Visiting a “Miracle” Statue

October 17, 2012

On September 16, 2012, after years of hearing about it, I finally stood before the “miraculous” Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima, which travels worldwide to bring a supposedly supernaturally obtained message of world peace.

The statue was created in 1947, thirty years after the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared at Fatima, Portugal, and spoke to ten-year-old Lucia Santo. She was a precocious girl who clearly had a fantasy-prone personality. At the end of several of the Virgin’s reputed appearances, the “Miracle of the Sun” occurred with numerous people reporting various gyrations of the solar body.

Since the same sun elsewhere in the world did not exhibit these, they were probably optical effects caused by staring at such a bright light, possibly together with meteorological phenomena and “mass hysteria.” (See my “The Real Secrets of Fatima,” Skeptical Inquirer, Nov./Dec. 2009, 14–17.)

Frequently the statue has “wept”—most famously at New Orleans in 1972. However, an archdiocesan spokesman noted the humid climate as representing one of several possibilities, the suggestion of condensation being underscored by the statue’s having glass eyes. Other possibilities include pious hoaxing and simple imagination. The statue’s website states that “Frequently an individual sees the tears on the statue while others at the same time do not.” (See http://www.pilgrimvirginstatue.com/.)

I saw the statue at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Amherst, New York. Alas, it failed to weep for me. Still, I could not help but think of the irony of it and other animated statues in light of an anti-idolatry story related in an extra, fourteenth chapter of Daniel in Catholic Bibles. I recommend it both as a lesson to “weeping-statue” Catholics and as an instructive paranormal-investigation story to skeptics.

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