We are in in Medjugorje, in Herzegovinia, where, in 1981, six children reported visions of the Virgin Mary. Some of them continue their contacts with her even into the present. She advocates peace, conversion, prayer, fasting, reading the Bible, going to mass.
Yesterday, Karen injured a muscle in her hip and we visited the statue of the Risen Christ, which exudes healing water.
In the morning, we return to the Risen Christ statue and see a woman teaching her child to make the sign of the cross after touching the statue. The water seems to be coming at a greater rate than the day before.
I watch Karen touch the statue and apply the water to her injured hip. Will she be healed?
I video a drop of water that has appeared on the statue. A lady wipes it up with a napkin. Many people bring special napkins to gather the healing water. They give these napkins to their relatives and friends for the purpose of spiritual healing.
I video a droplet of water, running down Jesus’ knee. The flow is astonishing! Water appears on both legs and drips off the statue.
I inspect the entire statue closely. There is no water coming from the crack that had been a main source the day before. Karen had suggested that the water was leaking out of the statue through the crack. There seems to be a different mechanism today associated with the water. Today’s water originates, not from the crack in the knee, but from the statue’s loincloth/newspaper (the statue has a newspaper for a loincloth, signifying the emphemeral nature of the crucifixion.) It seems almost sacreligious to ponder the situation. Videotaping it might be regarded as inappropriate. Water is flowing out of Jesus’ loincloth/newspaper in a way that suggests it might be urine. I stop videotaping the water even though it seems anomalous. The liquid is water, probably the result of condensation, but it seems inexplicable. I have never seen anything like this before.
When we get back to our room, Karen reads about the statue, checking out online sources. Apparently, the water did not start appearing until a few years after the statue was put in place (2001 or 2002). It stopped flowing periodically a few brief times until, in 2010, the flow ceased entirely. This was a time when there was much rainfall, a situation that refutes the most common explanation offered by skeptics. Later, the flow of water began again.
“I guess my theory about the statue filling up with water is incorrect,” Karen says.
“Does that mean you believe?” I ask.
“I don”t see why people make a big thing out of this,” she says. “If there were a statue in Disney Land, or someplace like that, people would not pay any attention to dampness on it. Damp statues are not unusual.”
“This is a statue of Jesus,” I reply. “It’s in a sacred place. And it isn’t merely damp. Today, it was dripping water for no explicable reason. It doesn’t matter whether the water flow is miraculous or not. The water triggers healing. I suspect that there are placebo effects as a result of people’s belief. You can believe in placebo effects. Placebos have been verified scientifically. We humans need things to help us cope with the troubles we encounter. I saw you touch some water to your hip.”
“I’m trying to go along with this,”Karen replies. “I’m giving it a chance.”
We return to the church in the late afternoon and pass by the stations of the cross. I am particularly attracted to am image of Our Lady showing Jesus what looks like the Shroud of Turin. This is an artist’s conception, not a historical event, but it captures my imagination. Mary holds an object that will work miracles, like the napkins from Medjugorje.
“What do you think Mother Mary is saying to Jesus?” I ask Karen.
“She is saying, ‘Look Jesus! I bet I can get a lot for this on E-bay!” Karen says.
“I’m not sure that you understand the meaning of the stations of the cross,” I say to her.
“You’re right,” Karen says. “I think that Mother Mary may be causing my hip pain because I’m not a believer.”
“There is a thing called the noncebo effect,” I tell her. “Some people are harmed by their beliefs.”
We watched people praying fervently while they touched the Risen Christ statue.
There did not seem to be much water appearing. A man had to wait for over thirty seconds before a drop of water became visible.
I think about how I might use placebo effects to help my readers. Could watching the healing water produce healing among those who read these blogs? However you believe, so shall it be.
I think about the circumstances associated with religious visions. These events are often connected to social turmoil. The Medjugorje children’s visions preceded the terrible wars in Yugoslavia. Mother Mary focused on non-believers, the enemies of the Croations. Although she called for peace, the Catholic Croatians, the Muslim Bosnians, the the Serbian Orthodox Christians engaged in atrocities which drove out those who were different from themselves, a process called ethnic cleansing.
Calling for non-believers to convert does not lead to peace.
But there are things that are beyond our understanding. The Risen Christ statue, the artist’s portrayal of Mary and Jesus, the visions themselves are all shaped by the human power to bring forth thoughts from some deep place within. The process has a miraculous quality.
Who can explain it?
Lao tsu writes (chapter50):
“The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die
and he has nothing left to hold on to,
No illusions, in his mind,
No resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions.
They flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life,
As a man ready for sleep
After a good days work.”
This story will be continued in a future blog. Will Our Lady continue to punish Karen for her disbelief? Will I figure out how the water is coming out of the Risen Christ statue? Will I stimulate placebo benefits among my beloved readers?
Karen and I visit a place beside the church, set aside for burning candles.
Religion is like water. It takes the form of its container. Religion flows among all humans, taking the shape of the society within which it lives.