St Mary appearing as a dove? A bit absurd no?

Every now and then a pigeon will appear at some peculiar place and at a peculiar time and people will claim it is the Virgin Mary. What is the church's official position on these claims (that St Mary appears as a pigeon) if there is one? I personally believe it is absurd. I am not denying that saints do appear sometimes (just not as animals). I am not denying miracles either. All I'm saying is that it is beyond silly to believe that the saints appear as animals. I would also like to know your opinions as well. I am also interested in the opinion of the Church fathers (like St Cyril, St Athanasius, etc.). Also any biblical verses related to the topic.


  • Uuuuuuuuuh....there are examples if interesting miraculous events that just seem absurd. So, I'm not really sure if I can call this absurd or not.

    The only thing I would mention is does the miracle mean something profoundly spiritual in your life. If it does, good. If it doesn't, I would take it with a grain of salt.

    There are miracles that are important for all people to believe in. Then there are miracles that are NOT for all people.
  • Is it safe to say that the spirit in the form of a dove, "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on him." (Mt 3:16), is one of the earliest forms of apparition in the form of an animal. Something so powerful, as the Holy Spirit, descends upon Jesus in the form of an animal, could this relate to the apparitions of Mary at Zaytoun in Egypt? This probably makes it a little clearer that this idea of apparition in the form of an animal is not something new.
  • The point of Matthew 3:16 is more theological than anything. It echoes the story of Noah and the flood. Christ came reconciling all of creation in His baptism with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, not just a mere dove, comes and not merely inspires humanity, but RESTS in all humanity, proving a permanent indwelling of God.

    I would not compare Theophany with the miracles of the saints. The former has a much more dogmatic character to it that affects all Christians' lives. The latter is a miracle that affects only a few Christians in their faith, but has no bearing on the faith as a whole.
  • Girgisantony, I agree with you, it seems just absurd.
  • It's not entirely out of the question but does seem unlikely.
  • Was anyone around for the Zeitoun event in Egypt? This is one of the most annoying parts of the the history of the faith to reconcile. There are 2 pictures (maybe more?) but that's it... Then there's this one film, I think it's called "Apparitions" (by our Lady...)or something like that. Where the Zeitoun event is mentioned.

    More on Zeitoun I think we might be so sensitive to the silhouette of St Mary that somehow this image looks like her, but does anyone else outside of the Church really believe this?
  • People who believe have a unity of faith and it would be very easy to criticise as an outsider when we weren't there. I know someone who was there and saw it, so I have faith because I share it on his honesty and knowing him ( past tense as he has passed away)as a truthful person.
    But fear is the hardest emotion to control and it starts with doubt ( very easy to polarize) then worry then anxiety. These things we overcome by faith and to the things leading to the faith. So seeing the Zeitoun event increases faith and there should be no problem with that.
  • "Was anyone around for the Zeitoun event in Egypt? This is one of the most annoying parts of the the history of the faith to reconcile. There are 2 pictures (maybe more?) but that's it... Then there's this one film, I think it's called "Apparitions" (by our Lady...)or something like that. Where the Zeitoun event is mentioned. "
    All hagiography is difficult to reconcile. Personally, I always hold a small amount of skepticism for any saint story because they were never meant to be historically accurate. They were meant to be spiritual messages. When you study hagiography, you will see authors of these stories intentionally (or subconsciously) reuse stories to express a spiritual message. Thus, we are supposed to be skeptical about hagiographic historicity. 

    I also find it completely irrational to prove theology by hagiography. There are stories of saints who had visions that Oriental Orthodox christology is faulty or better than EO christology (or vice versa) to validate one theology over the other. I think we need to exercise more skepticism if the intention of the story is to invalidate another Christian.

    Regarding Zeitoun, it has been brought up before that the lack of photographic evidence (ie, only one or two pictures) proves its fallacy. However, this can be explained by the fact that 1960's Egypt did not have many personal cameras. People didn't have 15+ megapixel cameras on their phones (they didn't even have cell phones. Many didn't even have home phones). It was a third world country in an era that did not have many cameras. 

    In recent times, there have been other apparitions of the Virgin Mary that skeptics have attacked and we can't reconcile them with faulty photographic evidence like Zeitoun. Skeptics have a lot of tools for their rhetoric and the Virgin apparitions are one of their favorite attacks. So how do we answer skeptics? Indirectly. Skepticism is good. Too much skepticism becomes a faith in itself outside of rational thinking. Skeptics use science, but at some point science requires interpretation that is also an art. Thus, it is up to the skeptics to define how skeptic one can be because the skeptic process can go into infinity if not put in check. 

    For Christians, even moderately skeptic Christians, the question for the Zeitoun apparition is from everything we know of the Virgin Mary and Christianity, is there anything that says the Virgin Mary can't appear on Zeitoun in the manner that is described? No. We know that Christ came to man to save man. We know the Virgin Mary knows her Son will save when she asks. We know that life in Christ brings on indescribable grace that transforms a sinner in such a way that miracles do happen. How much more will such grace work on the greatest of all mankind? 

    Finally, regarding the silhouette of St Mary, I don't think skepticism is unwarranted. However, there are equally if not more questionable things we say without thinking twice. For example, we say Michael was the archangel that moved the stone at Christ's resurrection and the one who saved the Three Hebrew Children of Daniel 3 from the fiery furnace. But there is no proof scripturally, or even historically that it was Michael. How does even one identify an archangel if the archangel didn't identify himself? If we can believe Archangel Michael did this, then it's not so far fetched that the silhouette above Zeitoun Church is the Virgin Mary. 

    Anyone outside of the Church does not believe this. In fact, they can't believe. The atheist cannot believe theistic claims. I won't argue for the existence of God. The Protestant cannot believe in intercessions because of their sola deo gloria. I won't argue why such belief is inadequate. The skeptic cannot believe in miracles because science becomes his faith. I already argued why this is also inadequate. Thus, outside of the Church no one can believe St Mary appeared in Zeitoun or any other place. This is no surprise. "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me has enabled them" John 6:65. If they can't come to Christ unless the Father enables them, they also cannot believe the Virgin appeared in Zeitoun unless the Father enables them.
  • I believe in the Zeitoun apparition. Just not the claims that every time a big pigeon flies at night at a low altitude must be St. Mary.
  • Reminds of the time a bird landed on Bernie Sanders' podium
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