Mary in the Secular Press

The director and editors of Mary Page under the auspices of the International Marian Research Institute do not necessarily endorse or agree with the events and ideas expressed in this feature. Our sole purpose is to report on items about Mary gleaned from a myriad of papers representing the secular press.

Commentary on Mary in various news articles from May 17 through June 4, 2001.
Systematically arranged portraits of Jesus and the Virgin Mary draw worshippers’ eyes to the front center of Orthodox churches. Around that focal point are icons depicting other significant figures in ancient and modern Christianity, from the Apostles to patron saints within the branches of Orthodoxy, The Columbus Dispatch said in its Faith & Values section on May 25. The article discusses the icon of Christ at St. Gregory of Nyssa Orthodox Church on the North Side of Columbus, a portable iconostasis used by St. John Russian Orthodox Church in Worthington, which lacks its own building and meets at St. John’s Episcopal Church, and an intricately carved and pieced together wooden iconostasis at St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Prairie Township.

An image of the Virgin Mary in a revealing garland of flowers on display at the Arizona State Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe continues to make the news. “Our Lady,” a photo collage based on the Virgin of Guadalupe by California artist Alma Lopez, depicts Mary wearing a swimsuit of flower petals. Recent articles included: A report that the image of “Our Lady” will remain on display until Oct. 28, cutting the duration of the exhibition short by about four months. Albuquerque Journal, May 23. 

A phone interview with Museum Regent Frank V. Ortiz, who compared the exhibit to racial epithets and suggested Hispanic representation among docents is inadequate according to documents released by the Museum of New Mexico. Ortiz said his written comments were motivated by a widespread lack of appreciation for the museum's impact on traditional culture among local residents. Ortiz received both a call by museum volunteers for his resignation and a strong rebuke from top administrators. Albuquerque Journal, May 23. Editorial comment by National Review's deputy managing editor with the headline: "Stop Attacking Our Lady." In National Review Online Mike Potemra states the collage "shows a woman of great loveliness, bedecked with flowers. Surely…an appropriate image for the loveliest member of the human race, the woman described in medieval Catholic writings as flos florum – the flower of flowers." May 24.

A report that state museum officials promise to reconsider how they treat sensitive subjects in the wake of protests following their decision to keep the image of a scantily clad Virgin Mary on display through October.

Local and national critics of the image were scheduling prayer vigils, including one on June 30 organized by America Needs Fatima, a Pennsylvania-based campaign responsible for a deluge of more than 12,000 postcards protesting the display. Albuquerque Journal, May 25.

A defense of the collage by southern California artist Amy Lopez who said she doesn't understand why some people consider her representation of the Virgin Mary offensive. "I see this woman's legs and her belly…and I don't see anything wrong," she told the Los Angeles Times. Memphis, TN Commercial Appeal and Houston Chronicle, May 28.

Details of a thousand Virgin Marys appear in a lovely, reverent, very different view of Old Master paintings of the Virgin Mary in a three-minute film by Christina Gruppuso, the Providence Journal Bulletin said on May 20. An entry in the Rhode Island School of Design's Senior Film/Animation & Video Festival, the film shows single closeups of a hand, an eye, Mary's lips dissolving from one image to the next seamlessly while birds chirp, bells toll and soft music plays. Eventually there are views of Mary's arms holding the infant Jesus. Christ, the Virgin Mary and several saints returned, in icon form, to St. Nicholas Cathedral in Manhattan, the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church, May 17, the New York Daily News said on May 18. The 19th century works had been bought on the black market and smuggled out of Russia in 1992. U.S. Customs authorities seized them a year later but a lengthy investigation and court battle deferred disposition of the 34 holy relics.

Irish folk singer and the first woman European Parliament member Rosemary Scanlon, who goes by her stage name Dana, was scheduled to perform during the National Medjugorje Conference May 25-27 at the University of Notre Dame, the South Bend Tribune wrote on May 24. The event, sponsored by Queen of Peace Ministries, marked the 13th annual conference at the university and celebrated the 20th anniversary of the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to six young people in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Carrying flags and banners, handmade crosses and candles as tall as a man, a quarter-million pilgrims approached the shrine at Lourdes during Holy Week, to celebrate Easter at the mountain grotto where St. Bernadette is said to have encountered the Virgin Mary in 1858. Many who come are deeply involved in spiritual matters but there are also large numbers who don't have much to do with organized religion but still feel the pull of the sacred mysteries, the South Bend Tribute said on May 17.

Several celebrations honoring the Virgin Mary during May were reported by the secular press: The Albany, NY, Times Union said Our Lady of Peace Prayer group was sponsoring its 11th annual May Day crowing of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 21at St. Mary's Church.

The Memphis, TN Commercial Appeal showed Immaculate Conception third-grader Somer Smith offering a flower in honor of the Virgin Mary during the school's May Procession May 17.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that St. Gertrude Catholic Church religion classes ended the school year May 7 with a May crowing of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Chicago Daily Herald wrote that as May drew to a close, the 700-plus families of the Queenship of Mary Church were finishing a month-long celebration honoring the Virgin Mary. DuPage County's only Vietnamese Roman Catholic Church also draws Filipinos.

"Unlocking the Secrets of  'Loraaminshee' and the Possible Links with the Lost Medieval Convent of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Termonfeckin, Co Louth," an essay by Niall Murphy, 14, a second-year student at Drogheda Grammar School, is overall winner of this year's TCD schools prize in history, the Irish Times wrote on May 22. "If we had received it as a BA dissertation from a final-year student, it would have been in the running for a first," said Dr. Sean Duffy, incoming head of TCD's department of medieval history.

Locals in the city of Elsa, Texas, claim they can see the Virgin Mary's face in the dust on the bonnet of a 1981 Chevrolet Camaro sports car and devout Christians are making pilgrimages to view it for themselves, the Daily Star said on June 1.

Mary McGrath, a 69-year-old retired school social worker, is taking pity on damaged Twin Cities statues, the Minneapolis, MN Star Tribune said on June 4. After noticing that the statue of the Virgin Mary in a peaceful little arbor in Minneapolis had lost her aging thumb and fingertip she spoke with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet who will arrange for repairs. The statue and little garden are dedicated to the nuns of their order who served at the old St. Mary's Hospital. Now she is determined to aid a statue of St. Francis of Assisi in St. Paul's Como Park Conservatory. "His hands are really gone," she said.

A question about the religious significance of the Ladybird from the Netherlands was answered by the London Guardian May 31 as follows: "Lady" comes from the Virgin Mary; its German name translates as "Maria beetle;" in Dutch, it translates as "Our dear Lord's little creature." "Why make a federal case if the Blessed Virgin Mary decides to favor an unsuspecting family with a million in cash?"

Colombian cops who nabbed three adults arriving in Bogota from Spain with two kids in tow and wads of U.S. currency secreted in their bags and babies' diapers didn't believe the explanation given by a female member of the group that the Virgin had appeared before the family and the money simply fell into their hands. Reported by the Institute for Public Affairs May 28.

A review of Dianne Schoemperlen's "Our Lady of the Lost and Found," appeared in the May 27 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The book "is a dandy, read, full of both entertainment value and food for thought." Previously reported.