A few days ago, Joseph of Quebec, Canada, contacted me with a suggestion should I decide to write a sequel to God Bless America. Joseph was a former member of the Roman Catholic cult the Army of Mary. He was raised in the group before fleeing them during his twenties, although his family are still dedicated members. Joseph thanks James Randi for instilling in him a sense of skepticism that was instrumental to him leaving the group.
The Army of Mary (Armée de Marie), also known as the Community of the Lady of All Nations (Communauté de la Dame de tous les Peuples) is a Marian sect with its headquarters at Spiri Maria, in the rural village of Lac Etchemin, Quebec. 92-year old mystic Marie-Paule Giguère founded the group in 1971. In its heyday, the Army of Mary had 25,000 followers (who call themselves “Knights of Mary”) and thousands of members can still be found across 14 countries, including France, Italy, and the United States.
The Army of Mary is a cult of devotion to the Virgin Mary, who just happens to be Giguère. That is, the group’s charismatic leader claims she is the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary. They have come under fire for this claim, so they tend to reframe their beliefs for the public. As Army of Mary priest Jean-Pierre Mastropietro explains, Giguère “is fully enveloped by God. She prays every day, but her life is so attached to that of Mary’s that she isn’t Mary but she is Mary at the same time. If we try to explain it we’ll change its meaning.” Sometimes, Giguère just calls herself “Queen of the Universe”. The group doesn’t believe in the holy trinity but in the “quinternity” - the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, and Mary (that is, Giguère). The maverick group formed their own church, the Church of John, and declared Lac Etchemin to be their “new Vatican”. They have their own nuns (“Daughters of Mary”), and ordain their own priests (“Sons of Mary”). They also canonize saints, while Mastropietro is known for wearing a Byzantium crown and thinking himself to be their pope.