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Faculty Essay


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""Where there is great love," says Willa Cather’s Jean Latour in Death Comes for the Archbishop, "there are always miracles. . . . The Miracles of the Church . . . rest not so much upon power coming suddenly . . . from far off, but on our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always" (50). In this modern view, a miracle bespeaks the sudden perception or recognition of a power immanent in the world rather than one thrust into ordinary affairs—an idea closer to the showing forth of the Greek “epiphany” than the wonder or marvel of the Latin “miraculum.” The modernity of Cather’s definition lies also, I believe, in its emphasis on human perception, directing us more toward the experience of the miraculous rather than the underlying nature of the miracle itself. Accordingly, Cather’s Latour, priest though he is, leaves richly ambiguous whether the “great love” required by the miracle is God’s or our own, and while the divinity of the “power . . . about us always” is clearly implied, it is never explicitly named."

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