Saints, Pilgrimage, and the Healing Powers of Belief
Robert A. Scott
Narrated by Bob Malos
Approximately 7.5 hours
Book published by University of California Press
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.
Robert A. Scott was for 18 years the deputy director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Among other books, he is the author of The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral (UC Press).
“An intellectually fascinating book, Scott’s treatment will be eye-opening for students of history, theology, and human nature. ”
“It is refreshing to see the topics [religion and science] treated in an objective and scholarly manner.... Fascinating in its depth, thoroughness, and detailed accounts of medieval life, the book is a good read.”
“Engaging, compassionate book.”
—National Catholic Reporter
“The author carefully weaves detailed textual and historiographic work with the latest social scientific findings. [It] is an extremely valuable addition to the growing body of literature on faith and medicine. It represents a sophisticated integration of historical analysis of religious practice with the latest findings in medicine and the social sciences. Readers at all levels should enjoy this engaging but sophisticated book.”
“The book seamlessly weaves together religious pilgrimages, mind-body connections, and healing. Scott charts the interface of individual and social life in medieval to modern times, the role that pilgrimages played, and how individual life and religion gained from each other. Rather than pit science against religion, Scott sensitively underscores the point of connection where their fingers touch—a written version of what one sees in the Creation of Adam. Scott provides fascinating accounts of maladies and cures, novel ways to explain them, and the interplay of medicine and religion. Health and well being, belief, social support, stress, and hope are universal themes and the appeal of this book is universal as well. Scott is a well recognized scholar and this book easily conveys how well deserved is this status. Beyond that the book reveals his special talent of integrating what we know with what we believe and how they both play pivotal roles in our everyday lives.”
—Alan E. Kazdin, Ph.D., Yale University
“Scott has written a magnificent book on the realities of religious healing. He brings sensibility, reason, impressive insight, and the best information to bear—qualities seldom manifested in the centuries of claim, cynicism, and controversy on the topic. His analysis is destined to raise the level of discourse on dramatic religious experiences.”
—Neil Smelser, author of The Odyssey Experience