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Weeping Statues: Divine Miracles or Exploitative Fraud?

The evidence for religious miracles is closely connected to the spirituality of the observer, and their own personal belief. Miracles have been observed by those who believe in a higher power, although those who bear witness to them consider them as more of a spiritual subject than a physical one. Some even say that miracles are the physical manifestation of something that was once purely spiritual. For those who believe, the achievement of something physically impossible is therefore unsurprising, as it derives from the spiritual realm.

Miracles or Fakes?

While miracles happen even today, their frequency has gone down. This may be because of the lack of observation on our part, or our increasing understanding of the physical world and the answers it can give us without the need for spiritual explanations. However, observers should always be aware that there exists another type of supposed miracles: fakes created artificially to invoke an emotional response in people.

A primary motivation for such fraud is to invoke belief or fear in a religious entity. In this article, we will consider a phenomenon which, if true, certainly would be a miracle. However, most of the time, it is more a hoax than anything else. The phenomenon is that of weeping statues, especially those observed in churches.

Statues are obviously inanimate, being made of stone or metal. In the physical world there is no possibility of inanimate objects acting as a live person. Therefore if a statue is observed to be weeping, this leaves three possible explanations. There may be a fraud involved, either to fool the observers, or by the observers themselves. There may be a physical explanation for the phenomenon which is not yet understood.

Or, for believers, this may be evidence of a genuine religious miracle. The spiritual realm is different, and a lot of things are possible in it. Nevertheless, for the spiritual realm to manifest in the physical as a statue showing emotions and weeping is incredible.

In this article, we will delve into what makes a statue weep. We will go from hoax to miracle and try to understand why it happens.

Catholicism and the Virgin Mary

Weeping statues are certainly not unusual, and there are many cases of weeping statues seen across the world. Weeping statues are particularly common in Catholicism, where the most famous example might be the Madonna of Syracuse.

Located in Sicily, the statue has been observed to shed tears since the year 1953. Other instances of weeping statues come from Hungary, Macedonia, and Argentina. While weeping statues are common, people regard the weeping Virgin Mary statue in certain churches as particularly miraculous.

Catholics hold the Virgin Mary, as the mother of Jesus Christ, in particularly high regard among Christians. Given her high position of reverence in the Catholic Church, an accordingly high number of miracles have been attributed to her, often without direct evidence. For instance, Mary’s intercession was credited for the victory of Venice and the Papacy when it was attacked by the Ottoman Empire’s fleet in the 1300s.

Another particular instance of Mary’s supernatural powers was when the Chartres Cathedral in France was gutted by fire in 1194. Flames consumed the whole cathedral, however miraculously the Veil of the Virgin Mary, a relic held in the cathedral, was saved without a scratch by three priests. That something so delicate as a veil survived in a destructive fire is incredible to fathom. Even the priests who saved the veil escaped the fire without any harm.

Apart from her relics, statues of Mary have been observed to weep on several occasions. Mary’s tears are also said to be miraculous, some believing that they have healing properties. Catholics believe that the tears are because Mary cries over the seven sins of the world. Thus, her tears carry the power to wash away the sins of the people.

People also believe that the Virgin Mother cries over the seven sorrows she endured in her lifetime. These seven sorrows are often depicted as seven swords that pierce her heart in religious art and iconography

When the Virgin Mary statues weep, they weep tears of blood, oil, or other scented liquids. In most cases, the statues weep tears of olive oil and balsam, which invokes a fragrance of roses. Spiritually, this is considered a manifestation of Mary’s presence, because she was called the ‘Rose without Thorns.’

Often Virgin Mary statues that weep are accompanied by other miracles, most commonly apparitions of Mary. These statues are worshipped by people. However, when the statues weep, local bishops often investigate the phenomenon before declaring it a miracle, to ensure that it is not a hoax.

Odds Are It’s A Fraud

Catholic bishops follow the guidelines dictated by the Vatican for such instances. The Vatican provides clear instructions regarding application of Catholic Doctrine and how to assess such seeming miracles. The guidelines for examination are usually applied to instances of Mary appearing to worshippers. However, other supernatural occurrences like weeping statues also fall under these guidelines.

the approach taken to verify the miracle was traditionally not shared with the general public, but remained a secret of the Church and its officials. The guidelines remained private until as recently as 2012, when they were finally made public.

The bishops usually start by observing the effect the weeping statue has on the community around the church. If there is evidence of people healing through the tears, this is considered positive evidence of a miracle. Furthermore, another positive aspect would be the deepening of the Catholic faith in observers of the phenomenon.

On the other hand, there could be negative aspects too. For example, the selling of the liquid collected from a weeping statue suggests an ulterior motive, and therefore creates doubt as to the legitimacy of the miracle. If the weeping leads to a growth of anti-Catholic speech and sentiments, then also this suggests negative connotations.

Many times, the tears are proven to be fake, and the phenomenon is not considered a miracle. Various weeping statues have been exposed as frauds over the years. In such cases, the tears that the statue wept, be they water, blood or balsam, most commonly are traced to actions by the statue’s owner injecting liquids into the statue.

If the statue is from a porous material, this is a very easy task. Tears of oil are particularly easy to recreate. The trick lies in rubbing oil mixed with fats on the statue’s eyes. When the temperature reaches a particular mark, the fat melts off, and the oil falls like tears.

Because such trickery is easy to achieve, the Vatican only endorses weeping statues in very rare cases, and weeping statues of the Virgin Mother are even rarer. The phenomenon of healing tears from the statue can earn fame in a few days, creating an income source for the greedy. This is the most common reason for weeping statues, and accordingly this is the most common conclusion reached by the Vatican.

However, the phenomenon of weeping statues persists and some exist today which the Vatican considers genuine, and which defy a physical explanation? Are these rare cases miraculous? That is an answer for each observer to make themselves, according to their faith.