Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Miracle Update

I went to see the miracle. As pilgrimages go, it was pretty lightweight, and I'm not expecting any indulgences. The divine hand of god was not in evidence, unless it was helping me navigate across the lanes of clogged and impatient traffic.

I counted two city police cars, one state police, a DOT truck and an unmarked sedan of unknown affiliation. That, and a few dozen fellow pilgrims gathered around the northeast underside of the underpass (which, by the way, stinks to high heaven, although not as bad as the Webster underpass where all the homeless guys camp--funny how the miracle didn't manifest itself over there).

There are barricades around the "image," but people were stepping through them one at a time to kiss their hands, touch them to the "image" and then make the sign of the cross. Several of them brought small children along. The kids can't get that close to the "image," though, because there is a ton of stuff around the base of it; at least fifty botanica candles (many with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe), flowers (roses, lilies, etc.), a framed pieta, a black-and-white photograph of a woman who is presumable someone's mother or grandmother, etc. People have written around the image as well, and posted things as well. An announcement in Spanish for a local weekly mass lies over the satanic graffiti which you might have seen in some of the photos.

For every person who was standing and contemplating the "image," there were two or three passing through to take a picture. For these people, clearly, this was not about the experience but about marking the fact that they were there, that they saw it, whatever they may think it is. Some had camera-phones, some had small disposable cameras, and one gentleman had an array of photographic equipment strapped to his waist.

There was no group praying or singing. It was difficult to tell the proportion of gawkers to believers. The crowd was overwhelmingly Hispanic, but it's difficult to ascribe much significance to that since I live in an overwhelmingly Hispanic and Catholic area of Chicago.

I have no pictures, seeing as how I have no camera, digital or otherwise. But it looks about the same as the Trib picture did; like a big rounded blob. I'm sure there will be more pictures on the web.

I didn't feel anything, but I was happy not to find the circus atmosphere that I was expecting. One man was selling Peanut M&M's at a respectful distance from the blob, but they were for his son's school. Mostly people seemed curious and open and respectful.

At the same time I was checking out the miracle, a bunch of men from a rigid hierarchical theocracy were deciding on a new leader. I wonder if that new leader will respect and honor the beliefs of the Catholic faithful in all their strangeness and skepticism, or if he will simply take advantage of them. Will he be a blob or an image of his god on earth? The problem is, there is no one answer. It changes depending on your beliefs and your position on issues and on where you stand when you look at the whole mess.


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