Catholics sure can milk superstition
When we we carried a report yesterday about the ‘grave sin’ of in vitro fertilisation, we were blissfully unaware of the fact that the Catholic Church has a ‘clinic’ in Bethlehem which more or less guarantees that women will get knocked up.
No “sinful” science like IVF is involved, according to this recent Religious News Service report. All you need to do is turn up at the Milk Grotto Church and have faith that the Virgin Mary will pop a bun – or perhaps several – in your oven.
Franciscan Brother Lawrence Bode, 69, has an office in the church, where, according to myth, the Virgin Mary hid in an underground cave in order to breast-feed Jesus as she and Joseph were fleeing that nasty King Herod.
Dozens of photos of smiling babies, accompanied by moving testimonials, line the walls of Franciscan Bode’s office. Included is one of quadtruplets. Said Bode:
The father thanked me but said, ‘I certainly won’t be praying here again’.
It was at this location, Catholics believe, that drops of Mary’s breast milk spilled to the ground while she was nursing Jesus and turned the grotto’s red-brown stones a creamy white.
Located around the corner from the Church of the Nativity, built atop the site where Mary allegedly gave birth to Jesus, the Milk Grotto is:
The go-to destination for Christians — and those struggling with infertility.
A proud Bode said:
We estimate that in the past dozen years at least 3,000 babies have been born to mothers who prayed in the grotto. And these are only the births we know about since I started collecting testimonials.
We’ve had stories of Muslim women who’ve had children after visiting the grotto, and of two Israeli women as well.
In all, Bode has seven large photo albums brimming with pictures and testimonials, a handful of which he shares with the tens of thousands of people who visit the church every year.
The Franciscan believes Mary may have left the Nativity church out of a desperate need for privacy.
She gave birth in a stable, with animals all around, and people had to feed and clean after the animals. How could Mary have had the privacy to be a mother and nurse in a stable?
The New York native advises couples grappling with infertility to pray the daily devotion, or prayer to “Our Lady of the Milk”. It helps if one were to add a pinch of the limestone powder made from the grotto’s stones into a drink before consuming it.
Bode emphasised that, due to church policy, he cannot respond to letters or send the Milk Grotto powder to those who request it. It is, however, available to pilgrims at $2.00 a packet.
The devotion, which Bode believes dates back nearly 2,000 years, implores Mary to intercede with God on their behalf.
He attributes the grotto’s apparent baby boom, as well as about 20 testimonies of other types of healing, to “faith and prayer”.
Those who choose to consume the powder do so:
Because it helps them feel closer to Mary the mother of God.
The present stone church and monastery were built by the Franciscans in 1838 and, like other Catholic holy sites, are maintained by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
The RNS report got up the nose of at least one reader. “Theophilus” commented:
Honestly, if you are a Catholic don’t you just cringe and say to yourself, ‘When will the Church admit that this superstitious baloney has no place in the Christian faith?’ Or has this hogwash been given the imprimatur of ex cathedra untouchability?