It’s not that long ago that the Vatican announced a rigorous new procedure for assessing the veracity of miracles, with specific reference to Marian visions, after the miracle boom of the JP2 regime. And yet, it seems that the miraculous tree stump down in Limerick – the one apparently bearing the image of Our Lady – is still drawing in the crowds:
Local businessman Seamus Hogan said visitors to the area were not worshipping the willow tree stump, but Our Lady.
“There are huge crowds still coming. We are not venerating the tree; we are venerating Our Lady, whose image we receive from it. It is the same as a marble statue inside the church,” Mr Hogan said…
“There is a rosary each night and looking around me now, I can see English registered cars and Northern Ireland registered cars also.
“We had Pakistanis and people from India here today. It is drawing huge crowds,” Mr Hogan said.
Some enthusiastic visitors have even removed bits of wood from the tree stump.
“We want to get a glass or Perspex cover put over it as people are taking pieces off it.
“They believe they will get a cure from it or want to keep something as a memento from it,” Mr Hogan added.
Local Catholic clergy could be forgiven for being a bit sniffy. I mean, the Clonard Novena is one thing – folk religion on that level can be accommodated – but holy tree stumps are pushing it a bit. It calls to mind the excesses of the 1980s, when the Limerick countryside was coming down with moving statues. I don’t know if Pope Benny has been informed, but for someone who was trained in the school of German rationalism, this sort of thing could only serve to confirm the deeply weird nature of Irish Catholicism.
Personally, I can’t help thinking of the classic (and possibly apocryphal) example of these apparitions:
For example, an image of the face of Christ on the wall of a church in Guatemala City inspired miraculous healing for two weeks in the 80s, before it was revealed to be a whitewashed poster of Willie Nelson.
Which suggests to me that the apparition in itself is not nearly as important as the belief the punters have in it. A goldmine for social psychologists, this.