Apostasy in America

Apostasy in America

Publisher: Tumblar House
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Format: Paperback
Pages: 200
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This book is about apostasy, that gradual but radical dissociation of man from God whose history is as old as creation, having begun among the angels in heaven even before it began on earth in Eden. It would be impossible to tell it all, but what follows is an attempt to show some aspects of it from the perspective of America, where apostasy became politicized by historical circumstance ... We even have the word of the Founders in our first treaty with Tripoli to the effect that, "the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." In this book, Solange Hertz covers topics including colonial Catholicism, neo-paganism, ecumenism, and lastly the Know-Nothing Party, which rose to prominence during the 19th century based on nativist and anti-Catholic sentiments.

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Although the soil beneath their feet was discovered and colonized by Catholics, some of it watered by Catholic blood, where the Faith is concerned Catholics in the United States tend unaccountably to behave as expatriates in their own country. Despite the fact that the Mother of God herself arrived literally on the heels of the first conquistadors to remind the inhabitants of America, “Am I not here, who am your mother?” they normally head for a shrine across the Atlantic when it is a question of making a pilgrimage to her of any consequence. To hear them tell it, anything directly pertaining to the universal Church always occurs, if not actually in Rome, at least somewhere outside America.

In diocesan school texts the only revolution which seriously affected the Faith was the French Revolution, and the last armed revolt against the enemies of the Church is now safely over and done with, having taken place more than two hundred years ago in the French Vendée. The import of the French Revolution must not be minimized, for it brought down the French king, Christ’s constituted vicar in the temporal order. Had his throne endured, the collapse of Christian law and order which eventually left the Church everywhere at the mercy of the state would not have been possible. Nor must the martyrs of the Vendée be robbed of their glorious intercession on behalf of any stalwarts following in their footsteps, but it may be time to pay closer attention to what happened long before and after that in America.

Yankee, come home and listen to your Mother!

How is it that three hundred twenty-seven years before our Lady identified herself as the Immaculate Conception to St. Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, speaking a French patois, she had already proclaimed the mystery in America to a widowed Aztec convert in his native Nahuatl? There were four apparitions to him at the time, all of which took place in December, 1531 within the week the Church would one day consecrate as the Octave of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This cannot have been accidental, inasmuch as the first appearance virtually anticipated the formal definition of the dogma, made by Pius IX on December 8, 1854 to the effect that: 

The doctrine which holds that the most blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and  constantly by all the faithful.

When our Lady told St. Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception,” she was only putting into prescribed theological terms what she had already told the American Indian when she said, “I am the All-Perfect and Perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God.” In France she drew a curative spring from the earth of Massabielle to testify to the truth of her words. In America she left imprinted on the cloth of the Indian’s rough tilma a miraculous portrait of herself which like the Holy Shroud of Turin would provide its own authentication, not only by miracles, but by progressively revealing corroborative data mysteriously concealed in its folds.

In 1752, solemnly declaring Patroness of Mexico the beautiful Lady thus depicted, Pope Benedict XIV could find no words more appropriate to the occasion than those of the Psalmist, “He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them. Alleluia!” (Ps. 147:20). Indeed no other country was ever so favored, but inasmuch as the divine intervention happened at a spot situated at the exact geographical center of the American continents, we may suspect that it was intended for more than the immediate vicinity. Pius XII would formally recognize this fact by declaring her Empress of the Americas. In the light of subsequent developments throughout the world, however, it becomes increasingly difficult to view the Mexican phenomenon as an isolated event peculiar to America which bore no relation to the rest of Christendom.

Don Juan of Austria had borne her image on his banner at Lepanto against the Turks, for when Our Lady told the Indian that she was his mother, she made it clear at the same time that she had not come for his sake alone, but for “all the inhabitants of this land” and whoever invoked her with confidence. That her sole purpose was to introduce to the Faith large numbers of heathen “ethnics” who would not have accepted it otherwise is not supported by the facts. Although it is true that the apparition sparked millions of conversions almost overnight, the Faith had already been firmly planted by zealous Spanish missionaries, and in the normal course of catechizing it would have made its way with relative ease into a society which had proved to be exceptionally open to God’s grace.

The visionary himself was already a seasoned Catholic of outstanding virtue at the time of the apparition, having lived with his wife in perfect chastity from the time of his conversion. He had been baptized Juan Diego, and the story is that the “Juan” was conferred on him in deference to his former Aztec name “Singing Eagle” (or as some would have it, “He-who-speaks-as-an-eagle”), in which the missionaries perceived a cognomen for St. John the Evangelist, whose symbol is the eagle. No more suitable patron could have been found, for Juan Diego was destined to see vested in the apocalyptic signs the very same Woman pregnant with child whom the writer of the Apocalypse had beheld in his great vision of the latter days.

The late Don José de Jesús Manriquez y Zárate, first Bishop of Huejutla and ardent promoter of Juan Diego’s cause, believed that this holy man had in fact been appointed by heaven as a permanent “mediator between herself and us.” Writing from exile in San Antonio, Texas during the Calles persecution in October 1939, Bishop Zárate called him “the instrument of her mercies and the executor of her sovereign commands,” cooperating in all her work “just as the Apostles of Jesus Christ cooperated in the Master’s work.”[1] In the second apparition the Mother of God had in fact told Juan Diego that although many others were capable of doing her bidding, she chose “you and no other.” He was not to worry about anything: “Am I not here, who am your mother? Aren’t you in my shadow? Am I not your salvation? Aren’t you as it were on my lap? What more do you need?”

The time for massive recourse to Juan Diego’s intercession may be at hand, for his beatification, which suffered a delay almost as long as St. Joan of Arc’s, finally took place before the close of the twentieth century, and like hers would seem to augur a mysterious mediation reserved for the end times. This assumption is strongly supported by the fact that our Lady gave explicit instructions to Juan’s uncle Bernardino that the icon left on the tilma be called “She who Crushes the Serpent.” This was a full three hundred years before the Blessed Virgin instructed St. Catherine Labouré in Paris to have the Miraculous Medal struck, depicting the Immaculate Conception crushing the Serpent under her foot. In Spanish the closest approximation of the Nahuatl words to Bernardino turned out to be “Guadalupe,” but their import was clear enough at the time, promising deliverance from the Serpent deity who had exacted ritual human sacrifices in the thousands as the price of his rule.

The message should be even clearer today, when the phenomenon of Guadalupe can be seen in broader context as a pivotal point in world history, and not merely as an outstanding example of Our Lady’s motherly compassion for the most abandoned of her children. Occurring so far in advance of the great apparitions in Europe at the rue du Bac, la Salette, Lourdes and Fatima, those in America marked nothing less than the inauguration of the Marian Age, which would see the final battle between our Lady and Satan foretold by God in Eden when He warned the Serpent, “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Gen. 3:15).

The staggering truth is that our Lady chose to open hostilities, not in Rome, the Holy Land or elsewhere, but on American soil, attacking the primordial Adversary in territory which till then had been his last undisputed preserve. The first skirmish ended in a crushing defeat for him. Not only did the human sacrifices he doted on come to an end, but the way was cleared for the incorporation of millions of his former subjects into the Kingdom of the Incarnate God whom he had refused to serve in heaven. It would be a long time, however, before the end was in sight. As our Lord told His Apostles, “When you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, fear ye not, for such things must needs be: but the end is not yet ... These are the beginnings of sorrows” (Mark 13:7-8). By the time our Lady appeared at Lourdes as the Immaculate Conception, urging the recitation of her Rosary, battle had been joined for three and a quarter centuries. Hell had regrouped its forces and seemed to be winning.

St. John the Evangelist, who was privileged to foresee the future combat in vision, clothes his account in metaphor, relating how:

...the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman, water, as it were a river: that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the river, which the dragon cast out of his mouth ... the dragon was angry against the woman and went to make war with the rest of her seed (Apo. 12:15-17).

Without presuming to attempt the exegesis of so obscure a passage, we may hope that “her seed” refers to Catholics everywhere, and those of America in particular, for although the Great Apostasy had not been conceived in America, having been brought here from Europe by the same evil forces which brought it to earth from heaven, it is in America that apostasy was forged into a political weapon and institutionalized.


[1] Quien fué Juan Diego? El Eco Guadalupana, No. 13, 2/12/74, p. 18

Solange Hertz:
Solange Hertz

An established writer before the Second Vatican Council, Solange Hertz wrote for most Catholic periodicals and had five books to her credit, one a selection of the Catholic Literary Foundation. When she refused to adjust her theology to the new “Spirit of Vatican II,” her manuscripts almost overnight became unacceptable to her former editors. After a series of articles on feminine spirituality for the old Triumph magazine, she continued speaking for tradition by successfully producing The Thought of Their Heart and Sin Revisited on her own.

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