The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions by Randall Sullivan, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions

The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions

by Randall Sullivan

In a tiny, dilapidated trailer in northeastern Oregon, a young Mexican woman saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in an ordinary landscape painting hanging on her bedroom wall. After being met with skepticism from the local parish, the Catholic diocese officially placed the matter "under investigation." Investigative journalist Randall Sullivan wanted to know how


In a tiny, dilapidated trailer in northeastern Oregon, a young Mexican woman saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in an ordinary landscape painting hanging on her bedroom wall. After being met with skepticism from the local parish, the Catholic diocese officially placed the matter "under investigation." Investigative journalist Randall Sullivan wanted to know how exactly one might conduct the official inquiry into such an incident and set off to interview "the miracle detectives." These were the theologians, historians, and postulators from the Sacred Congregation of the Causes for Saints who were charged by the Vatican with testing the miraculous and judging the holy. What Sullivan didn't know was that his own investigation would lead from Vatican City in Rome to the tiny village of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where six visionaries have been receiving apparitions of the Virgin Mary. These raptures have been the subject of more medical and scientific examination than any other purported supernatural event ever recorded. An examination of the longest-running Marian apparitions in history, and the author's own faith and beliefs as he himself becomes a miracle detective, are at the heart of Randall Sullivan's stunning new book, The Miracle Detective.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Sullivan, a contributing editor of Rolling Stone, retains a sharp journalistic instinct, and his exhaustive rendering of the Medjugorje story is, if not the best journalistic account of the subject (the Medjugorje literature is too vast to allow a confident claim), certainly the best one I have read. Though he is too dismissive of the political dimensions of Mariology, and in particular of Marian anti-communism (particularly in light of the way Franjo Tudjman used the Medjugorje apparitions in delivering his death blow to the Yugoslav federation), Sullivan brilliantly situates the apparitions within the context of the Balkan war. Amazingly, this makes him something of a pioneer: You could read whole volumes of dopey Medjugorje witnessing without suspecting that the Balkans endured a vicious civil war in the 1990s. — Tim Cavanaugh
Publishers Weekly
In what often reads like a spiritual whodunit, author and Rolling Stone contributing editor Sullivan takes readers on a journey into the labyrinthine world of religious apparitions and miracle investigations. Sullivan's fascination with the subject began in 1994 when he learned of a spiritual phenomenon in his own backyard-the reported apparition of the Virgin Mary in a rundown trailer in eastern Oregon. Intrigued, he did some cursory research about such occurrences and proposed to his publisher to do a book on "miracle detectives." He began in Rome, where he met with Catholic Church officials charged with investigating such phenomena, and proceeded to the village of Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia, where the Virgin reportedly first appeared to six young people in 1981. It was in Medjugorje that Sullivan encountered an unexpected turn in his investigation-a personal religious experience in which a mysterious young woman came to his aid as he made a pilgrimage up the mountain of Krizevac. This and his subsequent spiritual encounters make for an interesting subplot as Sullivan continues his quest to explain the unexplainable, though he never fully discloses the details of where those experiences led him. Much has been written about Marian apparitions, particularly those at Medjugorje, but The Miracle Detective may well emerge as one of the most comprehensive and engaging modern works on the subject. Well told and expertly researched, Sullivan's book should appeal to skeptics and believers alike. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A contributing editor for Rolling Stone and Men's Journal, Sullivan (The Price of Experience) presents a wide-ranging work about apparitions of the Virgin Mary. He investigates several of these personally, visiting the sites and interviewing the seers and other principals. Most notably, he examines sightings in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where six teenagers claim to have received messages from the Virgin Mary. In addition to providing a very detailed account of the first Medjugorje sightings, Sullivan includes interviews with Vatican officials charged with determining the authenticity of this event, a short history of religion in the Balkans, a heartrending look at that region during the wars of the 1990s, and descriptions of the effects of his investigations on his own spiritual life. His writing is very descriptive, and the many characters he encounters are well drawn. He provides an annotated list of sources for the Medjugorje section but does not, for the most part, tie the details he gives to specific sources. Sullivan, who treads the path between true believer and outright denier, raises thoughtful, informed questions about the phenomena he studies. Anyone with an interest in Marian apparitions should read this book. Recommended for public and seminary libraries.-Stephen Joseph, Butler Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Pittsburgh Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What is a miracle? And who gets to decide? Here's a look inside the process. Sullivan's background is in true-crime reporting (Labyrinth, 2002, etc.), but when he learned of an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a Washington State trailer park, he felt compelled to investigate. Thus began a long trip that led him inevitably to the Vatican, then to Bosnia-Herzegovina, where, since 1981, the Virgin has regularly appeared to six inhabitants of the little town of Medjugorje. Sullivan describes the events surrounding the initial apparition: six Croatian children-the oldest a girl of 16-saw a shining young woman on a hill outside the town: the Virgin Mary. Word of the apparition spread rapidly, and the visionaries were soon relaying Mary's messages of love, peace, and understanding to all who would listen. In spite of oppression by the communist government of then-Yugoslavia, and harsh skepticism by the local bishop, the visions became a sensation in the Catholic world. Visiting a dozen years later, Sullivan found the country in the throes of a brutal civil war, yet Medjugorje remained a magnet for pilgrims from all corners of the world. Others came to play their parts, whether to marvel at the miracle, investigate it, or extract money from the thousands of visitors. Sullivan himself experienced a sort of vision, which he reports candidly. He examines the Medjugorge apparition from all angles, comparing it to Lourdes, Fatima, and other miraculous visions of recent times, including one in Arizona that church authorities finally rejected. The author concludes with a visit to Father Groeschel, a New York-based scholar of the miraculous whose comments put Medjugorge into context. In the end, it isclear that something powerful has happened; exactly what it is, or why it has happened, remain mysteries. Almost always absorbing and thought-provoking.

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Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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5.25(w) x 9.35(h) x 1.30(d)

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Read an Excerpt

The Miracle Detective

An Investigation of Holy Visions
By Randall Sullivan

Grove Atlantic, Inc.

ISBN: 0-87113-916-2

Chapter One

The priest chosen by Bishop O'Brien to investigate the events in Scottsdale was Father Ernest Larkin, a Carmelite theologian admired for both his intelligence and his spirituality.

As I began the interview I admitted that, no matter how often I heard them feathered or fudged, I still tended to accept three categories of possibility: Either the visionaries were lying, or they were delusional, or they were telling the truth. "Basically, I agree with you," Larkin replied, "but I also think that delusion, which sounds pejorative, needn't be. People may be telling the truth when they say they see this or that, but they may be unaware that the influence of the environment-which can be very subtle-encourages these experiences. I find it difficult to believe that Mary is standing on the edge of human consciousness, and maybe breaking in every now and then, here or there. The Blessed Mother is in this mysterious realm of Heaven." And there's no interface between that realm and ours? I asked. "I don't think so," Larkin answered. So he didn't believe in any apparitions at all? I asked the priest. "I can't say that," he admitted. "I believe in Lourdes. I believe in Fatima.

And I'm very curious about Medjugorje. Something of a profound nature has occurred in each of these places. I don't know to what extent these are the effect of natural causes and to what extent they are miraculous. It's almost impossible to know what comes from nature and what comes from grace."

We digressed into a discussion of St. John of the Cross; Larkin reminded me that Catholicism's most famous mystic poet had counseled the faithful to resist all supernatural experiences, even their own. "I really believe that these events send as many people away from religion as they draw near," Larkin said. "Because they seem so bizarre, so much out of the ordinary providence of God." If he went to Medjugorje, Larkin said, "I couldn't help asking, 'Why would the Blessed Mother appear here when the world is falling apart everywhere else, also?'" That's like asking why Jesus would raise Lazarus when there are so many other dead people, I observed. Larkin laughed. "You're right," he said. "It's the same question. I have to fall back on my a priori principle that we live in a realm of faith from which there is no escape."


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