Mary’s Latest Appearance

Jesus and his mother Mary have appeared on a wide variety of objects including grilled cheese sandwiches , doors, rocks, chocolate bars, and pierogis.

The latest in this long list of images is a tree stump is treestump Mary in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, Ireland.

This example of holy pareidolia has generated a large number of supporters and worshippers in this town of 1,550 souls. In fact, a petition to save the stump has amassed 2,000 signatures.

Locals from the town organised the petition in an effort to have the tree stump, which was due to be dug out of the ground yesterday, made into a permanent fixture at the church.
“We have almost 2,000 signatures on the petition already and we are going to continue getting more,” local shopkeeper Seamus Hogan said.
Mr Hogan said the discovery was bringing people from all walks of life to Rathkeale to pray.

The parish priest Fr Willie Russell reinforced that a tree stump is not a worthy object of veneration although the unspoken implication is that only church sanctioned objects are allowed this privilege.

Mr. Hogan goes on to say:

“It’s doing no harm and it’s bringing people together, from young and old to black and white, Protestant and Catholic, to say a few prayers so what’s wrong with that? There’s enough violence and intolerance going on in the world.”
…”Maybe this is Our Lady’s way of getting people back to the church.”

He’s right in that it is doing no harm and that if it should help with intolerance in the world, particularly in Ireland with its history of religious strife, that’s not a bad thing—in theory. Unfortunately, although prayer can provide personal solace, several millennia of prayer has failed to accomplish anything to minimize human suffering or promote world peace.

A spokesman for the Limerick diocesan office said:

“Church’s response to phenomena of this type is one of great skepticism”
“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.”

I guess he has different ideas of skepticism and superstition that I do. One of the issues of religion in all its various guises is it puts an endpoint on skepticism. It’s just where that endpoint is that changes.

Fundamentalists accept as truth more of the Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, or other texts and teachings and tend to reach the point of non-questioning in matters of faith fairly soon. Many sects teach that a questioning mind is something to suppress, and it is preferable to see the world through a religious frame of reference. More liberal groups accept more science and see the texts as more a guide than entirely factual.

Ultimately, all forms of theism rely on the presence of some form of supernatural being or beings for answers to some questions. Once you reach that point, you have stopped looking for answers within the bounds of nature.

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