During Holy Week 1993, my husband and I and our three children, drove to the small Louisiana town of Pine Island to look at a tree. Word had spread that in a farmer’s rice field, in the middle of nowhere; a tree’s branches had grown into the image of the Virgin Mary and many were making pilgrimages to see this little miracle. We were curious and it was a lovely day for a drive.
We arrived in the early afternoon just as the sun was at its peak in the brightly lit blue sky. Our children were ages one to eight and were getting restless as we came to park our vehicle on the edge of a field. As I exited the vehicle, I was amazed by the sense of calm and stillness in the air. It seemed that we had stepped out of our world and into a spiritual realm that was steeped in peace and joy. The five of us stood near each other basking in the sun’s rays and soaking in the rays of peace and grace in silence. Even the one year old held his tongue and just watched.
Up ahead was the tree. The outline of the branches drew a clear picture in my mind of Our Lady of Grace. This was Cajun country, and there are thousands of homes with a Mary statue in the front yard. As I looked at the tree, I immediately thought of the many statues in my home town, placed lovingly in front of homes, in honor of our lady. I smiled as I gazed upon this creation that seemed divinely inspired.
Just ahead I spotted a group of women; most were holding rosary beads and praying. There was a thrown-together altar at the base of the tree with petitions and rosaries turned gold that were left behind. As we marveled at this site, a woman came over and invited us to look at the rosary she was holding. Rays of sunlight beat down on the tiny beads and the chain that was binding them glistened a golden color. We were told her rosary had turned the golden color while being prayed at the tree. She gladly answered some of our questions as she was a local and had frequented the site from the beginning.
A young woman had first spotted Mary in the tree a few months prior. The woman lived nearby and had looked out her kitchen window, gazing upon what seemed to be the Virgin Mary in a tree. The woman had been grieving the death of her father and the vision gave her comfort. Eventually, the family shared their discovery with others, and word spread…
While standing at the foot of the tree and gazing at the likeness of Mary, we heard a shriek of joy as another woman began to yell out “Jesus.” We followed the group of pilgrims over to her to see what was happening. She had just taken a Polaroid photo of the sun and was holding the picture that developed. It was a perfect photo of the Face of Jesus, in black and white, much like a negative. Tears were streaming down her face and someone told her to take another photo of the sun. Once again she held her camera up and took a picture of the sun. Once again, the Face of Jesus appeared on the developed photo!
What had I just witnessed? Immediately, I regretted not having brought a camera! I looked again at the photo, and there was no denying I saw a face. There was not only one photo, but before we left, there were multiple photos with an image that clearly seemed to be the Face of Jesus.
It was a moment in time that I have never forgotten. It was a moment where it seemed heaven had reached out and touched the earth.
Upon returning home from our short but eventful pilgrimage, my children turned on the television. A special regarding the Shroud of Turin was playing. Amazingly on the screen I saw that face again. The face of the shroud, in a black and white negative, was the face I saw appear on a Polaroid photo in Pine Island, Louisiana! It was a holy week like none other.
Eventually, the farmer cut the tree down. There would be no more pilgrimages, no messages, miracles or any other of the unusual experiences at Marion apparition sites. What was the purpose of the tree?
The first woman to notice the tree, felt it was a sign meant for her family regarding the death of her father. It may well have been an answer to this woman’s prayer for hope and healing. Once word got out and the tree site became a place of honoring our mother and prayer, it became a place of hope and healing for all. True to her ministry, Mary was able to greet us pilgrims and lead us to her Son.
We traveled on a sunny beautiful day to see Our Lady in a tree. We returned home with a beautiful memory of seeing the Face of Jesus.