A knot in a tree said to resemble the Virgin Mary is sparking a holy mess in a New Jersey town. Throngs are coming to pray and weep before the "miracle" spotted earlier this month by a woman riding to her job in a perfume factory. Others come to deride the worshipers. And all of them are jamming the streets. Now the town of West New York is spending $1,000 a day to quell any confrontations, prevent tree vandalism, and keep traffic moving, the local mayor tells the New York Times. The faithful believe the image resembles Our Lady of Guadalupe, complete with a black cloak, a vision first spotted in the 16th century by an Aztec convert to Catholicism.
“This has united all the Hispanic communities,” said Mayor Felix Roque, who may be particularly grateful because the tree is a distraction from federal charges he faces accusing him of hacking into a rival's computer. “I have to allow them to express their faith.” Newark archdiocese priests have determined that the knot is a natural occurrence, not the product of some divine intervention. Regardless, "we're hopeful that even though this is just a knot in a tree, it will spark people to examine themselves and find a deeper understanding of their faith,” said a spokesman for the archdiocese.