|Our Lady Queen of Peace Prayer House
||[Jul. 11th, 2006|11:53 pm]
I thought some of you might be interested in this report of a visit I made to the controversial Our Lady Queen of Peace Prayer House outside Leander, Texas, which I first posted in my own lj. The Prayer House was started by Christine Gallagher, a woman who claims to be a visionary and stigmatist.|
St. Margaret Mary's bulletin for July 9, 2006, contained an odd warning:
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO PARISHIONERS: Our Lady Queen of Peace House of Prayer, that recently opened at 23700 Nameless Road in Leander, is doing so without the approval of Bishop Aymond. It should not be considered as sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Chancery officials have received several inquiries about its legitimacy and others have expressed concern regarding the situation. If you have any questions, please contact the Chancery at 476-4888.
A quick search online produced the Diocese of Austin's newsletter, the Friday E-Pistle for June 23, 2006, from which this warning was derived. It read:
Leander prayer house
Our Lady Queen of Peace House of Prayer, scheduled to open on June 23 at 23700 Nameless Road in Leander, is doing so without the approval of Bishop Aymond. It should NOT be considered as sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Chancery officials have received several inquiries about its legitimacy and others have expressed concern regarding the situation.
The house of prayer is associated with Ms. Christian Gallagher of the Tuam Archdiocese in Ireland. The Tuam Archdiocese does not recommend her or the House of Prayer as credible. We have also been informed that Father Gerald McGinnity, a priest of the Armaugh Archdiocese in Ireland, will accompany Ms. Gallagher to Austin. Father McGinnity has not been given permission to celebrate Mass at the House of Prayer and will not have faculties from the Austin Diocese to serve in any ministerial capacity.
I hope they realize such warnings encourage people like me to look deeper.
As it turns out, the woman behind all this is actually Christina Gallagher (not Christian), an Irish woman who claims to have been receiving visions of Our Lady for some time now, and to have received the stigmata, which is now for the most part invisible. She circulates a photograph of her visible stigmata, and it is available online. She also claims to have received orders to construct a medal called "the Matrix Medal." She has recently bought land here to build what is planned to be a series of Prayer Houses across the U.S. Back in Ireland, she is at the center of a great deal of controversy over money and whether or not her visions are legitimate. She is backed by her spiritual adviser, a doctor of Divinity named Fr. McGinnity. I'm not sure whether he's in Texas now -- I don't believe he is. She is not, though she came out for the dedication of the house on June 23, 2006.
The land she's bought sits in unincorporated county near Leander and Cedar Park, next to a war games or survivalist facility. (A sign in the parking lot warns the reader not to park too close to the boundary line, lest one's "vehical" (sic) be damaged by flying debris. Measures have been taken to prevent projectiles from flying across the grounds, one is told.) A stone wall and metal gate, bearing the image of the Matrix Medal, have already been constructed.
A building which contains the gift shop has been built. It appears to be a home for volunteers. It also holds a temporary chapel in what appears to be a living room. A relic of St. Anthony of Padua stands on the mantlepiece. A makeshift altar stood at one end of the room, with photos of Christina Gallagher standing around a large image of Our Lady, Queen of Peace in Ms Gallagher's own style.
I visited the place less than two hours ago with my brother, justanothersean, and my mother. When we entered the temporary chapel, three women, a small child, and a man sat within. As it turns out, we knew one of the women -- a former parishioner of St. Margaret Mary's. It was just a few minutes from the five o'clock prayers, and we wanted to see the gift shop, so I headed towards the door. As it turns out, we weren't the only curious visitors who were confused about things -- the former parishioner and another women and the child got up to join us, and a man stood up and told us the other woman would open the gift shop for us. This man seemed to call the shots; we learnt nothing else about him.
We looked about the gift shop, and had the chance to chat with the other visitors and the woman, Joan. Joan told us that she is from Florida, but she spoke with a hint of a northeastern accent. It seems she was running a Marian apostolate there for some time, but she tells us she was trained in Ireland to come here. I bought a book -- Out of Ecstacy & Onto the Cross: Biography of Christina Gallagher -- and then asked her, "Why is it that the Diocese isn't involved in all this." I knew it may be a little rude, but I knew she had to have an answer.
She told us that all visionaries are disbelieved at first, and that it takes a long time for the Church to recognize them. Look at Medjugorje, she told us. From what I understand, the visionaries at Medjugorje have been condemned by the local bishop, but are supported by the Franciscan provincial in charge of the church the visionaries attended. Medjugorje has a great deal of support in the Church, including that of many priests, though it does not have the support of the Church.
Given the warnings in the bulletin, I found it ironic that the front page of St. Margaret Mary's bulletin was stapled to the sign board inside the bookstore. Joan said she now attends St. Margaret Mary's, and it will be interesting to see what relationship forms between the church and the prayer house. The pastor, Fr. Le-Minh Pham, is a big supporter of Medjugorje, and even brought back a medal for each family in the church when he went on pilgrimage there some years ago.
As it turns out, the woman from our church who was there had never heard of Christina Gallagher, which seemed to surprise and even hurt the woman at the cash register. Nevertheless, she was very uncritical of her visions, and saw the establishment of this prayer house as one in a number of foundations which would make this a more spiritual place. I'm sure the prayer house is intending to draw Catholics like her, who accept the existence of the prayer house uncritically, but can then be swayed to accept the validity of the visions -- and the agenda of the visionary.
The woman wanted a holy water bottle, but she was sold a small bottle with water already in it. I asked the woman who blessed the water -- whether it was Fr. McGinnity. She told me it was special holy water from Ireland, "blessed by Our Lady."
Gallagher is following a formula common today: a middle age married woman who claims to have visions and stigmata, who receives a picture and a medal and special water. In the past, there were a number of visionaries supported by the Church who each received something new. St. Margaret Mary was given the image of the Sacred Heart. St. Bernardette was told to dig -- and found a spring in a barren place, which has flowed at Lourdes ever since. St. Catherine Labourne was given the Miraculous Medal. The children at Fatima were given a series of secrets or revelations, the last of which was made public by Pope John Paul II shortly before his death. Modern individuals who claim to be visionaries often combine all of these -- just as Christina Gallagher claims to have received all of them. For that very reason, her visions ring false with me.
It will be interesting to see how all this plays out, in Ireland and in the US. A great deal of controversy already surrounds Gallagher, and her detractors allege she misappropriates funds. Nevertheless, she seems to be one of the more mainstream of the many apparitions supposed to be occurring today. It should be remembered that Lourdes was originally condemned by the local bishop -- but that St. Bernardette did not then set up a multinational organization to support her claims. Fortunately, the Church has ruled that there will never be a new revelation necessary for salvation, and that no individual must believe in any apparition, even those like Fatima and Lourdes which the Church supports.
"Modern individuals who claim to be visionaries often combine all of these -- just as Christina Gallagher claims to have received all of them. For that very reason, her visions ring false with me."
Out of curiosity, could you elaborate a bit? I don't know what I think about apparitionists, to be honest. Something doesn't sit right with me about some of them, but I have no reason to outright disbelieve them, either. I guess if they lead people to the Church, I have no problem with them.
If there's just someone who feels he or she is receiving messages, I don't have a problem with that, either. I'm more concerned when people are openly defying the bishop and when there's a great deal of money involved. Gallagher and her followers have been accused of financial irregularities regarding millions of dollars -- which I wouldn't want to jump to any conclusions about, but which I would think she'd be more open with her own bishop about.
Also, Gallagher seems to have a real issue with humility. When St. Bernardette was accused of lying about the apparitions at Lourdes, she followed the orders of her bishop and stopped talking about the apparitions -- until the bishop changed his mind and even apologized. When Gallagher was politely asked to try harder to act in accordance with the agreement she made with her bishop, she first closed her prayer house so she wouldn't have to listen to him, and then she reopened and started an international organization promoting herself. That strikes me at least as very odd.
Regarding my comment about the checklist -- it just seems a little weird that some mystics seem to be trying to meet a list of requirements. The thing that strikes me about the apparitions that were accepted by the Church and which really changed Catholicism is that each of them had something new and unique to offer the world. I haven't read a great deal about Gallagher, but it seems from what I've read that she and others like her are more trying to meet the image of visionary than actually presenting something new to the world. With things like this, I ask myself, "Would I be missing out if this were real, and I didn't take advantage of what was offered?" I really don't think I would.
"When Gallagher was politely asked to try harder to act in accordance with the agreement she made with her bishop, she first closed her prayer house so she wouldn't have to listen to him, and then she reopened and started an international organization promoting herself. That strikes me at least as very odd."
That, and there seems to be reluctance on the part of "approved" visionaries. I have a hard time believing that an apparition of Mary would encourage disobedience to the Church.
I see one enormous problem from the beginning: the priest who has come from Ireland does not have faculties in the diocese. It appears that since there is a mass schedule he is disregarding the authority of the bishop.
As for visionaries, we had an instance of that about 45 miles from where I live. There was a man from a southern part of this diocese who came up here to the northern section to a shrine and claimed that the BVM appeared to him and told him she would return every month on the same date and place for X number of months. (I think this went on for about a year).
This man convinced some people to go along with things. There were crowds of thousands out there at the shrine. The only one who was able to hear the message from the BVM was this one man. People were told that if they held their rosaries up when the BVM appeared to the man (whom only he could see that their rosaries would turn to gold). I never heard of that happening.
The Bishop of this Diocese on TV said that neither the Diocese nor the Church would issue a statement as nothing had been proven that miracles were occurring.
During one of the last months that the BVM was to appear at the shrine, the man told the crowds when they came that she had appeared to him and said that she had to go to Florida and would not be present the following month. Then it was published in the newspaper that the BVM had appeared to this man again and said she changed her mind about going to Florida and would be at the shrine after all on the usual date. This is starting to sound silly, isn't it?
The final blow came when the man told the people at one of the last gatherings that if they wanted to know what the BVM had told him, that she had told him to charge each person $5 and give them a printed copy of what she had to say and donate the money to St. Vincent de Paul.
It doesn't matter what the man did with the money, i.e., that he gave it to a charity. The point is that there has never been a price attached to a vision from the BVM.
With that the appearances of Mary to this man 'ceased' and he was discredited. Incidents like these are one reason the Church moves very slowly on declaring them credible.
This is one case I personally know of and followed closely although I never made a trip to the shrine.
Thanks for the report! I've read about this woman before and she seemed like a good person but I'd tend to be skeptical if the local bishop actually condemned it. From what I understand, very few sites receive approval, but not too many are actually condemned, most are not ruled on until after they have ceased to give the Church time to look at the entirety of the messages and the effects of the apparitions. Regarding Medjugorje, I think I heard that the local bishop tried to condemn the apparitions but the Vatican took the case out of his hands before he actually did so. As far as I know they are neither condemned nor approved by the church. Thanks again for the interesting piece on this!
The latest official statement of the Church on Medjugorje is the Zadar Declaration in 1991, stating that on the basis of the investigations so far, it cannot be determined that the events taking place in Medjugorje are supernatural in origin. It concluded that they call for continued investigation by the Church.
Then the latest letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome of Cardinal Bertone in 1998 confirmed that this declaration in 1991 remains the official position of the Church, and that the current local bishop's stance is his personal opinion, which he has the right to make, but "is and remains his personal opinion." Thus Medjugorje is not condemned. An example of a condemned apparition would be Bayside, NY.http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/medjugorje.htmhttp://campus.udayton.edu/mary//questions/faq/faq27.htmlhttp://www.motherofallpeoples.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1092&Itemid=82
Regarding Christina Gallagher, her private revelations have also neither been approved nor condemned by the Church. Here is the most recent statement on the Archdiocese of Tuam's website:
"Many calls and letters have come to the Diocesan Office regarding the work termed the “House of Prayer” in Achill, Co. Mayo. The Archbishop originally issued two public statements in this regard, in December 1997 and July 1998 respectively. These are included on the link below. While wishing to entirely respect the reputations of all involved, the Archdiocese cannot but recall that sincere and well-ordered attempts on the part of the diocesan authorities to integrate this work into the life of the local church here met with a disappointing lack of success. Accordingly, while welcoming any and all sincere attempts to promote orthodox Catholic faith and piety, the Archdiocese cannot lend its approval to this work as matters stand and is obliged to note that the same work is entirely of a private nature and carries no ecclesiastical approval whatever. The Archbishop would call on all persons of good will involved in the situation to reflect on what is best for the Church at large and to exercise the greatest responsibility and charity in the matter." - http://www.tuamarchdiocese.org/resources_news.htmhttp://www.tuamarchdiocese.org/hseofprayer.htm
Archbishop Neary however, has acknowledged the good fruits that have come from this work. Reading through what he has said, it sounds like a case of misinformation and misunderstandings between Christina and those advising her and the Archdiocese. However, it is clear throughout his statements that despite this, he still seems to recognize the good fruits and has not condemned her. And from what Heaven has allegedly indicted to Mrs. Gallagher, this work is of world-wide importance, so such a Private Association should seek approval for its statutes from Rome according to Canon 312/322.
I think it's important also to keep in mind that many private revelations approved today, were once in similar situations, unapproved, and often looked down upon, with many false rumors, etc. The Church is very slow in Her discernment of such things. Actually St. Faustina's diary was for a long while on the Forbidden Index.
While visiting the House of Prayer in Ireland a few years back, I recall Fr. McGinnity saying once that another bishop in Ireland has said that any one of the documented miracles that have taken place at the House of Prayer on Achill would be sufficient to canonize a saint. I met the one, Kathleen O'Sullivan from Co. Kerry, who was completely cured of stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer, after her husband took her to the House of Prayer in 1997. The report about it is on Christina Gallagher's site. (http://www.christinagallagher.org/en/continue.html
, search "Kathleen")http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-3607732.htmlhttp://archive.chorleycitizen.co.uk/1997/12/11/812202.html
It's also worthy of note that Christina Gallagher's spiritual director, Fr. Gerard McGinnity, has long since had to suffer for standing up for the truth, which recently came out in the Fern's Report, regarding the abuse sandals in Ireland. He is a very loyal and dedicated orthodox priest.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerard_McGinnityhttp://www.rte.ie/radio1/whistleblowers/1102941.html
Also, the House of Prayer in Ireland and the Houses of Prayer in the US are all registered non-profit charities, both in Ireland and the US. The five houses in the US as well as the one in Mexico were actually bought and donated by the local people that run them and incorporated into this charity. They were neither purchased by Christina Gallagher nor to my knowledge anyone in Ireland for that matter.
Regarding the picture of Christina with the stigmata, this picture is on her site, which was created and maintained by Mrs. Marita Wojdak from the US. Christina Gallagher herself does not circulate this image. The above link is either from the site, or a scan from one of the books on her, either Out of the Ecstasy & Onto the Cross, or Thomas Petrisko's, The Sorrow, the Sacrifice and the Triumph.
The holy water from the House of Prayer in Ireland is indeed blessed by Fr. McGinnity. He visits the house most weekends, and blesses the water in the font there. The message Christina received regarding this from Our Lady was, "I desire a font for spiritual healing. As the priest blesses its water, all heaven will bless it and the waters around the island will be blessed."
Finally, regarding Fr. McGinnity exercising his priestly faculties outside of his diocese without permission, I've never heard of Mass ever being offered at the House of Prayer in Texas, not even when it was first opened. I know there was a Mass offered at the Ohio House of Prayer when it was dedicated last year. But I am quite certain permission was granted by Bishop Daniel Conlon of Steubenville, as well as permission for Christina to speak at Franciscan University there, which she did, December 8, 2006. Fr. Michael Scanlan, Chancellor of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, concelebrated Mass with Fr. McGinnity at the Ohio House of Prayer, as well as two other priests, and confessions were heard there.
Here's a few lines from the newsletter of the House of Prayer in Smithfield, Ohio near Steubenville (http://www.ohiohop.org
) regarding the dedication ceremony last year:
"On December 8th, 9th and 10th Father McGinnity and Christina were present to dedicate the Ohio House of Prayer. Bishop Conlon approved a Mass of dedication that was held on December 9th. The Mass of dedication was celebrated by Father McGinnity and concelebrated by Father Michael Scanlan, Chancellor of Franciscan University as well as three other priests. There were approximately five hundred people in attendance."
Thanks for all the information!