Article written by: Rebecca Bogler for The Times -Press, Streator, Illinois May 7, 1999
The human mind requires logical explanations, forcing many who cannot accept the unknown to scrutinize the details and rationalize the results. But a local woman's faith is causing others to rethink their own beliefs, as a result of a series of photographs she produced while attending a local religious service.
The May Crowning of the Virgin Mary has been an annual celebration at St. Stephen's Church for many years, and none of the events that took place Wednesday night seemed out of the ordinary. It wasn't until Ms. Frank Lurz returned home to feflect on the evening and look at the snapshots she had taken that she realized something phenomenal had apparently taken place. "My first initial thought was that I caught a miracle on my camera,"an excited Lurz said Thursday afternoon.
The Mass, which also honored the lives lost in Littleton, Colorado, and offered prayers of strength for the survivors, was held in the church. The procession then moved to the school gymnasium for songs, followed by the crowning of Mary. The gym was completely dark, with three sole spotlights illuminating the female statue.
Lurz gazed at the beautiful display of flowers surrounding the statue and watched three of her children, who attend the Catholic school, participate in the ceremony. She was fascinated with the statue because this was her first May Crowning. Using a one-year-old Polaroid camera, she took several phots of the event, while the students were singing, "Oh Mary We Crown TheeWith blossoms Today."
After taking the photographs, she set them aside to watch the remainder of the ceremony. Later that night, sitting in her home with her husband, she looked at the photos and discovered what she believes to be the image of Jesus Christ.
CAN'T EXPLAIN IT
"There are alot of possibilities (as to what it could mean), but I just can't explain it, " she said. Lurz immediately went to Walgreens to have the Polaroid enlarged so she could get a closer look. After seeing them enlarged, she was more convinced than ever. She returned home and, after a restless night without much sleep, took several copies of the photos to the school to share her experience.
"The teachers were shocked, the nuns were surprised, and the children more or less looked at the photographs and sat there and cried." Lurz said. After seeing the photo, one fifth grader told her Jesus appeared at St. Stephen's to reasure the children that their school was safe or that they were safe. She said he referred to the prayers that went out to the Littleton families throughout the evening.
Later Thursday afternoon, when a woman was telling this story to The Times-Press, she wiped a single tear off her cheek, "For a child to come up with something like that brings tears to my eyes," she said. The woman was one of a handful of school employees and nuns who returned to the statue, still surrounded by live flowers in the gym, looking for answers. They all stook there, shaking their heads, while shifting their eyes back and forth from the photos to Mary.
One nun who asked not to be identified , was not surprised by the photos. "Things of this nature have been happening in other parts of the world, "she said. ""It's a message for all of us." While the school and nuns are searching for explanations, church leaders didn't feel compelled to interpret the photos or classify what happened as a miracle.
"We can't explain it," said Father Jeffrey Lawrence of St. Stephen's. "The postition of the church is to be skeptical with something like this." Msgr. Peter Bolerasky, also of St. Stephen's who at first declined to comment on the photos, added to Lawrence's statement and said, "it wouldn't be up to us to decide what this was."
In response to others who might be skeptical, the Times-Press contacted Polaroid Technical Specialist Peter Spear to see if any camera malfunctions may have caused the image. Spear explained numerous circumstances which might have taken place, such as dirt on the rollers or aged film. But he withheld additional comment until he could inspect the photographs and the camera.
Lurz said she has not had any problems with her camera and that she purchased the Platinum 600 film Tuesday morning. She is confident the camera was working properly when the photos were taken. She keeps the camera in a protective case under lock and key.
Polaroid has encountered similar situations from other photographers and concluded that they could not offer scientific explanations, "Sometimes you just can't figure out what's happening, " Spear said. Since Lurz took the photos to Walgreens to make the copies, business has been booming in the photo department.
People who took photos at the May Crowning are bringing their film to the store, in hopes that they captured the image of Jesus as well. In addition, the Kodak Picture Maker, which duplicates any phoeo, has been making copies of the numerous photos of the statue circulation throughout the city. "we only will be making copies for people who have their own picture," according to a Streator Walgreen spokesman.
For those who do not believe in what the pictures show, Lurz anticipates some people will doubt her. However, she admitted she is not prepared for any negative attention she may encounter. "I know it's not fake and that's all that matters," she added. While the debate over what caused these images to appear could last, in her heart, Lurz believes she was the chosen one.
Of everyone who participated in the May Crowning and who took photos, including a photographer from The Times - Press, nothing even remotely similar to Lurz's photos has surfaced yet. But Lurz offered one explanation for her calling. Several years ago her son Jeremy was diagnosed with lupus erythernatosus disease, which led to complete kidney failure and months of dialysis.
"When he first was diagnosed I prayed everyday that he would get a kidney,"Lurz said. "About a month or tow after that, we were blessed with one." Unfortunately, Jeremy's body rejected the kidney after two and a half years. He was forced to return to the dialysis machine his family thought was gone forever. Now, at age 20 her son is on another waiting list. "It definitely gives me hope," Lurz said, "I still believe in miracles -- I always will."
May Magnificat by Gerard Manley Hopkins
May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—
Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?
Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?
Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Throstle above her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.
Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfed cherry
And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—
This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation
"O Mary We Crown Thee." (Copyright 1938 St. Basil Hymnal)
O Mary we crown thee
With blossoms today
Queen of the Angels
Queen of the May.
Bring flowers of the fairest
From garden and woodland
And hillside and dale.
Our full hearts are swelling
Our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale.
We honor and praise thee
Please pray that our hearts
Will forever be thine.
In joy and in sorrow
From thee may we borrow
A faith that is trusting
In Jesus thy Son.
The Marian Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas
Sr. Thomas Mary Mc Bride, O. P.
"O most blessed and sweet Virgin Mary,
Mother of God, filled with all tenderness,
Daughter of the most high King,
Lady of the Angels,
Mother of all the faithful,
On this day and all the days of my life,
I entrust to your merciful heart my body and my soul,
all my acts, thoughts, choices,
desires, words, deeds,
my entire life and death,
So that, with your assistance,
all may be ordered to the good
according to the will of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. ...
From your beloved Son. ..
request for me the grace to resist firmly
the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. ..
My most holy Lady,
I also beseech you to obtain for me
true obedience and true humility of heart
So that I may recognize myself truly
as a sinner--wretched and weak--
without the grace and help of my Creator
and without your holy prayers. ..
Obtain for me as well,
O most sweet Lady,
true charity with which from the depths of my heart
I may love your most holy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
and, after Him,
love you above all other things. ..
Grant, O Queen of Heaven,
that ever in my heart
I may have fear and love alike
for your most sweet Son. ..
I pray also that, at the end of my life,
Mother without compare,
Gate of Heaven and Advocate of sinners. ..
will protect me with your great piety and mercy. ..
and obtain for me, through the blessed and glorious Passion of your Son
and through your own intercession,
received in hope, the forgiveness of all my sins.
When I die in your love and His love,
may you direct me
into the way of salvation and blessedness
Devotion to Mary
Devotions are traditional forms of prayers that are not part of the Mass. They can be public or private - expressing love for God and neighbor personified in Mary and the saints. One form of devotion to Mary is the praying of the holy rosary. The holy rosary is made up of decades of beads to represent the four mysteries (joyful, sorrowful, light, and glorious) of the Christian faith which sum up the life of Jesus and Mary's participative role in it.
Another form of devotion to Mary is the May crowning. May is the month of honoring Mary for Catholics. Traditionally, Catholic parishes pick one day in May to host a devotion called a May crowning. On this day a young girl is chosen to place a crown of roses on a statue of Mary which is sometimes carried in a procession around the neighborhood. All those in attendance sing hymns and pray the rosary. Other devotions to Mary include: the First Saturdays devotion, the pilgrimages to Marian shrines all over the world, and the honoring of Marian apparitions through scapulars and medals.
Mary's Month--Why May?
Author Fr. Johann G. Roten, S.M.
Date May 1, 2005
The month of May is traditionally dedicated to Mary in many cultures. May is considered the season of the beginning of new life. Already in Greek culture, May was dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of fecundity.
In Roman culture, May was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of bloom, of blossoms. The Romans celebrated ludi florales (literally: floral games) at the end of April, asking the intercession of Flora for all that blooms. This is also related to the medieval practice of expelling winter. May 1 was considered the beginning of growth.
At one time, the custom of having a Mary-month was independent from the month of May as such:
A very old tradition known as Tricesimum (or: Thirty Day Devotion to Mary; also called Lady Month) was originally held from August 15 - September 14. The exact dates or origin of this devotion are unknown; but the custom is still practiced here and there.
Mary Month, as yet unrelated to a specific period, has been known since baroque times (Sources: Johannes Nadasi; Theophilus Marianus, 1664; J. X. Jacolet, Mensis Marianus, 1724). This devotion was comprised of 30-31 spiritual exercises in honor of Mary.
Since medieval times, we have the combination between Mary and the month of May. Among the earliest witnesses are: Alphonsus X, "el sabio", King of Castille, Spain (1221-1284) with his "Cantigas de Santa Maria" ("Ben venna Mayo").
Here and elsewhere, both Mary and the month of May are greeted, welcomed and celebrated on specific days in May. Later, the whole month of May became the month of Mary. On each day of this month, special devotions to Mary were organized.
This custom originated in Italy (for example: Ferrara, 1784). It was spread widely during the 19th century, a century well known for its monthly devotions (Heart of Jesus in June; Rosary in October).