Mary, Mary

A virgin in a casino? Who are they kidding?

 Mary, Mary: Buzz is not what you would call a Christian scholar--or a Christian for that matter--so help us out here: If you were going to sell an icon of one of the New Testament Marys to a casino, shouldn't it be the Magdalene version or the Bethany version but not the virgin version? There are generally lots of the former types to be found in casinos. Not many of the latter.

Poor mother of Christ, first she had to persuade her family that no, really, swear to God, she was a pregnant virgin--a neat trick that has worked only once in history. Now Eva Pena of Oak Cliff has sold off her Virgin Mary tree on eBay to online casino goldenpalace.com.

Can't say we were surprised. Of every media outlet in Dallas that covered the "miraculous" apparition last winter ("Do You See What I See?" by Jesse Hyde, December 29), the Dallas Observer was the only one to point out that it had been created by Pena's 4- and 5-year-old daughters, who, their mom says, chipped away at the bark because they heard crying from within the tree. Mary was sad, Pena said, and she had a message for the world. Apparently the message was two-part: The Penas need money, and never draw to an inside straight.

Goldenpalace.com, which previously paid $28,000 for a Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich, paid $5,000 for the tree, which will remain in the Penas' yard for pilgrims to view for at least the next six months. Had it not been for the five grand, the Penas probably would have chopped the tree down immediately to stop the flow of foot traffic through their yard (although they asked for it by calling a TV news station immediately after they "spotted" the apparition).

The day after the tree sold, we called Maria Reyna of Pleasant Grove, who noticed a similar apparition in one of her trees more than 20 years ago. Since then, Reyna and her family have built a shrine around the big oak tree in the front yard. Reyna has never stopped welcoming those who visit the tree. She said she would never sell it, "not even for $10 million." (There's a fine line, Buzz thinks, between faith and crazy. Fine, but it stops well below 10 million bucks.)

"That's not of God," she said. "I don't know, maybe [the Pena tree] wasn't real. I don't know. But if it was a gift from God, they should've respected the faith of people who go there. "

 
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