Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

New York State of Mind

There was a very sad story on Good Morning America this morning about a woman who was killed in a Tough Man contest, in front of her family and children. But I got a bit derailed from the horror of it when Charlie the cohost confided that he'd never heard of Tough Man contests. I'm not sure how one could avoid hearing about them, given all the ads they run around here when they come to town. Right up there with "Bill Goodman's/Gun and Knife Show/Call a buddy/Bring a friend" for market permeation.

To See All Heaven in a Grain of Sand

Now, the other odd story of the morning was the Boston folks who can make out a figure of the Virgin Mary in some kind of stain inside a hospital window. Now, laughing at that I don't mind. It's funny. But I couldn't believe how the anchors were asking each other, "Where do people like that come from?" Ummm, hate to point it out to you veteran newsies (or at least media personalities), but Boston Catholics have been having a wicked bad year. Anyway, I bet Charlie wouldn't be too proud to stop and look at a potato with a profile like Walter Cronkite's. We made a national park out of the Old Man of the Mountain (before it collapsed). Even an atheist who's not looking for God wouldn't be above rubbernecking at the Jesus-shaped stain-plus-shadow on that one oil tank out by 75 in Findlay. (Which was why the company finally painted the oil tank.)

So, even though I laugh, I don't scorn those folks who are driving up to see the Virgin Mary. They're not doing any harm. (Other than blocking traffic, and I guess that's been taken care of by the hospital administration.) Some of them are a little over-devout and some over-curious, but they've got a right to want a little comfort after all the trouble they've been going through. If they can see a holy purpose in the shape a stain takes, then they still have that childlike capacity for awe and wonder that lets them see the world as special and God-touched every day. The way we're all supposed to.

And who knows? If God can work through the intricate laws of the universe to touch a few human hearts through the cracking of a humble windowseal and five winters of Boston cold, how is that less classy than showing his love through the beauty of a flower, the taste of fresh-cooked food, the mystery of God being born in blood and goo like any mere human? And even if it's just coincidence, surely there's something nice about saying thank you to the Creator of a world that can come up with such wild and weird coincidences as a nature-made portrait of His mom.


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