Miracle Cures: Saints, Pilgrimage, and the Healing Powers of Belief

Miracle Cures: Saints, Pilgrimage, and the Healing Powers of Belief

Miracle Cures: Saints, Pilgrimage, and the Healing Powers of Belief

Miracle Cures: Saints, Pilgrimage, and the Healing Powers of Belief

Synopsis

Iconic images of medieval pilgrims, such as Chaucer's making their laborious way to Canterbury, conjure a distant time when faith was the only refuge of the ill and infirm, and thousands traveled great distances to pray for healing. Why, then, in an age of advanced biotechnology and medicine, do millions still go on pilgrimages? Why do journeys to important religious shrines--such as Lourdes, Compostela, Fátima, and Medjugorje--constitute a major industry? In Miracle Cures, Robert A. Scott explores these provocative questions and finds that pilgrimage continues to offer answers for many. Its benefits can range from a demonstrable improvement in health to complete recovery. Using research in biomedical and behavioral science, Scott examines accounts of miracle cures at medieval, early modern, and contemporary shrines. He inquires into the power of relics, apparitions, and the transformative nature of sacred journeying and shines new light on the roles belief, hope, and emotion can play in healing.

Excerpt

On December 14, 1421, in the English city of Salisbury, a fourteenyear-old girl named Agnes suffered a grievous injury when a hot spit pierced her torso. Bystanders managed to extract the spit, but her condition remained grave. She was all but given up for dead when her parents, along with several neighbors, prayed to Osmund, the eleventhcentury bishop of Sarum (modern-day Salisbury), whose tomb was in Salisbury Cathedral. At the time, Osmund was still a saint-in-waiting; though he had been proposed for canonization in 1228, he was not officially canonized until 1457. In their prayers, the supplicants vowed to Osmund that if Agnes’s life was spared, they would visit his tomb, honor him in prayer, and leave gifts in thanks for his miraculous intercession with God on the child’s behalf. Shortly thereafter, Agnes began to show renewed signs of life. Two days after regaining consciousness, she rose from her bed and walked around her house, and ten days after that she was described as completely recovered. The event was duly noted in documents submitted by the dean and chapter of Salisbury Cathedral to the Roman Curia (the Vatican’s judicial court) in support of Osmund’s canonization.

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