MARIE-PAULE GIGUÈRE TIMELINE
1921 (September 14): Marie-Paule Giguère was born in Sainte-Germaine du Lac-Etchemin, Québec, Canada.
1944 (July 1): Giguère married Georges Cliche.
1954: Giguère heard supernatural voices telling her that she would lead a Catholic movement.
1957 (September): Giguère separated from her husband.
1971 (August 28): The Army of Mary was founded by Giguère.
1972: Father Philippe Roy joined the Army of Mary.
1975 (March 10): Cardinal Maurice Roy of Québec approved the Army of Mary as a legitimate Roman Catholic association.
1978: The French writer Raoul Auclair moved to Québec to work full time for the Army of Mary.
1978: Giguère started the publication of Vie d’Amour.
1981: Giguère established the Community of the Sons and Daughters of Mary.
1984: The Archbishop of Québec, Cardinal Louis-Albert Vachon, formed a commission to investigate the Army of Mary.
1986: Giguère founded the Oblates-Patriots.
1987 (February 27): The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith judged two books by Army of Mary’s lay leader Marc Bosquart as “seriously erroneous.”
1987 (May 4): Cardinal Louis-Albert Vachon of Québec declared that the Army of Mary was no longer a Catholic organization.
1997: Giguère joined the Daughters of Mary and was elected as their Superior General.
2000 (March 31): A note by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith found theological errors in Vie d’Amour.
2001 (June 29): A formal censure of the Army of Mary occurred, stating that its doctrines were not Catholic, by the Canadian Catholic Bishops Conference.
2006: Under the authority of Giguère’s visions, and of a new “Church of John,” Father Pierre Mastropietro, a Son of Mary, ordained new deacons and priests, although he was not himself a bishop.
2007 (July 11): The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith excommunicated those accepting and propagating the doctrines and practices of the Army of Mary.
2009 (May 31): Although still alive, Giguère was canonized as a saint by her Church of John.
2015 (April 25): Giguère died in Lac-Etchemin.
Marie-Paule Giguère was born on September 14, 1921 at Sainte-Germaine-du-Lac-Etchemin, a small rural town sixty miles from Québec City, Québec. Later, Lac-Etchemin (where a small Marian shrine was built in the 1950s) would acquire a peculiar significance in Giguère’s millennial worldview. A pious young girl, Marie-Paule considered religious life as a missionary in Africa, but her poor health was interpreted by her spiritual advisors as a sign that the Lord was calling her to marriage. In 1944, she married Georges Cliche (1917–1997), with whom she had five children between 1945 and 1952. [Image at right] But the marriage proved a nightmare, with Georges revealing himself to be prodigal, alcoholic, and adulterous. The Church, while opposed to divorce, accepted separation in extreme cases, and several priests suggested that Marie-Paule leave her husband. She did so, reluctantly, in 1957, and later attempts at reconciliation proved unsuccessful, although as an old man Georges would eventually join Marie-Paule’s movement.
Ever since her teenage years, Marie-Paule had heard the interior voices of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. These messages guided her through the trials of her life and eventually directed her to write a lengthy autobiography, Vie d’Amour (A Life of Love), of which thirteen volumes were published from 1979–1980. Five volumes of Appendices were added between 1992 and 1993 (Giguère 1992–1993). Volumes 4 and 6 (about some of Marie-Paule’s early companions) followed in 1993 and 1994, bringing the total to more than 6,000 pages (Giguère 1979–1994).
Marie-Paule became active in the Catholic Marian movement known as the Legion of Mary and worked for Catholic magazines and radio stations. In 1954, she supernaturally heard for the first time a reference to “the Army of Mary,” a “wonderful movement” she would later lead (Giguère 1979–1994, 1:174). [Image at right] Slowly, a small Marian group was formed, which included a couple of priests. On August 28, 1971, during a pilgrimage to the Lac-Etchemin shrine, Marie-Paule officially inaugurated the Army of Mary. A priest from the Catholic diocese of Rimouski (Québec), Father Philippe Roy (1916–1988), joined the movement in 1972, and eventually became its general director. Following a request by Bishop Jean-Pierre van Lierde (1907–1995), Vicar General of Vatican City and a supporter of Giguère, recognition of the Army of Mary as a “pious association” was obtained in 1975 from Cardinal Maurice Roy (1905–1985), Archbishop of Québec City (not a relative of Father Philippe Roy). In the meantime, the Army of Mary had met with considerable success, due largely to the charismatic personality of Marie-Paule herself. The Army of Mary also reflected the needs of a sizeable section of Québec’s Catholics. They were confused by post-Vatican II reforms in the Church and disoriented by Québec’s “silent revolution” that was transforming its Catholic, agrarian society to a more secular, urban one. Yet, a large majority still maintained loyalty to Rome and were unwilling to join schismatic groups. Marie-Paule’s popularity also guaranteed a steady flow of contributions, enabling her in 1983 to buy land in her native Lac-Etchemin where the Army of Mary’s headquarters would be eventually built.
From 1971, Marie-Paule had been in touch with a popular French author of texts on prophecy, Raoul Auclair (1906–1997). In 1978, he moved from France to Québec, where he became the editor of the movement’s magazine, L’Étoile (later replaced by Le Royaume). In the years that followed, the Army of Mary gathered thousands of followers in Canada and hundreds more in Europe. The Community of the Sons and Daughters of Mary, a religious order including both priests and nuns, was established in 1981, with Pope John Paul II (1920–2005) personally ordaining the first Son of Mary as a priest in 1986. Several other ordinations followed, and a number of Catholic dioceses throughout the world were happy to welcome both the Sons and the Daughters of Mary to help them in their pastoral work. After her husband’s death in 1997, Marie-Paule herself became a Daughter of Mary, and was subsequently elected Superior General of the congregation as Mère Marie-Paule, later Mère Paul-Marie. [Image at right] A larger “Family of the Sons and Daughters of Mary” also included auxiliary organizations, such as the Oblates-Patriots, established by Marie-Paule in 1986 with the aim of spreading conservative Catholic social teachings, and the Marialys Institute, created in 1992, which gathered together Catholic priests who were not members of the Sons of Mary but shared their general aims.
The Army of Mary’s success was always accompanied by conflicts with members of the Catholic hierarchy. What created substantial controversy were the firm roots of the Army of Mary in a Catholic millennialist tradition at a time when the Québec Catholic hierarchy had little patience with it. A campaign against Marie-Paule gathered momentum in Québec from at least the early 1980s, and in 1984 the Archbishop of Québec City, Louis-Albert Vachon (1912–2006), appointed a commission to investigate the Army of Mary. Vachon would become a cardinal in 1985.
The commission focused on certain writings by Raoul Auclair, according to which the “Immaculate” existed as a spiritual being since before the creation, later to descend into the Virgin Mary; and on other writings by a Belgian member, Marc Bosquart (b. 1955), who had moved to Québec and had written two books claiming that the Immaculate was now mystically inhabiting Marie-Paule (Bosquart 1985, 1986). Although the Army of Mary maintained that these were Bosquart’s personal opinions, rather than teachings of the movement itself, Vachon’s commission regarded the organization as potentially heretical. The case went to Rome, and in 1987 the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith judged Bosquart’s opinions as “seriously erroneous,” opening the way for a declaration by Cardinal Vachon that the Army of Mary was no longer recognized as a Catholic organization. Appeals to the Vatican protesting Vachon’s decision failed. Although the Army of Mary at that time withdrew Bosquart’s books from circulation, the controversy with Catholic bishops in Québec continued, while some English-speaking Canadian bishops, and certain bishops in Italy, were still prepared to accept both the Sons and Daughters of Mary and the Army of Mary itself into their dioceses. Finally, on March 31, 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith sent a note to all Canadian bishops stating that Marie-Paule’s Vie d’Amour contained doctrinal errors, and that further action needed to be taken. On June 29, 2001, the Canadian Conference of Canadian Bishops published a statement saying that the Army of Mary should no longer be regarded as a Roman Catholic organization.
Perhaps because an agreement with Rome now seemed more difficult, Marie-Paule authorized the publication in 2001 and 2002 of new writings by Marc Bosquart, again proposing doctrines similar to those criticized by the Vatican in 1987 (Bosquart 2001a, 2001b, 2002). This was one of the factors leading to further censures of the Army of Mary by the new Archbishop of Québec, Cardinal Marc Ouellet (b. 1944), in 2005 and 2007.
In 2006, fresh revelations to Marie-Paule led to a complete rupture with the Vatican. These visions distinguished between a Church of Peter and a mystical and esoteric Church of John. Marie-Paule claimed that the Pope in Rome was still leading the “Church of Peter,” but appointed one of the priests in the Sons of Mary, Pierre Mastropietro (whose French-Italian name, translated “Peter Master-Peter,” was regarded as a prophetic omen), as Universal Father of the higher Church of John. In this role, Mastropietro proceeded to ordain first deacons and then priests, to canonize new saints, including Raoul Auclair, and even to proclaim new dogmas, moving from the Christian Trinity to a Quinternity, which added the Virgin Mary and Marie-Paule herself to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On May 31, 2009 Marie-Paule was canonized in the Church of John; this occurred before her death, something theologically and canonically impossible in the Roman Catholic Church. On July 11, 2007, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith excommunicated those advocating and propagating the doctrines of the Army of Mary.
In the last years of her life, Marie-Paule was seriously ill and not able to participate in the daily life of the movement, now led by Marc Bosquart as Universal King and by Father Mastropietro as Holy Father of the Church of John. She died in Lac-Etchemin on April 25, 2015. [Image at right]
To understand Marie-Paule’s mystical teachings, it is necessary to start with the Marian apparitions of Amsterdam, Holland, in 1945–1959, whose existence Marie-Paule discovered through Raoul Auclair in 1971. Ida Peerdeman (1905–1996), born in Alkmaar, The Netherlands, reported an encounter with the Virgin Mary at the age of twelve, followed by miraculous visions of battles in Europe during World War II. From 1945 to 1959, she received fifty-five messages from the Virgin Mary. Although the first verdict of the local Catholic diocese was negative, a chapel was quietly built in the 1970s at the site of the Amsterdam apparition and dedicated to the “Lady of All Peoples.” Peerdeman’s prayer to the “Lady of All Peoples, who was once Mary,” and the messages she received gained widespread popularity throughout much of the Catholic world. They were interpreted as predicting three different events: a crisis in the Church, Vatican II (seen as a rather positive development and as an antidote to the crisis), and a future millennial Kingdom of the Holy Spirit and Mary.
To usher in that Kingdom, Peerdeman called upon the Church to proclaim officially a new Marian dogma emphasizing Mary’s role as “Co-Redeemer.” The title had a long tradition in Catholic Marian theology but was never officially approved by the Vatican. On May 31, 1996, less than three months before Peerdeman’s death, Bishop Henrik Bomers (1936–1998) of the Dutch diocese of Haarlem published a notification approving “the prayer and the public cult of Mary under the title of Lady of All Peoples,” while stating that “the Church cannot, for the moment, make a pronouncement on the supernatural character of the apparitions.” The bishop’s notification downplayed the millennial element of Peerdeman’s experience, emphasizing instead that the title Lady of All Peoples cast a “clear light on the universal motherhood of Mary” and on her “unique and feminine role in the Lord’s plan of salvation” (Bomers and Punt 1996).
In 2002, Bomers’ successor as bishop of Haarlem, Jozef Marianus Punt (b. 1946), finally recognized “that the apparitions of the Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam consist of a supernatural origin.” Although Marian apparitions are recognized by local bishops rather than the Vatican, bishops are nonetheless supervised by the Vatican in this activity. Punt acknowledged that “naturally, the influence of the human element still exists” (Punt 2002), as in all apparitions, quoting on this point Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (b. 1927), at that time Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and later to become Pope Benedict XVI. This was a reference to the words “who was once Mary” included in the prayer revealed in the apparitions and referred to the Lady of All Peoples; this language became an object of concern precisely because of its interpretation by Marie-Paule and was finally dropped in the version of the prayer used in Amsterdam.
Raoul Auclair was the link between the world of European apparitions and Marie-Paule in Québec. He regarded as a prophetic sign the fact that he received his First Communion on May 13, 1917, the day of the first apparition at Fátima, Portugal. A promising student, he abandoned his academic career to complete his military service in Morocco, and then worked as a surgical materials salesman before finding more satisfactory employment in 1941 with French national radio. In the same year, he had a mystical experience in Marseilles, and was “transported outside time, as if plummeted into the Divine Intelligence” (Péloquin 1997:10–11). Besides working as a playwright for the radio, he became an increasingly successful author of books on Catholic prophecy and eschatology as well as Marian apparitions. By the 1960s he had at his disposal a rich collection of materials on all sorts of supernatural phenomena (Auclair 1981).
American scholar Sandra Zimdars-Swartz noted the importance of Auclair as a representative of a Catholic millennialism, which, unlike other forms, eventually placed the “Second Vatican Council in a positive light.” In fact, Auclair tried to walk a middle course in the struggle over Vatican II reforms. He saw the Roman Catholic Church as being menaced both by those who were frenetic for reform, who he described as motivated by a “bad spirit,” and by the overly narrow traditionalists who were unwilling to allow the Holy Spirit to change the structures of the Church (Zimdars-Swartz 1991:256–57).
Eventually, Auclair became the main apologist for Ida Peerdeman’s vision and was instrumental in organizing three meetings of the Amsterdam visionary with Marie-Paule. After the death of his wife in 1976, as mentioned above, he moved permanently to Québec in 1978, taking the habit of the related religious order, the Sons of Mary, in 1987. Originally, “fidelity to Rome and the Pope” was a key teaching and the motto of the Army of Mary; and Marie-Paule’s followers, the Knights of Mary, centered their religious life on the Triple White: the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and the Pope. Marie-Paule also proposed a traditional Marian devotion along the lines of Auclair and Peerdeman. But when the Army of Mary became controversial the advisory circle around Peerdeman advised the Dutch visionary to keep her distance from the organization.
In the 1980s, both Marie-Paule and her main advisors started proposing doctrines increasingly at odds with Roman Catholic orthodoxy. According to Auclair (1985), a mysterious being known as CELLE (SHE, in all capitals) existed before entering the person of the Virgin Mary, and still exists, having “once been Mary,” according to Auclair’s interpretation of the Amsterdam prayer (an interpretation not reflected in the literature officially approved by the Amsterdam shrine). It was not an inconceivable step for Auclair’s friends in the Army of Mary to conclude that, as she had already inhabited Mary once before, CELLE now mystically inhabited Marie-Paule, who was elevated to a sort of new incarnation of the Virgin Mary. Marc Bosquart’s books presented this conclusion, based also on the word “reincarnation” mysteriously mentioned in Vie d’Amour (Bosquart 1985; see Introvigne 2001).
It is unclear how much in the subsequent developments (the distinction between the Church of Peter and the Church of John and the divine role of Marie-Paule herself as part of the newly recognized Quinternity) was promoted by Marie-Paule and based on her visions, as opposed to being the fruit of the religious creativity of Marc Bosquart. In the last years of her life, Marie-Paule was increasingly frail and largely limited her activities to approving Bosquart’s decisions. Regardless of the source, these new doctrines completed the transformation of the Army of Mary from a conservative Catholic group to a full-fledged new religious movement.
Until the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the rituals and practices promoted by Marie-Paule were those of the Roman Catholic Church, including the Mass and the sacraments administered by priests in communion with the Vatican, and the traditional Catholic pious practices, including the Rosary. In addition, there were colorful ceremonies honoring the Army of Mary and Marie-Paule, but these remained within the framework of a Catholic movement’s activities.
It was only with the proclamation of the Church of John that new ceremonies were introduced, although during Marie-Paule’s lifetime the basic structure of the Catholic Mass was not altered. It was more a matter of new interpretations, such as the one suggesting that during the communion not only the body of Jesus Christ, but also the body of the Virgin Mary and the mystical body of Marie-Paule were offered to the faithful. Similarly, devotional objects with the number five and references to the Quinternity were introduced, but they accompanied familiar Catholic tools such as rosaries. Only after Marie-Paule’s death in 2015, did Marc Bosquart and others suggest that the Church of John, as a new church, should also have a new liturgy, and a deeper reformation was started.
Marie-Paule was a strong and charismatic leader, despite recurring issues with her health. She was, however, a woman in a church where priesthood was reserved to men; moreover, she was a layperson with a limited theological education. She always had to rely on duly ordained priests for the sacramental life and on theologians for advice. She believed, however, that laymen who had read more theological books than she did, but were not technically theologians, would be able to lead the movement with her, and might be able to understand her visions better than professional theologians. She relied on Raoul Auclair, and much more, in a later period, on Marc Bosquart, who became the authorized interpreter of Vie d’Amour (see Bosquart 2006–2009). Her prophetic visions indicated Bosquart as destined to a leadership role in the movement and, as “king,” in the world at large.
Scholars and critics repeatedly asked the question whether Marie-Paule was the “real” leader of the Army of Mary, or if she was ultimately controlled by someone else. For her followers, she was undoubtedly controlled by God through her visions and the internal words she was able to hear, although in her later years it was suggested she might be part of the Godhead herself. Those outside the movement speculated that Bosquart and others might have tried to impose their own views on Marie-Paule, and that without their influence she might perhaps have submitted to the Roman Catholic Church. Having conducted several interviews with Marie-Paule between 1996 and 1998, I personally believe that she was a strong and intelligent woman, and that she never accepted from others theories she did not regard as supernaturally confirmed by her revelations and inner voices.
The confrontation between Marie-Paule and the Catholic authorities has been described in the biographical section above. At stake was not only the mystical character of her revelations but a new theology, mostly created by Bosquart, which was gradually taking shape. The Belgian leader’s ideas were clearly unacceptable to the Roman Catholic bishops, as they in fact generated a new church, with a new hierarchy and new theology. Although Bosquart and Marie-Paule would have been happy to leave the leadership of the Church of Peter to the Pope in Rome, the Vatican could obviously not accept that in Québec there was an alternative Church of John, believed by its adherents to be superior to the church headquartered in Rome.
When all this became clear, Marie-Paule was faced with a new challenge. A certain number of priests, including some of the most active and well-educated, nuns and laypersons abandoned the Army of Mary/Church of John movement. They were prepared to challenge the Canadian bishops on Marie-Paule’s revelations, originally approved by Cardinal Roy, but joining a new church and adopting a new theology, and exchanging the Trinity for a newly revealed Quinternity, was a different matter altogether. Some of Marie-Paule’s longtime companions stayed, trusting her notwithstanding the Vatican excommunication in 2007 of persons accepting and propagating the movement’s doctrines and practices. Socializing younger generations into the radically alternative subculture of the Church of John, and attracting new members accepting of a rupture with the Roman Catholic Church was a difficult challenge for Marie-Paule in her last years of activity, and continues to be a problem for her successors.
Image #1: Marie-Paule and her children, 1966. Courtesy La Communauté de la Dame de Tous les Peuples.
Image #2: Marie-Paule, 1959. Courtesy La Communauté de la Dame de Tous les Peuples.
Image #3: Marie-Paule as Mother Paul-Marie. Courtesy La Communauté de la Dame de Tous les Peuples.
Image #4: Funeral of Marie-Paule, 2015. Courtesy La Communauté de la Dame de Tous les Peuples.
Auclair, Raoul. 1985. L’Homme total dans la Terre totale. Limoilou, Québec: Éditions Stella.
Auclair, Raoul. 1981. Le Secret de La Salette. Limoilou, Québec: Éditions Stella.
Bomers, Henrik, and Jozef Marianus Punt. 1996. “Notification for the Catholic Faithful of the Diocese of Haarlem.” English translation. Haarlem, The Netherlands: Diocese of Haarlem.
Bosquart, Marc. 2006–2009. Trésors de “Vie d’Amour.” 5 Volumes. Lac-Etchemin, Québec: Les Éditions du Nouveau Monde.
Bosquart, Marc 2002. Marie-Paule et la Co-rédemption. Lac-Etchemin, Québec: Les Éditions du Nouveau Monde.
Bosquart, Marc. 2001a. Terre nouvelle, homme nouveau. Lac-Etchemin, Québec: Les Éditions du Nouveau Monde.
Bosquart, Marc 2001b. L’Immaculée, la divine Épouse de Dieu. Lac-Etchemin, Québec: Les Éditions du Nouveau Monde.
Bosquart, Marc. 1986. Le Rédempteur et la Co-Rédemptrice. Éléments pour servir à la Contemplation d’un mystère – II. Limoilou, Québec: La Famille des Fils et Filles de Marie.
Bosquart, Marc. 1985. De la Trinité Divine à l’Immaculée-Trinité. Éléments pour servir à la Contemplation d’un mystère – I. Limoilou, Québec: La Famille de Fils et Filles de Marie.
Giguère, Marie-Paule. 1992–1993. Vie d’Amour—Appendice. 5 Volumes. Limoilou, Québec: Marie-Paule Vie d’Amour.
Giguère, Marie-Paule. 1979–1994. Vie d’Amour. 15 Volumes. Limoilou, Québec: Vie d’Amour.
Introvigne, Massimo. 2001. “En Route to the Marian Kingdom: Catholic Apocalypticism and the Army of Mary.” Pp. 149-65 in Christian Millenarianism: From the Early Church to Waco, edited by Stephen Hunt. London: Hurst & Company.
Péloquin, Maurice. 1997. “La vie familiale de Raoul Auclair.” Le Royaume 115:10–11.
Punt, Jozef Marianus. 2002. “In Response to Inquiries Concerning the Lady of All Nations Apparitions.” Declaration of 31 May 2002. English translation accessed from http://www.cesnur.org/2002/punt.htm on 1 March 2017.
Zimdars-Swartz, Sandra L. 1991. Encountering Mary: From La Salette to Medjugorje. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
20 March 2017