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  • Sodality of Charity

Life of the Ven. Mary of Jesus of Agreda

By Fr. José Jiménez y Samaniego, OSF


Edited and abridged by

Father J. A. Boullan


Preface


The life of the servant of God, Mary of Jesus, offers the most perfect model of a soul rising from virtue to virtue, according to the words of the prophet, even to the summit of perfection; and her character demands from us an attentive study and meditation. There is much to learn in these pages for whomsoever desires to follow the path of holiness without looking back. They offer a unique example of the spiritual life in its perfection.


It may, perhaps, be objected that only a small number of privileged souls receive such great favors, or are called by the way of ecstasies, visions, and the most eminent gifts of infused knowledge. However this may be, it remains not the less incontestable that a great many are called to perfection and to contemplation, if not infused, at least acquired; and that both lead to the highest perfection, as it is expressly taught by the great mystical doctor, St. Teresa, in her Treatise on Perfection, Chapter 18. Another of her admirable works, The Interior Castle cannot be too highly recommended to the reader. As for those who are incredulous in regard to the divine communications and celestial favors which are mentioned in this Life, let them remember that the Church does not reject them: she examines them with care, but she is not incredulous. Without doubt to believe on slight grounds is folly. “He that is hasty to give credit, is light of heart.” (Ecclesiasticus 19:4) Nevertheless, it would be temerity to refuse credence to facts which the most learned and pious men do not hesitate to pronounce worthy of all confidence. God, in the impenetrable designs of His mercy, has permitted us to be a witness of prodigies that yield in nothing to any of the wonders recorded in the life of Mary of Jesus. For ourselves, we profess openly that nothing has been more useful to our soul than our belief in the miracles of God in His saints.


It seems evident to us that we have reached the times which the venerable Grignon de Montfort speaks of in his Treatise on the True Devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin: “At the end of the world, and very soon, the Most High, with His Holy Mother, will form for themselves great saints, who will as much surpass the greater number of other saints as the cedars of Lebanon surpass little trees as it has been revealed to a holy soul, and as we read in the writings of St. Vincent Ferrer.”


Thus three saints affirm that in the present age, which is the age of Mary, the Holy Ghost will pour out upon souls the gifts of wisdom for the operations of miracles of grace. These souls, in imitation of Mary of Jesus of Agreda, will become living copies of Mary, and will lose themselves in the abyss of her interior, to love and glorify Jesus Christ. Mary of Jesus is the great model to follow, and the doctrine of her writings is the way and the truth which lead infallibly to Jesus Christ. The works of this servant of God are destined to be the book of life for the great souls of whom we speak.


To observe the decree of the Sovereign Pontiff, Urban VIII, of happy memory, of the 5th of July, 1634, we protest that all the visions, revelations, miracles, and other extraordinary favors recorded in the “Life of Mary of Jesus” have no other authority than that given by the testimonials reported by us.


Chapter 1

Her Childhood


The venerable Mother, Mary of Jesus, who wrote The Mystical City of God, was born at Agreda, a city of old Castile in Spain, on the 2nd of April, 1602. Her parents were Francis Coronel and Catharine d’Arana, both noble, and of great virtue.


She was baptized on the eleventh of the same month, and by a special disposition of Providence, she was named Mary, to which she afterwards added that of Jesus, which was the name given by the early Christians to the Mother of the Saviour, whom they called Mary of Jesus. Her Mother, convinced that her daughter was destined by God for great things, guarded her with watchful care.


Before the little Mary was capable of profiting by the lessons of her parents, God began to instruct her in a wonderful way. With the earliest use of her reason she had an exalted vision, in which her understanding was enlightened by divine illuminations, and her will confirmed. This supernatural vision was the beginning of knowledge to the child; from it she learned to know God as the creator of the universe, the preserver and vivifier of all that has existence. Human miseries were made manifest to her in herself; and the consciousness she attained of them, humbled her to the very depths of her nothingness. Human nature in its first state of innocence was revealed to her, and she discovered the ravages that sin had made in man. She was attracted by the goodness and the infinite beauty of God, and absorbed in His love, and she conceived a very great fear of offending God and of losing His grace. Thus the spiritual edifice of this soul was established on the solid foundations of love, humility and fear.


From this time, having the perfect use of her reason, which was aided by the light and knowledge acquired in the vision, she began to exercise her powers of reflection. The Lord communicated to her, also, an infused knowledge of the articles of the faith which she should believe; of the commandments of the law of grace, and those of the holy Church which she should observe; of the nature and the qualities of the persons with whom she should associate, and of her conduct towards them.


Favored with such admirable lights, she resolved to employ all her faculties to love God and keep His commandments; and she lived in great serenity of mind and tranquility of conscience, not allowing herself to be scandalized by the conduct of others, and acting in all things with the simplicity of the dove.


But God, having resolved to raise the edifice of the spiritual life of this child to a sublime elevation, willed to consolidate it by the sure counterpoise of afflictions. He suspended, therefore, His caresses, and the effects of His presence. This affliction was very great. She sought her beloved, but was not able to find Him, and, penetrated by grief, she wept and lamented. This absence of the Lord continued during several years, for she received no other extraordinary favors, until some days after taking the religious habit.


Meanwhile the Lord gave her only that interior illumination which is usually enjoyed by souls who follow the way of perfection.


The sorrowing child feared to have offended the Lord, and that His absence was intended as a chastisement. The humble sentiments she entertained for herself led her to regard all with whom she associated as her superiors, and this humility, being deeply grounded in her heart, made her timid in their presence. She found neither repose nor consolation but in retreat. Worldly conversation, although it is permitted, rendered her melancholy, and, under these appearances, she came to be considered a useless creature.


Her parents were pained to observe these timid and somber dispositions in their daughter. Her mother suspected them to be the effects of an idle or slothful nature, and, under this impression, she treated her with severity, and reproved her with harshness. The father followed the example of his wife. This was designed by Providence, in order to preserve the humility of the child. In these afflictions she sought after God. “My divine Master and adorable Lord,” she cried, “my father and my mother have forsaken me! Cast a favorable look upon Thy helpless child!” But all the gates of consolation were shut, and her heart was in bitterness.


The Lord accompanied these spiritual pains by others of her body, which gave a timely mortification to the flesh, so that it should not resist the spirit; and she was exercised by almost continual disorders or maladies. These indispositions began from her sixteenth year, for her intense sufferings disturbed her health. With great submission to the Divine will, she made a wise use of her afflictions to deepen her humility, and of her maladies to exercise her patience. She was much encouraged by the remembrance of the passion of our Saviour, which she often called to mind: and when the Lord said to her: “I have suffered far more for thee,” she forgot all her pains.


Her parents did not neglect to imbue her mind with the principles of Christian doctrine. Her pious mother undertook to instruct her, and was agreeably surprised to find that this child, so useless in worldly matters, was so capable to learn and so inclined to devotion. From this, she inferred that in her little Mary some divine secret lay concealed. She took her to the churches, taught her how to frequent the sacraments, and to practice mental prayer.


The Lord enlightened the youthful Mary more and more, by that interior knowledge of which we have spoken. In relating the effects which she experienced from it, she says: “It consoled me in my afflictions – corrected me in my disorders – checked me in my imperfections, and animated me in my tepidity.” She usually received, with this enlightenment, two divine favors: one was an interior voice, which said to her heart: “Come to me, my spouse. Leave terrestrial things. Purify yourself. Direct your actions to please me, for I am that I am. Hasten, my dove, to fulfill the desires that I awaken within you.” The other was an interior reprehension of her defects and vices; for, if she received any satisfaction with complaisance, the Lord shed so much bitterness within her soul that she became dissolved in tears.


By favor of this spiritual intelligence, she desired, passionately, to practice the virtues. She exercised herself chiefly in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and, especially, in charity; for her will was captivated by the love of God. She neglected no occasion – not even the least – to practice the moral virtues, and she always cherished the highest esteem for virginal purity. Even in her eighth year, the pious child had a strong inspiration that it would be an agreeable offering to the Son of the Virgin to consecrate to Him her virginity, and, taking the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, and some other saints for witnesses, she made a vow of perpetual chastity. From this time the divine spouse increased his favors, although he continued, apparently, absent. In this state she remained until the twelfth year of her age.


She had addressed herself to her confessor, to learn how she could better serve God. He was a spiritual and interior man, who, perceiving the fervor of the child, taught her how to practice mental prayer. God, as if He had awaited the instructions of man, revealed Himself to this loving soul. He placed her in the oraison of quietude, and she felt, with a most sweet tranquility, the presence of God. The Lord elevated her to such a state that she herself said: “I lived without living, because Thou, Lord, livedst in me.” She remained some years in this state, with considerable progress in the divine life.


The Lord had inspired her to preserve the secrets of her interior, but it was not possible that those who associated with her should not perceive something of what she concealed. They observed her equanimity of spirit in afflictions, her joy in contempt. “It is all I ask,” said she one day to her mistress, “that they should despise me.” They remarked, also, that, from her earliest years, she had deprived herself of a part of her food, for the poor. Her mother took her with her to visit the poor, and she manifested great joy when she was allowed to dispense the alms.


The report of her virtues spread through the city. In the general esteem excited by her uncommon merit, some persons had the curiosity to watch her in her retreat, where they saw her in the practice of penances almost impossible at her age. They witnessed her great modesty – her extraordinary recollection – the devotion with which she approached the sacraments – and were edified. Her confessor, notwithstanding his prudence, could not always preserve silence, and sometimes communicated his thoughts to devout persons, and thus she reached the twelfth year of her age.


Chapter 2

Entry into Religion


After having completed her twelfth year, which is the age required for permission to enter in religion, she declared anew to her parents, her vocation. They, doubting nothing, resolved to satisfy her desires, and wished her to take the habit of the bare-footed Carmelites, when, oh, impenetrable secrets of Divine Providence! there happened as follows:


The pious Mother of the young Mary employed three or four hours, daily, in oraison. One day, the Lord spoke with her, and said that it was His will she should build in her house a monastery for nuns, where she and her daughters should make their profession, and that her husband should become a religious of the Order of St. Francis, where his two sons already were. The Lord spoke in the same manner to her confessor, the venerable Father John de Torrecille, and the obedient lady going to the convent to communicate to him what had passed, the servant of God came to meet her, saying: “My daughter, I know already the object of this visit.”


All difficulties and opposition, being at length overcome, the Ordinary and the regular Superiors consented to the foundation. When the fervent Mary heard of this remarkable disposition of the Lord, with regard to her parents, her joy was immense. She encouraged her Mother, and incited her to perseverance. The foundation was retarded during three years, and she ceased not to pray the Lord to shorten the time. Finally, on the 16th of August, 1618, the new monastery was commenced, and on the day of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, the first Mass was solemnly chanted in the new Church. The Monastery was placed under the Order of St. Clara, and the foundresses required that the sisterhood belonging to it, should be bare-footed, although the Order of the Conception of this province wore shoes.


On the 13th of January, 1619, the mother and her two daughters, with three sisters, who had come from the Convent of St. Louis of Buigos, to be foundresses, entered the humble monastery in perpetual enclosure, and formed there a community. Our Mary, on taking the habit, assumed the title of Mary of Jesus. She was at that time sixteen years of age.


While the parental mansion was being converted into a monastery, the embarrassments of the workmen, and the crowds of people who came about it, had somewhat disturbed her mind. This was permitted by Divine Providence, that her soul might be better established in humility, from the experience of her own weakness. By the help of His grace she repaired these distractions in a little time, yet she did not cease to weep for them as bitterly as if they had been the greatest sins. And, now she began to act as if she had but just commenced life. She reflected how worthy God is to beloved and served, and she represented to herself the sublimity of interior actions. She pondered seriously upon her own fragility, and the great dangers to be encountered in spiritual life. She therefore resolved to follow faithfully the path of virtue, with courageous, humble, and submissive firmness.


Although under the pressure of an inextinguishable fear, which is the offspring of love and humility, she persevered throughout her life in this resolution. This fear, which the highest illumination could not dissipate, would have proved a hindrance to the flight of her spirit towards God, if the Lord had not tempered it by an absolute confidence in the virtue of obedience according to the words: “He who hears you, hears Me; he who obeys you, obeys Me.” In order to preserve herself with assurance, in obedience to her superiors and confessors, she yielded to the inspiration to show them clearly all her interior – not only that of her sins and imperfections, but also of the least temptations.


The foundations upon which the spiritual edifice of this creature were elevated, were then, love, humility, fear and obedience. She made a general confession not only to ease her conscience, but that her confessor might guide her with security. She applied herself entirely to the holy exercise of oraison in a manner so admirable, and so useful, that she never made it without striving to discover her faults, in order to correct them at once. She commenced by meditation, considering the truths and mysteries which faith inculcates, purifying and ornamenting her soul by their lights, so that she might become the worthy tabernacle of the Lord.


The rule which she followed was to put herself in the lowest place, and to persevere in it until the Lord should elevate her to a higher degree. The divine spouse, to whom fidelity and true humility are so agreeable, delayed not her entrance into the prayer of recollection, where she annihilated herself, forgot the earth, and, as if in a glowing furnace, was purified. From this He raised her to a higher eminence, in which the fire of divine love began to burn with great spiritual sweetness. All this happened in the first month of her novitiate.


The most frequent subject of her oraison during this time, was the passion of our Lord Jesus. She bore, always, the image of Jesus Christ crucified, vividly engraved on her heart, and she was sensible of its wondrous effect for the preservation of her interior purity. This holy exercise produced the most salutary effect, upon her soul, and brought forth rich fruits.


She divided her time according to her obligations. The remaining hours were employed in reading spiritual books, in mental or vocal prayers, and other exercises of devotion and penitence. Not a moment was wasted. She slept only enough to support life. Without ceasing, she had on her lips these words of David: “What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things he hath rendered unto me?” (Psalm 115:12) Often her confessor refused to permit the penances which she wished to practice, and she submitted in obedience, believing, always, that the opinion of her confessor was just.


Mary of Jesus passed, in this manner, the years of her novitiate, with great spiritual progress. On the 2nd of February, 1620, the day of the Purification of Our Lady, she made her profession with her pious mother. Her sister was still too young. Having entered into her religious vows, she continued her spiritual life with renewed fervor. After many entreaties, she obtained the most retired chamber of the convent, and it became the field of her spiritual combats.


The Lord, having chosen to make her the historiographer and the disciple of His Most Blessed Mother, elevated her spirit, from degree to degree. But the harbinger of all grace was affliction. This was the only door by which she entered into divine favor. Before receiving the extraordinary graces which Divine Providence destined for her, the demon had permission to afflict her, outwardly, in a surprising manner. The infernal dragon left no means untried. When the servant of God offered up devotions, in the silence of the night, the demon extinguished the light, and sought to disturb her by frightful imaginings. He appeared to her under various forms of horrible animals. Sometimes he presented himself in that of a rotten corpse, at others, as a living man. He maltreated her in her person, and tormented her in every way to interrupt her exercises. But God imparted to her such courage, that she despised all these attacks, and entirely disregarded the enemy.


The Lord favored her, during these combats, with sensible caresses. When she received Holy Communion, in partaking of the holy elements, she enjoyed a taste of inconceivable savor. Many times she saw the Blessed Sacrament surrounded by a miraculous splendor. These favors were succeeded by varied divine apparitions. The Queen of Angels appeared to her, the first time, with Her adorable Son in Her arms, invested with splendor and glory. She sank prostrate at His feet, with profound humility; but the merciful Mother raised her up, and the most sweet Jesus received her within His arms. This apparition gave her strength to support every pain. The august Queen of Heaven was the object of her first vision.


The Lord continued to distinguish His servant by these favors. On the festival of Pentecost, a beautiful dove, all radiant, appeared to her, and rapt her, as if in ecstasy. On another occasion, our Redeemer appeared in the deplorable condition to which He was brought at His Passion. But the combats of the demon succeeded to these sensible favors, and, finally, the Lord gave more ample permission to the enemy.


The demon, perceiving that he was despised by our humble maiden, attacked her, by the permission of the Lord, with greater cruelty. He augmented her maladies, and added extraordinary torments. She was thrown into a state of such extreme debility, that she seemed, constantly, as if in a dying condition. At the same time, he vexed her by horrible fancies, and every species of tribulation. And, as he had discovered that the torment of this soul was the dread of offending God, he attacked her at this point, exciting her fears by insinuations that she was in the road to perdition. He tortured her in other ways, which the following words of the saint will explain: “He tormented me with pains which cannot be mentioned, singularly strange for a soul who had throughout life cherished purity.”


The fury of the demon was not satiated. He undertook now to afflict her by means of creatures. The convent was so contracted in its dimensions, that her exercises could not be concealed from the other nuns. Some observed her with admiration, others from curiosity. The mother foundresses, seeing the servant of God continually ill, though she did not keep her bed, resolved to suspend her practices. The demon induced them, under the pretext of compassion, to do as we shall relate.


In order to interrupt her holy exercises, they obliged her to remain in their presence, and even caused her to be watched at night. They forbade her to communicate to her confessor what was passing within her, and she was allowed only half a quarter of an hour for confession. She was punished by being deprived of Holy Communion, and with harsh words. If, being reproved, she did not justify herself, they were displeased; and if she said anything in the hope of satisfying them, they imposed mortifications. And, besides, the Lord hid His presence from her! Thus circumstanced, she was destitute of all consolations, for prayer, confession, and communion were allowed her only under restrictions. The demon took advantage of all this to destroy her. But this opposition, and these pains, could not check the servant of God in the way of perfection. In her temptation she had recourse to purity of intention. With regard to the sisters, she accepted their censures without excusing herself, and prayed for them. She was always admirable in her obedience to her superiors, and forming, from their opposition, a means of obtaining merits for herself, she prayed in spirit while striving to satisfy them. Thus she pursued the path of her spiritual life in treading underfoot the snares of hell.


Chapter 3

Her Raptures and Penances


In this abridgment of her life, we cannot enter into the particulars of the various grades of her sufferings, nor of the degrees of prayer which the Lord communicated to her. The servant of God wrote on this subject a treatise, entitled The Ladder, in which she records the counsels of the Lord to avoid dangers, the steps by which she ascended to perfection, and the instructions she received from the Holy Ghost.


At the beginning of her religious life, she was able to conceal the favors she received, but, having been elevated to a higher contemplation, it was no longer possible either to hide them, or withdraw herself. On discovering them, some of the religieuses pronounced it hypocrisy. Others said she had lost her senses. The servant of God consoled herself by the reflection that this would draw contempt upon her. She would gladly have concealed these favors, but the impetuosities of the spirit continued, and became manifest ecstasies.


The Lord designed to enter into intimate communication with this soul, by the way of intellectual revelations and visions, and for this reason he favored her with the ecstasies which ordinarily introduce these visions. On the Saturday after the Feast of Pentecost, in 1620, she inquired of the Lord, in her oraison: “What shall I do?” And a transport of love for God ensued, in which she found herself in a state of perfect interior recollection. In this state, she saw in a vision the Mother of God, with Her most holy Son in Her arms. The Blessed Virgin gave her an instruction on the virtues, and it seemed to her that the divine Lord drew her heart from her, and changed it. This was her first ecstasy.


From this time, when she was in her eighteenth year, her ecstatic raptures were so frequent that she could no longer conceal them. After receiving Holy Communion, the Lord so transported her in an ecstasy, that, in spite of her efforts, which caused the blood to flow from her mouth, she was unable to resist it. Notwithstanding her esteem for these divine favors, and her appreciation of the good effects which they wrought in her soul, her humility suffered, because they were known to others. “We ought not to desire these transcendent graces,” said she. “I do not wish for them; but I must go whither His Majesty is pleased to conduct me. May His holy will be done in me.”


It is not surprising that different sentiments existed in the community with regard to events so extraordinary. The religieuses omitted nothing to enlighten themselves, and went even further than the rules of prudence would approve. They were persuaded there was a supernatural cause at work, and requested the Father Provincial to examine the case. The ecstasies assumed this form: The body was deprived of the use of the senses, as if it had been dead, or inanimate. It was a little raised above the earth, and so light, that, by a single breath, it was moved as easily as a feather. The face appeared more beautiful than usual, and the posture was so modest and devout, that she resembled a seraph in human form. She remained in this state two and even three hours.


The Provincial, who was a very learned man, and, at the same time, devout and prudent, carefully examined the case, and also the circumstances attending it. He probed the interior of the servant of God examining her principles, her progress, and her actual condition, together with all the secrets of her soul, and he found all according to the spirit of God. He resolved to put her to the proof by a trial, the effect of which is an assured mark of a good spirit, although the failure of it ought not to be too much censured. He ordered her to come to the parlor, while she was in an ecstasy, and she obeyed immediately. The abbess made the same experiment, with a similar result, and also her confessor, and the mistress of novices.


After so exact a scrutiny, the Provincial decided that it was not judicious to stifle the spirit of the servant of God. He recommended precautions, so that these wonders should not be exposed before seculars; and he provided for her a pious and prudent confessor, to whom he confided the peculiarities of her condition, her recollection, her exercises, and her austerities. The servant of God was much consoled by this examination, because she regarded the judgment of her superiors as the surest guide for her conduct.


Mary of Jesus pursued her spiritual course. The religieuses conceived a great esteem for her extraordinary virtue, and this esteem changed into a sort of veneration, as the ecstasies became more frequent and more marvelous. All regarded her as a prodigy of holiness, but the exposure caused her humility to suffer an inexpressible martyrdom.


In proportion as the Lord multiplied His favors, afflictions and pains responded to them. Those caused by the demon were so cruel, that they surpassed her natural strength. The all-powerful Lord fortified her even in these ecstasies. “The soul,” she one day said to her confessor, “receives sometimes favors of such a character, that the body is supernaturally refreshed and strengthened; without this I should be dead.” The absences of the Lord succeeded these visits; the demon ceased not to whisper that she followed the way to perdition, and in her humility, she fancied it was true. Here was the sting of the angel of Satan which afflicted this soul – the fear that the grandeur of the revelations might stimulate her pride.


After the departure of the Provincial, she regulated her life with her confessor, so as not to be hindered in following the common life. She was always so exact in the rules of the community, that she was regarded as a model by the other religieuses. Obedience only could hinder her, and she was mortified to fail in the prescribed regularity. Even when there were only the prayers of the Divine Office to be said, she availed herself of them.


Having become paralyzed, she caused herself to be transported to the choir, and there ardently besought the Lord not to remove her sickness and sufferings, but so to moderate them that she might not be prevented from being with the community. She received this benefit by means of the blessed Mother of God, and became more fervently attached to Her service. She was cured through a holy image of Our Lady of Martyrs, which was brought into her cell.


The pains by which the demon tormented her did not cease, but the Lord so regulated the time of their symptoms that she could perform her common obligations. She was very exact to observe the rules, the constitution, and all the holy practices of religious life, never omitting anything.


In her personal penances she followed inviolably the rules which her Divine Spouse had given her. “That which the Lord has ordered and instructed me to do,” said she to her confessor, “is to put far from me, in all my exercises and penances, whatever might interfere with the purest intention of pleasing Him alone: all imprudence, which is dangerous in these matters; all occasions that might attract esteem towards me; all that fervor which arises from self-love, or is not clearly examined by the interior light; not to commend myself in making them, since all that we can do for God, is as nothing in proportion to what we ought to do, and to do nothing but in obedience.”


She slept only two hours daily, on a sort of bed made in the form of a grate; sometimes on the pavement, or on the floor. She arose towards eleven o’clock in the night, and began the exercise of the cross, which lasted three hours. She occupied an hour and a half in meditating the passion of the Lord. For half an hour she carried a heavy cross of iron while contemplating the foot-steps of the Saviour. She continued half an hour prostrate in the form of the cross, the remainder of the hour she stood with her arms extended. She then employed the time remaining in thanksgivings and prayers for all men. At two o’clock she went to Matins with the community, and at four o clock she re-entered her chamber, when her pains took possession of her until six o’clock. At six she went to make her meditation with the community. She confessed, and received holy communion. She then employed an hour and a half in the contemplation of the Lord. The remainder of the day was occupied in the offices of the convent and in writing, when her confessor required it. Then she was engaged an hour in oraison. At six she partook of a small portion of food, and at seven she went to Compline. Finally, retired to her cell, she made her examination of conscience, and other devotions, and took her two hours of sleep. Her usual food consisted of herbs and vegetables, and of these she took only as much as was necessary. She ate but once a day. She went, nevertheless, to the refectory, but it was only to kiss the feet of the others, to ask their pardon kneeling, or to prostrate herself at the door, so as to be trodden under foot. She fasted three times a week on bread and water, and on Fridays she drank nothing. She took the discipline five times daily, and sometimes she lost much blood.


All the ordinary penances, besides others, on extraordinary occasions, were more painful to her than to others, because she was of a delicate complexion, and, besides, the Lord often miraculously augmented her sensibility to pain. But to her it seemed always as if she did nothing; for, reflecting upon what she owed Him, she forgot all that she had suffered.


In her ecstasies, her love of souls was more and more inflamed, and this love becoming strong as death, and its zeal inflexible, her soul was pierced with poignant sorrow. In this state, the Lord sometimes made known to her His will, that she should labor for His creatures; and she offered herself to suffer, and even to give her life, if it were necessary, for the salvation of a single soul.


One day, after having communicated, while in ecstasy, the Lord showed to her, in a wonderful manner, the whole universe by abstractive images. Among the multitudes of those who neither professed nor confessed the faith, His Divine Majesty declared to her, that they who were the least disposed to be converted, and to whom His mercy was most inclined, were the Gentiles of New Mexico. The communication of these lights continued, and the Lord showed her with greater distinctness those kingdoms and provinces of Indians, commanding her to pray and labor for them. He gave her a distinct knowledge of their manners and customs, their dispositions, and their great need of the ministers of God. The faithful servant was excited always more and more to labor and to prayer. Then the Lord, whose judgments are impenetrable, and whose ways are incomprehensible, operated in her, and by her, one of the greatest wonders, which has commanded the admiration of ages.


Chapter 4

She Preaches to the Indians


While she prayed for these souls, the Lord placed her in ecstasy, and it seemed that she found herself – she knew not by what means – in a totally different region, and in the midst of Indians. It appeared that she saw them – that she found the climate of their country warmer than her own; and the Lord commanded her to preach the faith, and she seemed to preach to the Indians in her Spanish language, and they understood her, and she understood them. She wrought prodigies in confirmation of the faith. The Indians were converted, and she catechized them.


This wonderful state was renewed, and more than five hundred times it seemed to her that she was transported into that country, and that a great nation and its king were converted to the faith of Jesus Christ. She saw the monks of St. Francis, and counselled the Indians to send some of their people to invite these religious to come among them, informing them where they were to be found.


The servant of God communicated all these strange things to her confessor. The report was current, among religious of both sexes, that she had been conveyed, bodily, to the Indies. The truth is, that a woman – whether it was the servant of God herself, or some angel in her form – wrought these wonders. The religious who were in New Mexico were surprised at the arrival among them of a great troop of Indians, who demanded to be baptized. Who had instructed them? It was, they said, a woman, whom, by their description, they recognized to be a nun.


Father Alonzo de Benavides, a devout man, moved by his zeal for the good of souls, sent to them some of his religious. Finding them already sufficiently instructed, they baptized the king and his family, and a great number of persons, so that Christianity flourished in those provinces. Meanwhile, the fathers desired to know who was that servant of God who had been the instrument, in the hands of the Almighty, of doing so much good. Father Alonzo de Benavides, some years after, found cause to return to Spain. He arrived in Madrid in 1630, and conferred with the Reverend Minister-General, on the principal affair which had brought him to Europe. The Father Bernardin of Sienna, who had examined her, doubted not that it was Sister Mary of Jesus, and appointed Father Alonzo his commissioner to her.


Father Benavides arrived at Agreda, and, having exhibited the letters of the General, he went to the convent with the confessor, and a religious of great reputation, to interrogate the servant of God. She replied, in virtue of obedience, and declared, with much prudence, the time, the beginning, and the progress of these marvelous events. The father interrogated her respecting the particular marks of places, and the occupations and modes of living among the Indians; and, while giving him the proper names of the provinces, she confessed that she had seen this Father there, fixing the day, the hour, and place where she had seen him, and the religious who accompanied him.


Father Benavides, with the Provincial and the confessor, made a written report of these facts. Their conjecture was, that she had been carried, bodily, to the Indies; but this was an exaggeration, for the servant of God said, in reference to this point: “That which I think the most certain, is, that an angel appeared in my form, and that the Lord showed me, here, in oraison, what passed there.”


The servant of God gave a letter to the Father for the religious who were employed at these conversions; and, having returned to New Mexico, he related to his assembled brethren how he had found in Spain her who had wrought the wonders of which they had been witnesses. Father Alonzo wrote an account of these facts, which is preserved in the archives of the Custodia, and a copy of it was sent in 1668, which has served to prepare this memoir.


The servant of God was subjected to an insupportable martyrdom, as soon as her ecstasies became noised abroad. The attention of seculars was excited. The religieuses opened the grating so that they could see her. They drew aside the veil, and showed how she could be moved by a breath. A vain babbler told her of it. It is impossible to express the mortification of the servant of God, when she was assured of the truth. She locked herself up; but the religieuses, removing a board from the door, carried her to the choir, as easily as a feather. She had no consciousness of it; but she said, afterwards, that, if she had been put in the pillory, she should have suffered less than in hearing of what they had done.


During three years she had endured this kind of publicity. She supplicated the Lord to withdraw these favors, and used all human means to conceal them. At last the Lord sent her superiors who provided remedies, and He granted her prayer in causing to cease all that excited observation. The religieuses who had judged of her sanctity only by these prodigies, were dissatisfied. Some said she had been under the influence of a good spirit; others suspected some secret sin. The servant of God endured these affronts with joy, but she suffered from the absence of the Lord. The demon then dared to propose to restore the ecstasies if she would make a compact with him. But, armed by faith, and inflamed by charity, she detested and drove him from her presence.


The servant of the Lord besought her Divine Master to conduct her, by secret ways, unknown to the world. The Lord promised it, and, from that time, she felt a great change in her interior. Her elevations of spirit were admirable: the superior portion of her soul soared towards God; its powers were absorbed in the Divinity, and she received sublime revelations and instructions in a manner purely Intellectual. In her exterior nothing extraordinary was apparent.


The servant of God discusses the degrees, the modes, and the effects of this communication in the second chapter, book I, of the history of the Blessed Virgin. She continued in this way during her life, the divine light always increasing in her to the last. She now made a new rule of life, and wrote thirty-three counsels, which she practiced. These are the principal:


  1. To go in everything against my will, and do nothing according to its appetites;

  2. Never to commit any sin, nor imperfection, with deliberate intention;

  3. To be devoted to the Blessed Virgin;

  4. To offer to the Eternal Father the merits of His most holy Son – His blood, and the treasures of the holy Church – praying to Him for the salvation of souls, by the love which He bears them;

  5. To put myself always in the lowest place.


The extraordinary merit of Sister Mary of Jesus won the hearts of the community. They changed their opinions, and, becoming convinced of her great worth, they persevered in sustaining her. Meanwhile, the Lord dilated the interior powers of her soul, and she received communications, without causing any embarrassment to her exterior occupations. In this eminent state she discovered the profound mysteries hidden in the life of Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother. Although the visions and revelations she now enjoyed were intellectual, she had, sometimes, imaginary, and even corporeal visitations. But as soon as she felt that the visions, or expressions, came by the imagination, or the senses, she placed herself in indifference, called up her faith, and thus left no room for the suggestions of the demon. She received her favors only as a means whereby to serve God more entirely.


The attacks of the demon did not cease. During their continuance she had no fear; but, afterwards, her miseries so oppressed her spirit, that the enemy made her apprehend she might not be in the right way. Sometimes he excited disquiet by means of creatures. At others, he impressed his suggestions on her imagination with such force, that she was unable to expel them from her mind. He made “mountains out of molehills,” and endeavored to persuade her that all which had happened arose from the imagination, or natural causes. He pretended that this was the voice of conscience, and the counsel of God Himself. To withdraw her from obedience, he insinuated that she deceived her confessors. From these followed the sadness, affliction and obscurity that filled her soul.


The servant of God, in this painful condition, was admirable. She sought after God by faith. She humbled herself, acknowledging her nothingness, and confessed all her sins. This remedy alone satisfied her. Her sufferings in this way, during her life, cannot be expressed. “What surprises me,” said she to her confessor, “is, that I am not more experienced; whence I conclude there is, in these sufferings, a divine intention.” We shall again refer to these extraordinary combats.


The object of all these favors bestowed upon the servant of God, was to prepare her to make known to the world the Divine life of the Most Blessed Virgin. God, who proportions means to their ends, gave her, besides her guardian angel, five other angels, who made themselves visible to her. Their communications served to enlighten, instruct, correct, and advise her. Sometimes they sent forms into her imagination when the Lord spoke with her in this superior part, and at other times they cleared up her difficulties.


She wrote a short treatise on what the celestial spirits taught her touching the direction of the spiritual life. In her hidden life, the angels conducted her as the superior angel illuminates the inferior. They thus prepared her during many years. One day, the Lord manifested to her, in Himself, the glory of His saints, and said: “Be faithful to Me; love Me much; dilate your heart, and place it in My hands. I desire that your conversation shall be only with Me, My angels, and My saints. I give you two of my elect.” St. Agnes and St. Ursula appeared, and she felt that these glorious virgins were as if present with her continually.


The two saints gave her instructions upon the fidelity of the spouse – of the Most High of the employment of the superior part of the soul – of the modest deportment of the inferior part, and the manner of acting towards creatures. The servant of God found these counsels so advantageous, that she wrote a little treatise, which she communicated to her confessor. She lived as if in glory amid these heavenly occupations.


Chapter 5

She is Elected Superior and Tested Severely


She had passed three years in the eminent state of which we have spoken, when His Divine Majesty ordained that she should be Superior of the community, for the good of her sisters. The Divine Providence disposed all with power and gentleness. It was in the year 1627, the eighth of the foundation of the monastery, that the Superiors had the inspiration to appoint, as the Superior, Mary of Jesus. The Lord had, as we have hinted, forewarned His servant on the subject, by manifesting to her His will. It was one of the most grievous trials that could have been inflicted upon her, for her profound humility was disturbed by it.


She addressed herself to God, praying Him to remove from her this bitter cup, but all was of no avail. The Lord had implanted within her so tender a devotion to the Queen of Angels, and so great a confidence in Her goodness, that she undertook nothing without invoking Her aid. She therefore poured forth her heart in the presence of the Virgin Mother. The merciful Queen appeared to her, and said: “My dear child, be consoled; I will be Mother and Superior for you, and also for your children; I will supply your deficiencies; you shall be the instrument by which I will accomplish the will of My Son and My God.”


The humble servant yielded to the Divine will. The Superiors appointed her president on the festival of St. Joseph, 1627, and, after having obtained a dispensation, on account of her youth, from Rome, she was elected abbess, to the great joy of the community. The Queen of Angels acquitted Herself of the promise She had made. The Lord confirmed it, saying, that He gave her His Blessed Mother for Superior, that she should obey Her as Her faithful disciple.


From this epoch the communication of the Mother of God with this creature continued to be intimate, frequent, and sublime. She directed her, gave her counsel, corrected her defects, and imbued her with heavenly doctrine. The servant of God accused herself every night of her faults, prostrate before the Queen of Heaven, to recognize Her superiority. She also placed in the middle of the choir an image of the Mother of God, and at Her feet the rules and seal of the convent, which are the insignia of government. When she dedicated the history of the Queen of Angels to her sisters, she found it necessary to reveal to them this mystery, and henceforth the nuns called this holy image their Superior.


The marvelous effects of this government of the Mother of God were visible both in their spiritual and temporal affairs. In less than eleven years the servant of God formed this monastery in the inviolable observance of the rules, and in conformity to the constitution of the Recollects. She established there usages so holy, and exercises so sublime, and observances so devout, that nothing better could be desired for the highest perfection of a religious community. In her administration the golden mean was observed between too great zeal and too much indulgence; the reins of regular discipline were held firmly, without doing violence to the infirmities of nature.