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Madonna image draws visitors, inspires faith

BRANDON LEONARD

By BRANDON LEONARD
May 8, 2009 at 12:08 a.m.
Updated May 7, 2009 at 12:07 a.m.

Connie Lopez of Refugio claims that the image of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are appearing on the pieces of rock surrounding her fireplace mantle. Various shades of light and dark are visible, but a definitive image isn't readily apparent.

Connie Lopez of Refugio claims that the image of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are appearing on the pieces of rock surrounding her fireplace mantle. Various shades of light and dark are visible, but a definitive image isn't readily apparent.

REFUGIO - Connie Lopez thought she might have been going crazy.

It was the night of Easter Sunday, and as the Refugio woman cried and prayed in the large dining room of her home, she looked up and thought she saw an image of the Virgin Mary in a stone above her fireplace.

A few moments later, she was called into the other room and forgot about the image. But now, nearly a month later, more than 200 people from at least 26 Texas cities have visited the home to view what Lopez and others believe to be spiritual images in the stones.

"It wasn't there in December when we were decorating it," Connie's husband Pete Lopez said of the Madonna image. "We would have seen it because we were cleaning that whole area."

Connie did not remember what she had seen until April 19, when the couple hosted a spaghetti dinner for some fellow parishioners from St. James Catholic Church. A friend noticed the image and told Connie about it, she said.

"I thought, 'Thank you for sending someone else to see it besides me,'" Connie said.

Following her friend's confirmation, Connie made a shrine around the fireplace, brought in candles from the church and opened her home so that others could come to see the image.

Connie did not think the image had any miraculous power, but some of the people who were inspired to pray by the image received answers to their prayers, she said.

"All it symbolizes to me is that people should get together and pray for the things going on in the world," Connie said.

Rev. Msgr. James C. Brunner of St. Mary's Catholic Church said he was happy if the image moved people to pray, but he did not accept that the image was miraculous or supernatural.

"I tend to treat these things with a very large grain of salt," Brunner said. "I don't know of any single instance of this sort that could not be explained by perfectly natural reasons and the result of just randomness."

"If there's a natural explanation for it why should we be looking for the supernatural?" Brunner said.

Baptist Pastor Bard Letsinger also said the image inspiring someone to prayer was a great thing, but cautioned against the tendency some have to worship the image more than God.

"We have to be careful we don't start worshipping the image and forget about God in the process," Letsinger said.

Visitors from as far as Fort Worth have traveled to see the image, according to a guest book Connie keeps in the room. Many of the guests were from the Crossroads region, including Refugio, Port Lavaca, Goliad, Bayside, Ganado, Placedo, Tivoli and Victoria.

People also said they saw images of Jesus, angels, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the pope in the stones, Connie said.

Family friend Fred Canchola first saw the blessed Mother's image at the spaghetti dinner in April when his wife called him over and pointed toward it.

"She asked me, 'What does that look like to you?' And I saw it right away," Fred said.

When asked what significance the image held for him, Fred said, "She's a model of God. I want to see her every time I get a chance."


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