Holy Cheesus: Saintly sightings
August 25, 2006
I’ll know I’ve hit the big time when a total stranger reports seeing my face on a waffle.Look at the Virgin Mary. Centuries after her death people continue to spot her everywhere, and I’m not just talking about churches, prayer cards and nativity scenes. There are more sightings of her being out and about than Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson and Kevin Federline combined in the collective glossy histories of US Weekly and People magazines.For example, in April 2005 Mary’s image was said to have appeared on a wall in an emergency turnoff area underneath Chicago’s Kennedy Expressway (skeptical officials dismissed the sighting as salt staining). In March of the same year, a Nebraska couple claimed to find in a package of Rold Gold Honey Mustard Pretzels a nugget resembling the Holy Mother.Two years ago, a grilled cheese sandwich with the Virgin Mary’s likening on the toasted bread sold for $28,000 on eBay. A laundromat owner in Coogee, Australia, claimed a shadow that appeared daily on a nearby fence was actually a Mary depiction. A Wisconsin woman named Faith once found the image of Mary’s face with a halo around her head on a chunk of firewood. In 1996, a Mary sighting was recorded on the glass façade of a finance building in Clearwater, Fla. The Blessed Virgin also appeared on a second-floor window of a hospital in Milton, Mass. in 2003. Last week, workers at a gourmet chocolate factory in Fountain Valley, Calif. swore that it was none other than Jesus’ mom they saw on a 2-inch-tall lump of melted chocolate.Speaking of the son of God, while he gets way more press than his Virgin Mother (nearly 66 million Google hits vs. Mary’s almost 19 million), his pareidolia instances have far less panache.To be sure, sightings of Jesus have been plentiful over the centuries, but most his are a little more, well, unsexy. His likeness has been spotted on a rock, a frying pan, a tree, a truck, a cloud (oh, please), a brick, a piece of sheet metal (totally unsexy!), a tortilla, a nacho warming pan, a fish bone, a shrimp tail dinner, a pierogi, a dental X-ray, a Pizza Hut billboard. There was once a Jesus fish stick sighting. The image of Christ also appeared in Tennessee on a freezer (thereafter known as Freezer Jesus).However, while Mary might trump Jesus with the quality of her sightings, he still fares way better than other saints and gods.Take, for instance, the case of the Nun Bun. In 1996, Mother Teresa’s face was seen on a sticky cinnamon bun at Bongo Java in Nashville. To make matters worse (I mean, it couldn’t have been a more elegant pastry, like a croissant or a scone?), that very same bun, which had been carefully preserved in a glass case for nearly a decade, was stolen on Christmas Day last year. If any comfort can be taken away from the tragedy, it’s in knowing that Mother Teresa received beatification faster than any other person in modern history when Pope John Paul waived the five-year waiting period following her 1997 death, thereby putting her on the fast track to sainthood. (If sympathy for the quality of pastry played a part in his decision, he remained a gentleman and never said a word.)Even less exciting are other religious figures sightings. Like poor Allah. Allah’s mostly involve fish, poultry and the alphabet. One person claimed a lamb was born with Allah spelled in Arabic on its coat. Another said beans and eggs he bought bore the spelling of Allah on their casings. This past winter, someone in the UK announced his albino fish, Oscar, had Allah spelled on one side of its body and Muhammad on the other. Yawn.At least the Allah sightings have never been called into question. After all, religious pareidolia isn’t without its controversy. After receiving numerous complaints, an art gallery in Russia took down a display of caviar in which the Virgin Mary was portrayed holding the baby Jesus. And to the disappointment of many, the world famous instance of the Pope on a Pop Tart (otherwise known as the Pope Tart) turned out to be a hoax.While it was inarguably newsworthy when Michael Jackson was seen wearing a ski mask while strolling the children’s toy aisle in the Glenwood Springs Wal-Mart, or if Mel Gibson were to attend Yom Kippur services at Harris Hall in Aspen this fall, let’s face it – you’re not a true celebrity until someone sees your face while staring in the shower at a water-stained piece of plaster (Jesus/Pittsburgh/2005). I can only hope to achieve that sort of fame someday.E-mail questions or comments to email@example.com.
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