Sunday, April 8, 2018

When Statues Cry Real Tears



The world is full of strange phenomena that challenge the way we understand ourselves.  I’m drawn to the extreme, the rare but often deeply revealing phenomena.  I’m trying to form as accurate a picture of human potential as possible.

The project calls for a gradual piecing together of many elements from various sources.  The interesting phenomena prompt us to ask: What does this matter to me, going forward? Of course, you might not want to probe too deeply. Phenomena are sometimes ignored because they can’t be explained, or because they challenge our assumptions.


An element of fear also gets in the way. If we admit telepathy, we might worry about others snooping on our innermost secrets.  If we acknowledge psychokinesis, there would be reason to get paranoid about what people could do to us, in secret and from a distance—they used to call it sorcery.  Or we might not like the idea of some people knowing our future, which is possible if we accept precognition.  Others might grimace at the thought of life after death for fear of what might happen to them (guilty conscience?).  So resistance might be a sign of irrational fear.     

Statues that weep have great ontological shock value. Materialization is an obscure concept, but sometimes things just seem to spurt into being out of nowhere.  Stone or water poltergeists are documented examples. Whether to think of materialization as an apport of something from elsewhere or as creation ex nihilo is another question.

Strange to say, religious artifacts that materialize blood, tears, and oil have a long history.  There is a famous medieval case of materialized blood, reported and illustrated by contemporary artists of Orvieto in the Middle Ages. The English psychical researcher, Everard Feilding, investigated the Abbé Vachere whose communion hosts and religious paintings bled. Washington Post reporters observed weeping Madonna statues at the Saint Elizabeth Catholic church in Lake Ridge, Virginia, in the early 1990s.  And (last time I checked) there’s a similar case currently under way in Fresno, California. Moreover, there are reports of numerous crying statues in Russia and the Ukraine during their current troubles, which have been compared to the epidemic of crying statues in Russia at the time of the Revolutions in 1917.

But consider this.  A plastic statue of the Virgin wept on the morning of August 29, 1953, in Syracuse, Sicily.  Antonina Iannuso was pregnant, ill with toxemia, suffering repeated seizures, paralysis, and blindness.  In the presence of her aunt and sister-in-law, Antonina had an intense attack, but after a while her convulsions climaxed, and she became calm and rested in bed for a while.

When she woke up she was relieved of her “nervous” symptoms. She looked around.  Glancing up at the Madonna cast hanging on the wall, she couldn’t believe her eyes.  She saw and then felt with her fingers what seemed like tears pouring from the plaster eyes of the Madonna image.  The tears were wetting her bed sheets and pillow. Aunt and sister-in-law observed the strange thing that was happening.  Inexplicably, tears were pouring from plastic eyes of the Madonna relief.

From that moment their lives would be turned upside down, and the city of Syracuse would never be the same again.  Consider some highlights of this story (see for details The Miracle at Syracuse. A.R. Bandini, 1956).     

The plaster cast Madonna wept copiously, intermittently, for four days.

Thousands of people witnessed and photographed the phenomenon.

A committee of chemist, pharmacist, physician, prelates and officers of the law quickly convened, collected samples of the anomalous effusions, and determined that they were chemically identical with human tears.

Crowds came from all parts to behold the tears of the Virgin, miraculous healings were proclaimed, and the story was headlined across the world. 

The first healing occurred with Antonina Ianusso.  Once the Madonna image began to manifest tears, all her symptoms vanished, and, coincidentally, she gave birth to a healthy boy on December 25, Christmas day.

The tear-stained artifact ended in the hands of the church and became the basis of a new cathedral that was built to commemorate this visitation from a new “Our Lady of Tears of Syracuse,” illustrating how a mysterious psychic event may become the basis of constructing a cult or religion. 

What to make of this materialization of tears? Facts of this type are fairly abundant and extant today. They taunt us as we gape with befuddlement.  Poe’s imp of the perverse is chuckling behind our backs.  But the tears must be explained, lest we invoke Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason!

Many embrace the official story—if ratified by church authorities—that these are tears of the ghost of the Virgin Mary who decided to make one of her plastic images weep profusely on a street in Syracuse, in somebody’s bedroom who in fact was at that moment very sick and distressed.  Antonina was healed of toxemia and hysterical blindness, and thousands of people could see how the Virgin was crying.   

For those who find this incredible, there is another way to explain the tears.  It is possible that Antonina herself unconsciously caused them to appear on the Madonna’s plastic eyes.  In poltergeist cases, strange physical effects occur in the presence of emotionally labile persons, often but not always children.  Antonina was in a labile state, prone to hysterical blindness, itself a bizarre symptom.  It was  a known syndrome—a state between hysteria and ecstasy—often with effects we want to call surreal.   

She was suffering from intense pain, economic uncertainty, and a husband in cahoots with the top communist in Syracuse.  Not a very religious family, it seems like an odd pick for such a divine favor. Once the tears start to flow, Antonina’s symptoms start to disappear.

Stories like Antonina’s add to an emergent database for a new healthcare paradigm.  We need to build a paradigm that integrates all our healing potentials, especially those ignored by the mainline paradigm.  Antonina’s healing seems to have been the effect of an unknown process that left its signature of tangible tears on a plastic Madonna’s cheeks for all the world to admire, albeit with complete incomprehension.   
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