MILTON, Mass. Thousands of believers have flocked to a hospital parking lot in the small New England community in a holy pilgrimage to see the image of Virgin Mary.
"I see the outline of the Blessed Mother," said Mary O'Toole as gazed at the frosty white pattern on the third floor window of Milton hospital.
"It looks like there are flowers at her feet. It looks like she is holding an infant."
OToole is among the wave of pilgrims that set up a shrine of flowers and rosary on the black asphalt; the worshippers come around the clock, kneeling, praying, joining hands and singing.
"I didn't really see it at first," said Jim D'Amico, 15, of nearby Canton. "But then I saw her, holding the Baby Jesus
Some of the visitors see an esoteric message behind the apparition.
"I think she is sending us a message," said Jims mother Karen. "And the message is: Pray for peace."
"This is about abortion," said Pauline Pace, from neighboring Quincy. "Can't you see the baby in her arms? She is trying to tell us to hang on to our children."
Some worshippers asserted that the Virgin Mary came to the Boston area to offer solace from the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the church here.
"It's very obvious," said Jim Murphy of Weymouth, Mass as he pointed to the window.
His wife, Maureen, added: "I just think that the Blessed Mother is here to warn us, to tell us to turn back to our faith, to turn back to humanity She is here to make us think."
However, hospital administrators say the pattern is merely a result of condensation. According to Susan Schepici, the hospital's director of public relations, a brick wall was placed inside the office in front of the window several years ago to darken the room; a permanent seal on the window had broken, allowing condensation to develop.
While Schepici said the hospital has no official position with respect to the issue of an apparition, it is concerned over the congestion caused by the flock of worshipers.
"Right now we are just trying to manage the crowds and make sure the patients have access to the hospital," she said.
On Wednesday, the hospital staffers lowered a weighted tarp over the window to control the human traffic.
"We asked people to visit the window only between 5:30 and 8:30 in the evening so that the crowds won't interfere with hospital activities. But that wasn't working, and so we made the decision to uncover the window only during those hours," said Schepici.
However, added Schepici, people are still flocking to the window at all hours, Schepici said.
"It doesn't seem to matter if it is covered or not. We have had a steady stream of between 50 and 100 people during the last few days, and the crowd grows to about 200 at night," she said.
Hospital officials said the window will continue being draped except for the designated visiting hours.
By Pauline J.