Herbert Thomas Schwartz

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Herbert Thomas Schwartz
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Born(1903 -12-14)December 14, 1903
Died(1980-11-01)November 1, 1980
  • Professor
  • Educator

Herbert Thomas Schwartz (also Herbert Spencer Schwartz) (December 14, 1903 – November 1, 1980) was a Jewish convert to Catholicism whose earlier years were spent teaching Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy at the university level, as well as music and mathematics, while his later years were spent as the head of a controversial religious commune located first in New Jersey, then in Mount Hope Township, New York.

Early life

Schwartz grew up on Manhattan's West Side, the oldest of three sons born to Russian-Jewish immigrants Henry and Evelyn "Eva" Schwartz.[1] Henry, son of Harris and Mary (née Smolise) Schwartz, and Eva, daughter of Harry and Bertha (née Feizelson) Miller,[2] had arrived in this country as children in the late 1880s. Henry went into dentistry,[3] marrying Eva in 1902.[4]

Schwartz was a talented pianist, studying music for a number of years before deciding to attend college. He was almost twenty-two when he joined his next younger brother Roland at the University of Michigan in the fall of 1925. Roland was studying to be a dentist like their father while Schwartz was interested in going to medical school. In addition to his pre-medical courses he took ones on literary criticism.[5] He was a member of two honorary fraternities – Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi – graduating magna cum laude in 1929 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He went on to medical school at the University of Michigan, dropping out after one semester despite having very high grades, disliking the emphasis on memorization.[6]

Back in New York City Schwartz frequented Greenwich Village, making friends with literary people there, with the thought of becoming a writer.[7] A lengthy article he wrote on musical criticism was accepted during this time by Hound & Horn for publication in the fall of 1930. That same fall he entered Columbia University to pursue a doctorate in philosophy. Schwartz received his master's degree in 1931, his doctorate in 1933 under Richard McKeon (with a fellowship for 1932–33). Schwartz's thesis was a "dissertation on Poetics with special application to music."[8][9]

Schwartz spent the 1933–34 academic year back in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan taking graduate courses. That spring he held a small class on Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy for three friends: William Gorman, Kenneth "Bud" Simon, and one other.[10][11] Simon was in his last year of medical school, eventually becoming a psychiatrist and then a Trappist monk. He received his doctorate in medicine from the University of Michigan, not from the University of Chicago as his linked-obituary states.

In writing the story of his conversion, Schwartz describes himself as having been brought up to think that "the best was none too good for me." When he was studying piano what he said he wanted "was to be a god, to have everyone adore me, beautiful women particularly swooning all about me, overwhelmed by my sensitive soul." When he finally accepted that he wasn't going to be successful in his ambition to become a great pianist he went to college with the goal of becoming a great research scientist. In college he had to be at the head of his class, he had to make Phi Beta Kappa, he had to outdo everyone else in everything. When he felt inadequate he would "search for evil in others in order to feel superior." He writes, "I had been justifying my existence by what I was going to achieve." Only after discovering Catholicism did he realize that it wasn't about him but that he was an instrument of God.[12]


Schwartz married Dora Zaslavsky on September 12, 1927.[13] She was a Russian-Jewish immigrant who had come to this country as an infant. An accomplished pianist, Dora taught at the Neighborhood Music School (later the Manhattan School of Music), staying behind in New York City when Schwartz returned to Ann Arbor to start his third year of college. They traveled together to Europe the summer of 1932, spending time in Paris's artist community.[14][15] During Schwartz's last year at Columbia the couple lived in a large apartment at the corner of 102nd Street and West End Avenue, Dora's father, Max Zaslavsky, and sister Fay sharing their apartment.

Schwartz's second marriage was to Charleen Eshleman, daughter of Charles and Lillian Eshleman, who'd had a previous short-lived marriage during college.[16] A native of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and a 1933 graduate of Wellesley College,[17] she was taking graduate courses at the University of Michigan when Schwartz met her that fall in a math class.[18] Schwartz soon became interested in obtaining a divorce so that he could marry Charleen. Dora did not object. In the state of New York the only grounds for divorce were adultery. Thus many couples wishing a divorce would stage a fraudulent adultery scene, which is what Schwartz and Zaslavsky did. Their divorce became final on August 10, 1935. Schwartz and Charleen were married shortly after in State College, Pennsylvania,[19] while Dora married artist John Koch on December 23, 1935, in Manhattan.[20]

The study of Aristotelian philosophy led Schwartz to read the writings of Thomas Aquinas. From these he developed an interest in Catholicism, which Charleen shared. Eventually they decided that they would like to join the Catholic Church, proceeding to take religious instructions. They were baptized on March 10, 1937, at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, Schwartz taking the name Thomas as his baptismal name.[8] Marrying in the Church, however, would require that their first marriages be annulled. This was easily accomplished for Charleen's. But it was late that year, or early the next year, before Schwartz's annulment was finally granted by the marriage tribunal of the archdiocese of New York, after which he and Charleen were able to live together again as man and wife.

Teaching years

Schwartz joined the department of music at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1934, that department being one that accepted appointments of President Robert Maynard Hutchins (in contrast to the philosophy department).[21] Schwartz taught courses in philosophy of music, music criticism, music aesthetics, and analysis of music.[8] Students from the honors course taught by Hutchins and Mortimer Adler, as well as some of the Aristotelians, would gather evenings at the Schwartz home for discussions of philosophy.[22][23] A student of his, Paul Hume (music critic), recalled that the rabbi on campus complained that Schwartz was "teaching straight Catholicism to dozens of young Jewish students in his home, and they are being influenced by what he says."[24] Father Benedict Ashley confirms this in his autobiography, writing that the charismatic Schwartz was the "direct source of the conversion of some twenty non-religious Jewish students."[25][26] One of these students was Janet Kalven. In her book about the Grail movement she describes Schwartz as "a gifted and charismatic person, musician, poet, artist, philosopher, and something of a guru in our little group. He had a fantastic ability to look at you and read the inmost secrets of your soul."[27][28] Ashley describes Schwartz correspondingly as "one of the most intense persons I have ever known, with piercing eyes and a sharp, confrontational directness in speech that was very disturbing.[29] While in Chicago both Schwartz and his wife became members of the Third Order of Saint Dominic.[30]

The beginning of the 1938 academic year found the Schwartzes in Annapolis. St. John's College there had been on the verge of closing in 1936. Admirers of Hutchins acquired the school at that time, hoping that he would take it over, which he didn't do directly. He did, however, accept the chairmanship of St. John's board, while Stringfellow Barr became president with Scott Buchanan as dean. It became the only college in the country at that time with a completely fixed curriculum, one based on the liberal arts.[31] For two years Schwartz taught mathematics, great-books seminars, and music at St. John's.[8]

From 1940–42 the Schwartzes were at Laval University in Quebec studying under Charles de Koninck, Schwartz, working toward a degree of maitre agrégé while also teaching a course on the philosophy of Plato, Charleen working toward a doctorate in clinical psychology. Schwartz finished the necessary course requirements but not the thesis. An expanded version of Charleen's doctoral dissertation was published in 1954 under the title Neurotic Anxiety.[32] One reviewer writes, "Its greatest importance and value lies not in how it agrees with Freud, . . . but in how it disagrees, corrects, redirects, and orders his philosophical interpretation of observed and observable fact."[33]

Schwartz and his wife lived in Washington D.C. from 1942–46. He became associated with the Dominican House of Studies there, where he taught Aquinas's Summa Theologica in an unofficial capacity. One of these Dominicans, Father J. Cyril Osbourne, would play a significant role in Schwartz's life as his spiritual advisor.[34] In 1943 Schwartz acquired a teaching job at Georgetown University, which fulfilled the desire he'd had to be teaching at a Catholic university. Schwartz participated in the founding of Georgetown's Institute of Christian Philosophy under Father J. Hunter Guthrie, S.J. Schwartz taught courses in the history of ideas and in Thomistic philosophy, as well as advising master's and doctorate candidates on their dissertations.[8]

In 1947 Schwartz joined the philosophy department at Xavier University in Cincinnati, another Jesuit school, staying there for ten years. He taught a full range of philosophy courses as well as giving seminars on the great books, Plato, history of philosophy, and analogy. He also directed faculty seminars in Catholic education for a period of about five years.[8] Charleen taught at the university part of this time. They were the only "husband and wife teaching team" on the faculty.[35] A group of followers were attracted to Schwartz here, as they had been wherever he lived.[36]

Father Christopher Scadron recalls what an inspiration the Schwartzes were when he met them as a newly baptized Catholic in the mid 1950s. According to him they were living near the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky at that time, about 150 miles southwest of Xavier University. Schwartz was teaching a course at a nearby college on "the relevance of Platonic and Aristotelian thought for contemporary life." Both Schwartzes were involved in spiritual counseling of ex-Trappists sent to them by the abbey. This was within the period of time that Schwartz lists in his biographical facts as having been in the philosophy department at Xavier.[37]

Published writings

  • 1930 (Fall) – "Some Problems of Musical Criticism" in Hound & Horn
  • 1936 – "Music and Emotion" for a symposium on the nature of music, in The Musical Mercury
  • 1937 (Apr 9) – "Psychoanalysis and the Devil" in Commonweal[38]
  • 1940 (Sept) – "Musical Expression and Imitation" in Bulletin of the American Musicological Society
  • 1942 – epilogue for Essays in Thomism by Robert Edward Brennan
  • 1944 – poem "Mary and Her Lamb" in The Dominican Bulletin Vol. III, No. 4 (December 1944)
  • 1947 – invitational article on the five proofs for the existence of God in the Benzinger Bros edition of Aquinas's Summa Theologica
  • 1947 (June) – "Our Lady of Wisdom" in Integrity
  • 1953 (Oct) – "Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas, and Univocity" in The New Scholasticism[39]
  • 1955 – "Our Knowledge of Knowledge" in the Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association
  • 1956 – "God's Love Breaks Through" in Where Dwellest Thou? by Father John A. O'Brien, O.P.
  • 1995 – "Music and Emotion" republished in Perspectives on Musical Aesthetics by John Rahn.[40]

Vocation uncertainty

At some point before he had a family Schwartz began to doubt that his vocation was one of marriage, believing that he had a calling to be a priest. Charleen must have accepted this because she was willing to enter a cloistered convent so he could enter a monastery. It didn't take long, however, for Charleen to realize that this was not where she belonged. So they returned to their married life.[36][41]

Early in 1942 the Schwartzes had a daughter Catherine who never came home from the hospital, dying there of pneumonia.[42] Seven years later, they adopted a baby girl whom they named Elizabeth,[43] Charleen next gave birth to two sons, Charles Thomas "Tom" and Peter, in 1950 and 1953 respectively.[44][45] The following year they adopted a second daughter, Christina.[46][47] That same year Charleen's book, Neurotic Anxiety, a further development of her doctoral dissertation, was published by Sheed & Ward.[48] About this time Charleen opened a clinical practice in psychology.[47]

Schwartz's doubts about his vocation had continued, resulting in his taking a leave of absence from Xavier University in February 1956 to spend time at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Oregon, then resigning his position at Xavier at the end of the 1956–57 academic year.[49] From the abbey Schwartz sent a letter of apology to his longtime friend Herbert Ratner acknowledging how his own "self-love and pride" had interfered with their relationship, as with all his past relationships. For the year or so that he was at the abbey he was teaching philosophy and theology. The abbot ultimately advised Schwarz that his vocation was not for monastic life but for life out in the world, giving him a letter of recommendation to Archbishop Miranda of Mexico City.[50][51] Schwartz became the spiritual director under this archbishop for a number of contemplative communities and was also asked to teach a class of priests. He mixed with the Indian peasants and came to know the mystic Lupita (canonized in 2013)[52] as well as followers of another mystic, Conchita Armida (beatified in 2019).[53] During his time in Mexico, Schwartz would occasionally return to New York City to visit family, as well as friends in Greenwich Village.[54][55]

For a period of time Schwartz had been concerned about the validity of his marriage, thinking that the New York archdiocesan tribunal had been in error when it ruled in favor of an annulment for his first marriage. He presented his case to the tribunal of the Cincinnati archdiocese, which determined in 1958 that the New York tribunal had indeed ruled in error, presumably because the case did not fit the requirements of the Pauline privilege. With no church annulment for his first marriage, his second marriage would have been considered invalid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. In September of 1958 Charleen sued for a civil annulment of her marriage with Schwartz.[56] This was readily granted in 1960 since Schwartz's divorce from Dora had been fraudulently obtained.[57]

Schwartz was now free to pursue his desire of becoming a priest. Entering the Dominican order may have been his first choice, but he had alienated the Eastern province with some of his doctrinal teachings.[55] Archbishop Miranda, who had been very appreciative of Schwartz's help, advised him to go to Rome, hoping he would be ordained there.[58][59] He left for Rome the summer of 1960 having made a number of visits during the preceding months with his followers in Greenwich Village.[60][61]

Communal living

Schwartz returned to Greenwich Village in July 1961 after a year in Rome during which his application for priesthood had been turned down. His Village family had changed in his absence. Some had lost interest in following him, but others would eventually come to replace them.[62] While in Rome Schwartz had come to the viewpoint that his vocation was to gather people around him who wanted to join with others in Jesus in a "letting go of personal autonomy" to enter into a "true dependency on God and on other members of the mystical body." He compared this to "the way the stones of a gothic arch depend on each other and would fall without the support they receive from each other and most critically from the keystone at the apogee, which symbolizes Christ."[63][64]

William "Bill" Davey and his wife could be considered part of Schwartz's Village family although they lived in New Jersey. They had been his students when he was teaching at Georgetown, Schwartz considering Bill his first "spiritual child." Bill had asked Schwartz for help with handling marital and family problems, resulting in Schwartz's moving into the Davey home in Ramsey."[65] A neighbor described the family as having been "floundering" until Schwartz took over. She said he was the "father image, controlled the money, made all the decisions, disciplined the children." Soon there were three families with nineteen children living in this three-bedroom house with Schwartz as spiritual father, expecting complete obedience from everyone.[66]

Having outgrown the house in Ramsey, and unable to expand by finding a nearby second one, Schwartz, with about thirty of his followers moved to Ridgefield, New Jersey, in the spring of 1964, where a twenty-two room home on two acres of land was available. Zoning, however, was for single-family dwellings. Schwartz and his lawyers thought his spiritual family fit this description; the village of Ridgefield disagreed.[67] So Schwartz's community was again looking for a new home, finally buying a farm in 1965 on Tally Ho Road in the township of Mount Hope, northwest of New York City. The community was incorporated in 1970 as the Mount Hope Foundation.[68]

During the week of April 1, 1973, a local newspaper ran a series of articles on Schwartz and his community, an introductory note commenting, "He has enthusiastic supporters and fierce critics. Few being neutral about him," later adding that "His supporters say he has helped hundreds of people live fruitful, happy lives, his critics say he has made it impossible for those people to function independent of his control."[69] At that time there were about 130 permanent residents with many more who visited on weekends.[70] Marriages and baptisms were performed in the Otisville parish of the Holy Name of Jesus, usually by Father Thomas Dominic Rover, O.P., the community's spiritual advisor, who'd met Schwartz back in 1943 when he was a law student at Georgetown and Schwartz a teacher there.[71][72] Rover officiated at more than thirty weddings, baptizing more than sixty babies, from about 1968 to 1980 during his association with the commune.

According to Schwartz most emotional and spiritual problems in people were due to poor relationships with their fathers, a viewpoint he had developed when he was at Laval. That it was the transmission of God's unconditional love and goodness through father to child that had been missing from their lives. "You have to believe that God knows the worst about you and still loves you as you are. Then you are moved to love Him in return." By being the good father they hadn't had, Schwartz believed he could bring his spiritual children to God. In the newspaper series he describes himself as not just a spiritual father but as a "stern, earthly father too."[70] A young woman, Cecilia "Sis" Haunert, who had joined the commune at age sixteen, handled its finances. Schwartz described her as the "mother" of the house. Discipline was handled by Schwartz and Haunert, not by the parents. Some residents worked outside the commune, handing over their paychecks to the foundation. Others worked within the commune doing whatever was needed. Meals were communal. Children lived in age groups, rather than with their parents, the babies from six months of age raised in a mass nursery.[73] A Montessori teacher held classes for the pre-schoolers while the older children attended the local schools. Social life was predominantly within the communal family.[74] Schwartz's own children have visited him at Mount Hope, one son joining the commune and marrying there. As to Charleen, she had married again in 1969.

Schwartz died in 1980 on All Saints' Day after several years of poor health. Charleen had preceded him in death, dying of cancer in 1977.[75] The community decided over the course of the following year that they should not continue as they had been. The farm was sold, natural families establishing their own households, single people organizing into small-group living. The Mount Hope Foundation was maintained as a non-property-holding entity for the purpose of editing and disseminating Schwartz's writings. Excerpts of these were published in a monthly journal titled Filioque, the first issue January 1981. A book of his collected poems was also published while a book of his prayers was planned.[76]

Schwartz had been accustomed to begin most days with a morning talk. The earlier ones were taken down in shorthand, the later ones taped. A third to a half had been transcribed by June 1983.[77] Two dozen of these, edited by Schwartz's spiritual daughter Laura Jones, can be read on her blog, "How Soon Jerusalem."[78] Jones also had posted additional writings, along with what she called an introduction to Schwartz on an earlier blog.[79]

Breakup of the community

Five years after Schwartz died what had been known to a few became common knowledge shaking the community to its very roots. This was the revelation that Schwartz had treated a number of the women in the commune with some sort of sexual therapy. Many members were scandalized, breaking away from the group, or even from the Catholic Church itself.[80][81] Families broke up.[82] Other members, despite not understanding, remained faithful to Schwartz's teachings.

Schwartz's spiritual son Bernard "Bud" Scott wrote in his 2014 memoir (under the pseudonym of Paul Josephson) "If one did not believe God was behind him, then certainly his manner and methods of dealing with souls could readily be misunderstood and criticized.[83] Scott had spoken more strongly in an earlier version of his memoir saying "Herbert Schwartz was and remains controversial . . . Who he was and what he was up to defies easy explanation, and perhaps explanation altogether. Was he an instrument of God, as all of his spiritual children genuinely believed, or was he some nefarious beast of a man who dominated people for his own satisfaction and pleasure, as even some of his spiritual children now think 15 years after his death?"[84]

Children of Mount Hope

As a "stern, earthly father" Schwartz believed in spanking children. It was a time when spanking and other forms of corporeal punishment were thought by many to be acceptable means of disciplining children. Schwartz didn't necessarily administer punishments himself, sometimes having others carry them out while he watched, sometimes directing parents themselves to spank their misbehaving children. As the children of Mount Hope, now adults, began blogging in the new century, it became evident that discipline at Mount Hope had clearly crossed the line into child abuse. Blogger John Sanders Jones, son of Laura Jones, wrote that the "physical abuse of children that had already taken place in Ridgewood was to become more common and more brutal at Mount Hope. All under the guise of 'this is what God wants.' "[85] Faces were slapped or hit, often repeatedly. Ears were boxed. Bottoms were whipped with a belt until they bled. Minor infractions received disproportionate punishment. Schwartz also "played the exorcist" in the case of one particularly lively girl. Some of this was handled privately, parents not always realizing what was happening because children weren't allowed to talk about it. Some of the children, oblivious to the worst of what was going on, did have happy memories of life at Mount Hope.[86][87][88]

Another abuse that wasn't made public until five years after Schwartz's death was his "fondling" of young teen girls, allegedly to treat depression in at least one case. This was something that went well beyond fatherly cuddling. It was behavior that by any objective standard would be considered sexual abuse. Each girl involved was made to feel she was the only one experiencing this, with instructions not to tell any one about it.[89]

Laura Jones, who remained a follower of Schwartz after the breakup of his community, responds critically on her own blog to her son John's posts on his blog. (The hidden index of her blog can be accessed by running a cursor across the top of one of its pages).[90][91] At the time of Laura's death in 2012 she is listed as a member of the Mount Hope Foundation Community.­[92]

One of those who'd been a child at Mount Hope, Cecilia Galante, wrote an award-winning book for young adults about a fictional commune loosely based on the one at Mount Hope. She was born there, the oldest of eight children, living there until the community disbanded when she was fifteen. Although a number of the families broke up at that point, Galante's family did not. When asked in an interview if anything positive came out of her commune experience she replied: "The single most positive thing that came out of my experience is my family, who have proved, over and over again, that love is stronger than evil. My family is my rock, from my parents to my seven younger siblings. None of what we went through was easy. But getting to where we are now was worth every bit of it." Her book The Patron Saint of Butterflies was published in 2008.


  1. "New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W4Q-NCT : 11 February 2018), Herbert Schwartz, 14 Dec 1903; citing Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, reference cn 3450 New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,984,161.
  2. "New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:243M-ZCC : 10 February 2018), Henry Schwartz and Evelyn Miller, 11 Nov 1902; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,570,958.
  3. "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M53F-B1F : accessed 9 November 2021), Henry Schwartz, Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 485, sheet 17A, family 294, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1020; FHL microfilm 1,375,033.
  4. "New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:243M-ZCC : 10 February 2018), Henry Schwartz and Evelyn Miller, 11 Nov 1902; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,570,958.
  5. Welk, Dick (27 April 1956). "Versatile Xavier Philosophy Professor Noted Author, Convert". Xavier University Newswire. Cincinnati, Ohio. p. 7. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  6. Schwartz, Herbert (1956). "Chapter 13: God's Love Breaks Through". In O'Brien, John (ed.). Where Dwellest Thou?. Gilbert Press, Inc. pp. 143, 153.
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  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Smith 1982.
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  16. "Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VF7S-RDB : 10 March 2021), Robert Meade Sprague and Charleen L. Eshleman, 21 Jul 1931; citing Marriage, Erie, Pennsylvania, United States, multiple County Clerks, Pennsylvania.
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  31. Mayer, Milton (1993). Robert Maynard Hutchins: A Memoir. University of California Press. p. 173. ISBN 0-520-07091-7.
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  33. Thirlkel, John (April 1956). "Book Review: Neurotic Anxiety". The New Scholasticism. American Catholic Philosophical Association. p. 235. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
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  40. Rahn, John, ed. (1 Jan 1994). Perspectives on Musical Aesthetics. W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0393036145.
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  48. "Book by Local Woman". Cincinnati Enquirer. 19 April 1954. p. 6. Retrieved 17 November 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  49. "XU Professor Resigns". Cincinnati Enquirer. 24 May 1957. p. 19. Retrieved 19 November 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  50. Scott 1955, p. 11.
  51. Josephson 2014, p. 201.
  52. Bitto, Robert (11 September 2017). "Madre Lupita, Mexican Saint & Angel to the Poor". Mexico Unexplained. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
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  55. 55.0 55.1 Josephson 2014, pp. 194–95.
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  58. Scott 1955, pp. 71.
  59. Josephson 2014, p. 93.
  60. Scott 1955, pp. 18–21,25–28,48–71,77.
  61. Josephson 2014, pp. 12–18,60–90,94,121–22.
  62. Scott 1955, pp. 105–6.
  63. Scott 1955, p. 113.
  64. Josephson 2014, pp. 135–36.
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