By Stephen Ryan
“There is no blemish in that rounded and beautiful character. Joan of Arc was deeply religious, and believed that she had daily speech with angels; that she saw them face to face, and that they counselled her, comforted and heartened her, and brought commands to her direct from God” – Mark Twain
“There is no single word I discovered that so instantly could produce a rapturous smile a derisive snort or an uncomfortable silence in the Vatican as “Medjugorje” What fascinated me was that those that extolled Medjugorje as a place of sacred virtue of unparalleled power all had made pilgrimages to experience the village first hand while those who scoffed knew only what they had read or heard. The priests inclined to to dismiss reports of miracles at Medjugorje (first as an insult to their intelligence and second as an embarrassment to the church) all seemed curiously muted.” -Randall Sullivan
From time to time people ask me how I got started with Mystic Post. Over time I have come to the conclusion that my websites’s current manifestation started with a letter. I tell them it started with a letter I wrote to Randall Sullivan, the acclaimed investigative journalist, a former writer for Rolling Stone Magazine and now best-selling author (Untouchable – The Stange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson. )
What I remember most about the short crumpled letter I sent off to Mr. Sullivan was licking the stamp. Putting my tongue to sticky paper was definitely old school but the publisher informed me it was the only way I could contact the author and I was determined to thank him for his magnificent book “The Miracle Detective” – a book that has changed many lives – including mine. It is a book that changes the way we look at faith and religion no matter what confession one worships or adheres to.
What Randall Sullivan’s book taught me is that religion is more than a set of rules – it is about the other side. The essence of religion, by definition, is about the supernatural – it is about God – a force not of this earth – but this most rudimentary fact seems to have been hopelessly abandoned by the faithful of all creeds. This development forced Pope John Paul II to lament before his death that “Today we have lost the sense of the supernatural”
The supernatural deepens our faith in a beautiful and mysterious way and without it we are left with nothing but a set of bureaucratic rules and regulations. We are left handing out coins to toll booth collectors hoping to avoid accidents on our way to our certain death.
Reading Sullivan’s book seemed to pull me out of that spiritual ditch and put me on path towards something bigger and outside of myself. His book put me on a path towards eternity, perhaps even back home. Happily, the path’s foundation is firmly constructed out of reason – no need to fear losing one’s core scientific sensibilities or free will – yet somehow Sullivan attaches it -reason – to the wonderful world of miracles, mysteries, and the Catholic faith. In his book, “Miracle Detective”, the tangible essence of the supernatural is revealed.
Randall Sullivan, the former agnostic, raised by atheists, the Ivy Leaguer, the writer for The Rolling Stone Magazine basically grabs you by the throat and asks you to follow his path – take his journey – and then at the end of the voyage he dares you to call him crazy. But you can’t. You are left with only two conclusion – either God exists – or scientists and atheists still have got some serious explaining to do. There are no other sensible conclusions one can reach. The book unlike anything ever written puts the burden back on the folks who think science and logic have all the answers. He leaves the scientists suffocating, gasping for air.
My letter to Randall Sullivan had dual purposes, first, as I said, I wanted to thank him for his work on Miracle Detective but also to share with him an anecdote about Mark Twain that for some reason I felt certain he would find interesting – perhaps even comforting. You see Mark Twain like Randall Sullivan also wrote a book about miracles and apparitions and both men toiled for years writing their books about young simple people – catholics – catholics whose lives were defined by visions from heaven. Something told me Mr. Sullivan would enjoy knowing all this and I was pretty sure that it would be news to him as well.
Mark Twain spent over twelve years working on his book – Randall Sullivan eight. Twain spent much of the time in France researching and investigating a Catholic visionary that by the time he put his pen down and had finished his work he had reached the conclusion that the historical figure he had written about had lived THE most remarkable and extraordinary life of all time.
He writes: “She is the wonder of the ages. Taking into account, as I have suggested before, all the circumstances — her origin, youth, sex, illiteracy, early environment, and the obstructing conditions under which she exploited her high gifts and made her conquests in the field and before the courts that tried her for her life, — she is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced”. …
This “most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced” this simple young peasant girl who saw angels in heaven was named Joan of Arc and the book by Mark Twain is order ativan online usa called “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc”
Edward Wagenknecht in his biography , “Mark Twain: The Man and His Work” said of Mark Twain’s labor: “It is an extraordinary (and baffling) literary phenomenon that Mark Twain, who was not disposed to see God at work in the melancholy affairs of men, should have been so galvanized by the life and achievement of this young woman that he devoted years of his life to this book about her.”
Another little secret about Mark Twain that book critics and Twain historians like to dismiss is that the book was also closest to his heart. Mark Twain wrote:
“I like this book best of all my books, and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none.”
But it is in Mark Twain’s remarkable essay where we see in his own words his special relationship and love he had for Joan of Arc and it is there where we see his eye-popping astonishment in Joan’s incredible prophecies that were a result of her apparitions and visions.
“There is no blemish in that rounded and beautiful character.She was deeply religious and believed that she had daily speech with angels; that she saw them face to face, and that they counselled her, comforted and heartened her, and brought commands to her direct from God. She had a childlike faith in the heavenly origin of her apparitions and her Voices, and not any threat of any form of death was able to frighten it out of her loyal heart. She was a beautiful and simple and lovable character. Her history has still another feature which sets her apart and leaves her without fellow or competitor: there have been many uninspired prophets, but she was the only one who ever ventured the daring detail of naming, along with a foretold event, the event’s precise nature, the special time-limit within which it would occur, and the place — and scored fulfilment.At Vaucouleurs she said she must go to the King and be made his general, and break the English power, and crown her sovereign — “at Rheims.” It all happened. It was all to happen “next year” — and it did. She foretold her first wound and its character and date a month in advance, and the prophecy was recorded in a public record-book three weeks in advance. She repeated it the morning of the date named, and it was fulfilled before night. At Tours she foretold the limit of her military career — saying it would end in one year from the time of its utterance — and she was right. She foretold her martyrdom — using that word, and naming a time three months away — and again she was right. At a time when France seemed hopelessly and permanently in the hands of the English she twice asserted in her prison before her judges that within seven years the English would meet with a mightier disaster than had been the fall of Orleans: it happened within five — the fall of Paris. Other prophecies of hers came true, both as to the event named and the time-limit prescribed. … Asked at her trial why it was her standard (The standard depicts the Virgin Mary and two angels) that had a place at the crowning of the King in the Cathedral of Rheims rather than the standards of the other captains, she uttered that touching speech, “It had borne the burden, it had earned the honor” — a phrase which fell from her lips without premeditation, yet whose moving beauty and simple grace it would bankrupt the arts of language to surpass.”
“It had borne the burden, it had earned the honor” – words that would “Bankrupt the arts of language to surpass” so says Mark Twain of the little peasant girl who loved the Virgin Mary and who saw apparitions and visions of angels and saints from heaven. Mark Twain was also fully aware that Joan of Arc was exceptionally pious. She required her soldiers to take the Sacraments of Confession and Communion regularly and she would have her men of her army gather around for daily prayer and devotion. Mark Twain knew all this. He also understood that she believed all that she accomplished was possible only through God’s intervention and to the dismay of most of so many Mark Twain does not quibble with any of her testimony.
As Mark Twain writes “She is the Wonder of Ages.”
After dropping my letter in the mailbox, to my surprise, about a month later Randall Sullivan e-mailed me back:
“Thanks for your letter regarding my book, The Miracle Detective. I was simultaneously stirred and chagrined by what you wrote about Mark Twain and his Joan of Arc book. I have to admit that I was among those who did not know that Twain had authored such a book, let alone that he considered it his most important work.”
From that point forward it seems that I have immersed myself into the mysteries of faith and the supernatural and with the help of some incredible people, Daniel Klimek most importantly, I have tried to reveal the realities of the supernatural and the mysterious and how both impact our lives and our faith each day.
By the way the stamp on my thank you note – the crumpled short letter to Sullivan – I am pretty sure to this day is the last postage stamp I ever licked.