It looks a lot like an apparition of Jesus but experts say a photo that captured fire flickering at an Easter vigil held at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Fargo, North Dakota, is likely not an apparition.
"You have to be careful because an apparition has to be thoroughly researched and approved by the [Catholic] Church. I mean, it's a beautiful symbol of the evening and it was so appropriate for that Easter vigil service. It really cannot be called an apparition," Paulette Osborne, the amateur photographer who took the photo at Holy Spirit Church on March 31 told local radio station KFGO.
Excitement over the picture has been building since New Earth, a publication of the Diocese of Fargo, highlighted it pointing to the likeness the flame had to the Savior.
"This year, the church lit the fire in the entryway since it was too cold and windy outside. After lighting the fire, blessing the Easter candle, and lighting everybody's candles, the faithful proceeded into the church. It wasn't until Paulette looked through her photos several days later that she saw some[thing] particularly special about the flame in this photo. He is Risen indeed!" the caption read.
In an interview with KFGO, Osborne explained how enchanted she was by the fire before snapping the shot showing a group of people gathered around the holy flame.
"The first picture is all dark with a small little white dot. And this was the seventh picture. They had blessed the Easter candle and were entering the church and they were ready to light everyone else's candle and so I looked at the fire and it was just so pretty. It was just big and bright, and I thought, 'wow, I'll take one last picture until they douse it and put it out," she said.
Two days later when she began editing the photo, Osborne said that's when she realized she had something special.
"I said, 'wow,' and then I called my husband and said, 'come here, look at this picture.' And he came over and went 'wow!' And we both thought it was such a beautiful image, so I took it to our class on Tuesday night and showed the slideshow of all the pictures in the evening," she said.
Michael O'Neill of Chicago, who is also known as "The Miracle Hunter," has investigated apparition and miracle claims for several years. He told KFGO that while the flame was impressive, he thinks it's just a nice flicker of light.
"As a Catholic myself, looking for an image of Jesus subconsciously, I think this is one of the stronger cases where the imagery is pretty clear" O'Neill said. "That being said, my assessment is that it's a flicker of light in that exact perfect moment in the great context of Easter, which makes us think about Jesus and how he has miracles in our church."
He added, "These things are perhaps meant for the moment of the believer. Whether or not it is a sign meant for all people of all time to see and learn something and grow from it, that's a hard thing to ever say."