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WINDSOR, Ontario (ChurchMilitant.com) - Parishioners at St. Simeon Stylites Catholic Church in Windsor, Ontario, are witnessing an unusual — and many parishioners say miraculous — occurrence in their church.
The Melkite Catholic church, tucked into an unassuming neighborhood in the southeast part of the city just blocks from the Detroit River, houses an image of the Virgin and Child that has been leaking an aromatic oil for almost a week.
The image is called the Holy Icon of the Inexhaustible Chalice.
A short time later, as an older member of the congregation prayed for healing before the icon, more of the fragrant oil bled out in an undeniable manner.
Since then, the icon has been emitting an aromatic oil around the clock.
Despite the lack of media coverage, hundreds, if not thousands, of faithful visitors have been flooding the church and praying before the shrine. The parish has been offering Masses at 6:30 p.m. and midnight.
So far, visitors have traveled from Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, London (Ontario), Ohio, the greater Detroit and Windsor area as well as the St. Simeon neighborhood to gaze at, and pray before, the icon, now placed on a tray that holds the holy oil.
A parish representative who wishes to remain anonymous told Church Militant that "visitors have come that might not have been committed Catholics (lukewarm Catholics), but felt compelled to go to confession with our priest and turn their life back to Christ fully."
"I believe that the true message from Our Lady is to turn our lives back to Her Son, repent and pray," she said. "She is constantly pointing everyone in the direction of Our Lord, starting from the Wedding in Cana where She tells the servants to 'do whatever He tells you.'"
Some visitors have come and passed out Rosaries, leaving some behind in the pews for the visitors who come after them.
One parishioner underscored the importance of praying the Rosary to Church Militant, saying it must be prayed "to protect against the work of the evil one."
She said, "Many of us here privately believe this is an undeniable miracle. Of course, we cannot officially claim anything. But think of the real miracle that occurs in our church every day when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ," adding that St. Simeon parishioners do not accept the Eucharist in their hands.
Many who visit testify to an ineffable fragrance emitted from the oil, variously described as "floral," "rose-like" or "like a newborn baby."
The Holy Icon of the Inexhaustible Chalice is known for curing penitents from addictions of any kind. Church Militant was told by a parishioner that the icon in St. Simeon was painted by a Ukrainian artist who promised the Virgin that he would spend his days paying homage to Her and painting Her images upon his cure.
The Holy Icon of the Inexhaustible Chalice traces its history to the everyday life of Orthodox people of the pre-revolution Russia who believed petitions to Mary about physical and spiritual ailments reached Our Lord more efficaciously.
Devotion to the Virgin and Child is making a comeback in modern Orthodoxy as the faithful seek guidance in troubled times.
The Church is named after St. Simeon Stylites (c. 388–459), remembered for his fasting and prayers.
"Stylites" refers to St. Simeon's living most of his life on top of a style or platform, withdrawn from society to devote himself to prayer and writing. It was said he was often sought out to arbitrate disputes between wealthy landowners and peasant farmers.
He was born at Sis, now the Turkish town of Kozan in Adana Province, and was buried in Antioch. The ruins of the vast edifice, Qalaat Semaan ("the Fortress of Simeon"), erected in his honor are still visible. Located about 30 kilometers northwest of Aleppo, it consists of "four basilicas built out from an octagonal court towards the four points of the compass to form a large cross."
The Canadian parish and pastor of St. Simeon Stylites Melkite Catholic Church have been careful not to make any official pronouncements about the nature of the "tearing" icon. But an observer can feel a sense of devotion — even belief in a miracle unfolding — among parishioners and the continuing flow of visitors.