Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Make Like the Virgin Mary

In 1996, the Virgin Mary appeared on a window of The Ugly Duckling Car Rental in my hometown. I remember this vividly, since it was Christmastime and we wretched nonbelievers had a much smaller crowd to elbow through in the mall. Someone cut down a tree and there she was, a 60-foot-high water stain. Soon enough, the throngs diminished and the building was leased by some church or another. I passed the building daily on my way to and from school, and to and from the pool hall. No matter what time of day or night it was, people, usually no more than a handful, were there worshipping.
We forgot about them after a time; they were just part of the scenery. But I drove past it again when I was back in Florida in January, and it was still there, still with its roped off section of the parking lot where believers could meditate without fear of being run over by a car. It was comforting in a sort of 'oh yeah, and there's our local ironic miracle' way.
On the phone with my stepmother tonight, she mentioned that some kids had finally managed to throw rocks through it, shattering the top half of the apparition. And I found myself uttering the phrase "these kids today." Since the day after it showed up, people have been trying to kill it. Some have even gone as far as throwing tomatoes at the glass in the hope that the acids in the fruit will eat away the stain. But now someone has finally succeeded, seven years later.

I'm worried about the people that have spent so much faith on this window. The church has replaced the glass, but what if the stain doesn't return? They will believe that they have been forsaken, and this will be bad. Simply because I didn't have any belief staked on it does not mean that I feel they should be begrudged their faith. But then I suppose that the true test of their faith is meant to come now that their old icon is broken.

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