An alert reader appeared in my messages the other day, with a link to a seedy-looking website of recent purported Marian apparitions taking place in Argyle, Texas. “This made me think of you,” was her entire message.
I’ve done a lot of public reminiscence about growing up in Apparition Culture and the Charismatic Renewal— two subcultures of American Catholicism that leave themselves unusually open to crackpots and spiritual abuse. Quite a few people have been wounded by this kind of spiritual abuse, a myriad of people have had their faith and their mental health destroyed by them. I believe they ought to be brought to the light whenever possible. People claim I hate Jesus and Mary when I critique the movements, but I am doing it for the love of Jesus and Mary– they must be the ones hurt the most when their children are abused by people claiming to act in their name.
Now, let’s take a look at these apparitions.
This phenomenon is not being talked about anywhere I can find online, not in any local Texas news or by the diocese; the only other evidence I can find for it is a blog called “FRK Advocates May God Be Praised,” with which I’m not familiar. The blog alleges that the diocese has been notified, as if this is evidence for the apparitions’ veracity. I can only imagine how many times a day any given diocese is being notified of alleged apparitions. It also mentions, as the apparition’s website itself does, that there have been miracles of healing at the apparition site. But they provide no evidence of this. Usually, in my experience, the PR surrounding alleged apparitions usually involves descriptions of preternatural phenomena published somewhere on the website– a lurid before-and-after diptych showing someone’s deformed limb growing back into place, a grainy photo of the sun with the faint outline of a Miraculous Medal on it, the excited and badly spelled written testimony of a bystander who was inexplicably cured of her arthritis. Something. But there’s no such thing on the website or in any news I can find. The only evidence for the apparitions in Argyle are the testimony of the unnamed visionaries and the messages, which have been recorded on the website word for word. There are a lot of them.
I read through them all at three o’clock in the morning when I couldn’t sleep.
I am not a fan.
These are far from the most spastic and bizarre “messages” from an apparition that I’ve ever read. There is no ranting about eschatology and special blessed candles here. It’s reminders of things we already knew were on Our Lady’s mind: don’t get abortions, don’t practice human cloning, be nice to refugees and disabled people, pray the Rosary, repent of your sins. So far it’s perfectly run-of-the-mill. But then we get to the “warnings” section, and things get a little out of hand.There are dozens of “warnings,” passed on not only by Jesus and Mary but by angels, John the Baptist, and I don’t know who else. The angels are particularly morose. They keep talking about “the rope of justice” descending onto the earth for man’s sins. It’s a puzzling image: why is justice a rope? This is Texas, so if they’d said “noose of justice” it would have been frightening and grotesque, but this rope is just described as descending from Heaven loose. It isn’t an ocean of justice or a fire of justice, it’s just a limp coil of justice that’s going to flop onto the ground like a dead snake.
There’s even a point at which an unnamed angel reads off a list of calamities that are befalling or about to befall various countries due to the rope of justice– but the angel doesn’t say the countries’ actual names. There are brackets after each paragraph giving the best guess for the countries the angel is talking about. It’s more than a little affected. I can understand why the angel called Italy “The Beautiful Country;” I’ve always wanted to see Italy because I’m told it’s so beautiful. I’m happy the angel agrees. Greece, of course, is “The Country of Hellen,” Russia is “The Country of Eleven Meridians.” That’s kind of pretty. Japan, naturally, is “the Country of the Rising Sun.” And I liked the snark when the angel called the United States “The Country That Believes it is Blessed By God.” But then she got to the part about the supervolcano erupting in the “State of the Yellow Stone” and I couldn’t keep a straight face. Yellowstone is in three states, silly angel. Yellow River by I. P. Freely.
Bad poetry like that is one of my personal discernment yardsticks for whether I’m going to disregard a private revelation. Beauty is a Divine attribute; God inspired such glorious verse as “In the beginning was The Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” He can do better than “the state of the Yellow Stone.”
And of course, the apparition fails my other personal discernment test: the alleged Blessed Virgin is trying to protect us from mean old Jesus again. Whereas in real life, Mary’s job is to lead us to Jesus Who is pure Love and not someone we need to be defended from. Jesus isn’t going to hurt you, I promise.
Am I saying that the Blessed Virgin is NOT appearing in Argyle, Texas?