last office -- is that where her eyes are down, at the beginning or end of a session of photography -- without tears but possibly various degree of sadness. 


"On the rest of the 17 pictures, Our Lady looks straight ahead -- both eyes not even in the same direction-- either extremely sad or eyes full of tears. With my own eyes, I have personally observed sad expressions of Our Lady looking down, yet I have never observed her looking straight ahead and certainly never her crying. Indeed, like any loving mother, she worries about the souls of her sinful children who do not care about hurting her Son and themselves!"

Is such a real manifestation, or the change in angles -- and perspective?

That's up for your considered judgment.

"I saw a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus in her left arm, this was about in 1991, in St. Michael the Archangel's Church on Siesta Key," writes Joseph J. Wagner of Sarasota. "What I saw occurred at morning Mass on several weekdays in a row. While standing, I think saying the Our Father, I noticed that at the hand of the Blessed Virgin Mary , just off the finger tips, there was a small circle of stars (about the size of quarters), about five. These were bright. On about the third or maybe the forth day, these stars were there in the same circle, and a spot that was vacant between the arm and her body had a bright blue fire." 

Adds a woman named Mary Walsh:

"On Easter Sunday, I attended Mass at a church in Memphis, Tennessee, called Holy Rosary. There is a granite statue of Our Lady with a rosary hanging down from her arms. I was sitting on the front row directly in front of Our Lady, and the rosary seemed to be swaying almost as if she were moving. After Mass I went up to the statue to see if the rosary was free-standing, and it is solid and concrete like the statue, there is no way it could have been moving.

 "Sure, it could have been a trick of the eye, an illusion; I have gone back since and sat in the same place, and did not see this effect. But I was comforted because I had been away from the Church and was looking for forgiveness and felt that Our Lady was reassuring me."

Maybe she was. It's hard to tell from photos.

Here's another set -- this time St. Therese of Lisieux -- from a viewer, Grace Narus, who photographed the statue near Cleveland. "She moves her head along with several of the other statues," said grace of the statue.

Or is it -- again -- the angle?

This also happened, on many occasions, allegedly, with a statue of the Blessed Mother at a church in Cold Spring, Kentucky. We have heard similar accounts across North America. Do you have any encounters to share?

Whether or not we can prove a statue shifted in some inexplicable fashion, what we can note is the presence of grace.

Grace often flows in such settings, as if indeed God has bequeathed a special little nudge that exceeds both the elements of reality and our abilities to explain them.

Can He -- would He -- really use a statue?

As we have seen in those images from around the world -- the legitimate ones, and there are at least some that are legitimate -- He can and may use anything.

[resources: The Day Will Come and The God of Miracles]

[We have had this before: is a Host here at Lourdes [video] actually levitating?]

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