The Virgin

Do you remember the days when your soul was the worst thing Ebay could take from you? I have another odd pair of news stories to share from today's newsfeeds:
#1: Searching for miracles at Lourdes ... Restrictions eased, but no takers:
The streets near the Grotto are lined with shops selling objects of popular piety.
#2: College student auctions off virginity:

I'm sorry, your miraculous healing was not "totally inexplicable." What's it take to get a miracle around here, huh? Well, less than before, apparently.

How would a doctor evaluate a miracle? I mean, existentially speaking (what we really need are Existential Detectives like in I Heart Huckabees). If a person's health took a drastic turn for the better, though explicable (maybe even psychosomatically so), is the baseline for evaluation "no change at all"? Perhaps on the day their health turned drastically for the better, it was supposed to turn drastically for the worse. Who can say?
I usually see miracles in hindsight:
"When my glory passes I will set you in the hollow of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but my face is not to be seen." Exodus 33:22-23
In my experience of miracles, they always seem possible or even practical in hindsight. Of course, there is that moment of wonder and humility, but this cannot last. Why? I don't think God wants us to base our faith in Him on these miracles. I don't believe in my parents' love because of a particularly exceptional Christmas gift. I believe because of a personal relationship. God doesn't want us to replace our love of the Giver with a love of gifts. The dynamic of faith isn't pray for gifts, receive gifts, pray harder for more gifts.

This is why it's tough to prove a miracle. Proofs are distractions. Faith is evidence of things unseen.
Wasn't it just last year that Lourdes celebrated the 150th anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin? 70,000 came to celebrate. Pope Benedict is coming this weekend, evidentally. Nevertheless, fewer miracles are being confirmed -- not reported, confirmed. Of the 6 million pilgrims who visit the site annually, the article says, at least 40 people claim miraculous healing.
6 million visitors a year? Now that's a miracle. No rollercoasters. No mouse-costumed employees. Any owner of a theme park, say EuroDisney, would count that as a miracle. The quickening of 6 million hearts, though. That's the greater miracle. All because of the Virgin and the trusting heart of one trusting 14-year-old girl.

Fast forward: 1858 to now. Ebay turned her down, so a Nevada brothel is hosting a 22-year-old woman's auction. She's doing it to pay for her college education. If she trusted, just a little, God would surely provide her some other way to pay her debt. She found her decision "empowering." It won't "solve any problems" she says, but it will provide her a little "financial stability." What aren't we willing to give for a fleeting feeling of stability?
What is our conception of virginity these days? What is the result of the sexual revolution? Further, what is the result of the events chronicled by Humanae Vitae? That's the subject of a much longer post, I think.

I'd rather ask you that question, I think. On one hand, 6 million pilgrims travel to honor the Virgin. On the other, virginity is a commodity. Auctioning virginity off, sure, that's a novel approach, but is it really far-removed from what we've come to consider ordinary?
How could these two news stories exist in one world? The 22-year-old woman said something really interesting: "We live in a capitalist society. Why shouldn't I be allowed to capitalize on my virginity?" (Or make capital out of it?)

She's right, of course. (If only she wasn't speaking from the side of immorality...) In a purely capitalist society untarnished--unbalanced--by a code of moral values, this must be the inevitable result: complete capitalization. How old is the prostitution profession?
The Virgin has always been, will always be, a counter-cultural icon. That pilgrims still flock to her is evidence of how the world views virginity. Do we need her more than ever? I don't know. But we do need her. Desperately:

To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, O most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy towards us;
and after this our exile,

show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement! O loving! O sweet Virgin Mary!

(This ought to be shouted, not just recited.)

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Catholic Beard Balm