ARMY OF MARY / COMMUNITY OF THE LADY OF ALL PEOPLES
ARMY OF MARY / COMMUNITY OF THE LADY OF ALL PEOPLES TIMELINE
1921 (September 14) On the feast day of the Holy Cross, Marie-Paule Giguère was born in Sainte-Germaine du Lac-Etchemin, Quebec, Canada.
1944 (July 1) Marie-Paule Giguère married Georges Cliche.
1945 (March 25) A series of apparitions and messages of the Lady of All Nations to visionary Ida Peerdeman began in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
1950 (January 2) Giguère heard a voice stating that the reason for her suffering “will be all unveiled.”
1954 Giguère started working for the radio and adopted her media identity as Marie-Josée. God spoke to her about The Army of Mary.
1957 (April) Giguère became a member of local groups of the earlier established Legion of Mary.
1957 (September) Cliche and Giguère divorced and their children were placed out of house.
1958 Giguère was ordered by her spiritual leader to start writing on her life and mystical-spiritual experiences.
1968 Giguère formed a prayer group with lay and religious friends.
1971 (August 28) During a pilgrimage with her prayer group to the Marian shrine at Lac Etchémin, the creation of an Army of Mary was revealed to Giguère.
1971 The first contact with French eschatology author, Raoul Auclair, was established; Giguère gets knowledge from him of the Amsterdam apparitions and the messages of the Lady of All Nations.
1973 (March 20) For the first time Giguère met Lady of All Nations-visionary Ida Peerdeman in Amsterdam.
1975 (March 10) Cardinal Maurice Roy of Quebec approved the Army of Mary as a formal Roman Catholic pious association.
1978 Giguère introduced herself as the (mystical) reincarnation of Mary.
1979 The publication of the autobiographical and spiritual writings (“Vie d'amour”) of Marie-Paule Giguère started.
1983 Major land acquisitions were realized in Lac-Etchémin for the creation of a major devotional complex for the movement.
1987 (February 27) The congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith declared the writings of the movement to be in "major and severe error."
1987 (May 4) A declaration by archbishop Louis-Albert Vachon of Quebec called the Army of Mary schismatic; it ceased to be a Catholic association.
1988 (March 2) An appeal by the movement to annul the declaration of May 4, 1987 was rejected by the Canadian archbishop.
1991 (20 April) The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome confirmed the declaration of May 4, 1987; it was the ‘final' decision in the appeal of the Army of Mary to the verdict of being schismatic.
1997 Giguère is elected as Superior-General of the Community.
1998 The sympathizing Canadian bishops of Antigonish and Alexandria-Cornwall secretly ordained Army of Mary priests.
2001 (June 29) A doctrinal note of the Canadian Bishops Conference on the Army of Mary stated that the doctrines are contrary to those of the Catholic Church.
2002 (May 31) Bishop Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam declared the Amsterdam apparitions and messages for authentic; he rejected the pretentions of Marie-Paule regarding the devotion of the Lady of All Nations/Peoples within her movement.
2007 (March 26) Archbishop Marc Ouellet of Quebec stated that the teachings of the Army of Mary are false and that its leaders are excluded form the Catholic Church.
2007 (May 31) Padre Jean-Pierre, superior Father of the movement and newly called the “Church of John,” promulgated the dogma of Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate under the title of Lady of All Peoples.
2007 (July 11) The Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith excommunicated the regular members and ordained deacons and priests of the Community of the Lady of All Peoples; the movement was judged as “heretical.”
2013 Visionary Giguère, old and bedridden, was supposed to pass away on her birthday, September 14, day of the Holy Cross; the movement keeps low profile.
Marie-Paule Giguère was born in the French Canadian municipality of Sainte-Germaine du Lac-Etchemin (sixty miles southeast ofQuebec) on September 14, 1921. Despite an early wish to live a celibate religious life, she was advised against that course by the Church. In 1944, she married Georges Cliche (1917- 1997 ) who worked at various jobs and also went into local politics. In 1948, they moved to the town Saint-Georges de Beauce. A life full of sickness and suffering for both her and her husband ensued. Her marital life proved to be so problematic (a “nightmare” in her words) that it led to a divorce in 1957 and an out-of-home placement of her five children (André Louise, Michèle, Pierre, and Danielle). However, much later, after she had established the Army of Mary, she partially reconciled with her husband when he became a member of the movement. Meanwhile, while trying to overcome her traumas by giving a place to the celestial voices she had been hearing since she was twelve, Giguère was increasingly drawn into Marian spirituality and devotionalism. Although Giguere had been hearing certain “interior voices” since her teenage years, these mystical encounters increased significantly after 1957. The unveiling of her providential destiny, which was first announced to her in 1950, finally took place in 1958. While hearing voices and receiving messages from Jesus Christ and Mary, she started writing down her life story and started interpreting the mystical phenomena she was experiencing. The titles of her autobiographical volumes, such as Vie Purgative (Purgative Life), Victoire (Victory), and Vie Céleste (Heavenly Life), indicate the progressive transformations she experienced.
In her journalistic work for magazines and radio during the 1950's, she used the pen name Marie-Josée. After 1958, she referred to herself as Marie-Paule (although also sometimes “Mère Paul-Marie”). She established a foundation for moral support to other organizations and to stimulate priestly vocations under the name Mère Paul-Marie.
After participating in a group visit to an existing small Marian shrine on the edge of Lake Etchemin in the evening on August 28, 1971, Marie-Paule received a revelation confirming the necessity of creating an Army of Mary (“Armée du Marie”). She started the new religious community with approximately seventy five like-minded devotees. This new Army of Mary group was meant to be an alternative to the existing Legion of Mary ( Legio Mariae ), the lay Marian world association founded in 1921 in which she had been involved previously. Against the backdrop of the 1960s counterculture and the Second Vatican Council, her new Army required for members to manifest “personal interior reform” toward the traditional devotional trinity: “The Triple White” (the Eucharist, Mary and the Pope) was to be performed in “an authentically Christian way of life” and also in “fidelity to Rome and the Pope.”
Through the appeal of her messages, her charismatic gifts and her vocal and singing capacities, she enthused her followers and established a successful traditionalist grass-roots Marian movement. The next year, in 1972, a Quebec priest, Philippe Roy, joined the movement and became its director.
It was due to the friendship (through their joint Militia of Jesus Christ membership) of Marie-Paule with an important Church official, the Dutch-Belgian Jean-Pierre van Lierde, sacrista/vicar general of the Vatican State and supporter of the Amsterdam apparitions, that Québecqois archbishop Maurice Roy was persuaded to acknowledge the movement in 1975 as a formal pious association of the Church. This move was the result of inattention and eagerness from his side towards religious initiatives in a time of decay of the Church. He neglected - whether or not intentiously - to conduct a proper investigation on the movement's ideological stance. Presumably due to the fact that the texts with Marie-Paule's views were not published before 1979, the movement remained under the radar and unknown to those who were responsible to check its compliance with the doctrines of the faith. It has been reported that Van Lierde stimulated both visionaries, Ida and Marie-Paule, to meet each other.
As a consequence of recognition by the Church, the now formalized movement peaked in the following years. In about ten years the movement, stimulated by their own proselytes and official status, the movement started to expand outside Quebec, finding some thousands of devotees (and not more than that) distributed over approximately twenty (Western) countries.
In 1977, due to another revelation to Marie-Paule, the Militia of Jesus Christ was introduced in Canada and connected to the Army of Mary. That year 200 soldiers of the Army also joined the Militia Christi. The Militia, a chivalric neo-order for stimulating Marian devotion and doing social work, was instituted in France in 1973 without approval of the Church. In 1981, Giguère's Army of Mary movement modernized its name as the Family and the Community of the Sons and Daughters of Mary. Although this renaming seems less offensive, it connected the movement or “Family” provocatively and directly to its leader, Mary (her reincarnation), or Marie-Paule.
The growth of the movement since the 1970's also quietly generated a strong flow of financial resources. The Quebec community was therefore taken by surprise when in 1983 major land acquisitions and investments took place in and around Lac-Etchemin in order to create a world center for the Army of Mary and its Militia. These expansions created for the sectarian group a closed, supportive, social and ideological habitat, one that was hostile to external world and authorities and one where not only the ideas grew and the mission started but also the religious practice took place. The group not only organized itself internally. It also created a semi-independent geographical zone, the international center, with monastery-like housing facilities, noviciate, retraites (Spiri-Maria-Alma and Spiri-Maria-Pietro), ateliers, guest houses, press office and radio station, in and around Lac-Etchemin, but mainly at the Route du Sanctuaire 626.
“ Misled” by the formal approbation of the Church, a part of the following did not fully realize the implications of the new teachings when they were published. But, from the early 1980s, people became increasingly worried after closely reading the first published volume of Marie-Paule's Vie d'Amour. In addition, regional authorities and media were alarmed by the building activities of the Army at the edge of the lake, activities that strengthened the idea of an institutionalizing, self-supportive sectarian community. Nonetheless, it was only after a stream of newspaper articles expressing astonishment at what was actually professed in her scriptures that the bishop of Quebec realized his misjudgment and started to take action against the doctrinal deviations. It caused the new archbishop of Quebec to withdraw the approval of his predecessor. On May 4, 1987, he declared the movement schismatic and disqualified it as a Catholic association because of its false teachings. The Vatican judged their doctrine to be “heretical.'' To be completely sure, the archbishop-to-be asked Cardinal Ratzinger to have Marie-Paule's scriptures also screened by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In a brief note of February 27, 1987, Ratzinger, too, concluded that the movement was in “major and very severe error.” The particular concern was the idea of the alleged existence of an Immaculate Marian Trinity, in which Mary is no longer just Mother of the Son of God, but the divine spouse of God. As a consequence, the theological exegesis of Marie-Paule's writing by her “theologian,” Marc Bosquart, was likewise condemned. Hence, the Army was forbidden to organize any celebration or to propagate their devotion for the Lady of All Peoples. Priests from the Quebec diocese who got involved would be removed from their priestly functions, although the penalty of excommunication or condemnation was not yet called for.
Despite all measures, the movement did not seem to decline. On the contrary, its mission continued as members were convinced of the real truth that was revealed to them. In 2001, the media frequently reported that the movement consisted of 25,000 followers. In fact, the movement never reached that size; the movement itself estimated in 1995 that its membership was “several thousand” followers spread over fourteen countries. This included forty brothers/seminarians, forty three priests as The Sons of Mary (“Les Fils de Marie”), and 75 celibate women known as members of The Daughters of Mary (“Les Filles de Marie”). There were convents in Green Valley and Little Rock. Most of the following were located in Canada and the U.S., with a few hundred in the Western part of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands a group of approximately twenty devotees was and is active in a Nijmegen-based prayer group. After the interventions of the Church, many left the movement again, and a smaller group of dedicated followers remained.
2007 seems to have been a pivotal year for the movement. When the movement and its teachings were declared false in March, the group strongly reacted with a series of ceremonial feasts (May 31–June 3). During this period, their own new “pope,” Padre Jean-Pierre, promulgated the dogma of Mary/Lady as Coredemptrix, canonized the group's first saint, Raoul-Marie, and ordained six priests. As a planned final blow to the movement, the Vatican excommunicated the whole movement in July. Since then, not much seems to have changed in community's policy, although the various measures did winnow the following and, presumably, reduced its means for mission and propaganda. Following this period, the power of Marie-Paule appears to have declined while the influence of her theologians increased. The teachings became increasingly esoteric and the idea of an alternative Church of John (in place of the “degenerated” Church of Petrus) came into being (Martel 2010). After their excommunication, the core following has become more convinced on the demise of the Roman Church of Petrus and the false path the bishop walks by dancing to the tune of Rome and leaving out the major line within the prayer that was given by the Lady. That line (“the Lady who once was Mary”) demonstrated that Marie-Paule was indeed the incarnated, new Mary and Co-Redemptor.
A passing of bedridden Marie-Paule had been predicted for her birthday on September 14, 2013. The prophecy was based on an
“apocalyptic calculation” of verse 5-6 of the book of Revelation. Her passing was expected to take place 1260 days after the start of the Terrestrial Paradise on April 4, 2010. The day passed peacefully, however.
The Community of the Lady of All Peoples regards itself a Catholic movement claiming “ Providential Work with Universal Dimensions.” With this phrasing and by positioning their “Church of St. John” in opposition to the apostolic Catholic tradition of the “Church of St. Peter,” they have distanced themselves from Rome. The group has been declared “non-Catholic” by the Vatican, as it is understood to be a schismatic movement with excommunicated leaders and “heretic” writings. Although it still spreads its theological material, which continues to assert its fidelity to Rome and the Pope, its actual practices are the opposite. The former Army/present-day Community is better understood as a visionary movement with Catholic roots that transformed into a millennial sectarian group with mixed Catholic-esoteric beliefs. They regard their deviating views as Catholic but with “extra” beliefs, for which the Roman Church, they explain, “is not yet ready.”
At the outset, the Army of Mary seemed to be more a new Catholic revival movement reacting to debated modernizations of the Church after the Second Vatican Council. As the role and position of the idiosyncratic visionary and leader Giguère became stronger, especially after her election as Superior-General in 1997, the movement showed more and more characteristics of a sectarian movement. The mystic prose was not focused on God, but became fully centered on Giguère as Mary and/or the Lady of All Peoples reincarnated in her. The Mother (Mary/Marie-Paule) is in their view equal to the Father and of the same nature as Jesus Christ, and so is represented in the Eucharist. Maria has become God for them. Given that position, the theology was not complementary to Christology or Mariology; it was replacement with a completely new doctrine. A growing distinction between adherents and non-adherents to her Vie d'Amour theology came to the surface, leaving less and less space for individual mysticism. New revelations to Marie-Paule, who had first-hand experiences with the divine, changed the movement into a cult of a revelatory kind, where the truth is revealed and individual seekers have to become strict adherents. However, the Army of Mary/Community is in fact not fully a closed cult. The Community has a particularized revealed truth that only partly rejects the paradigms of the Church. It elaborated on the public revelation of the Roman Catholic Church and on fundamental principles, but it started to deviate on some of the basic teachings and the course set out by the Vatican. The Army of Mary claims their teachings overrule verified truth, as mediated by Mary herself and adapted to the modern state of the world, despite their rejection and suppression by the ecclesiastical powers and institutions.
Although Giguère is the divine medium, she did not produce a full exegesis on all dimensions of her mystic experiences. Therefore, two “theologians” were appointed to systematize, elaborate and interpret her mystic writings into a more coherent theology and to elaborate her providential role within the universality of Christianity. This development enhanced the group's sectarian character. Although the theology is Christian-based, it integrates millennial views, with Marie-Paule as savior (Mary/God), in combination with heretical theological, gnostic esoteric and cosmological teachings. The themes were documented in detail in the research of the movement's teachings by the Canadian theologian Raymond Martel in 2010 . He described the theology of the Quebec movement as the making of a “Marian gnosis.” In this way the Quebec teachings also deviated from the apocalyptic and end-time interpretations of Hans Baum (1970) for whom the Amsterdam messages are anti-gnostic.
The basis of the theology, redemptive prophecies and eschatology, can be traced to two major sources. The first is Marie-Paule's scriptures. These include a “revelation” consisting of a series of fifteen volumes titled Life of Love (Vie d'Amour), an auto-biographical and auto-hagiographical corpus of thousands of pages that deals with her life story and mystical experiences. Reading Theresia of Lisieux's inspirational autobiography, The Story of a Soul (L'histoire d'une âme), and being active as a writer for journals, made Marie-Paule think of putting her life to paper. In 1958, her spiritual superior told her to commence. The text was said to be partly dictated by the Lord himself, not by means of voices or apparitions but by a communication, as she stated, “from spirit to spirit,” initially at the “level of the heart” and later at the level “of the head,” underlining in this way their concurrence. The books form the paradigm and the underpinning of her concept of the Lady of All Peoples and her role within the divine salvific plan. The works also ultimately position Giguère as the embodied appearance of the Lady of All Peoples.
The French Raoul Auclair (1906-1996), radio journalist and author of books on Nostradamus, apparitions, revelations and eschatology (nicknamed “The Poet of the End of the Times”) got notice of the Amsterdam apparitions. By 1966, he had already organized a successful conference on the Amsterdam Lady in Paris where he tried to connect the outcome of the Second Vatican Council on Mary to the Amsterdam messages. He stated that all issues that were brought up during and around the Council had to be interpreted as a confirmation of what was revealed in the Amsterdam messages. The text of the conference was published under the transparent title, La Dame de tous les peuples, and he became the single major international propagandist for the Amsterdam cultus. The French book found its way to Catholic Quebec and was given to Giguère by a friend. After rereading it several times, she recognized the resemblances in the messages she and Peerdeman received and became convinced of the structured connection of both mystic experiences. This idea ultimately brought Auclair and Giguère into contact with each other in 1971. Five years later he joined the Army. In those years, with the Church's condemnation of the Amsterdam cultus and suppression of its local devotional practice, Marie-Paule's interest in the Lady of All Nations became stronger. The universality of the Amsterdam messages matched her divine promptings and personal ambitions for a global Marian movement within the Marian era. As a result Marie-Paule wanted to meet visionary Peerdeman. In 1973, 1974 and 1977, she visited the Amsterdam shrine of the Lady of All Nations. Her last visit proved to constitute a new sequel to the Amsterdam apparitions and created an impulse for a shift of the core of cultus to Quebec. Marie-Paule claimed that during mass at the shrine in Amsterdam the visionary Peerdeman pointed at her (Giguère) while saying, “She is the Handmaiden.” This was taken as proof of what was proclaimed in the Lady's fifty first message, in which Mary announced her return to earth: “I will return, but in public.” This moment was understood to be a recognition of The Lady of All Nations in the person of Giguère by the visionary Peerdeman. Through this maneuver, Marie-Paule retrospectively appropriated the prophesized public return of Mary on Earth ( Messages 1999: 151). Hence, Giguère claimed the devotion of the Lady in Lac-Etchemin to be the sole continuation of the Amsterdam cultus.
In order to give public access to Our Lady of All Peoples in Lac-Etchemin, a church was built within the international Spiri-Marie Center complex. The complex is more a headquarters of an international movement than a dedicated shrine for the Lady of All Peoples or her reincarnation. In an adjacent building to the church, a big shop where books, images, DVD's are stacked and show the missionary character of the center. Candles, rosaries and all kinds of other devotional material also can be bought for home use or in the Spiri-church. The morphology of the objects seems to be mainstream Catholic, although the symbolism is adapted to the Community's teachings. Many of the devotional practices are to a large extent in line with those of the formal Catholic Church. The whole décor of the interior is directly inspired by the “original” Amsterdam shrine of the Lady and its imagery. However, a closer look at the décor also shows the symbolism and texts of the movement's heretical doctrines. For example, one can pray with a combined image of Jesus and Mary that suggests that Mary is present in the eucharist. The central devotional practice is dedicated to the “Triple White” (the eucharist, the Immaculate Mary, and the Pope) through which the sanctification of one's soul should be realized, inspire the world and the spread the evangelical message of love and peace in anticipation of the return of Christ. Within the cultus no public Marian apparition rituals are known; all messages and appearances seem to be privately received by Giguère.
In the Spiri-church, the devotion for the “Quinternity” is presented. The sacred number, 55 555, was introduced into the teachings as the basis for explaining the logic of the Marian Trinity, consisting of the Immaculate Mary, Marie-Paule, and the Holy Spirit. The devotion states that the combination of the Marian Trinity with the classic trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) creates a total of five “elements,” as the Holy Spirit is regarded as the same for both Trinities. This ensemble is said to be one aswell, as the feminine (the immaculate) is also present in God. Their explanation states that the first coming of the Immaculate Mary is symbolized in the first number 5, and the second coming (Marie-Paule) is represented in double five's. The double fives represents her actions with the “True Spirit,” namely the Holy Spirit of Mary, a work that started in the year 2000 and which will realize the number 555 when it is finished. This will occur when the new millennium has arrived. In the movement's systematization, the numbers are supposed to connect the cultus to its origins and close the circle. It would place the formation of the cultus in line with what God reportedly prophesied to Giguère in 1958 about her crucifixion and reincarnation, and about the existence of a Marian trinity. The full number of 55 555 then (the Quinternity ) is the symbol of the actions of the Lady of All Peoples with the True (Marian) Holy Spirit. The figure is presented as a holy number that symbolizes future victory over evil (symbolized in the human number of the beast (666)) and the conditional coming of the new millennium (cf Baum 1970:49-63).
Apart from pilgrimages to the Spiri-Marie center, most of the devotional practices among the adherents take place in the various countries locally within prayer groups. These groups usually meet in informally constructed chapels in houses or garages, as the movement is not allowed to make use of Catholic church buildings. The clean and smooth Spiri-Maria buildings show few decorations and symbolism and do not have burning candles or offerings. An adapted (including a Holy Spirit) painting of the Lady of All Peoples is positioned next to the altar. A sign explains for the visitors the “quinternity.”
New branches have been added to the original Army of Mary since 1980. The present overall Community of the Lady of All Peoples consists of five “works” or branches:
● The Army of Mary (l'Armée de Marie ), established in 1971.
● The Family of Sons and Daughters of Mary (La Famille des Fils et Filles de Marie), established in the early 1980s.
● The Community of Sons and Daughters of Mary (la Communauté des Fils et Filles de Marie) established in 1981. This organization is a religious, pastoral order of priests and sisters, with Marie-Paule as Superior-General since 1997.
● Les Oblats-Patriotes, established in 1986 (August 15). The goal of this organization is renewal of society.
● The Marialys Institute, established in 1992. This organization serves priests who are not part of the Community but share the doctrines.
Those outside of the movement, the media and the Roman Catholic Church, usually still depict the overall movement in a reductionist way as the Army of Mary.
From the beginning, Marie-Paule Giguère has been the central figure. There is considerable information about her past due to her writings. There is less information about her later life as her movement came under pressure, she appeared less often in public, and the group became a more closed sect. Most of the contact with the outside world took place through her assistant, the Belgian sister Chantal Buyse, who also takes care of her hospitalization.
When in 1978 Raoul Auclair moved to Quebec and became the editor of L'Etoile (The Star), the then journal of the movement (since 1982 Le Royaume ), his role as intellectual within the Community started to rise. Ultimately he became the central theologian and interpreter of the movement, for which he was canonized by the Community after his death.
Since 2007, Father Jean-Pierre Mastropietro, wearing a Byzantine crown, has been “acting like a pope” according to the CatholicChurch. Father Jean-Pierre is the head of the Church of John, the Church of Love, which is described by the movement as a “transmutation” of the Roman Church of Peter.
As of 2007, the Army of Mary was excommunicated, and the movement has been placed outside the Catholic Church and will not be allowed to return. The question is whether the Roman Catholic Church will fully ignore the movement or will continue to actively oppose it as the Community seems to still be able to contact and attract the “ignorant.” Presumably the Church will take a practical stance and will wait for the death of the visionary who reached the age of 92 in 2013, is half paralyzed, has mentally deteriorated, and lives in “great agony.” It is likely that after the death of the visionary, their leader and reincarnated Mary, the movement will fall into a crisis. However, followers state that then her Church will be taken over by others within the movement.
A second issue is the relation with the Amsterdam-based shrine of the Lady of All Nations, the inspirational apparitional source for Giguère. It has become a formally acknowledged apparitional site through the recognition by Bishop Jozef Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Both sites and devotions still stand in competition with one another. The organization in Amsterdam is, given its official recognition, distancing itself more strongly than ever from Giguère and her movement. Within the movement the number of references to its roots, the Amsterdam visions of Ida Peerdeman of the Lady of All Nations (instead of Peoples) has been reduced to a functional minimum and is usually limited to texts of the messages and the transfer of the status of being chosen from Ida to Marie-Paule. Nevertheless some of Marie-Paule's following does not reject Amsterdam and its messages, as this is perceived as the basis for Marie-Paule's church. They do, however, resent the change of the basic verse line in the prayer that was given by the Lady.
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Peter Jan Margry
28 October 2013