|FOCUS ON THE FACULTY
SETS SITES ON VIRGIN MARY APPARITIONS
|By Amanda Zagrodny
department at the College of Charleston has a religious apparitions
enthusiast in Robert Westerfelhaus, whose dissertation and current
research analyze sightings of the Virgin Mary and religious kitsch.
"Within the Catholic tradition, art is not only used to inspire worship," he says. "But it is also used as a means of...communication" between living and deceased Catholics. Statues of saints and the Virgin Mary are mechanisms to inspire worship. Westerfelhaus says that kitsch can be seen everywhere from cowboy boots to biceps. "Such objects derive religious significance from what they represent, and not from their aesthetic worth or the value,” he says.
was a devout Catholic, but Westerfelhaus himself feels that he found
his faith "sometime in grad school." He says was going to do his
dissertation on Cold Springs, Ky. where children are reported to have
seen a woman who called herself Mary. "They practically shut down the
town," says Westerfelhaus, because Mary was said to appear at a certain
time. Later, he decided to focus his research on Our Lady of Guadalupe,
visiting the famous shrine in Mexico to further his studies.
that Our Lady of Guadalupe is "a popular version of the Blessed Virgin
Mary." The story is that a man named Juan Diago experienced seeing a
woman a number of times who claimed to be the Mother of God. She
told him to go to the bishop and tell him to build a church on top of a
hill. The bishop did not believe him so the woman who called herself
the Mother of God told Diago to gather flowers in his cloak and give
them to the bishop. There shouldn’t have been any flowers because it
was out of season, but there were. When Juan Diago opened his cloak to
the bishop the flowers fell out and there was an image of the woman in
the cloak. The image is still on the cloak today. Our Lady of
Guadeloupe appears in kitsch art as an Aztec princess.
Goodier considers her
colleague "an excellent scholar, very knowledgeable."
More on Dr. Robert
Westerfelhaus can be found at: http://www.cofc.edu/communication/faculty/bios/westerfelhaus.html
Department of Communication
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