Nearly ten years ago, my then-boyfriend, now husband, and I were backpacking through the Balkans region of Europe. After arriving in Bosnia, we opted to take a day trip to a small town called Medjugorje, in Herzegovina. We had heard that it was a popular place with tourists from all over the world, and we were eager to check it out. But what we didn't quite expect were the reasons why the town was so well-known. And the reasons are twofold: first, it was the location of a sighting in 1981 of the Virgin Mary, who was said to have appeared to a group of teenagers there. As such, the town became a holy pilgrimage site, particularly for Catholics around the world. Even though the vision of the Virgin hasn't been promoted or officially accepted by the Vatican, it hasn't stopped the flow of visitors clamoring for the chance to visit this seemingly holy place. In remembrance of the miraculous vision, a beautiful church was erected. And in the church’s garden, a bronze statue of the risen Christ was also placed. But here's the further reason for the pilgrimage- since 2000, that statue has had a so-called weeping knee- miraculously producing a clear fluid each and every day for the last 16 years.
We saw this statue with our own eyes. We touched it, and we watched as dozens of people collected the clear fluid- not water, not oil, but something else- into souvenir bottles that were sold all over the town. Still, I didn't know what to think, or how to react. Was this statue for real? I think that belief and faith are beautiful, incredible things. But I also felt skeptical, too. I found myself torn in the middle- religious yet unbelieving, living in a gray area. But like Fox Mulder, I want to believe.
In honor of the holiday season, we are going to look into the phenomenon of the miraculous in art, focusing on weeping statues and bleeding icons.
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