"MIRACLE LEAF" CLAIMED IN LEONE, AMERICAN SAMOA

By Bill Mahn

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (November 17, 1999 – Samoa News)---"Is it true? What does it mean? Is it real?" are just a few of the questions being asked about an unusual occurrence stirring up Catholic families in Leone village this week.

The story goes like this: Two young girls are playing in the yard under a tree. They recall the appearance of a bright light, shining at their feet. The girls are entranced with this effect, and when the light disappears, a leaf falls to the ground to that spot.

The two girls, ages 8 and 10, bring their find to an older sister who takes it to their mother. This woman then leaves the fallen leaf in the sun for some days (maybe 10). A picture of what appears to be the Blessed Virgin Mary and a young Jesus appears on the leaf.

The family takes the leaf to Leo'o Nua Sipili, who mounts it in a frame. Visitors and family members claim a wondrous "feeling" when in the presence of the leaf.

Early Tuesday evening, small groups merge into larger crowds, as believers arrive to say the Rosary.

It is a story very familiar to Catholics the world over. Visitations from the Virgin Mary have occurred in several famous manifestations, such as those of Lourdes in France, Fatima in Spain, and Guadalupe in Mexico.

It is always a vision bestowed on children, followed by "miracles" (usually healing of the sick), and then the site of the visitation serves as a focus for pilgrimages by devout believers.

What is happening in Leone? "It's just a painted leaf!" claim skeptics. "Someone just did it!" says another.

The "Miracle Leaf" was examined closely (but not scientifically) by this reporter. There is certainly a picture on a real leaf. It is stylized, which means it is not a "photographic" reproduction. If painted, it was done extremely cleverly.

The leaf itself appears in remarkable preservation, as a fresh leaf taken from the same tree appeared withered and wrinkled within a few hours. However, the leaf was kept under glass in a picture frame, so its texture could not be determined.

The figures in the picture, a young woman and a younger male figure, are not labeled and bear no inscriptions or symbols on their clothes. However, a distinct circular "halo" can be seen over the woman's head, and this does not appear to be part of the same paint that makes up the rest of the image. A similar yellowish "staining" appears as an "aura" around the young male figure's head.

Whatever interpretation one wishes to give to the claims and story concerning the "miracle leaf", it is certainly apparent that many who have visited the site believe it is something special.

Whether the Catholic Church will give sanction to the artifact remains to be seen. For a true "miracle" to take place (and be "believed" as a miracle), a very strict and rigorous set of criteria must be met. Indisputable evidence of "divine" events is almost impossible to demonstrate.

The story of the "Miracle Leaf" is just beginning. Maybe we'll all have a laugh over somebody's idea of a joke sometime soon. Or maybe not.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

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