Explainer: Citrus Christ? A collection of religious sightings
According to many religious texts, God is great and fathomless, wondrous and infinite. He's also said to be everywhere — and, let's face it, "everywhere" is a pretty all-encompassing term. So perhaps that helps to explain why so many folks have spotted religious images in food items, storefront windows, ultrasound images, frying pans — even a cat's fur. Read on for a recap of 13 of the most colorful and memorable spiritual sightings from recent years.
Face of Jesus on a Walmart receipt
An engaged South Carolina couple walked away with more than just bargains after shopping at Walmart in June 2011. Three days after their shopping trip, their Walmart receipt began to bear an eerie resemblence to ... Jesus himself.
Jacob Simmons and his fiancee, Gentry Lee Sutherland, told NBC's WYFF-TV that they spotted the receipt on the floor of Sutherland's apartment right after coming home from a church service. They couldn't help but notice that its appearance had changed.
"I was leaving the kitchen and I just looked on the floor, and it was like it was looking at me," Simmons said. "Then the more you look at it, the more it looked like Jesus, and it was just shocking, breathtaking."
The couple said the image seemed to answer a question they had just been asked at church. "We had a message on knowing God, abiding in him," Sutherland said. "(The preacher asked) 'If you know God, would you recognize him if you saw him?'"
Virgin Mary in grilled cheese sandwich
Everyone knows that grilled cheese sandwiches are divine — but here's one sandwich that garnered international media attention for being especially so. The story began in 1994, when Florida resident Diana Duyser made herself a seemingly ordinary grilled cheese sandwich. She took one bite out of it, then stopped cold.
"I saw a face looking up at me," she said. "It was Virgin Mary staring back at me. I was in total shock."
Duyser said she surrounded the sandwich with cotton balls and stored it in a plastic container on her night stand for a full decade. In that time, she said it never decayed — a detail she described as a "miracle."
And then, in 2004, Duyser put the holy sandwich up for sale on eBay. She made some cool cash from GoldenPalace.com, an Internet casino that paid a whopping $28,000 for the icon.
Cross on a baby cow's forehead
The month: December 2009. The place: A humble farm. The setting: Just perfect for an auspicious event. On a cold, dark night in the wee hours of the morning, a baby calf was born with a very special feature.
That feature? The distinctive markings of a white cross on his forehead. The image had quite an effect on Connecticut dairy farmer Brad Davis, Davis' relatives and friends and families all around the dairy farm. "It was quite a feeling," Davis recalled. "It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, actually." Neighborhood children bestowed a biblical — albeit Old Testament — name upon the little calf: Moses. Davis promised to make sure Moses would have a good life and wouldn't get eaten.
Jesus and Mary in an orange
Paul Kulniszewski of Lockport, N.Y., doesn't describe himself as a particularly holy guy. But on Christmas morning in 2009, he experienced something big. He cut into an orange for breakfast and was astonished to see what appeared to be Jesus hanging on the cross, with Jesus' mother Mary right below him. "I quickly called my wife and said, come see this ... tell me it's not my eyes," Kulniszewski said. "I mean, am I seeing what I'm seeing?"
He snapped a photo of the orange right away so the image would be captured before the orange began to turn and decay. Then he stored the orange section in a jar with rosary beads. "I'm happy with it because I know what it is and what it was at the outset. I know what I see ... it's there. I've had my 'aha!' moment and I hope everybody else gets the same opportunity."
Crucifix in a potato
What a spud! On Christmas Day 2009, Dennis Bort of Brunswick, Ohio was rustling around in the kitchen and getting ready to make some mashed potatoes. "So I peel the potatoes and I'm getting ready to do it," the police detective said. He was stunned by what he saw when he cut the potato in half.
"I said, 'Aw, holy crap, it's a cross,'" Bort recalled.
Bort posted the potato on eBay with an asking bid of $1,000. "I'm not a religious person at all," he said. "I've seen stories of Jesus in the cheese sandwich and all the other crap, but I don't really know numbers per se. I just slapped (the price) out there. There's always a Christmas credit card bill to pay with the holidays, so why not?"
Jesus in an MRI
Tammie Cohrs was nervous about her upcoming MRI scan. Really nervous. The South Carolina woman had recently been diagnosed with a rare form of oral cancer, and she felt like she needed support. "As soon as they put me in there, I just started praying," Cohrs said, explaining that she asked Jesus to be with her during the MRI.
Later, when she looked at her MRI image, Cohrs was so astonished she began to cry. She said she can see the image of Jesus — his eyes, nose, mouth and a crown of thorns — in her MRI results. "I just had this wonderful experience that I was with him," Cohrs told NBC in October 2010. "[It's] a reminder that he is with us through the hard times, not only the good times when everything is going great, but he is also with us when things get hard and difficult. ... I just think it's amazing. I don't care what anybody else thinks."
Jesus on an iron
In late November 2009, a Massachusetts woman who had recently separated from her husband and lost hours at her job saw something that made her feel immeasurably better: a soothing image of Jesus Christ with long hair. Jesus was staring directly at her from the bottom of an otherwise mundane household object: her iron.
The woman, Mary Jo Coady of Methuen, Mass., said the image comforted her and reminded her that "life is going to be good." She said she planned to store the special iron in a closet and invest in a new one.
Jesus in a cat's fur
Some people say that they have a hard time spotting the image of Jesus in Sissy the cat's fur — but that doesn't really bother the Johnson family of Goshen, Ind. They see it, and they believe it's a sign of good things to come.
The Johnsons first noticed the image in 2008, shortly after they rescued two abandoned kittens they found near their house. They remain convinced that one of those two felines — Sissy — literally has Jesus on her side.
Cheesus! (Jesus in a Cheetos bag)
At first blush, a bag of Cheetos may not be a likely setting for a moving religious experience — but the snack product managed to lead a Missouri woman to astonishment and wonder.
Kelly Ramey of High Ridge, Mo., couldn't believe what she was seeing in 2008 when she stumbled upon an exceptional cheese puff. She and her family and friends agreed: The Cheeto looked a whole lot like a little orange Jesus on the cross.
Shortly after Ramey found her own personal Jesus, she and her husband gave him a special name: Cheesus. Ramey said she didn't intend to sell Cheesus; instead, she planned to keep him in a safe deposit box or put him on display so others could enjoy him too.
Mother Teresa in a cinnamon bun
Wait for it ... wait for it ... there she is! Many people who have studied this cinnamon bun have spotted the unmistakable likeness of Mother Teresa. The pastry — dubbed the "Nun Bun" — was first noticed in 1996 by an alert customer at a coffee shop in Nashville, Tenn. Workers at the Bongo Java coffee shop preserved the bun with shellac and displayed it in a glass case, drawing tourists and media attention from around the world. Scrutiny really ramped up in 1997 when Mother Teresa herself wrote a letter to shop owner Bob Bernstein, asking him to stop selling T-shirts, mugs and prayer cards bearing the bun's image. "My legal counsel ... has written asking you to stop, and now I am personally asking you to stop," the Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun wrote from Calcutta, India.
Bernstein did remove Mother Teresa's name from the merchandise, but some onlookers continued to be displeased — and on Christmas Day in 2005, someone actually stole the Nun Bun. Bernstein said the thief ignored nearby cash and "went right for the bun." "Unfortunately I think it's somebody who wanted to take it to destroy it," he said.
Jesus in a baby's ultrasound
As many expecting parents know, 3D ultrasounds really do show a lot. But in the case of one Miami couple, a 3D image of their baby boy showed them much more than they ever anticipated: the face of Jesus himself.
In 2008, still badly shaken from a recent miscarriage, Amy Janer was struggling with nervousness and anxiety over her pregnancy. That was until she and her husband noticed what appeared to be Jesus' face in their baby's ultrasound image, with Jesus' beard leaning against the child. The couple welcomed a healthy baby boy in June 2008. They said they shared the ultrasound image to comfort and strengthen other expecting parents.
Angel in a store window
She only came out at night, and when she did, hundreds of onlookers swarmed the scene so they could see and possibly even touch her. "She" is the image of an angel that first appeared on the window of a Porterville, Calif., carpet store in 2008. The angel image only became visible when certain lights were turned on at a gas station across the street. "After dark, she fills up this whole window," said carpet store owner Teri Johnson. "And you can only see it from across the street. You can't see her close up."
Marcos De La Cruz, a minister at a church next to the carpet store, said the angel led to a spiritual awakening among area residents. "It's causing them to question where they're at," De La Cruz said. "It's causing them to sincerely think where they are spiritually in their lives."
Jesus in a frying pan
As we've clearly seen, religious sightings can happen in all sorts of places — but in burger grease? Oliver Bellerby of Yorkshire, England said he was as surprised as anybody when it happened. After whipping up a hamburger for dinner in the summer of 2009, he noticed the face of Christ in his frying pan.
"I went back to the kitchen after having dinner to get a drink and I just saw it straight away — the face of Jesus," Bellerby said. "My mate saw it too when I showed him. It blew us both away so we took a picture."
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints
TODAY’s Natalie Morales, who will run in the marathon on Monday, has been in Boston speaking with survivors, victims’ families and officials.
- video Survivor: April 15 is not an easy day’
- Uta Pippigs advice for Boston: Run with joy
- Victims remembered on anniversary
- Michael Dwyer / AP