Blessed Virgin Mary appears in Limerick tree stump
IT may look like a tree stump to some but for others it is a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary who appeared in a churchyard in Ireland after a willow tree was chopped down.
The rural Irish village of Rathkeale in County Limerick is being inundated by hundreds of worshippers after workmen claimed the image of the Virgin Mary appeared in the remains of a felled tree in the Holy Mary Parish churchyard.
Noel White, Rathkeale Community Council Graveyard Committee chairman, said workmen sprucing up the church land saw the image when they cut the tree.
"One of the lads said look, our Blessed Lady in the tree," Mr White said yesterday.
"One of the other lads looked over and actually knelt down and blessed himself, he got such a shock. It was the perfect shape of the figure of Our Lady holding the baby."
Last night candles and rosary beads were being draped over the stump by prayerful locals with up to 700 holding a candlelight vigil into the early hours of the morning.
Mr White said people have been travelling from all over Ireland after word of the apparent phenomena spread.
Local priest Fr Willie Russell refused to get caught up in the hype.
"I have seen the tree ... it's only a tree," he said.
The Irish Catholic Church has also called for calm and said it treated the phenomena with scepticism.
"While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition,'' a spokesman said.
The last time the country was plagued by massive joblessness in the 1980s there were numerous reported sightings of moving statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
One of the most infamous was in Ballinspittle in County Cork, where locals insisted they witnessed the statue of Our Lady floating in the air.
The claims drew worldwide attention as busloads flocked to see the roadside grotto.