The Miracle Detective: An Investigative Reporter Sets Out to Examine How the Catholic Church Investigates Holy Visions andby Randall Sullivan
In a tiny, dilapidated trailer in northeastern Oregon, a young 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 matter was officially placed "under investigation" by the Catholic diocese. Investigative journalist Randall Sullivan wanted to know how,… See more details below
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In a tiny, dilapidated trailer in northeastern Oregon, a young 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 matter was officially placed "under investigation" by the Catholic diocese. Investigative journalist Randall Sullivan wanted to know how, exactly, one might conduct the official inquiry into such an incident, so he set off to interview theologians, historians, and postulators from the Sacred Congregation of the Causes for Saints. These men, dubbed "miracle detectives" by the author, were charged by the Vatican with testing the miraculous and judging the holy.
Sullivan traveled from the Vatican in Rome to the tiny village of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where six visionaries had been receiving apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Sullivan's quest turns personal and takes him to Scottsdale, Arizona, site of America's largest and most controversial instances of Virgin Mary sightings, culminating an eight-year investigation of predictions of apocalyptic events, false claims of revelation, and the search for a genuine theophany-that is, the ultimate interface between man and God.
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The Miracle DetectiveAn Investigation of Holy Visions
By Randall Sullivan
Grove Atlantic, Inc.ISBN: 0-87113-916-2
Chapter OneThe 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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