|Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda|
Sister María de Jesús de Ágreda
|Born||2 April 1602
|Died||24 May 1665 (aged 63)
|Honored in||Catholic Church|
|Major shrine||Monastery of La Concepción
(founded in the 17th century by the Sister María de Jesús de Ágreda and where her body rests)
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María Fernández Coronel y Arana, Abbess of Ágreda (2 April 1602 – 24 May 1665) was a Catholic Franciscan nun and author known for reports of bilocation between Spain and New Mexico and West Texas in the 17th century. In religious life, she was known Sor (Sister) María de Jesús de Ágreda. Popular culture since the 17th century has also dubbed her as the Lady in Blue and the Blue Nun. She wrote a series of books about the life of Blessed Virgin Mary.
Her bilocation activity is said to have occurred between her cloistered convent in Spain and the Jumano Indians of central New Mexico and West Texas. She was a member of the Catholic Roman Rite group of religious women called the Order of the Immaculate Conception also known as Franciscan Conceptionists. Sor Maria de Jesús was born and died in Ágreda, a town located in the province of Soria, Castile and León, Spain.
Sor Maria de Jesús was born in Ágreda, a town located in the province of Soria, Castile and León, Spain. She was the daughter of Don Francisco Coronel and his wife Catalina de Arana; all the members of her family were powerfully influenced by the religious fervor prevalent in Spain in that period.
Her biographer and a contemporary, Bishop Jose Jimenez Samaniego, was a longtime friend of the Coronel family, and records that even as a young girl she was filled with divine knowledge. From her early years, he writes, she was favored by ecstasies and visions and became a noted mystic of her era. At the age of four, María de Ágreda was confirmed by Bishop Don Diego de Yepes, the biographer and last confessor of Saint Teresa of Ávila, because he was so impressed with María's spiritual acumen.
When María was fifteen the whole family entered Catholic religious institutes. Her father, then considered an older man in his early fifties, entered the Franciscan house of San Antonio de Nalda. Her brothers continued their studies toward the priesthood, in Burgos. María, her mother and sister established a Franciscan nunnery through the Order of the Immaculate Conception in the family house at Ágreda. Later, as enrollment grew, this was replaced by the building still existing. Construction of the new convent facility was begun with only twenty-four reales (approximately two and a half Spanish dollars at the time) in the convent coffers, supplemented by a donation of 100 reales from a devotee. It was completed in 1633 by voluntary gifts and labor. At the death of her mother, María was appointed president of the convent as locum tenens at the age of twenty-five, after which she was elected by the convent's nuns as abbess. Though the rules required the abbess to be changed every three years, María remained effectively in charge of the Ágreda convent until her death, except for a three year sabbatical in her fifties.
Throughout her life, María de Ágreda was inclined to the "internal prayer" or "quiet prayer". Like her countrywoman St. Teresa of Avila a generation earlier, these prayerful experiences led religious ecstasies, including reported accounts of levitation.
María de Ágreda is known for writing the Mystical City of God (Spanish: Mistica Ciudad de Dios, Vida de la Virgen María), consisting of 8 books (6 volumes). De Ágreda reported that she received a lengthy revelation, about the terrestrial and heavenly life of Blessed Mary. That revelation was received directly from the Blessed Virgin Mary. The revelation also included information about the Blessed Virgin's relationship with the Triune God as well as the doings and Mysteries performed by Jesus as God-Man in flesh and in Spirit. The information was revealed with extensive detail in a narrative that covers the New Testament time line. The narrative was also accompanied by doctrines given by the Holy Mother on how to acquire true sanctity. It is that narrative that comprises the Mystical City of God.
She attributed her writings to visions and dictations (word by word) from the Virgin Mary. Written in elegant Spanish, they contain both terrestrial and spiritual detail. Those details were either not known or not totally accepted at the time. These included the way the earth looks from the space (contained in her unpublished 17th Century "Tratado de rendondez de la Tierra"), the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary, the Assumption of Mary, the duties of Michael the Archangel and Gabriel the Archangel, and meticulous detail on the childhood of Jesus. Other detail that Sor Maria provided included the Christ's Passion, Resurrection and Ascension.
Sor María de Jesús is credited by some with contributing to the evangelization of the Jumano Indians in what is today Texas. Between 1620 and 1623 she reported that she was often "transported by the aid of the angels" to settlements of a people called Jumanos. She reported further visits afterwards, but they were less frequent. These reported visits occurred while María physically remained in the convent at Ágreda. They have been cataloged as bilocation, an event where a person is, or seems to be, in two places at the same time.
The Jumanos of New Spain (modern New Mexico and Texas) had long been requesting missionaries, possibly hoping for protection from Apaches. Eventually a mission led by the Franciscan Friar Juan de Salas visited them in 1629. Before sending the friars, Father Alonzo de Benavides, Custodian of New Mexico, asked the natives why they were so eager to be baptized. They said they had been visited by a Lady in Blue who had told them to ask the fathers for help, pointing to a painting of a nun in a blue habit and saying she was dressed like that but was a beautiful young girl. The Jumanos visiting Isleta indicated that the Lady in Blue had visited them in the area now known as the Salinas National Monument (an area settled by the Spanish) south of modern day Mountainair, New Mexico, located 65 miles south of Albuquerque. At the same time, Fray Esteban de Perea had brought an inquiry to Benavides from sor María's confessor in Spain asking whether there was any evidence that she had visited the Jumanos.
As reports of her mystical excursions to the New World proliferated, the Inquisition took notice of her, although she was not proceeded against with severity. Later, however, Sor María denied that her visitations had happened, although she changed her story several times.
The physical body of the nun is said to be incorruptible, that is, not subject to rot and decay after death. During an opening of her casket in 1909, a cursory scientific examination was performed on the body. In 1989 a Spanish physician named Andreas Medina participated in another examination of Sister María de Jesús de Ágreda as she lay in the convent of the Conceptionist nuns, the same monastery where she had lived in the 17th century. Dr. Medina told investigative journalist Javier Sierra in 1991: "What most surprised me about that case is that when we compared the state of the body, as it was described in the medical report from 1909, with how it appeared in 1989, we realized it had absolutely not deteriorated at all in the last eighty years." Purportedly, complete photographic and other evidence was obtained by investigators before her casket was re-sealed. Now, her incorrupt body can be visited in the Church of the Convent of Ágreda.
Sor María's importance in religion, Spanish history, and the history of the American Southwest, is based on three grounds:
Less than ten years after her death, María de Jesús de Ágreda was declared as Venerable by Pope Clement X, in honor of her "heroic life of virtue." Although the process of beatification was opened in 1673, it has not as yet been completed. Various misinterpretations of her writings led to the extent that Mystical City of God was temporarily placed on the Church's Index Librorum Prohibitorum in August 1681. By the order of Blessed Innocent XI, however, the decree of condemnation was removed three months later, after it was shown that a faulty French translation was at the basis for the censure.
Her status remains as "Venerable" (i.e., not "Blessed" as in someone who is "beatified," or "Saint," as in someone who has been canonized). In recent years, however, after the 400th anniversary of her birth in 2002, there have been renewed efforts internationally by several Marian groups to move the beatification process forward.
The city of San Angelo, Texas credits her as a significant pioneering force behind the establishment of early Texas missions. Jumano Native Americans reminisce about her role in their survival, and her possible connection to the legend of Texas's state flower, the bluebonnet. She is featured in a work of fiction, The Lady in Blue ("La Dama Azul"), by Javier Sierra (Atria Books, 2005/07, ISBN 1-4165-3223-4), as well as in the English biography, Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue (University of New Mexico Press, 2009).
Giacomo Casanova mentions being compelled to read María de Ágreda's book, Mystical City of God, during his imprisonment in the Venice prison "i Piombi" as a means of the clergy to psychologically torture the prisoners. He called it the work of an "overheated imagination of a devout, melancholy, Spanish virgin locked up in a Convent." In it, Casanova argues that a captive's mind can get inflamed with such aberrant ideas to the point of madness, which was purportedly the purpose of having been given the book to read.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Agreda, Maria Fernandez Coronel, Abbess Of.|
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