A weeping Virgin Mary appears…in Orlando?

Update from today (4/25): Catholic officials say ‘crying’ Mary statue phenomenon is natural

I was surprised a bit by my reaction today to a report on a local Orlando TV station that a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta appeared to be shedding tears. (See some of our photos here.) I have faith enough that there are miracles in this world, but I just don’t think they happen to fake statues in stores. I thought for most of the day my objection to this was based on a couple of other past journalistic experiences with weeping Virgin Mary’s, including a relatively famous one about Mary’s “appearance” on a window of a building in Clearwater, Florida, where I used to live. I felt we were exploiting an event — no media member I ever met believed they were real and few respected the people who did. Only now, as I sat down to think about the day, did I realize a couple of other reasons. My mother would have been right there visiting the icon, believing it a sign from God. She believed in signs — that God’s hand was visible in the bad things that happened to some people (those she disliked) or in the good that sometimes came our way (say, finding money when things were as usual tight). I didn’t like the faith she had in the Catholic Church, especially because it rejected her as a divorced woman during the 1950s. (She was, however, good enough for them to hire to clean the convent.)

I think, though, a deeper objection to this story was because I remember the awe I felt as a child seeing the real Pieta, at the World’s Fair in New York City in 1964-65. I was young, as young as my 7-year-old is now, but I remember low lights, silence, sliding (I think) on a moving walkway past it, believing, in seeing that work of art, that I was in the presence of grace.

I miss that feeling. I wish so many of us didn’t feel we had to find it in stores where fake statues cry and the media laps it up.

(The video below — actually a slideshow of the World’s Fair — includes some wonderful images of things I’d forgotten, including of the Pieta)