Why does God work signs and wonders? There can only be one answer: His Merciful Love. Our Creator knows our human weakness. Our faith may be weak, or we may have no faith at all. We experience things and come to knowledge through our senses, so God grants us signs that we can see, hear, smell and touch signs of His goodness. The Old Testament is filled with signs and wonders that God granted to all mankind to reveal His Presence and show His power and might. But what could be more miraculous than the New Testament miracle that a virgin should be with child and bear a son? That God should become a tiny infant in the womb or that bread and wine should become the Body and Blood of Christ? Through these unimaginable signs God shows Himself to be not only all-powerful, but also all-good, all-humble, all-merciful, all-LOVE!
Signs and wonders do not end with the New Testament, but are on going. They continue today. For instance, in 1531, Our Lady appeared as a virgin with child to a humble Juan Diego and left an image of herself on his tilma as a sign for all peoples of her maternal love and of the merciful love of God. The wondrous image was “painted” not by brush and paint, but by the hands of Our Lady herself as she gently arranged miraculous Castillian roses in Juan Diego’s tilma as a proof for his Bishop that a church should be built at the site of her appearance. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe speaks volumes to people of all times. As she told Juan Diego, “I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who live in this land and all of mankind. I hear the weeping and sorrows of those who love me, cry to me, and have confidence in me, and I will give them consolation and relief.”
To enumerate the many scientific studies done on the miraculous images of the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or the Shroud of Turin, or the Holy Veil of Manoppello may demonstrate to those who need proof that they are indeed miracles. But faith is still required for belief and some, in spite of the facts or reliable testimony, may still have doubts or sadly choose not to believe.
Perhaps we have trouble believing miracles because at heart we have trouble believing that God loves us and that He would stoop down from Heaven to show that love in some tangible way. Proof or not, the gifts of the Love and Mercy of God are still there so that we may “see and believe.” God has given us these wondrous signs and they should not be taken for granted! He is communicating something to each individual through these signs. Let us pray for ourselves and for unbelievers, “Lord, help us in our unbelief.”
(Below is a re-post from 12/2014 for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe)
Look Closely – Our Lady of Guadalupe “Not made by Human Hands”
The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Shroud of Turin, and “Il Volto Santo,” the veil of Manoppello all have something in common. They are all Acheiropoieta, a Greek word meaning: “made without hand.” They are said to have come into existence miraculously, not created by a human painter.
The extensive research that has been done on these three images, and the results are astounding. Although I have not been to Mexico to view the miraculous tilma of Our Lady, I have seen both the Holy Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello in person. Studying them has been my own personal passion.
Being an artist, (and near-sighted) I tend to look at things more closely. I study each little detail, shape, line, form, color, and value. I may spend hundreds of hours studying while I work. I can’t help but know every little nuance by the time I am done painting. Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schloemer, a Trappist nun from Germany, is also an artist, a painter of icons. Icon painting is very exact when it is done in the traditional manner. Sr. Schloemer began to notice striking similarities between ancient icons and images of the Face of Christ, and the images on the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello. With the permission of her order the research has become her life’s work as well as part of her vocation.
Her research indicates that both images on the Shroud of Turin and the Manoppello Image are of the same man. I agree with her, wholeheartedly, although it is not at first glance apparent. There are also many similarities between these two images of Jesus’ Face and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. First, all are on a cloth. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is on cactus fiber, which should have disintegrated hundreds of years ago according to scientists. The Shroud of Turin is on linen and the Manoppello Image is on woven sea-silk, called byssus.
Byssus is more rare and more precious than gold. Mentioned in the Bible, byssus, has a shimmering, iridescent quality which reflects light. Byssus is extremely delicate, yet strong at the same time. It resists water, weak acids, bases, ethers or alcohols. It can’t be painted, as it does not retain pigments, it can only be dyed; and then, only purple. Did I mention that it can last for more than 2000 years?
Another similarity between the Guadalupe image and the Manoppello image is the changeability of the images. Pilgrims have related how the image of Our Lady on the tilma appears to change in color, brightness and depth. Scientists can’t explain how the Guadalupe image appears on the tilma, it is not painted… it is “just there.” The Shroud of Turin has been described similarly. The veil of Manoppello, or “Il Volto Santo” as it is also known, is even more incredible, if that can be possible, because in addition to the image being on a veil so sheer that it can be read through, it also changes in detail, color, and shape. It even disappears… entirely. It is called a “living image” and so it is. No two people will see it in the same way. No single person will see it in the same way twice.
Julian of Norwich, the English mystic of the 14th century, mentions changeability as a characteristic of the Veil of Veronica in Rome, “the diverse changing of color and countenance, sometime more comfortably life-like, sometime more rueful and death-like.” The Veil of Veronica, it is now believed, was most likely stolen a hundred years later, during the sack of Rome. But, Julian of Norwichs’ description of the Veil of Veronica certainly fits “Il Volto Santo” of Manoppello.
But, there is more. There is something about the faces… if you study the faces in particular, especially the eyes, as one opthamalogist did. On the eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe, you will notice that something. Similar research has been done on the eyes of “Il Volto Santo.” There are delicate, natural, details in all three images that cannot be accomplished without the aid of paint or brush, on a rough, cactus cloth, or on a linen burial shroud or on gossamer-thin sea-silk. If you have an opportunity, look closely. Yes, there is something about the faces, and it is something supernatural. They are not made by human hands, but by the Hand of God.
“O Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe,
By your presence you made the desert bloom with flowers
may your love transform us into the image of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
(Prayer by Dom Mark Kirby, Prior, Silverstream Monastery, Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland)