The statue of the Virgin Mary started weeping on a Sunday morning in mid-May. Within a week, she still hadn’t stopped crying, and the word had gotten out: the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church was experiencing a miracle. The lines to get into the church, to see those tears in person, was 100 people long, at times, stretching from the auxiliary room where the statue stands to the church’s entrance.
“It’s beautiful,” church manager Judy Ronquillo told the Associated Press. “The tears aren’t watery, they are an oil-like substance and the tears smell like roses.”
After an investigation by the The Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the statue’s tears seem to be scented olive oil because, uh, that’s what they are. “[W]e determined it was olive oil, a scented olive oil," Bishop Oscar Cantú told the Las Cruces Sun News. "Some of the witnesses claimed it smelled of roses, so something similar to the oil I bless and consecrate each year that we use for baptism, for confirmations and for ordination of the priests."
But the church still believes that it’s a miracle, mostly because no one can figure out why Mary is dispensing olive oil from her bronze-sculpted eyeballs. Cantú said that church officials have examined the hollow interior of the statue to see if the substance was inside as well, or if there were any devices that could’ve generated two months’ worth of hoax tears. Instead, all they found were cobwebs.
The church also contacted the statue’s manufacturer, to ask if any oily fluid was used during the casting process, or if she could be weeping leftover wax. “They assured us there would be no possibility of any moisture to remain in the bronze," Cantú said. "So those are some of the facts that we have established."
The next step, he explained, is determining whether this really is a supernatural occurrence. “If it is supernatural, then is it God? Or is it of an evil spirit?,” he said. “We do believe in the fallen angels, and we renounce the fallen angels because we believe from the scriptures that they're frustrated and they want to make everyone else frustrated—and sometimes they use things, they can be rather cunning.”
It’s up to the church—and ultimately to Pope Francis—to determine if those parishioners are witnessing the divine, or just a weird, drippy vinaigrette. Before the bishop calls the Vatican, he might want to have someone check the church’s pipes. In 2012, churchgoers in Mumbai believed that they had their own modern-day miracle when a statue of Jesus began crying. Worshipers flocked to the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni, many of them bringing their own bottles so they could collect a few of those seemingly holy teas.
Then Sanal Edamaruku visited the church, and realized that Jesus was sobbing because a clogged drainage pipe was leaking through the wall behind him. “This was sewage water seeping through a wall due to faulty plumbing," he said, according to The Guardian. "It posed a health risk to people who were fooled into believing it was a miracle." (Edamaruku was charged with blasphemy, received death threats and left India for a life in slightly more rational Finland).
We’re hoping for a better outcome for the Virgin Mary statue in New Mexico, especially for anyone who might’ve tasted her tears.