MAKE IT PLAIN
Pareidolia: The perception of patterns where none are intended.
As both a gardener and a chocolate lover, a couple of recent examples of this phenomenon piqued my interest.
Felicia Teske of Boothwyn, PA, was cutting up an eggplant when she observed that the seeds in one slice appeared to spell out the word, "GOD." Her amazed husband called Philadelphia television station WPVI-TV. In an interview with a reporter from the station, Mrs. Teske said she was comforted by finding the Creator's name inscribed in the vegetable, since she had been grieving the recent deaths of loved ones.
Many WPVI viewers were fascinated, too. Over the next week, there was "a virtual pilgrimage to our web site" to see a photo of the eggplant slice, the station said.
Jacinto Santacruz, while working at a candy factory in Fountain Valley, CA, found a 2 1/2-inch piece of chocolate resembling the Virgin Mary standing in prayer.
She placed the chocolate Madonna in a small plastic case, and, the Los Angeles Times reported, "a stream of the curious and devout began making pilgrimages to the shop, where they prayed, crossed themselves in awe and knelt in veneration."
The Times says such apparitions have been occurring for centuries and remain relatively common.
For example, a New Mexico woman 30 years ago built a shrine to house a tortilla she had been frying when she noticed scorch marks resembling the face of Jesus. According to the Times, some 35,000 people from across the country "came to gaze and pray for its divine assistance in healing their ailments."
Just a couple of years ago, half a million people descended on Clearwater, FL, to view an office building where "an iridescent image of a veiled Virgin Mary," which may have been a corrosion stain, appeared.
Some people have tried to make a buck from their divine sightings. Teske, for instance, put her eggplant slice in a Ziploc bag, froze it and put in on eBay, with a minimum price of $1,000. It attracted no immediate bidders.
Others were more fortunate. Deb Serio, a Virginia high school teacher, collected $1,500 for a garage floor stain that looked like Jesus.
The Times says a piece of plaster from a shower wall, with a Jesus-like water stain, sold for $2,000, a pretzel shaped like Mary cradling the infant Jesus for $10,600 and a grilled-cheese sandwich with an image resembling the Virgin for $28,000.
It's all very interesting and entertaining, but if you really want to see evidence of God, don't look in your skillet or a bag of chocolates. The Bible says the handiwork of God that surrounds us in nature gives us all the tangible evidence we need of His "eternal power and his divine nature" (Romans 1:20).
And as Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, told the Times, "Imagine showing up on your judgment day in front of God, and He says, 'Where did you see me? Did you see me in the poor and the immigrant and the homeless?' And you say, 'Well, no, but I did see you in a piece of chocolate once.' Doesn't sound so good, does it?"