An Investigation of Holy Visions
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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 is clear that something powerful has happened; exactly what it is, or why it has happened, remain mysteries.

Almost always absorbing and thought-provoking.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-87113-916-2
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2004


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