Does the world still need miracles and magic? Andrea K. Paterson thinks so.
Recently, in my home town of Windsor, Ontario, a local woman claimed to possess a statue of the Virgin Mary that wept tears of healing oil. She erected the statue on her front lawn after receiving orders from God to put a shrine there. The entire structure was so massive that it violated community building codes.
People came from all over the city and as far away as Manitoba to see the statue, hoping and praying they might bear witness to a miracle and have their deepest wounds healed. The newspaper showed pictures of gathered throngs praying, crying, and embracing each other as a rather tacky plaster Mary behind a huge sheet of plexiglass looked down upon them. The event struck many as odd, and it struck some other people as downright annoying. Neighbours complained mightily about the increase in traffic, and allegations of a hoax hung heavy in the air.
A weeping statue may not have seemed so unbelievable in more ancient days when small miracles and supernatural events were part of the fabric of daily life. Before the terrier grip of science took hold on the human mind, people sought to explain all of life’s oddities by appealing to gods and demons and supernatural forces. Miracles would have been conspicuous only in their absence in the days when every natural phenomenon was the product of the tenuous relationship between the people and their gods.
Today, we live in a world stripped of miracles. It might be argued that we are more rational now. We appeal to evidence-based logic and, while this is often a very good thing, it means that there is less magic, less wonder, and less awe in the world now. We get a tiny window of magical existence when we are children. For children raised in the Christian tradition this is the time when we get to believe in Santa Claus, flying reindeer and the impossible feat of delivering presents to every child in the world in the space of a single night. I believed deeply in Santa Claus when I was a child and I can remember clearly my excitement and joy as I went to sleep every Christmas Eve seeing the air charged with magic and splendour. I was at an age when I could believe without a trace of doubt crossing my mind.
When my parents finally decided I was too old to believe (and since I had not discarded my firm belief on my own) they unraveled the mystery of Santa Claus and shattered the magic. I was probably nine years old and was completely devastated. I remember that moment so clearly as being the very second that magic disappeared from my sense of reality. I have, in some ways, spent the rest of my days trying to recapture the amazement of my younger years, trying to rekindle feelings of unfettered belief in something. I have largely failed but every once in awhile, in moments when fate seems to whisper in my ear and actions lead me to a place that is beautiful yet wholly unexpected, I grasp the jingle-bell feeling of magic that permeates the world.
So when I read of the faithful gathering around the statue of Mary on the front lawn of a Windsor, Ontario home, my first instinct was to reject the experience outright — to say “this is a hoax and those who are falling for it are irrational”. But then I think maybe it will do some people good to have some magic to believe in. Maybe magic is good for our souls in the way green vegetables are good for our bodies and puzzles are good for our minds.
We are, perhaps, magic deficient these days, and who am I to judge those who are getting their dose of magic wherever they can — in weeping statues, in serendipitous meetings, or in the glowing faces of children who still have the capacity to believe that Santa Claus can fit down chimneys and deliver joy to all on Christmas morning.
Photos of Virgin Mary, Windsor Star
coffee with julie says
You’ve hit on something I feel a bit torn about these days … this whole Santa thing. I didn’t want to be the big-bad parent who never let Santa come into the house, but now that he’s here and his magic is so important to my daughter (who is 8), I really dread the day that she finds out the truth. I don’t know which is worse, to have never known the magic of Santa or to lose it? (You know, like that saying about Love).
Andrea K. Paterson says
It’s definitely a tough one. My devastation at learning Santa wasn’t a real person was extreme and I think there might still be a small scar. My parents tried the “the spirit of Santa is real” argument but it didn’t console me much. That being said I’m glad that I got to have those years of believing and I don’t regret being led to believe. I look back on those days as a time when magic was truly possible in my world and use that memory as an inspiration for the present. Remembering that state of mind when Santa Claus was possible reminds me to be more open to moments of wonder in my adult life. I probably can’t ever believe in things that defy the laws of physics but I might just be able to have hope when things seem hopeless or find a spark of joy during a time of trouble.