It’s called pareidolia, and it’s the reason why some people see a face on Mars or an image of Jesus in a flame.
The term refers to how the mind sees a familiar pattern where no pattern exists. For example, looking at clouds passing by and seeing animals or faces in the random cloud formations, or seeing a” man in the moon” when looking at the Moon, or hearing snippets of words and voices in random noise.
Paulette Osborne of Fargo snapped a photo of a fire being lit in the entryway of Fargo’s Holy Spirit Church on March 31, during the Easter Vigil.
Later, when she looked at the photos she took, she came across one that resembled a figure in the flame’s shape.
Given the context of the church and Easter, it’s easy to conclude the flame resembles Jesus wearing a robe with outstretched hands.
The photo was published in the Fargo Diocese’s May edition of the monthly publication, “New Earth.”
From a faith based view, this is something special, meaningful, comforting.
From a fact based view, this is a matter of timing — the photo captured a flickering, waving flame at the very instant, and only for that instant, when it appeared to have a familiar shape.
The image has gone viral on social media, inspiring many and entertaining others.
For the record, both Osborne and the Fargo Diocese have said they don’t claim that the photo is an apparition of Jesus.
In a statement, the diocese says, “Although the photo published in the May edition of the New Earth Magazine is unique, the Diocese of Fargo does not claim this photo to be an apparition of Our Lord, and knows of no one making such a claim. The photo was published because of its beauty and relevance to the celebration of Easter, which we thought the faithful of the Fargo Diocese would enjoy.”
Osborne was quoted as saying she simply thought it was a beautiful picture and just wanted to share it.