Hundreds flock to see image of Virgin Mary on Miami altar


Sep 24, 2007

MIAMI, Fla. - Hundreds of faithful people lined up at a South Florida church on Thursday and Friday nights, claiming to see visions of the Virgin Mary and Jesus in a cloth tapestry.

The apparition is said to be appearing on the altar of St. Brendan's Catholic Church in Miami.

Some people stood in line for more than an hour to see the image.

"I heard it on the news this morning that there was a silhouette of the holy family," Maria Anduiza said. "So we're here to see."

Inside the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament where the Holy Eucharist is exposed, church officials said shadows appeared along the bottom of the altar cloth.

The shadows have been drawing crowds of believers since Thursday.

Students in South Florida also went to see the alleged apparition.

"I felt like the presence of Jesus was in front of me," Michael Valerias of Palmetto Middle School said. "My grandfather just passed away, so I felt his presence also."

"I believe that this has a meaning that we have to have more faith in God," teacher Maggie Falla said.

Technology made it possible to capture and keep the unusual images.

"When I came yesterday, I saw an image of Mary and Joseph," Falla said. "I saw a little shadow in the middle, but I wasn't sure."

Falla returned to the chapel with her iPhone on Friday.

A photo taken from her iPhone shows a darker shadow between two clearly defined silhouettes that appears different than it does in person.

"I see the face of Jesus Christ in between Mary and Joseph, an adult version," she said. "It's not what I see inside."

Her iPhone became another sight to see for those drawn to the apparition.

"That's awesome," Anduiza said. "You could see the face of Jesus in between the Blessed Mother's silhouette."

Is this an actual apparition?

St. Brendan's pastor father Fernando Heria said faith is in the eyes of the beholder.

"I have seen the shadows," he said. "What the shadows mean I think is very subjective. Each person experiences religion in a very personal way because God talks to us individually. God comes to our level of spirituality."

Before the hierarchy of the Catholic Church officially recognizes any apparition, there is a lengthy investigation.

"Private apparitions are very subjective," Heria said. "The church takes a long time. It must analyze. Because there can be a human explanation for any event that we perceive as supernatural. Obviously we have to account for that."