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“Prayer is the answer”: Apocalypticism, Our Lady, and Catholic Identity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 June 2018

Abstract

Apocalyptic beliefs are common in modern Marian apparitions and represent an important area of tension between believers and skeptics—tension that in part determines the official Church stance toward, as well as popularity and longevity of, the apparition. Apocalypticism therefore is an important component of Catholic identity for many Marian devotees. Drawing from a case study of a modern apparition site in rural Emmitsburg, Maryland, I argue that apocalyptic beliefs shape Catholic identity by framing social and religious changes as evidence of coming chastisement; galvanize action among believers, who both prepare for and attempt to avert apocalypse; and validate the Catholic identity of those individuals marginalized within their communities because of those same apocalyptic beliefs. Using Christian Smith's subcultural identity theory of religious persistence and strength, as well as literature on apparitional movements, I describe the dynamics of apocalyptic belief in modern Marian apparitions, explore how the tension engendered by apocalypticism promotes strong identity through symbolic boundary marking, and argue that such beliefs shape Catholic identity for apocalyptic Catholics.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture 2016

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References

Notes

1. Public Message, Our Lady of Emmitsburg, June 1,2008. Text of all messages quoted here can be found in the online message archive maintained by the Foundation for the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, http://www.tfsih.com/keyword/FL_MessageSearch.aspx (last accessed January 9, 2014).

2. Archbishop Edwin O'Brian, “Pastoral Advisory,” October 8, 2008, http://www/archbalt.org/news-events/decrees/upload/pastoral_advisory.pdf (accessed October 22, 2015).

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22. Laycock, The Seer of Bayside.

23. Zimdars-Swartz, , Encountering Mary, 103 Google Scholar.

24. Ibid., 261.

25. Ibid., 247.

26. Ibid., 249; see also Cousineau, “Age of Mary.“

27. This website, formerly found at www.thewarning secondcoming.com, was taken down in spring 2015 in the wake of accusations of fraud following the discovery of Maria Divine Mercy's identity.

28. Sanchez-Ventura y Pascual, F., The Apparitions of Garabandal (Pasadena: St. Michael's Garabandal Center for Our Lady of Carmel, 1966), http://www.garabandal.org/BrownBook/BrownBookSelectP.htm, 179 Google Scholar.

29. Wessinger, “Millennialism in Cross-Cultural Perspective“; Wojcik, The End of the World as We Know It; Wojcik, “Avertive Apocalypticism.”

30. Apolito, Paolo, Apparitions of the Madonna at Oliveto Citra: Local Visions and Cosmic Drama, trans. Christian, William A. Jr., (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998), 156 Google Scholar.

31. Zimdars-Swartz, , Encountering Mary, 246 Google Scholar.

32. Information and messages can be found at www. mensajesdelbuenpastorenoc.org (last accessed June 5, 2014).

33. Starks, “Exploring Religious Self-Identification among U.S. Catholics,” 323. In contrast, U.S. Catholics in general report that Catholic doctrine, sacraments, and prayer are more important than “the Vatican's teaching authority” (D'Antonio, et al., American Catholics in Transition, 48).

34. Balmer, Randall, Blessed Assurance: A History of Evangelicalism in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999)Google Scholar; Barkun, Michael, “Millennialism on the Radical Right in America,” in The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism, ed. Wessinger, Catherine (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) 649-66Google Scholar; Wojcik, The End of the World as We Know It.

35. Bartholomew, Courtenay, The Immaculate Heart of Mary, Jesus Eucharist and Mother Seton's Emmitsburg (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing Co., 2003), 27 Google Scholar. More than fifty MSM alumni have been appointed U.S. bishops.

36. Christopher Gaul, “We Do Not Believe in the Apparitions,” Catholic Review, October 3, 2002, http://www.emmitsburg.net/cult_watch/news_reports/we_do_not_believe.htm (accessed March 13, 2010).

37. Tom Lobianco, “Church Takes Neutral Stance on Apparitions,” Frederick (Maryland) News Post, December 8, 2002, www. fredericknewspost.com (accessed March 13, 2010).

38. Both organizations have an internet presence. The Foundation can be found at www.tfsih.com and Private Revelations can be found at www.prourladyofemmitsburg.org.

39. As quoted in William Cardinal Keeler, “Letter to Fr. O'Connor,” December 5, 2002, http://www.emmitsburg.net/cult_watch/commission_report.htm (accessed June 12 2012).

40. Laycock, , The Seer of Bayside, 191 Google Scholar.

41. Apolito, , Apparitions of the Madonna at Oliveto Citra, 200 Google Scholar.

42. I have changed names and other identifying information for all interviewees.

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45. Orsi, Between Heaven and Earth; Starks, “Exploring Religious Self-Identification among U.S. Catholics.“

46. Ibid.; Starks, “Exploring Religious Self-Identification among U.S. Catholics.“

47. William V. D'Antonio, “New Survey Offers Portrait of U.S. Catholics,” National Catholic Reporter, October 24, 2011, http://ncronline.org/AmericanCatholics (accessed January 14, 2012), par. 5.

48. Cuneo, The Smoke of Satan; see also Manning, Christel, God Gave Us the Right: Conservative Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Orthodox Jewish Women Grapple with Feminism (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1999)Google Scholar.

49. D'Antonio, et al., American Catholics in Transition, 60 Google Scholar.

50. Wojcik, , The End of the World as We Know It, 88 Google Scholar.

51. Ibid., 88-89.

52. Starks, “Exploring Religious Self-Identification among U.S. Catholics,” 340.

53. D'Antonio et al., American Catholics in Transition, 50; Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, “Roe v. Wade at 40: Most Oppose Overturning Abortion Decision,” Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (2013), http://www.pewforum.org/uploadedFiles/Topics/Issues/Abortion/Roe-v-wade-full.pdf (accessed March 7, 2013).

54. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., “A Big Heart Open to God,” America, September 30, 2013, www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview (accessed January 16, 2014); David Gibson, “Cardinal Dolan: Pope Francis Opened Door to Gay Civil Unions Debate,” National Catholic Reporter, March 11, 2014, ncronline.org/new/politics/cardinal-dolanpope- francis-opened-door-gay-civil-unions-debate (accessed March 13, 2014).

55. There were reports of Marian apparitions in Cairo in December 2009 and in Alexandria in October 2011. In both cases, many people could see the apparition, which did not speak or give any sort of message.

56. Wojcik, , The End of the World as We Know It, 143 Google Scholar.

57. Orsi, , Between Heaven and Earth, 60 Google Scholar.

58. Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, “Pastoral Advisory,” October 8, 2008, http://www.archbalt.org/news/upload/Pastoral_Advisory.pdf (accessed May 21, 2010).

59. On matters like abortion and homosexuality, a diversity of attitudes among individual Catholics is actually characteristic of this nominally universal community. See D'Antonio et al., American Catholics in Transition, 50; Pew Forum, “Roe v. Wade at 40.“

60. D'Antonio, et al., American Catholics in Transition, 77 Google Scholar.

61. Ibid., 76.

62. Ibid., 5.

63. Wojcik, Daniel, “'Polaroids from Heaven,': Photography, Folk Religion, and the Miraculous Image Tradition at a Marian Apparition Site,” The Journal of American Folklore 109 (1996): 129148 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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