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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Miracles

Aired January 1, 2000 - 11:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Everyone has their own idea of what a miracle is.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We asked people around the world for their opinions of what constitutes a miracle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Walking on water or, you know, something that you just can't explain and you just -- there's no way of explaining or to work it out how it happens, but not like a trick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A miracle to me is something really unexpected and -- yes, well, something I'd never think of but it would happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably where everybody would get together and live peaceful for a change, that would be really nice, that would definitely be a miracle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Healing somebody that's very ill, or discovering, say -- I don't know -- healing cancer, new medicine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a real peace could come to the Middle East, totally in the Middle East, not just Israel and the Arab countries, but throughout the whole region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A miracle is if us blacks and whites come together as one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A miracle is every day of my life. I'm 78 and I figure that's a miracle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A miracle is if I don't have to come into work New Year's Eve for the Y2K bug.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: You know, the word miracle actually comes from the Latin word for a wonder, or marvel. It is defined as an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.

SHAW: The word miracle is heard quite often.

CNN's Jim Huber says good luck is being mistaken for the miraculous.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM HUBER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We have come this far in our miraculous existence, from the parting of the Red Sea to greener lawns, from fish and loxes, to mayonnaise.

(on camera): In our great rush to canonize everything from ginseng to Smokey Robinson's backup group, some say there is literal, underlying substance to this word we've made so common over the years. It is then left to the individual as to whether they want to believe or not. And if the polls are correct, more and more of us are buying into the idea of miracles every year.

(voice-over): It is difficult simply gaining a working definition of the word miracle. Philosophers have spent centuries arguing its parameters. Is it a violation of the laws of nature, as the philosopher David Hume wrote? Or is it an event contrary to, but not a violation of nature? Who cares if your tumor suddenly disappears? What do semantics matter if the cancer abruptly vanishes? And what of the Madonna, who graces everything from office buildings to farm yards? Miracle, or stretch of faith.

We seem to be able to eliminate coincidence from the miracle department. Although, it remains forever easy to whisper, oh my God, it was a miracle nobody was killed. It probably wasn't. Showing up late for the plane that eventually crashes, climbing out of the earthquake rubble eight days later, lying in the mud miles from the tornado. Sorry, miraculous perhaps, but not miracles in the strictest sense of the word. Even the miracle of birth doesn't qualify, though try convincing first time couples of that.

Forget Hume and his fellow sages. Imagine instead the Vatican's miracle police. A star chamber officially known as the Sacred Convocation for the Causes of the Saints. Scientists, miracle specialist, theologians, whose sole job, if you'll pardon the word soul, is to examine the myriad claims from miracles sent to Rome every year from every corner of the world. It is their duty to officially verify the working of one miracle and thus give their stamp to sainthood.

Edith Stein, the Jew turned Catholic nun, who was killed in the Holocaust, was made a saint only after the miracle police judged this story believable. In 1987, the 12th child of a Catholic family in Massachusetts overdosed on Tylenol. She was clearly dying. Because the family had named her Teresia Benedicta after the name that Stein had adopted upon turning Christian, they and their community prayed to Edith Stein for recovery.

TERESIA BENEDICTA MCCARTHY, MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENT: They started like telling everybody else to pray and then like all of a sudden I got better.

HUBER: With that and several other reports, the late Edith Stein officially became St. Blessed Teresia Benedicta. Miracles do happen, according to no less an authority than the Vatican. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I worship of this sacrament of your body and blood.

HUBER: In a suburb of Boston, in this garage turned chapel, they come for a miracle. They have heard for years that healing happens here and so they come heart in hand.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP (praying): Have mercy on us and on the whole world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I come here for peace, to get a little piece of heaven, to have prayers answered and they do -- they get answered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had a bout with cancer and arthritis, and I feel that it's going to help me, too.

HUBER: In another part of this modest home lies 15-year-old Audrey Santo (ph). Her long auburn hair cascading over the side of the bed, pink and frills surrounding her comatose body. After nearly drowning at the age of 3, she has lived with what doctors call akinetic mutism, unable to move or speak. Her eyes providing the only visible sign of life, her eyes and some say her miracles. As people first came to her bedside to pray for her recovery, they reported strange and wonderful things happening to themselves and to the icons and religious paraphernalia that eventually crowded out the family automobile. Seeping oil and blood was reported.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my goodness.

HUBER: Certain signs to some that this was a very special young woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this a miracle?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a miracle? Will you -- how can we explain what's going?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just so happens that she's performing miracle that we don't know about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't really know what Audrey is doing with God, or we'd be on our knees all the time.

HUBER: One woman came several times to pray for her son who was badly injured in a motorcycle accident and who doctors said would never walk again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came home and Joey (ph) met me at the door, and he was walking. And he said that he just had this feeling during the day that he didn't need crutches or anything anymore. He could walk on his own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I certainly think that God can use and can touch our lives through someone like this precious young girl. HUBER: It is smaller than the rest of the herd, smaller and whiter. The little buffalo called "Miracle," born five years ago on a farm in Janesville, Wisconsin, owned by David and Valery Hyder (ph). The news spread quickly, the odds on such a aberration, one in 10 million. But more than simply an oddity, the little white buffalo held special significance to Native Americans throughout North America, signaling a new age of global spirituality and unification of the races.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty overwhelming for a calf to be born during this time, a white buffalo calf. That really encouraged our -- you know, gives the people -- our people a boost.

HUBER: Representatives of dozens of tribes have made the pilgrimage to Hyder's farm to perform hundreds of ceremonies honoring the calf, which symbolizes peace and unity. In the late 1800s, ancestors of these Native Americans prophesized the white buffalo would someday reappear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To bridge the gaps and understand what would help not only for our people to survive, but to bring awareness of why mother Earth is important.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the name of the father, and the son and the holy spirit, amen.

HUBER: And then there's Christine Gallagher (ph), a housewife, mother of two, and supposed miracle worker, to whose remote convent off the west coast of Ireland thousands upon thousands of pilgrims flock for much of this decade to hear Gallagher say the rosary in the parking lot and clamor for divine intervention. After having a vision of the Madonna, Gallagher reportedly made the lame walk and the blind see until a Catholic commission ordered her to close up shop just last year.

And so, from Boston to County Mayo, Ireland to Janesville, Wisconsin, they dot the Earth. But for centuries, miracles have had definitive headquarters, Lords (ph) in France, Fatima (ph) in Portugal, Assisi in Italy, Majorni (ph) in Croatia, all sites where the Virgin Mary has reportedly been seen, where pilgrims by the millions, lame, infirmed, desperate, flock daily.

(on camera): And so, now 2,000 years after Lazarus, after walking on water in the resurrection, we still struggle for a simple belief. In an age when we demand two sources, visual documentation, scientific certainty, along comes an Audrey Santo, a white buffalo, a Christine Gallagher, an Edith Stein, to give us all pause. Miracles? If we say so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHAW: So what makes a miracle? In a moment, we'll talk with two guests about miracles and modern spirituality.

WOODRUFF: That is just ahead on our special coverage of "Millennium 2000." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: The roll over to Y2K has gone, so far anyway, without a hitch. Some might say it's a miracle.

WOODRUFF: But our guests believe miracles are much more than just good fortune.

SHAW: James Redfield is author of the bestseller, "The Celestine Prophecy." He joins us here in Atlanta.

WOODRUFF: And Marianne Williamson is in our Detroit bureau. She has written several books on relationships, and she lectures a class called, "A Course in Miracles." Marianne Williamson, to you first. What is your definition of a miracle?

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON, AUTHOR: A miracle is a shift in consciousness, I think. From a spiritual perspective, it's a shift in thought form from fear to love. And although in the film that you've just shown, the way we look at it is that there's normal life and then something extraordinary and abnormal happens that's a miracle. From a spiritual perspective, the natural consciousness -- the consciousness of our flow with love and with the divine is actually the miracle, and the world in which these things are not occurring is what's abnormal. So, anytime consciousness is centered in love and forgiveness and compassion, that is a miraculous state of mind. And miracles are simply the way the world flows forth naturally when we are in that consciousness.

WOODRUFF: You don't use the word God. Is God a part of every miracle?

WILLIAMSON: Oh, yes. God is the source of all miracles. God is the love, which is at the center of all things. And for us to be centered in love is to be centered in God and God is the source of all good. The problem there that we have and why this modern spirituality is so significant is because many of the old religious paradigms would have us talk the word God, but not necessarily center our hearts in love. And the modern spiritual perspective, which of course is a throw back to a very ancient mystical core belief is the notion that what God cares about is not that we proclaim his name, but that we experience his love.

WOODRUFF: James Redfield, to what extent is a miracle something that happens just because it happens and to what extent is it because the person wants it so badly?

JAMES REDFIELD, AUTHOR: Well, I think that when we set an intention, a prayer, when we engage in very heartfelt, deep, reverent prayer, I think it does impact what happens. I think the new research on prayer that's coming out is really turning our heads to know that this influence that we have and that God works through us with is definitely something that's real. We can take it as something that really works and thus take it more seriously.

SHAW: To both of you, is a miracle a crutch or a gift? REDFIELD: Well, let me just say that I think that miracles happen out there. They're happening -- they're not -- I don't think they're really happening more often. I think we're just noticing them more. I think we're free finally to really discuss it without feeling, you know, like we're going to be ridiculed, that we're going to be, you know -- the skeptic is going to put us down. I think there's a whole new dialogue about miracles and I think we're more alert to them, and that's why it looks like more miracles are happening.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to take a very short break. When we come back, we're going to ask James Redfield and Marianne Williamson if they've seen a miracle.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Back with our guests now, James Redfield and Marianne Williamson. Marianne Williamson, have you seen a miracle, are you aware of a miracle in your own life or someone you know well?

WILLIAMSON: I'm aware of many miracles in my own life and many miracles that I've seen in the lives of those around me. But the miracles that matter most aren't necessarily things that are outside external occurrences that the eye can see and that the hands can touch, and that we can scientifically substantiate. I think the greatest miracles that I've seen in my life have been miracles of forgiveness, miracles of reconciliation between people who had fought before, the miracle of nations atoning for what they have done to others.

You know, this is the kind -- this is why we really need to have a more sophisticated dialogue, I think, and what, I think, the new spirituality is trying for. I think the white buffalo is extraordinary. I think the blood coming from a statue can be amazing. But what's really miraculous is when fathers and sons who had been arguing for 50 years come to recognize that they do indeed love each other. That, you know, these kinds of miracles, that the healing of the human heart. When you look at the wars in the world, the -- what would be the miracle that would make the Palestinians and the Israelis truly come together. That would be a miracle, but the real miracle would be the healing of hearts and healing of forgiveness that would make that happen. So those are the ones I've experienced.

WOODRUFF: James Redfield, if the definition is that broad, is it really still a miracle?

REDFIELD: Well, I think so. And I think the most important miracles are those small miracles, you know, the synchronicities, those meaningful coincidences that bring us information at just the right time, you know, to further our careers, to further our health, to further our relationships. You know, those are real miracles, and that's what we're noticing more. We're finding a deeper experience around them. And I think there is reason to be very optimistic because of this.

SHAW: Marianne Williamson, as human beings, we have deep hopes for the future, and I'm wondering is the goodness and the security we want actually within ourselves?

WILLIAMSON: Yes. I think that's the issue here. It's -- you know, Mohatma Ghandi once said that the problem with the world is that humanity is not in its right mind. So the issue here is that there is a natural state of consciousness which is centered in love. And miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. When they do not occur, something has gone wrong. So when humanity -- and that's why I think, you know, the millennium is so important to people. The real palpable sense of hope that was in the world yesterday that -- you could feel it watching all these celebrations, was this collective moment of hope, hope that we could return to the natural state of things.

People are aware when children are killing children and teenagers are committing suicide and ethnic cleansing, all these hideous expressions of human behavior, there is a collective understanding that this is not natural. This is not who we are. So I think when you see people praying and meditating and chanting and taking part in serious spiritual practice, you know, the word religio means to bind back. We are seeking to bind ourselves back to the love in our hearts, and when we've done that, and our minds are infused with that love, then miracles will occur naturally and they will be the rule instead of the exception.

WOODRUFF: Picking up on that theme, James Redfield, you have said that you see Eastern and Western traditions coming together in the 21st century to create, I think you called it a new level of spirituality. What did you mean by that?

REDFIELD: Well, I think if you just look around you see the religious leaders from all persuasions, the Dalai Lama with Buddhism, the Christian, Jewish faiths, they're all talking. They're resolving conflicts. It has to happen, because when you really look at spirituality you find that the experience of it is exactly the same no matter what we call ourselves, no matter what tradition we come from. Those traditions are important. But the basic experience of a divine intelligence behind the universe, that experience feels exactly the same to everyone, so there's a unity building I believe.

WOODRUFF: But how do you reconcile that with the terrible ethnic and religious strife that we see still in this world?

REDFIELD: Well, I think it's just a wake-up call. I mean, you know, all the polls show that people are pursuing more and more deeper spiritual experience, and as they head toward experience, I think we're going to see more of those conflicts resolved.

WOODRUFF: Marianne Williamson, you said people are beginning to experience the terrible spiritual imbalance in their life. What was that a reference to?

WILLIAMSON: Well, I think as we close the 20th century, you know, we -- the 20th century mindset -- obviously, we talk about 20th century man, that was different than 19th century man, and 21st century consciousness will be different still. There's a paradigm, or a set of mental constructs that tend to define an age. And the 20th century was very, very much a product in that sense of the Industrial Revolution. And the Industrial Revolution gave us a very mechanistic world view that dominated our civilization. Very rationalistic, very technological. We were so enamored and understandably of outer powers, science, technology. And what occurred here, and particularly we can see it now with the perspective of the end of the century, is that in some ways we marginalize the human soul.

We marginalize the spirit. This is why people like Thoreau and Whitman and Emerson and the transcendalists of the 19th century, that whole group were trying so hard to sound the warning of these things. Now as we end the 20th century, people are aware that there's been an imbalance, that we've become so mesmerized by the outer word that we have lost our conscious contact with the inner world, and in losing our contact with the inner world, we loose our sense of the inner powers. And so, I think people now are yearning to go back to a sense of what our inner powers are, because the inner life is the causal level and the outer life is the level of effects.

WOODRUFF: Last question for James Redfield, can a miracle happen to anyone?

REDFIELD: Absolutely. I think that our expectation makes all the difference. If we're looking -- we also have to realize that not only do miracles happen to us, we can be a miracle for another person. I mean, when we follow an intuition, an inner urge to say something to someone to bring them some information, to bring them some comfort, to intervene with prayer, we can actually help be a channel for a miracle, and I think that's what's happening out there more and more as people seek a deeper spiritual experience.

WOODRUFF: All right. James Redfield, Marianne Williamson, thank you both for bringing us a fuller understanding of what miracles are on this millennium weekend. Thank you both.

WILLIAMSON: Thank you.

SHAW: And you can chat online with author James Redfield this weekend.

WOODRUFF: We will field your Internet questions -- he will field your Internet questions tomorrow, Sunday at 12 noon Eastern Time, 9:00 a.m. Pacific, and that is at cnn.com/chat.

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