MIRACLES AT THE JESUS OAK: Journeys in the Otherworld of Reformation Europe

Craig E. Harline, Author . Doubleday $22.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-50820-9

For thousands of years, skeptics and believers have argued about the nature of miracles: are they supernatural events or natural coincidences? Historian Harline (A Bishop's Tale) provides a different take on the significance of miracles in the lives of believers. Ensconced in the library of a Belgian monastery, Harline discovers manuscripts full of stories about miraculous happenings at various Catholic shrines throughout 17th-century Holland. Using his engaging storytelling powers, Harline imaginatively re-creates the scenes surrounding the miracles at these places, bringing to life the fervent faith of the miracles' recipients as well as the religious and political struggles surrounding the acceptance of these miracles as authoritative. For example, Harline tells the story of a young woman who had been unable to feed her starving baby because her breasts were not producing milk. Once the woman visited a particular church, her breasts miraculously filled with milk, but the Catholic Church debated whether or not to authorize this event as a miracle. Church authorities argued these events so fiercely, Harline says, because they were forging a new self-identity in the face of Protestant challenges to miracles. Harline's lively collection of stories offers a new view of the relationship between Catholics and Protestants in a 17th-century Europe where affection for shrines, icons, relics and the miracles associated with them provided the foundation for Catholic identity. (Apr. 15)

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
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