Where Miracles Never Cease
by Monte Leach


 In a hot and crowded upstairs bedroom in an average-looking house in an average-looking community one hour east of Los Angeles, miracles are taking place.

Every Sunday at 5:30 pm, when the gathered crowd says the rosary prayer, oil (or sometimes blood) begins to flow from statues of the Virgin Mary that are kept on an altar in the room. The altar is filled with dozens of statues of Mary, Jesus and Joseph. The walls of the room are literally covered with pictures of the three venerated figures. You've heard of crosses of light? What about crosses of shadow? At least two of them have appeared on the walls of the bedroom. But there's no light source creating the shadows. They seem almost like stains, but are too perfectly-shaped. There's even an image of the Virgin on the windowscreen.

On this particular Sunday afternoon, the room is crammed with people, mostly women, mostly Hispanic and Arabic. Nasreen (whose house this is, whose miracles these are) is Kuwaiti. The reciting of the rosary prayer takes on an almost Tower of Babel quality as Spanish, Arabic, English and later French can be heard in the cacophony of voices praying together faithfully. Devotional songs are sung in various tongues. The largest statue of Mary on the center of the altar looks as if it's weeping, as a bead of oil reflects light from below the right eye.

When the praying ends, a crush of people converge on the altar to see the new oil on the Virgin Mary statues and to receive from Nasreen a cotton ball soaked with the sacred liquid (it's actually pure olive oil, I'm told). The cotton ball is to be placed in a jar of commercial 100 per cent "Extra Virgin" olive oil, and the liquid used for healing purposes. I hear a woman's voice say, "You can see the new oil on Joseph's chin and on the cross." Upon closer inspection, a statue of Jesus, Mary and Joseph can be seen with an oily substance on its surface.

As one crowd leaves the room, another lines up outside the door and down the stairs to see the statue and to receive the blessed oil. Nasreen patiently presses out the oil from a plastic squeeze bottle labeled "Holy Water" and gives each person a cotton ball soaked with it. The oil had presumably been collected from the statue on previous occasions.

As the crowd thins out, Nasreen finally takes a breather. She opens a photo album filled with pictures of the miracles: the statue crying tears of blood; the head of the statue facing at different angles (it once "bowed" its head in front of a crowd of 150 people, she says, "to thank the people for coming with faith in their hearts"); a dramatic image of Jesus superimposed on a photo of her garden; and so on.
I leave the house convinced, but under-informed. I call Nasreen a couple of weeks later to fill in some details.









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