Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 June 2018
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.
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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.
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.“
61. Ibid., 76.
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