Sunday, August 20, 2006

Lookin' for God in the unlikely places

Could it be another sign of the End Days? In Fountain Valley, Calif., chocolate has assumed the status of divinity, and not pecan divinity, either. The Virgin Mary has been detected in a hunk of chocolate. Turns out that a gourmet chocolate shop has discovered a two-inch column of chocolate droppings that some store workers swear has a resemblance to the Virgin Mary.

The Associated Press reported that workers at Martucci Angiano's gourmet chocolate company, Bodega Chocolates, discovered the mini-ziggurat of chocolate. Since the discovery, AP reports, "Angiano's employees have spent much of their time hovering over the tiny figure, praying and placing rose petals and candles around it."

Cruz Jacinto, the kitchen worker who found the lump of melted chocolate when she began her shift, said she froze when she noticed the shape: Jacinot told AP it was a ringer for the Virgin Mary on the prayer card she carries in her right pocket.

"When I come in, the first thing I do is look at the clock, but this time I didn't look at the clock. My eyes went directly to the chocolate," said Jacinto. "I thought, 'Am I the only one who can see this? I picked it up and I felt emotion just come over me. For me, it was a sign."

For Cruz Jacinto, it was as real as real gets -- and who's to say she's out of line?

Now, we've been here before, folks. In the not so distant past, eBay has posted offers from people bearing a variety of ordinary artifacts with some purportedly divine connection ... or at least a visual resemblance to something symbolizing a divine connection between deity and man. Weeping madonnas, tears of what looks like blood on the face of Christ on the cross, the image of Jesus beatifically encrypted in the bread of a grilled cheese sandwich ...

It would be truly comical if it didn't say so much about who and what, and where, we are. Talk about contradictions: Right now the rise of spirituality in American life is perfectly logical. It just makes sense. Given the impact of fighting wars abroad and cultural wars at home, and a rapidly shifting sense of American identity, people are hungry for connection to something that stays in place, something reliable, or at least something representing something reliable. When the contours of the known world grow too sharp and confining, there's a retreat to the solidity of faith, a belief in the evidence of things not seen.

And faith is not a flimsy, threadbare phenomenon in America. Just ask Cruz Jacinto.

Oh you could say that she and thousands and thousands of other Americans are overdoing it, letting their faith color their judgments and movement in the secular world. Or you could just write it off as the steadfast belief of a devout animist, one of those who see the spiritual presence in just about everything.

But there's no getting around it, for the chocolatiers in Fountain Valley or anywhere else in the nation. LIke Bono, we still haven't found what we're looking for, and we're looking everywhere. Let's face it: When you're looking for God in a grilled cheese sandwich, you're hungry for something more than a grilled cheese sandwich.

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