How does the Church interpret this type of event? Why can’t it be considered a miracle?
An image of Maria intact after the passage of Hurricane Ida across the United States is drawing attention on social media: the photo was released by the Catholic parish of St. Hubert, in Garyville, after the devastations caused by the category 4 hurricane, which left more than a million people without electricity in metropolitan New Orleans alone, in addition to causing the death of at least two people in that area. According to Governor John Bel Edwards, however, searches are still ongoing.
Along with the photo, the parish published on August 30th the following comment:
“Amidst the damaged trees, Our Lady stood as the protection of our Garyville. Not even a branch touched her as they fell around her. Thank you, Mother Mary, for interceding for us”.
Several faithful who added comments to the post said that other images of Mary in their homes and gardens also withstood the hurricane intact. They declared to see these facts as a sign of Our Lady’s protection in critical situations.
It’s a miracle?
No. One cannot technically speak of a miracle when there are plausible scientific explanations for an event. In this case, a considerable range of variables is able to explain why a natural phenomenon, despite having catastrophic potential, may have left an image of Maria intact amidst great damage.
The use of the term “miracle” is common in the face of phenomena that seem supernatural: in the vast majority of cases, however, the use of this word is well intentioned, but, as a technical term, it is hasty and misleading.
Miracles are scientifically inexplicable phenomena that contradict the rules of nature as we know them. In order for any phenomenon to be officially declared to have a supernatural character by the Church, prudent and detailed studies are needed. The Church follows strict scientific criteria to claim any miracles. Healing miracles, for example, take decades to be recognized. The facts need to be carefully studied by doctors, reviewed by scientists (in most cases, lay and even atheists), exposed to public criticism and, only after all scientific studies have been done, does the Church itself carry out the theological analysis through the work. of its commissions of experts in theology.
By the way, you can learn a little more about the delicate evaluation of supposed miracles by the Church in the following article about the 7 criteria for declaring the healings that take place in the sanctuary of Lourdes to be miraculous:
So is it a “sign”?
Understood by “sign” that which carries a “meaning”, there is certainly no mistake in saying that yes, it is a natural sign – that is, a rare and striking fact, even more so “foreseen” in the natural order of things. This type of fact, however unusual in our eyes, primarily means the very existence of a natural order – and this is already grandiosely intriguing: there is a natural order instead of mere chance.
In fact, it’s not just the supernatural that can impact us: nature itself, including our natural ability to admire the beautiful, also has a lot to tell us, given that the fascination of nature itself already leads us to a of the key questions of philosophy and science: what is the origin of all this?
A striking event, but explainable by the natural order of things, can serve as a “trigger” for important reflections.
The Christian believes that God speaks to us through signs, whether natural or supernatural, and that He always leaves to the freedom of conscience of each one the final decision on how to interpret them. Atheists themselves, by the way, often emphasize that tragedies are a “proof” that God does not exist, appealing to their “faith” in the nonexistence of God based on signs subject to personal interpretation (which, by the way, scientifically speaking, do not are valid as evidence).
For those who believe in the non-existence of God, everything is and will always be mere chance and meaninglessness. For those who believe in God and in the supernatural meaning of existence, everything is and will always be a great miracle, witnessed by an abundance of meaningful signs.
“The heavens tell of the glory of God, and the firmament shows the work of His hands” (Psalm 18: 2).