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There are some things may always remain beyond us. And I think that comment also raises the question about God's involvement in the world, because the fundamental issue with miracles is: in what way does God relate to the world? That's the question. Now, I think the Christian perspective - and I think this is partly what Augustine wants to say - is that God is always present to the world. Not one cause among many, but in fact integrally and intricately present to the world in everything that happens.

So that a blade of grass does not grow without God. A flower doesn't grow, a tree doesn't grow, a baby is not born. Animals don't carry out their lives without the presence of the divine spirit. Once you've seen that, then I think probably there is a case to be made that there's no such thing as miracles.

I have a certain sympathy for that view. The distinction, I think, is not between natural and supernatural, I don't find that at all a satisfactory distinction. The distinction is perhaps better understood as between the ordinary and the extraordinary, or the everyday and the unusual. David Rutledge: But the distinction between somebody recovering from an illness and Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, for example - that would be a distinction that goes beyond simply the distinction between the usual and the unusual, wouldn't you say?

Dorothy Lee: I don't think it necessarily is. I mean, in both cases life is being restored to someone. Certainly one is ordinary, we see this all the time, people recover from illnesses through various means. So it's ordinary to us. Someone raised from the dead is utterly extraordinary. But it seems to me that it's the same God acting in the same way.

The difference is one of degree, not of kind. In his discussion of miracles, David Hume also raised the problem of the credibility of witnesses. He thought that nobody who claimed to have seen or experienced a miracle should ever be believed. Indeed, he wrote that miracle claims are chiefly observed among what he called 'ignorant and barbarous nations'. Michael Levine: Hume actually confined his argument, interestingly enough, to belief on the basis of testimony.

He didn't argue that miracles are impossible. What he did say was that on the basis of testimony, we are never justified in believing that a miracle occurred. So you can tell me that you just walked across the Swan River, and it parted like the Red Sea. You come back and tell me that, and I believe you're an honest guy etc. I would still have better reason for believing that you yourself were deceived. Because I have testimony, your good testimony, even though I believe that you're trustworthy to an extent on the one hand, but that has to be balanced against all of my experience, and all of the cumulative experience of mankind, if you will, on the other.

Which suggests that seas don't part in the middle, the Swan River doesn't just part and let you walk through.

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David Rutledge: Hume says that miracles are observed chiefly to abound among 'ignorant and barbarous nations'. Now, that's a claim that we'd be very careful about making today, isn't it? Michael Levine: Well, I think it depends on how one wants to interpret that, when you talk about ignorant and barbarous - and we know what it is that Hume was talking about. But I think the same could be said here.

When you're talking about people who literally believe in miracles, there is a radical disjunct between the belief in miracles and a kind of scientific culture. David Rutledge: Would you say the same thing, though, about cultures such as West African countries, Latin American countries, where we see this phenomenal growth of Pentecostal churches which put great stress on the efficacy of the miraculous - partly because it's there in the traditional culture anyway. Traditional African religions, you know, people just have this everyday belief in miracles, demons, what-have-you. Hume would have called it ignorant barbarism.

What can the post-Enlightenment Western perspective be to that, other than something quite similar? If we don't say 'ignorant and barbarous', we would say ill-informed, uneducated - does it have to be that rejectionist? Michael Levine: I guess in my view, yes. I don't know what else to say. I mean, it's a pity the way churches play on it - but of course, let's not forget that they play upon it in New South Wales and Western Australia, and certainly Tennessee, New York, and other places, as much as they do in these African nations, and South American nations, in other parts of the world.

So it's not something that's exclusive to non-Western nations. It plays very big in the States, and you certainly have churches in Australia. Benny Hinn: Hello, this is Benny Hinn, and I'm so glad you are calling, and I pray that the presence and glory of God will visit your life this year, And yes, the heartbeat of heaven has captured my heart in a greater way than ever, and I'm going to the nations of the world this year, preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

And thank you for standing with me. Thank you for praying for me, and thank you for your support - and we're here to serve you. Like many charismatic evangelists, Benny Hinn specialises in huge public rallies, where the sick are purportedly healed and the blind purportedly made to see. It seems like a peculiarly American phenomenon, but as we've heard, in many other parts of the world where Christianity has been taken up by cultures that readily accept the miraculous, specular displays of divine power are a part of people's everyday faith.

Today, it's active in more than ninety countries, including Australia, and claims five million members worldwide. Pastor Adeyinka believes that God has no qualms about transgressing his own moral laws. Olabisi Adeyinka: I've witnessed lots of miracles. I've seen legs growing physically, I've seen people rising out from wheelchairs; I don't know whether you were in the recent program that Benny Hinn had in Sydney, at Olympic Park Olabisi Adeyinka: Yes, the American evangelist, yes.

There were lots of people on wheelchairs, they rose up and started walking. I've seen blind eyes open. So there are a lot of miracles that I've seen, and those are physical ones. So miracles are good. Miracles are things that can sustain you here on this earth, that give you a temporary joy. But except you know Jesus, all those joys will end here on this earth. Olabisi Adeyinka: Yes, yes, that's right.

Because you see many people that chase after miracles, they end up in the wrong hands. Olabisi Adeyinka: Yes, because there are a lot of so-called men of God outside there today that's seek for power by all means, in order to perform miracles. And if you are such a gullible person that is chasing after miracles, and you fall into such hands, you may be led astray. David Rutledge: Some of these - as of course you know - some of these American evangelists have turned out to be And when you go to a Benny Hinn rally, and you see people jumping out of their wheelchairs and what-have-you, how do you know that what you're witnessing there is truly miraculous, and not the kind of thing that you've been talking about?

Olabisi Adeyinka: Yes, any miracle that doesn't present Christ as the source, where Christ is not exalted, you need to run away from that place. The first thing before any miracle can happen, is you need to present to the recipient the need for them to get saved through the Lord Jesus Christ. It's not really about miracles, but it's about Christ.

David Rutledge: Tell me about Nigeria. This is a country where, as I understand it, people are more willing to believe in miracles than they are in the West. Even people who don't have any particular religious faith, or any particular Christian faith, there's this cultural acceptance that miracles happen more or less all the time.

Is that an accurate description of your country? Olabisi Adeyinka: In particular, since you have mentioned Nigeria, we have various kinds of religion. And miracles can come from two major sources, and that is either from God, or from Satan. I mean, if you are not a Christian, any miracle that happens is definitely not from God.

6 Stories of Angels, Prayers and Miracles

And we have such over there, because we have a lot of religions that are not embedded in Christ. Olabisi Adeyinka: Yes, traditional, and they tend to perform miracles from Satanic sources. Olabisi Adeyinka: There are some that they promise the barren that they will have children. They do, they definitely give them children. But either they don't live long, they bring problems to the family circle, or they turn to be vagabonds children.

And the result, the product of the miracle, will tell you the source of the miracle. Reporter: The Roman Catholic diocese in Western Australia has announced an investigation to try and determine whether a statue of the Virgin Mary which has been apparently weeping for the last nine months, is a miracle. The statue, owned by a Perth parishioner was put on public display in a suburban church, after rose-scented oil appeared to seep from its eyes on the Feast of St Joseph in March. Thousands of people have since flocked to the church in Rockingham, with some claiming to have had their illnesses cured by the oil.

Initial tests, conducted by two Perth scientists Man: I believe that the universe works in an ordered way; and if you put out good vibes, good vibes come back. And some people call the good vibes miracles, others say that's the way the universe works. David Rutledge: One definition of a miracle, though, is that it's where the order of nature is turned completely upside down.

You know, a dead person comes back to life, or somebody gets healed of a sickness that they're going to die from. Do you believe in that sort of thing? Woman 1: A miracle sounds like it's done by someone else, like by some kind of god entity, so then I guess I don't believe in miracles in that sense. David Rutledge: Do you know about the weeping statue of Mary up at the Catholic church? What do you think of that? Woman 1: Well, I haven't seen it, there's a lot of these weeping statues around the world, and other - there's even a menstruating statue somewhere.

If the statue's really weeping, I'd be interested to see it. The jury's out on that one. Woman 2: I do, I think it's people wanting it to be something, so they turn it into something that's happening. But I think it's more about people wanting to believe that it's happening, rather than it's actually happening. I just don't believe in that. David Rutledge: Evening mass at Our Lady of Lourdes church in Rockingham, Western Australia, a church that's been the focus of international media attention for the past four years.

It all started in , when a statue of the Virgin Mary started weeping tears of fragrant oil. The statue was the property of sisters Patty Powell and Eileen Giles, and they brought it to the parish priest, who saw the tears and installed the statue in the church. Within a few weeks of the discovery, thousands of pilgrims were making their way to Our Lady of Lourdes to witness the phenomenon, and to avail themselves of any miraculous power that might be associated with it. I travelled to Rockingham to investigate, and I wasn't able to make contact with anyone who said they'd actually experienced a miraculous cure themselves.

But I heard many second hand reports. Finbarr Walsh: It was the 14th August, , and in the afternoon of that day Patty brought the statue down to me, and showed it to me, and it was weeping. To me it was a miracle, I mean the oil was coming from nowhere. So we put it on a table in the sanctuary near the main altar. And the other priest here didn't want the statue on the sanctuary. And I said to Patty, 'I think you'd better keep it at home, it will be easier like that'. So the next morning I came into the church at six o'clock, and the whole church was filled with the perfume of the oil.

So I said to myself, Our Lady wants this statue in the church. David Rutledge: What did you think it meant at that time? Did you have any sort of idea of why this might have been happening? Finbarr Walsh: No, no, to me it was just Our Lady manifesting herself to this area.

The tears are a sign of sorrow, it's probably sorrow for sin, that she's always sad that so many Catholics abandoned Jesus, and embraced a pagan life and turned their backs on the church. And I suppose this is a manifestation of her sorrow for sinners - her love for sinners, and her sorrow for sinners, that they don't repent and don't come back to the church. David Rutledge: Had you ever observed anything like this before? Would you have believed in something like this had you not seen it with your own eyes up until this point? Finbarr Walsh: Well a thing like this, unless I saw it with my own eyes - it was what they call these private manifestations - I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes.

There's a girl here who entered school here, and she was a beautiful singer, she was singing on the Sunday evening mass with some of the youth group at that time, and she went to university to study music. At the age of twenty she got multiple sclerosis, and of course it meant her singing career was in jeopardy, and she had to stop the university. And anyway, her mother brought her over to the statue one day - and she'd had the multiple sclerosis for a year or so at that stage - and got some of the oil, and they rubbed it where the pain was, all down her sides.

And the pain went away, and as far as I know, she's back to living a normal life now. Well towards the end of , the Archbishop of Perth, Barry Hickey, commissioned a scientific test on the statue. The results of the test were inconclusive.

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The scientists thought that the oil issuing from its eyes was probably some sort of vegetable oil, but they couldn't find any evidence of tampering with the statue. Archbishop Hickey - who declined to be interviewed for this program - issued a statement expressing his belief that the weeping phenomenon was not of divine origin, and he asked that the statue should be withdrawn from public veneration at the church. The Archbishop said that his caution was 'in keeping with the church's traditional prudence and reservation concerning matters purporting to be miraculous'.

But where does that prudence and reservation come from? It's not as though the Church doesn't believe that miracles can happen in this day and age - indeed, as we'll be hearing later in the program, the church relies on miracles for the canonisation of saints. Donald Sproxton: The thing about the statue in Rockingham is that many people who have come to visit and to pray and to ask God for intercession, they've come with a faith already, it seems to me.

And because of this faith, they seem to be open to the divine, and the action of the divine in their life. Donald Sproxton: I think throughout the history of the Church there have been people who have had private devotions. And even in the time that I've been a priest, I've become aware of people who seem to have some sort of communication with God, they seem to have some special link with God, and often they say that they feel God is speaking to them in various ways. These, I think, are things that must remain in the private domain.

David Rutledge: I suppose Jesus in the Gospel sometimes says - when he's performed a miracle, he says 'go home, don't show yourself to the priest, don't tell anybody what's happened'. I've always wondered why he does that. Donald Sproxton: I think the miracles - as far as Jesus is concerned, a miracle was something which enabled people to have their ears open, to hear what God would be saying to them through the announcement, or through the preaching of the Church.

I think that this is why Jesus would have been asking these people not to be parading their special gift in front of people, but to recognise that it is a gift that has perhaps opened their ears to the revelation of Christ. David Rutledge: Well of course the statue in Rockingham has taken on a public life of its own, for better or worse, people reportedly coming from far and wide to visit it. Is this sort of thing to be approached cautiously through and through, or are there ways in which this sort of thing contributes in a healthy way to the life of the parish? Donald Sproxton: I think it's probably the hope of the people in the parish that it might in fact bring people back to the practice of their faith.

I'm not altogether sure that is the case, because as you say, there are people who come from all over, out of curiosity, out of a real religious sense, looking for a sign which helps them with their own faith journey. And anything like a miracle, or an apparition of some sort, these things need to be approached cautiously, because we don't want people to be going off on a tangent, you know, perhaps thinking that maybe this is really the whole of the truth; the truth is this apparition, or a message that this has brought to a seer, that this is more important than the Gospel, or in the tradition of the Church.

So I think we have to be careful to ensure that the two major bases of our faith are maintained and taught properly. At the behest of the Archbishop, the owners of the weeping Madonna, Patty Powell and Eileen Giles, have taken the statue home, where they've built a small shrine inside their house, and an outdoor grotto, where in front of a small running stream, a concrete paving stone bears the imprints of two small feet. According to Eileen, these are the footprints of Mary, whose apparitions at the grotto continue to draw the faithful.

Eileen Giles: Out here is where Our Lady first started to appear. She said to us that she would leave a visible sign. So for us, we weren't sure what that visible sign was - and in other countries it's been that something happened in the sky, or when it rained they didn't get wet - and so for us, we were just as shocked as everyone else. David Rutledge: I understand that this was before the grotto was even finished, it was while there were lots of building material lying around. Eileen Giles: That's right, it was a very old area where all the boat parts and the bike parts and all of the old - you know how in your house you always have a storage area for all the bits and pieces that you don't know where to put them.

So yes, and for Patty, she was a little bit embarrassed that Our Lady would appear in this area. Eileen Giles: Yes. But Our Lady has said to us that she would appear on the top of a rubbish heap if it would bring her children back to her son Jesus. So there was a purpose in her appearing here. David Rutledge: And then on one of the paving stones here that's been protected with a plastic cover, you can actually see two footprints here.

Eileen Giles: Yes, that's right. Yes, that's her footprints, that was the sign that she left. And it's a beautiful sign, because it's a very humble sign. Because many people are so focused on material possessions, whereas Our Lady comes to us barefoot. So it's just something for us to take heed of. David Rutledge: Inside Patty and Eileen's house is a small shrine, where the famous weeping statue can be seen, alongside other devotional objects and images.

It's a striking statue, brightly coloured, with a sweet serene face, whose paint is beginning to show some signs of being eroded by the oil that still periodically flows from the statue's eyes. Patty and Eileen have given up their jobs to run the shrine on a full time basis. It's called 'The Holy Family House of Prayer', and it's open to the public free of charge for a few hours every weekday for people to come and pray or just have a look around.

Eileen Giles: Originally Patty and I had a fabric warehouse together, and then we had a swimwear business as well, we made the cover-up bathers for cancer. And then we separated out and both had fabric shops, and then eighteen months ago I sold my second shop, and have just worked full-time now here.

David Rutledge: Has it been an entirely positive experience, or have there been aspects to this that have been difficult for you? Eileen Giles: I think for me the difficulty maybe was family members. I didn't want them to feel hurt, because people can say such nasty things. David Rutledge: Nasty things about what's happening here, that it's all a hoax, or whatever? And whenever there was something came in the papers, or on the TV, it meant that it was just another bout of the family having to step up and be challenged.


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That has been difficult. But I've always said to Patty, no matter how many people say things, we've always got one another, so we're never alone in this. Because we're identical twins, we know what the other one thinks, so it doesn't matter what happens, we've always got one another. David Rutledge: How did you feel when it was decided that the statue should be scientifically tested, subjected to a whole barrage of tests and put into the hands of technicians?

Was that difficult for you to accept? Patty Powell: It was a difficult time, because I felt that if I didn't have the statue tested, people would say that I had something to hide, and I didn't. So for me, what I did was I let my sister go to the tests, so that I sort of stepped back, so I'll let her comment on the tests. Eileen Giles: When I went to the university, they did all the x-rays, and I was there with them, and so was the reporter. So you could just see straight away that the statue didn't have anything inside it.

And then we went to the department that examined the eyes, and the man commented to me that he was looking forward to finding a hole in the eyes, that he'd spoken to his mate this morning, and he'd been joking with him about it. So for me, the most telling part was when he examined the eyes, and he himself was just really quite overwhelmed with what he saw.

And he asked permission to wipe the eyes, and the wiped the eyes four times, and each time the eye would pool with tears in the tear ducts. David Rutledge: So how did you feel, then, about the results of the test, which were - well, they said they couldn't find any evidence of human intervention, but they couldn't rule it out either. And the Archbishop certainly seemed to go with the second part of that decision and say 'well, the statue should be taken out of the church'. And he's released a statement saying that he doesn't believe this is of divine origin.

What would your response be to that? Patty Powell: For us, we know that the Church has to be cautious and that's just part of the journey. Patty Powell: Because it's a long process, it's not something that they just say 'yes, this is a miracle'. It takes years of examination, and they have people who examine all of the information given. So it didn't worry us, and when we looked back, we realised that was the purpose for it not being in the church. I was with the statue a lot of the time when it was in the church, and there would be thousands of people filing past, and it was more like a tourist attraction.

Whereas in the home, we can sit and talk with people, and it's a totally different experience. So I feel that there's a reason why it was supposed to be in the home. Eileen Giles: Plus I feel that if the Archbishop came out and declared it a miracle, people then wouldn't have to make the decision themselves. So I feel like that people have to actually consciously make a decision whether they believe or not. And for us, if a person's sceptical, no amount of testing is going to prove to that person that this is real.

It comes from your heart. Reader: John tells us: there was in Capernaeum an official of the Imperial government whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he left home and went to Jesus, and asked him to come down and cure his son, while the son was at the point of death.

So the official said to him, 'come down, before my son dies'. Olabisi Adeyinka: In particular, since you have mentioned Nigeria, we have various kinds of religion. And miracles can come from two major sources, and that is either from God, or from Satan. I mean, if you are not a Christian, any miracle that happens is definitely not from God. And we have such over there, because we have a lot of religions that are not embedded in Christ. Olabisi Adeyinka: Yes, traditional, and they tend to perform miracles from Satanic sources.

Olabisi Adeyinka: There are some that they promise the barren that they will have children. They do, they definitely give them children. But either they don't live long, they bring problems to the family circle, or they turn to be vagabonds children. And the result, the product of the miracle, will tell you the source of the miracle.

Reporter: The Roman Catholic diocese in Western Australia has announced an investigation to try and determine whether a statue of the Virgin Mary which has been apparently weeping for the last nine months, is a miracle. The statue, owned by a Perth parishioner was put on public display in a suburban church, after rose-scented oil appeared to seep from its eyes on the Feast of St Joseph in March. Thousands of people have since flocked to the church in Rockingham, with some claiming to have had their illnesses cured by the oil.

Initial tests, conducted by two Perth scientists Man: I believe that the universe works in an ordered way; and if you put out good vibes, good vibes come back. And some people call the good vibes miracles, others say that's the way the universe works. David Rutledge: One definition of a miracle, though, is that it's where the order of nature is turned completely upside down.

You know, a dead person comes back to life, or somebody gets healed of a sickness that they're going to die from. Do you believe in that sort of thing? Woman 1: A miracle sounds like it's done by someone else, like by some kind of god entity, so then I guess I don't believe in miracles in that sense. David Rutledge: Do you know about the weeping statue of Mary up at the Catholic church? What do you think of that? Woman 1: Well, I haven't seen it, there's a lot of these weeping statues around the world, and other - there's even a menstruating statue somewhere.

If the statue's really weeping, I'd be interested to see it. The jury's out on that one. Woman 2: I do, I think it's people wanting it to be something, so they turn it into something that's happening. But I think it's more about people wanting to believe that it's happening, rather than it's actually happening. I just don't believe in that. David Rutledge: Evening mass at Our Lady of Lourdes church in Rockingham, Western Australia, a church that's been the focus of international media attention for the past four years. It all started in , when a statue of the Virgin Mary started weeping tears of fragrant oil.

The statue was the property of sisters Patty Powell and Eileen Giles, and they brought it to the parish priest, who saw the tears and installed the statue in the church. Within a few weeks of the discovery, thousands of pilgrims were making their way to Our Lady of Lourdes to witness the phenomenon, and to avail themselves of any miraculous power that might be associated with it.

I travelled to Rockingham to investigate, and I wasn't able to make contact with anyone who said they'd actually experienced a miraculous cure themselves. But I heard many second hand reports. Finbarr Walsh: It was the 14th August, , and in the afternoon of that day Patty brought the statue down to me, and showed it to me, and it was weeping. To me it was a miracle, I mean the oil was coming from nowhere. So we put it on a table in the sanctuary near the main altar.

And the other priest here didn't want the statue on the sanctuary. And I said to Patty, 'I think you'd better keep it at home, it will be easier like that'. So the next morning I came into the church at six o'clock, and the whole church was filled with the perfume of the oil. So I said to myself, Our Lady wants this statue in the church. David Rutledge: What did you think it meant at that time? Did you have any sort of idea of why this might have been happening? Finbarr Walsh: No, no, to me it was just Our Lady manifesting herself to this area. The tears are a sign of sorrow, it's probably sorrow for sin, that she's always sad that so many Catholics abandoned Jesus, and embraced a pagan life and turned their backs on the church.

And I suppose this is a manifestation of her sorrow for sinners - her love for sinners, and her sorrow for sinners, that they don't repent and don't come back to the church. David Rutledge: Had you ever observed anything like this before? Would you have believed in something like this had you not seen it with your own eyes up until this point? Finbarr Walsh: Well a thing like this, unless I saw it with my own eyes - it was what they call these private manifestations - I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes.

There's a girl here who entered school here, and she was a beautiful singer, she was singing on the Sunday evening mass with some of the youth group at that time, and she went to university to study music. At the age of twenty she got multiple sclerosis, and of course it meant her singing career was in jeopardy, and she had to stop the university. And anyway, her mother brought her over to the statue one day - and she'd had the multiple sclerosis for a year or so at that stage - and got some of the oil, and they rubbed it where the pain was, all down her sides.

And the pain went away, and as far as I know, she's back to living a normal life now. Well towards the end of , the Archbishop of Perth, Barry Hickey, commissioned a scientific test on the statue. The results of the test were inconclusive. The scientists thought that the oil issuing from its eyes was probably some sort of vegetable oil, but they couldn't find any evidence of tampering with the statue. Archbishop Hickey - who declined to be interviewed for this program - issued a statement expressing his belief that the weeping phenomenon was not of divine origin, and he asked that the statue should be withdrawn from public veneration at the church.

The Archbishop said that his caution was 'in keeping with the church's traditional prudence and reservation concerning matters purporting to be miraculous'. But where does that prudence and reservation come from? It's not as though the Church doesn't believe that miracles can happen in this day and age - indeed, as we'll be hearing later in the program, the church relies on miracles for the canonisation of saints.

Donald Sproxton: The thing about the statue in Rockingham is that many people who have come to visit and to pray and to ask God for intercession, they've come with a faith already, it seems to me. And because of this faith, they seem to be open to the divine, and the action of the divine in their life. Donald Sproxton: I think throughout the history of the Church there have been people who have had private devotions.

And even in the time that I've been a priest, I've become aware of people who seem to have some sort of communication with God, they seem to have some special link with God, and often they say that they feel God is speaking to them in various ways. These, I think, are things that must remain in the private domain. David Rutledge: I suppose Jesus in the Gospel sometimes says - when he's performed a miracle, he says 'go home, don't show yourself to the priest, don't tell anybody what's happened'.

I've always wondered why he does that. Donald Sproxton: I think the miracles - as far as Jesus is concerned, a miracle was something which enabled people to have their ears open, to hear what God would be saying to them through the announcement, or through the preaching of the Church. I think that this is why Jesus would have been asking these people not to be parading their special gift in front of people, but to recognise that it is a gift that has perhaps opened their ears to the revelation of Christ.

David Rutledge: Well of course the statue in Rockingham has taken on a public life of its own, for better or worse, people reportedly coming from far and wide to visit it. Is this sort of thing to be approached cautiously through and through, or are there ways in which this sort of thing contributes in a healthy way to the life of the parish? Donald Sproxton: I think it's probably the hope of the people in the parish that it might in fact bring people back to the practice of their faith. I'm not altogether sure that is the case, because as you say, there are people who come from all over, out of curiosity, out of a real religious sense, looking for a sign which helps them with their own faith journey.

And anything like a miracle, or an apparition of some sort, these things need to be approached cautiously, because we don't want people to be going off on a tangent, you know, perhaps thinking that maybe this is really the whole of the truth; the truth is this apparition, or a message that this has brought to a seer, that this is more important than the Gospel, or in the tradition of the Church.

So I think we have to be careful to ensure that the two major bases of our faith are maintained and taught properly. At the behest of the Archbishop, the owners of the weeping Madonna, Patty Powell and Eileen Giles, have taken the statue home, where they've built a small shrine inside their house, and an outdoor grotto, where in front of a small running stream, a concrete paving stone bears the imprints of two small feet. According to Eileen, these are the footprints of Mary, whose apparitions at the grotto continue to draw the faithful.

Eileen Giles: Out here is where Our Lady first started to appear. She said to us that she would leave a visible sign. So for us, we weren't sure what that visible sign was - and in other countries it's been that something happened in the sky, or when it rained they didn't get wet - and so for us, we were just as shocked as everyone else.

David Rutledge: I understand that this was before the grotto was even finished, it was while there were lots of building material lying around. Eileen Giles: That's right, it was a very old area where all the boat parts and the bike parts and all of the old - you know how in your house you always have a storage area for all the bits and pieces that you don't know where to put them.

So yes, and for Patty, she was a little bit embarrassed that Our Lady would appear in this area. Eileen Giles: Yes. But Our Lady has said to us that she would appear on the top of a rubbish heap if it would bring her children back to her son Jesus. So there was a purpose in her appearing here. David Rutledge: And then on one of the paving stones here that's been protected with a plastic cover, you can actually see two footprints here.

Eileen Giles: Yes, that's right. Yes, that's her footprints, that was the sign that she left. And it's a beautiful sign, because it's a very humble sign. Because many people are so focused on material possessions, whereas Our Lady comes to us barefoot. So it's just something for us to take heed of. David Rutledge: Inside Patty and Eileen's house is a small shrine, where the famous weeping statue can be seen, alongside other devotional objects and images.

It's a striking statue, brightly coloured, with a sweet serene face, whose paint is beginning to show some signs of being eroded by the oil that still periodically flows from the statue's eyes. Patty and Eileen have given up their jobs to run the shrine on a full time basis. It's called 'The Holy Family House of Prayer', and it's open to the public free of charge for a few hours every weekday for people to come and pray or just have a look around.

Eileen Giles: Originally Patty and I had a fabric warehouse together, and then we had a swimwear business as well, we made the cover-up bathers for cancer. And then we separated out and both had fabric shops, and then eighteen months ago I sold my second shop, and have just worked full-time now here.

David Rutledge: Has it been an entirely positive experience, or have there been aspects to this that have been difficult for you? Eileen Giles: I think for me the difficulty maybe was family members. I didn't want them to feel hurt, because people can say such nasty things. David Rutledge: Nasty things about what's happening here, that it's all a hoax, or whatever? And whenever there was something came in the papers, or on the TV, it meant that it was just another bout of the family having to step up and be challenged. That has been difficult. But I've always said to Patty, no matter how many people say things, we've always got one another, so we're never alone in this.

Because we're identical twins, we know what the other one thinks, so it doesn't matter what happens, we've always got one another. David Rutledge: How did you feel when it was decided that the statue should be scientifically tested, subjected to a whole barrage of tests and put into the hands of technicians? Was that difficult for you to accept? Patty Powell: It was a difficult time, because I felt that if I didn't have the statue tested, people would say that I had something to hide, and I didn't.

So for me, what I did was I let my sister go to the tests, so that I sort of stepped back, so I'll let her comment on the tests. Eileen Giles: When I went to the university, they did all the x-rays, and I was there with them, and so was the reporter. So you could just see straight away that the statue didn't have anything inside it. And then we went to the department that examined the eyes, and the man commented to me that he was looking forward to finding a hole in the eyes, that he'd spoken to his mate this morning, and he'd been joking with him about it.

So for me, the most telling part was when he examined the eyes, and he himself was just really quite overwhelmed with what he saw. And he asked permission to wipe the eyes, and the wiped the eyes four times, and each time the eye would pool with tears in the tear ducts. David Rutledge: So how did you feel, then, about the results of the test, which were - well, they said they couldn't find any evidence of human intervention, but they couldn't rule it out either. And the Archbishop certainly seemed to go with the second part of that decision and say 'well, the statue should be taken out of the church'.

And he's released a statement saying that he doesn't believe this is of divine origin. What would your response be to that? Patty Powell: For us, we know that the Church has to be cautious and that's just part of the journey. Patty Powell: Because it's a long process, it's not something that they just say 'yes, this is a miracle'. It takes years of examination, and they have people who examine all of the information given.

So it didn't worry us, and when we looked back, we realised that was the purpose for it not being in the church. I was with the statue a lot of the time when it was in the church, and there would be thousands of people filing past, and it was more like a tourist attraction. Whereas in the home, we can sit and talk with people, and it's a totally different experience.

So I feel that there's a reason why it was supposed to be in the home. Eileen Giles: Plus I feel that if the Archbishop came out and declared it a miracle, people then wouldn't have to make the decision themselves. So I feel like that people have to actually consciously make a decision whether they believe or not. And for us, if a person's sceptical, no amount of testing is going to prove to that person that this is real.

It comes from your heart. Reader: John tells us: there was in Capernaeum an official of the Imperial government whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he left home and went to Jesus, and asked him to come down and cure his son, while the son was at the point of death.

So the official said to him, 'come down, before my son dies'. The man believed what Jesus said to him, and set off. While he was still on the way down, his servants met him with the news that his son was alive. He asked them what time it was when he had shown signs of betterment. And the father realised that that was the very time at which Jesus had said to him that his son would live. And he and his whole household believed. Miracles tend to raise more questions than they answer.

Around the World in 80 Miracles

Why is one person healed, while millions of others stay stick? Why is a small Western Australian town chosen to be granted a weeping statue? What does it mean when a statue weeps, or when someone receives a personal message from the Virgin Mary? A Greek word often used in the New Testament to denote 'miracle' is semeion , which means 'sign'.

But what does it mean to call a miracle a sign? Dorothy Lee. Dorothy Lee: [laughs] Oh, my goodness. People have written PhDs on the subject of what the word semeion means. Let me take the Gospel of John, because the Gospel of John consistently uses that word 'sign'. I think that in John's Gospel, a sign is an extraordinary event that reveals who Jesus Christ really is - or, to put it in John's terms, that reveals the glory of God present in the flesh of Jesus Christ.

That is what a sign is. And John's miracles are more spectacular than any other Gospels. The other Gospels simply have a blind man, John has a man blind from birth. When Jesus raises the dead, it's not someone who's just died, it's someone who's been three days dead. So the signs, the miracles in John, are more spectacular than any others in the Gospels - apart from the resurrection of Christ himself, of course. But John is very nervous of faith that's based on signs. So 'who is Jesus Christ? And of course for John, it's God incarnate.

And that is what the signs reveal; they reveal that the one who creates - who makes water into wine, who raises the dead - this is the same one through whom all the worlds were created.

Transcript

David Rutledge: Sometimes the significance seems to be a private significance. I find this really interesting. Jesus sometimes says, when he's performed a miracle, he says, 'go straight home, don't show yourself to the priests, don't tell anybody what happened'. Other times he does things like feed five thousand people from a handful of loaves and fishes. What sort of distinction do you make there between private and public miracles?

Dorothy Lee: Well, I've never thought of it in terms of private and public, but I see what you mean. And I think the Gospel that probably relates best to is the Gospel of Mark, where you do get on a number of occasions Jesus asking people to keep their mouth shut - which they rarely do.

And scholars have tried various ways of understanding what's going on there in Mark's Gospel. But I think there's a reluctance in Mark, that he too has got a certain nervousness about miracles, because they can mislead. They can lead us to a kind of triumphalist theology where we can say 'oh, we're all better than you'. So Mark wants to get away from that kind of wonder worker, oo-ah thing, also, I think.

And I think that explains partly why there are times when Jesus actually discourages people from blabbing about whatever's happened to them, even though sometimes he does things also publicly. There's a nervousness about Jesus in Mark's Gospel, in terms of miracles. They're important, but they're signs of the kingdom for Mark; they're signs of what God's rule will finally be like when it is fully realised in the world. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit David Rutledge: For the Catholic Church, a miracle can have great public significance - especially when it has to do with canonisation, or the making of saints, a process that today can involve an awkward negotiation between faith and science.

The mass was attended by more than two hundred thousand people. The Blessed Mary MacKillop is now in the running to become Australia's first saint; she was beatified because of a claim, accepted by the Vatican, that a woman was cured of leukaemia after praying to Mary MacKillop for help.

But for Mary to be canonised, or made a saint, a second miracle has to be attributed to her, and tradition holds that it's most likely to be a medical miracle, some sort of inexplicable cure. Father Paul Gardiner is a Jesuit priest, and he's the Postulator for Mary MacKillop, which means it's his job to come up with evidence of that second miracle.

But he's been having trouble finding a team of medical specialists who'll admit that they have no idea how to explain someone's recovery from an apparently terminal illness. Paul Gardiner: Mary has been approved for canonisation. In her own life, her virtues, that's signed and sealed. So there's nothing further to be asked about her. The only requirement is that a second miracle is necessary - and to get that, we have to have some event, some favour, which is usually in the form of a cure. And the key to that - after all the questions are asked about the diagnosis of the disease and the therapy and the prognosis and all the rest of it, and the cure and so on - the vital question asked of the eventual committee that considers it is 'can you, in the light of your scientific knowledge, explain what happened here?

Now, I've been instructed by the Roman man I deal with, who's had a lot of experience in the field, he says, 'don't get a tribunal set up to inquire into your claim of a miracle, until you are personally and unofficially convinced that it's going to go through'. You don't want the balloon to go up, and then to have it burst. Paul Gardiner: I've been convinced of things - well, up to the point where I would have expected doctors to say they couldn't explain it. But they always have some reservation that they think up, and occasionally - it seems a hard thing to say, but it's happened more than once, where obviously the thing is unable to be explained, and then they bring in some other specialist who wasn't involved in the case at all, and tell them what's going on.

In other words, instead of proposing, say, five sets of evidence of some disease and asking this new specialist what they think, they tell them the story. And in one or two cases, their opinion has betrayed a sort of awareness that they weren't going to get tangled up in a miracle, and so they contradicted the opinion of all the specialists treating the patient - and all the other specialists then turned over and with a sort of sigh of relief, said 'oh thank God, we haven't got a miracle on our hands'.

Now, it may sound a bit hard for me to say that, but it has happened. David Rutledge: Do you think that a good hard-core rational empiricist is always going to look at the possibility of miracles with a certain degree of scepticism? Or is there room within the post-Enlightenment scientific mind for the possibility of miracles? Paul Gardiner: Yes, well, your most illiberal person often is your liberal - that is, that their minds are open to everything except the possibility that nature isn't as absolutely fixed as they think it is.

The great Emile Zola, great author, but he, when confronted with Lourdes and the miracles that were claimed there and happened there, he said - and this is very enlightening - he said 'if all the sick in the world went to Lourdes and were cured, I wouldn't believe'. Now, that betrays a sort of a closed mind, I think, that he's not going to consider the evidence, he wouldn't consider the reason why all the sick in the world got cured by going to Lourdes and nowhere else. We're all inclined to be limited in what we admit is possible - not that you don't like new things, but you don't like things that upset a lot of your basic certitudes.

David Rutledge: We mentioned popular enthusiasm, phenomena like weeping statues, apparitions, messages from the Virgin Mary. Now, the Church of course has traditionally been very reluctant to embrace this sort of thing. How do you explain that reluctance? Paul Gardiner: Well, I share it. I'm glad I don't have to get involved with that sort of thing. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, it can't happen, or it doesn't have divine sanction behind it.

But it's a much more complex kind of area than the one I've been assigned to deal with. Paul Gardiner: Well, I mean, a weeping statue, what do you make of that? There are ways of looking into it, and I suppose if they end up being baffled, they have to say 'well, we can't explain this'. Now, whether it is a divine sign or not will depend very much, I think, on what is associated with this particular statue, what sort of results follow from it.

Is there genuine religion here, or is there a kind of mad fanaticism accompanying this thing, or a short of shallow sensationalism? And if you've got those things, well, it's pretty good evidence that the thing is not from God, the finger of God is not here.