Visiting Mary, Her U.S. Shrines and Their Graces, by Julie Dortch Cragon, a nice and thorough compilation of the major Marian shrine in America, with a description of each one and special prayers attached to each! From Emmitsburg, Maryland, to the National Shrine of the Snows, to a special grotto in Texas as well as ones in Alabama and Missouri and much more; grand basilicas and little chapels alike. Says Father Donald Calloway, 'You'll be blessed by these adventures -- and you'll remember them the rest of your life!' click here 



On the curiosity beat, we were recently sent an old intelligence report that had to do with the way occult and superstitious beliefs were used during World War Two in Germany. Penned in 1950 by the Rand Corporation, it was called a "U.S. Air Force Rand Research Memorandum" and entitled, "The Exploitation of Superstitions For Purposes of Psychological Warfare."

It's fascinating reading, for as it turns out, the superstitions were well in place during the war.

Within months of its start, we learn, "strange letters appeared in various parts of the Reich proper. These had a partially religious, partially religious-political content and were widely distributed -- especially in the country districts -- because of their prophecies about the progress and outcome of the war or because they were regarded as good-luck letters which would preserve the safety of their possessors."

In many cases, said the Rand report, the letters consisted of a so-called "Greeting from Lourdes." The letter had an alleged message from the famous shrine ("A mother passes it on, so that an armistice will come") and demanded that it be copied on to four persons "to whom one wishes good luck." It ended with the words: "But you may not stop the letter, for if you do you will have no more happiness. These words will be fulfilled. Pray three Ave Marias, and within 177 hours you will experience unexpected good fortune." Suffice it to say, this was not the Blessed Mother, at least not as Saint Bernadette saw.

Other letters -- one supposedly from a 17th-century monk -- had prophecies about the progress and outcome of the war.

Both Germany and the Western Allies used local and regional superstitions to discourage the enemy -- the Allies ones predicting defeat for Germany -- while privately generated circulars contained what claimed to be a good-luck charms to ward off even bullets. The chain letters, said the old report, had a "strikingly large" circulation -- becoming such a nuisance that the Bishop's office in Linz had to issue an instruction to clergy warning about them.

The Allies apparently sought to convince Germans that they faced defeat and God's wrath while the Germans used them to say that peace could come only after victory -- seeking to spur the populace on despite an increasingly dire outlook.

The superstitions were hardly confined to Germany. Among top brass, General Dwight Eisenhower carried a give-guinea gold piece for good luck and General Kenney a pair of dice that had been blessed by a priest during the previous war. Soldiers practice various rituals (such as making sure they shaved before heading for combat).

Strained times bring these things out of us.

"Recently," said the report, "a series of religious 'miracles' has been reported from Czechoslovakian villages. In one instance the Cross on the altar of a parish church was reported to have bowed right and left and finally, symbolically, to the West; the 'miracle' so impressed the Czechs that pilgrims began to converge on the village from miles around until Communist officials closed the church and turned the pilgrims away from approaching roads. In another instance, the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared in a vision and to have struck unconscious a local Communist. Finally, a report from Western Bohemia even stated that the Virgin Mary had been seen waving an American flag and followed by American tanks and troops."

Hard it is, to see Mary leading a battalian. But as far as that Cross phenomenon: was every instance propaganda or superstition?

The "miracle of the Cross" was ardently denounced by authorities in both Moscow and Czechoslovakia, who decried it was a "swindle" engineered by the parish priest "with the aid of a steel wire, a coil spring, and rubber bands" -- further alleging that the "fraud" had been inspired by the Vatican to undermine the regime. This is what newspapermen were told! A Prague newspaper featured a story with pictures to show how the "trick" was performed.

"It is obvious at first sight that this apparition bears the mark 'made in the United States,'" said a broadcast.

Ironically, Hitler himself was known to be intensely interested in the occult (he consulted astrologers) and the Soviet Union would soon embark upon a major intelligence program that sought to use "psychic abilities" for purposes of war.

For their part, Germans sent forth agents who masqueraded as astrologers into France ahead of advancing armies in an effort to depress French morale by spreading dire predictions. They also used magic lanterns to project images on the face of drifting clouds. The F.B.I. was said to have a file of wartime "astrologers" and "fortunetellers" suspected of being Axis agents. Meanwhile, horoscopes and other "occultist propaganda" were used in the way of handbills dropped from planes and predicting a terrible future for Germany. Even Joseph Goebbels -- the master Nazi propagandist (and once "strict Catholic") -- was involved.

[Note: Michael Brown retreats: Connecticut! and California]

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