Thursday, May 12, 2016

Chapter Six, Bad Novel

Dear Joan,

Thanks for writing, and please keep hold of your sanity up there. I’ve been doing a little research on van Hoof, and she sounds seriously weird.

Well, we could start with the fact that she was never all that much of a Catholic, to begin with. Actually, from what I’ve read, she moved from the Sand County area with her husband Fred, after their marriage. Reason: to get away from “all that damn Catholic stuff.”

Well, that went wrong, as it did for a lot of people, so the two of them returned to Wisconsin, where they lived like poor white trash. So much so that the house, and the kids, were filthy; of course, not having water probably didn’t help. So everything was going along pretty terribly, when van Hoof got the first message.

Warning—there’s a long history of complete nuttiness in the family. First of all—the mother comes from Transylvania, and got somehow to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where she became vice president of the local spiritual group. And by the way, Mother is always there when the Virgin Mary comes dropping by.

From what I’ve read, the apparitions started either in 1949 or 1950. First sign: van Hoof was lying in bed, sick, and then she noticed that there was a stranger at the doorway to her bedroom. Naturally, she was afraid, but he told her not to worry, because soon the Virgin would appear.

Look, she was 41 years old—her youth was behind her, she was sick, she was poor, and whatever she thought could happen in her life…well, it wasn’t going to. The farm was poor—they don’t call them the Sand Counties for nothing. And her husband? Well, he either died or drifted off—anyway, she was now or would be later “married” to another guy. Quotes because she actually never got a marriage license for either of the two “marriages.” Presumably the Virgin doesn’t mind.

Anyway, all the usual hocus-pocus stuff happened: the crucifix on the wall turned golden, although not sufficiently golden, or perhaps so permanently so, that van Hoof could run it down to the pawn shop when needed. And then, the Virgin Mary’s visit was announced, and so she ran outside and there the virgin was, in a group of three or four ash trees.

Well, I’ve been looking it up, and it seems that the Virgin has a thing for trees. Was it at Fátima, or in that other place in Spain where the Virgin popped up? You remember, the one where those pesky children demanded proof, and so what did the Virgin do to show she was the real deal? Got the pear tree to bloom and bear fruit completely out of season.

Stuff like that is where it gets spooky for me—as it would if my crucifix turned real gold. Anyway, van Hoof’s virgin was considerably less convincing: all the Virgin asked her to do was to run by the local Catholic church, and get everybody to say a few more rosaries, or Hail Mary’s, or to keep First Saturdays, whatever they might be. So van Hoof did, and the local priest? He was not so into it.

I asked a priest about all this, and he told me a little secret: after the first few years in the priesthood, the average Padre has dealt with about ten menopausal or verge-of-menopausal women who have seen the Virgin, and have been given special messages to convey to the world! OK—some of them are kids, but curiously, no guy sitting at the bar gazing into his beer ever sees the Virgin. It’s a girl thing.

The really odd thing about van Hoof is how quickly the whole thing spread. The first apparition appeared sometime in 1949; by 1950 (though late in the year) she had 100,000 people dropping by the farm, just to see the Virgin.

Predictably, those who believed saw strange stuff. The sun seemed to turn, or give off flares of light, or go dim and then blaze again. Guys? Looking straight at the sun at noon in August is seriously not a great idea!

Equally predictably, the scoffers (and why do I think they were 99% husbands dragged to the event by their wives?) didn’t see. But that should surprise no one, since there are none so blind…..

OK—here’s the thing about the Virgin. Apparently, she can say stuff like, “the world must turn to prayer, and reverence to Jesus the son, father and holy ghost, that he might  deliver us from the snares of the dark one, who…” You know, the stuff that virtually writes itself. I mean, is the Virgin going to say, “feel free to spend Sunday morning on the golf course, because it’s what you do the rest of the week…” Not a good guarantee for getting the church roof fixed!

So the Virgin had to say something, and guess what? Her world view was quite remarkably similar to the world view of a basically uneducated, poor, not very sophisticated farm wife of Necedah, Wisconsin!

Yes, the Virgin has been around keeping her eye on the ship for some time now. And you should know, if you’ve been able to walk around the grounds. Cause there’s that telling and moving monument of the Virgin Mary standing on the globe, ith her right foot firmly planted in Necedah, Wisconsin. Nice touch, don’t you think? Anyway, there she is, with her pals George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Because she’s been with us along, a sort of den mother to the country of the free and the brave. Yes, she has been there through every one of the five great tribulations that this country has faced!

First, you see, there was the Revolutionary War. Then came the Civil War. The next two tribulations were World War I and (have you guessed it yet?) World War II. Now we are all set for the next great and horrible tribulation, the most fearsome of all, the one that will shake the country to its very foundations!

The Virgin doesn’t appear, it seems, to say, “hey, things are good! Ike is White House, economy is picking up, everybody has a car and full tank of gas!” No, no—she sees what we do not, and never is it very good.

And guess what? It’s the Yids, or the Yiddish, as van Hoof calls them. But it doesn’t much matter what she calls them—it could be kikes or Hebrews or any other expletive. Anti-Semitism tends to stifle originality in most minds.

Although van Hoof does carry it a little off the beaten track. She got it into her head that one of the centers for the new world order—that would be the secret and fabulously wealthy / powerful Satanic agents who would control the world—was in Syria. And the other? It’s just a state away: the Baha’i temple in Wilmette, Illinois! (By the way, she writes it—or her amanuensis, Henry Swan—as Willamette….)

The fifth tribulation, you see, is this fight for the new world order / old world order, and who is fanning the flames in all of this? Yes, the “colored” races, who are stirring up trouble with the whites. (Oh, did I mention to you that the Virgin is so white, she could star in “The Bells of St. Mary’s?)

Well, there’s a problem, as of course there would have to be, since otherwise the Virgin could spend her time doing what virgins do (or perhaps don’t do)—anyway, she wouldn’t have to be appearing in ash trees in Necedah, Wisconsin. And the problem is?

Really, do I have to tell you? Because if America had not strayed from the path, had remained true to its Christian tradition, and flooded the celestial plains with all the Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s and recitations of the rosary, well, then Jesus would be right up there. He’d be on board, and the Virgin would not have to spend every waking moment of her virginity staying his fearsome hand. Yes, it is the Virgin who pleads, who begs for mercy, who keeps the vengeance of Jesus from striking us down!

But can she do it alone! Nay, nay—which is why she appears to a simple farm wife in Necedah, Wisconsin. Narrow minds and evil tongues might wonder if the virgin couldn’t command a slightly more prestigious venue—opening night at the Met, for example—but do you need to be told? The Lord, and his Virgin, work in mysterious ways.

Well, well—the Virgin kept van Hoof at fever pitch. Never an Advent or Lent went by when van Hoof didn’t suffer the passion. Of course, the church was interested in that claim, so they sent van Hoof over to a nearby hospital, where the staff—some of whom were probably Yids—took away anything pointed. Of course, in these godless and scoffing circumstances, the physical symptoms of suffering of our Lord failed to appear! Anyone can see that! Oh, and though she was said to be taking only fluids, her blood work didn’t show that. Until, of course, they really put her on fluids!

So the church, it was obvious, was infiltrated: the Commies or the Yids (if there’s any difference between them) had slithered their way into the Holy Roman Church and the proof of that? Could anything be clearer?

Vatican II!

Joan, I could go on and on, but isn’t it clear? You’ve landed in a bed of nutcases—I mean, who else but a lunatic would call the orphanage, The Seven Sorrows of Our Sorrowful Mother? The real question is: are they treating you OK? And can you last the five months until your baby is born?

Oh, and one last question—what kind of weirdo family are they going to find to adopt your child?

Love, and worriedly,