A Roman Catholic diocese in New Mexico is investigating reports that a Virgin Mary statue at a local church is shedding tears.
Visitors have been flocking to the statue at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Hobbs since May, when people attending Mass first started noticing fluid dripping down the bronze statue’s face. The statue has shown signs of weeping at least two times, according to the Diocese of Las Cruces ― and church officials have yet to determine how this could have happened.
Deacon Jim Winder, the diocese’s vice chancellor and one of the official investigators of the phenomenon, told HuffPost that the first “lacrimation” happened on Pentecost Sunday, May 20, a day in the Catholic liturgical calendar celebrated as the birthday of the church. The first lacrimation lasted about four to five hours, Winder said. A second one on June 2 was shorter in duration. The “tears” were witnessed by at least 50 people, and the diocese has photos and videos of the occurrence, Winder said.
Winder said a chemical analysis identified the liquid as a mixture of olive oil and balsam oil. This is similar to the sacred chrism oil used by priests in church ― although the oil “tears” from the statue were clear, while chrism oil is typically brown.
The diocese told Las Cruces Sun-News that it found nothing unusual after examining the interior of the hollow statue. Investigators also reportedly ruled out the possibility that it was caused by a manufacturing defect.
“We have not yet found a natural or human explanation for the phenomena,” Winder told HuffPost, adding that “no adulteration was identified.”
Winder said the next steps in the investigation will be to write up a full report for the diocese’s Bishop Oscar Cantú, and to “watch and see effect this phenomena has on the community” in order to potentially deem the phenomenon as a miracle. Cantú also plans to visit the church soon to see the statue for himself.
Rev. Jose Segura, the priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, told the Washington Post through a translator that there are cameras at the church. If he had determined the weeping statue was a manmade hoax, the priest said he would have put an end to it.
“There was a moment when it happened that he didn’t believe,” Judy Ronquillo, the business manager for the church, said about the priest. “But now he believes.”
Ultimately, Cantú has the final say on determining whether the occurrence is a miracle, Winder said. It’s only on rare occasions that the Vatican feels the need to step in.
Official church investigations into potential miracles can take decades. Local bishops usually refrain from making decisive conclusions about these events, instead letting the phenomenon play out naturally among local Catholics.
“If the response in the community is one of faith, peace etc, then there is no need for an official statement,” Winder said. “If it is determined that this is a fraud or that it is being mishandled or misinterpreted, then the bishop would act promptly. At this point, there has been no need for him to make any declarations.”
A video from the Hobbs News-Sun purports to show a weeping Virgin Mary statue.
Catholics in the region are already responding enthusiastically to reports of the weeping statue. The sculpture has attracted visitors from across the U.S, according to Hobbs News-Sun.
Cantú said he’s read testimonies of “tremendous faith” from people who have viewed the statue.
“People who have been dealing with terrible suffering in their lives and have felt a tremendous spiritual consolation that Mary walks with us in our tears,” he told Las Cruces Sun News.
Ronquillo told the Hobbs News-Sun that she believes the weeping statue is a “miracle.”
“There are a lot of people who have come through there that are reporting miracles of people being sick and getting healed from the tears,” she said.
Winder said the diocese has been urging local Catholics to approach the supposed miracle with caution.
“There is a danger in people ‘worshiping’ a chuck of metal, miracle or not, because it is not God, only a sign from God at best,” he said. “If it is a miracle, then it is a sign of God’s love and a warning, which should only serve to bring us all closer to God and the truths of our faith.”