It is with great and humble thanks to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, that I'm able to write anything this week, having been utterly confounded, up till now, by the "moral values" issue that's possessed our country since the reappointment of George W. Bush to the presidency on November 2.
"Moral values," you see, are the thing -- things? -- that apparently carried Bush to victory over John Kerry, by 1 to 3 percent of the popular vote, depending on which of the "Gosh, we don't really know!" polls you may consult.
I bear no sorrow for Kerry, of course, who was a phony candidate from the start. The Democratic Party had a real candidate, Howard Dean, for months before Kerry got his Clinton act together. Dean, in fact, was the only man in the field who not only could but would have hollered his indignation at the takeover of the American government by Punk, Jr., and the Texas Sturmstaffel. And if you need to look up Sturmstaffel, that's just what they're counting on. You'll probably confuse it with "law and order."
But never mind. It's morality we're talking about here. Specifically, the Virgin Mother, whose unmistakable features, miraculously impressed on a 10-year-old grilled-cheese sandwich with a bite out of one corner, recently sold on eBay for $35,814.79, and is now going "on tour" across the country -- well, through the South, anyway, where these kinds of miracles are fully appreciated and understood.
True, the $35,000 sum was paid out by a Canadian-owned Las Vegas casino called "GoldenPalace.com" after the Holy Sandwich was first posted, then withdrawn, then posted again, then withdrawn again, then finally put back up and sold -- bang! -- on the eBay hotwire. Evidently, there were people who thought it was in bad taste to say that the Blessed Mother's face might appear on a grilled cheese, or that it should be sold on eBay like so much Diamond Solitaire jewelry or The Fly Fisher's Bible.
Indeed, for a while, there was a big question as to whether the sale would go through at all. Frankly, the features fried onto this particular sandwich might be just as easily those of Catherine Zeta-Jones. I have all the press releases here and each of them, pro or con, carries a great weight of piety. You have no idea what it took to get this "One-of-a-Kind Religious Icon" off the block, and you can check that out for yourself on the GoldenPalace.com  website.
"I would like all people to know that I do believe that this is the Virgin Mary, Mother of God," says the sandwich's original owner, or griller, Diana Duyser, a "work-from-home jewelry designer" from Hollywood, Florida. "That is my solemn belief." Duyser cooked the sandwich a decade ago, according to Golden Palace, "and after taking one bite out of it, noticed the Virgin Mary's face staring back at her. She put the sandwich in a clear plastic box with cotton balls and kept it on her night stand," where -- even more miraculously -- it has "never spouted a spore of mold!"
"People ask me if I have had blessings since she has been in my home," says Duyser, who has used the sandwich over the years to ward off everything from emphysema and depression to Communists and warts, and whose parting with the Sacred Snack has been more painful than she can say. "I do feel I have. I have won $70,000 on different occasions at the casino near my house." Now, she wants to "share [her] gift with the world. I think [the Virgin] was meant to be seen," Duyser says. "It's time to pass Her along." And, of course, to deposit the check.
Now, forgive me, but it seems that the Virgin Mary has been "shared" already, all over the world -- "passed along," if you will, for 2000 years -- and that the question of actually "seeing" Her, never mind taking a bite out of her corner, is inevitably a matter of doctrinal contention.
In fact, as a rule, the Vatican frowns on this kind of thing because, to be honest, Our Lady appears all over the place, all the time -- on garage doors, in cesspools, oil-slicks, grottoes, mirrors and on shiny, fresh-washed dishes that Mom has just started to dry before shrieking, fainting and smashing all the crockery, before the Inquisition can test its validity.
Indeed, the Pope in Rome has recently ordered a complete "re-evaluation" of the Inquisition and all its works throughout history, while also asking his theologians "to come up with a more coherent and enlightened way" of describing Limbo -- that weird little "state or place reserved for the unbaptized dead," especially babies who had no choice in the matter, and "even good people" who were unlucky enough to have been born before the coming of Christ. I expect His Holiness understands that Limbo had better be an awfully big place. But of course he'd know better about that than I do.
I'm sorry -- is that offensive? Well, no more so than spotting Jesus' mom on a slice of Wonder Bread and a smear of Velveeta. As a matter of fact, I looked in my wastebasket just now and saw the face of George W. Bush staring back at me with his beady little eyes. It turned out to be nothing but a piece of crumpled newspaper, but, hey, who's to say it wasn't just as nasty as the real thing?