It’s been over 2 years since I saw a report on the image of the virgin Mary showing up on a baking tin. It would appear that the phenomenon of virgin spotting, for the good of the Catholics among us, is still alive and well and has now spread (once again) to Ireland.
(Historical digression: The last time that Ireland experienced anything similar was during its last recession in 1985, when a “moving” statue drew tens of thousands to Ballinspittle, Co Cork.)
Now, back to the latest:
Limerick, of all places.
(You know Limerick, birthplace of the witty and often slightly risqué rhyme, consisting of five lines.)
And now home to a newly appeared virgin Mary in, of all places, a tree trunk.
She “appeared” after someone had cut down a willow tree. Instantly spotting the holy virgin mother, he dutifully fell to his knees and proclaimed it a true picture of “our blessed lady”. This sort of thing obviously stops all further tree clearance.
In fact, almost 2,000 people have signed a petition to prevent the stump’s removal and hundreds of worshippers have been gathering to recite decades of the rosary and light candles.
Remarkable. A few hundred years ago, anyone dancing and worshipping round a tree would have been burned at the stake by the catholic church for witchcraft. Times have changed.
The 2,000 faithful petitioners have little backing from their local priest though.
Father Willie Russell, the parish priest, said: “There’s nothing there, it’s just a tree. You can’t worship a tree. A tree is a tree. A person with imagination is a person with imagination.”
He said that there was no harm in people praying at the stump but added: “I don’t believe in idolatry, that would be the danger.”
Again, remarkable. Go into any catholic church and you will see idols all over the place. They are called statues of the virgin. Maybe this one just isn’t fancy enough for this particular priest.
Memories of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” come back to me as I picture 2,000 good Irishmen pointing at this upstart priest and yelling, “Unbeliever!”.
Seamus Hogan, spokesman for the 2,000 pious petitioners, had this to say;
“People have been coming from Clare and Kerry to see this tree, which we believe shows a clear outline of Our Lady.”
…while the official response is a little more, how should I say, guarded?
Father Paul Finnerty, the spokesman for the Limerick Diocese, said: “The Church’s response to phenomena of this type is one of great scepticism. While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition.”
Now that is truly awesome. The church wishing to “avoid anything which might lead to superstition”.
A bit of an oxymoron if ever I heard one.
Hat tip: The Timesonline.