The Story of Our Lady of Good Success
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries there lived in Quito, Ecuador, a Spanish nun whose little-known but extraordinary life has a direct connection with our days. Mother Mariana of Jesus Torres y Berriochoa, a nun of the Conceptionist Order, surpassed the already strict discipline of her congregation in the traditional penances she undertook. Beyond even those, she lovingly accepted unprecedented sacrifices and sufferings directly asked of her by Our Lord and Our Lady.
Her frequent contact with heavenly beings and her supernatural sufferings stand in such contrast to the ways of our impious century and are so extraordinary in themselves that a word needs to be said of their credentials.
Mother Mariana left a full written account of her life at the command of her superiors. This account was approved by the Most Reverend Pedro de Oviedo, Quito’s tenth bishop, who was privileged to know and direct her. Additionally, with fresh memories of all the extraordinary facts not only of her life but also of those of her eight holy companions, the Franciscan Fathers who had been their spiritual directors and brothers wrote their biographies.
In 1650, fifteen years after Mother Mariana’s death, Diego Rodríguez Docampo published a story of her life endorsed by an official document from the King of Spain and the Royal Court of Quito.
Between 1760 and 1770, after new facts and more abundant documentation surfaced, Fr. Bartholomew Ochoa de Alacano, O.F.M., a Spaniard living in Quito, published a series of articles that formed a large volume about Mother Mariana. This work received widespread circulation and enthusiastic response in the Franciscan monasteries of Spain and Portugal. This book includes chronicles from the convent and the sermon preached by Bishop Oviedo at Mother Mariana’s funeral.
In 1790, Fr. Manuel Souza Pereira, O.F.M., published an extensive work based on the earlier documents. Father Souza Pereira, of illustrious Portuguese lineage, joined the military as a young man. A series of Providential events and several apparitions of Mother Mariana of Jesus convinced him that his true calling was to the Franciscan Order. Later, having been sent to Quito, he became known there for the austerity of his life and solid virtue. A decisive moment for him was an invitation to accompany his Bishop into the Papal cloister where his holy protectress had lived and died. There he traced her footsteps and venerated her incorrupt body. With his heart aflame, he vowed not to rest until he had finished a complete account of what he was to title The Admirable Life of Mother Mariana of Jesus. It is largely on this account that we have based this article.
One day in the year 1582, a young nun prayed before the Blessed Sacrament in the choir of her convent in Quito. Suddenly, she heard a terrifying rumble and saw the church enveloped in a thick, smoke-filled darkness. The main altar alone remain illuminated, as if in broad daylight. There, the tabernacle door swung open and our crucified Lord came forth, nailed to a life-size cross. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, and Saint Mary Magdalen stood by, as on Calvary. Our Lord was agonizing.
The young nun heard a voice: “This punishment is for the twentieth century.” Then she saw three swords hanging over Our Lord’s head, each with an inscription. On the first was written, “I shall punish heresy”; on the second, “I shall punish blasphemy”; and on the third, “I shall punish impurity.”
Then the Blessed Virgin addressed the young nun: “My daughter, do you wish to sacrifice yourself for these people?”
“I am ready,” responded the nun. At that, the three swords plunged into the nun’s heart, and she fell dead by the violence of the pain.
Is this a fairy-tale? An incredible allegory? The fantastic figment of someone’s fertile imagination? No, these are facts.
God occasionally visits the earth with the “magic touch” of His omnipotence. By Divine discretion He makes an exception to the earthly standards of everyday and introduces the extraordinary. We learn of His interventions and miracles as if the veil of Faith is lifted a little, and we get a glimpse of Heaven, helping us feel closer to our celestial home.
Many claim to have received this magic touch, yet just a few bear the august mark of authenticity, which is usually a purifying process of the favored soul through acute suffering.
In the year 1563 a little girl was born to Don Diego Torres and Dona Maria Berriochoa, both noble Spaniards and fervent Catholics. At the baptismal font the girl, their first child, received the name of Mariana Francisca. This privileged girl was singled out by Divine Providence from her earliest days. To begin, she was graced with a rare angelical beauty.
As she grew, her one fascination was Jesus hidden in the Blessed Sacrament, before Whom she knelt for hours even at the age of six. Because of her spiritual maturity, her confessor allowed her to receive Communion at nine years, an age then considered very early for first communicants.
So intense was Mariana’s joy at this first meeting with her Sacramental God that she swooned and fell into a deep faint. During this “faint” she saw Our Lord Jesus as a young boy of her own age placing a beautiful ring on her finger, claiming her for Himself.
Mariana readily accepted this proposal. The Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph witnessed the event and stood as sponsors to this “engagement.”
In this same vision the Blessed Virgin showed her that she was destined to belong to her Order of the Immaculate Conception. This order had recently been founded by another privileged soul, Saint Beatrix da Silva, a Portuguese woman of noble lineage.
The Order of the Immaculate Conception
The great love of Saint Beatrix was the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. After many sufferings and difficulties, she founded this new order to honor this exalted privilege of Mary Most Holy, centuries before it was declared a dogma of our Faith.
The new order adopted the Franciscan rule and took Saint Francis of Assisi as their mentor and father. Their habit is white and blue, the colors of the Immaculate Conception, with a black veil.
A request from the colony of Ecuador
Some influential and pious ladies in the then Spanish colony of Ecuador learned of this recently established order. Delighted with the new institute’s devotion, these ladies wished to have it established in Quito, their country’s capital.
They submitted their request for this to King Philip II of Spain. Acceding to their petition, he named a nun of great virtue, Mother Maria of Jesus Taboada, to head the foundation of the new convent. This virtuous and holy nun, an aunt of Mariana, was to be accompanied by six other nuns, all women of great merit and solid virtue. They were Mothers Francisca of the Angels, Anne of the Conception, Lucy of the Cross, Magdalen of Saint John, Catherine of the Conception, and Maria of the Incarnation.
Mariana was then just nine years old, but God wished to pluck this rose before it even budded. One day as she received Holy Communion He again appeared to her and told her that He wished her to leave her father’s house and to embrace His cross in a far-off land. Mariana understood that she was to go with her aunt as part of the expedition to found the order of the Immaculate Conception in the Americas. Burning with love for her crucified Jesus, she had already reached that stage of love where sufferings pose no obstacle.
Broken hearted but resigned, her most Christian parents gave her over to her holy aunt, who now promised to be her true mother.
The devil could not bear the thought of this foundation being accomplished. No sooner had the nuns’ ship left port than a terrible tempest, the likes of which had seldom been seen before, overtook them. The sky changed from clearest day to the darkest night. The frightened sailors did not know what to do and thought all was lost. In fact, the ship seemed doomed.
It was then that both aunt and niece saw in the raging waters a horrible and gigantic snake with seven heads, attempting to destroy the ship. Mariana screamed at seeing this and lost consciousness. Mother Maria prayed to God with all her soul, asking that if He truly willed that the foundation be accomplished, He quell the storm.
As soon as Mother Maria said this prayer, Mariana opened her eyes and the light of day overcame the darkness. But a terrible voice was heard: “I will not allow this foundation to come about; I will not allow it’s progress; I will not allow it to endure to the end of time; I will persecute it.”
Mother Maria knew that Mariana had seen something during her faint and, retiring with her to a secluded place, asked her to relate all she had been shown.
“I don’t know where I have been, my Mother,” answered the girl, “but I saw a serpent bigger than the sea, twisting and contorting itself. Then I saw a lady of incomparable beauty, garbed with the sun and crowned with stars and with a babe in her arms. On the lady’s breast I saw a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. In one of her hands she held a golden cross having a lance point. Anchoring the lance over the Blessed Sacrament and in the infant’s hand, she struck at the serpent’s head with such force that it was completely split. At that moment the serpent cried out all his horrible threats about not allowing the founding of the Order of the Immaculate Conception.”
Mother Maria understood all that this vision signified and was later to have a large medal cast depicting the scene. To this day, the nuns of the Immaculate Conception of Quito wear this medal over their habits.
Arriving in Quito on December 30, 1576, the foundresses were received with great joy and housed in a few of the inhabitable buildings of the convent, which was still under construction. When the construction was concluded, the official founding took place on January 13, 1577.
Soon, several young girls of Quito began to request admission to the convent of the Immaculate Conception and the conventual life was in full bloom.
At fifteen, Mariana entered the novitiate and, a few years later, professed.
As she pronounced her vows before Mother Maria Taboada on the day of her nuptials, she was taken up in a sublime ecstasy. While on earth her lips formed the words for the formula of her vows and her body remained supple for the clothing, her soul was in the presence of God Our Lord.
Our Lord Jesus presented His own cross to His spouse and showed her all the enormous sufferings, persecutions, sicknesses, and temptations she would undergo for His sake and ours. He preserved her only from temptations against purity. She was never to have a single thought or inclination against this angelic virtue.
Life of penance
After her profession, Our Lord again appeared to Mother Mariana and gave her the schedule to be observed in the free hours of the community and the penances she should perform during the week.
These penances were so severe that Mother Maria Taboada feared for her health. But, in another vision, Our Lord placed a drop of crystalline water from His wounded side on Mariana’s lips and fortified her in a marvellous way for all He asked of her.
The penances practiced by this angel in human flesh can only be understood when we consider that she was called to be a victim for our twentieth century. For an example, she wrapped nearly her whole innocent body in wires with iron points, even her ears, leaving only her face and hands free. Thus she lived a penitential, prayerful life, ever increasing in virtue.
Vision of the twentieth century
We come then to that day in the year 1582 when she was praying before her Eucharistic Lord and suddenly saw the church, except the main altar, immersed in darkness. The rest, until her painful death by means of three swords plunged into her heart as an expiation for the sins of our current century, we have related at the opening of this article.
Mariana, always the first at all the acts of the community, did not appear on the day following her vision of Our Lord on His cross. Noting her absence, the abbess and the other nuns searched for her. They found her dead in the lower choir, her body already cold. With enormous grief they carried the young nun’s remains to her cell and laid her on her bed.
The doctor, Don Sancho, and the Franciscan Friars who attended the convent were all called. Don Sancho confirmed that death had occurred and there was nothing to be done except give her proper burial.
Outside, the people of Quito clamored at the convent doors to see the body of their beloved benefactress, for Mother Mariana had become well-known in the town, having helped many with her counsels, penances, prayers, and even miracles.
The two crowns
Mother Mariana appeared before the Divine Judge. Finding no fault in her, He said, “Come, beloved of my Father, and receive the crown We have prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” She was thus in heaven before the Blessed Trinity and the celestial court, in unutterable happiness.
Meanwhile, on earth, the prayers of Mother Maria and all her sisters as well as those of the Franciscan Fathers and the townspeople rose to the throne of the Holy Trinity. The sisters could not bear the thought of living without this angel and true lightning rod of God’s justice for their community. Sighing and weeping, they begged God to return her to them.
Wishing to lend an ear to the supplications of these children on earth, Our Lord presented Mother Mariana with two crowns, one of glory and the other of lilies intertwined with thorns. He bade her choose one, making her understand that by choosing the crown of glory she would remain in heaven, as was her right, but by choosing the other, she would return to earth and resume her suffering.
The humble virgin then asked her Beloved to choose for her. “No,” answered Our Lord. “When I took you for my spouse I tested your will, and now I wish to do the same.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary now spoke: “My daughter, I left the glories of heaven and returned to earth to protect my children1. I want you to imitate me in this, for your life is very necessary for my Order of the Immaculate Conception.
“Woe to the colony in the twentieth century!’’ continued the Virgin. “If then there are no souls who, with their life of sacrifice and holocaust following your example, will appease Divine Justice, fire will come from heaven and, consuming its inhabitants, will purify Quito.”
Hearing this, the humble virgin agreed to return to earth. She was to have a long life of incredible sufferings, since part of her mission on earth was to atone for the sins of our poor, chaotic, corrupted, and sinful century.
Stigmata, sickness, and death
Because Mariana of Jesus was destined for extraordinary graces all her life, Our Lord spared her nothing that could possibly contribute to her purification and perfection. Thus, on the night of September 17, 1588, as Mother Mariana prayed, she received the holy wounds of Our Lord Jesus in her hands, feet, and side. She cried out and was left trembling, and had to be helped to her bed. The stigmata appeared in the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet like puncture wounds; on her side was a reddish-purple mark like a sword wound.
After this, she sickened terribly and entered an excruciating trial. She could not move a single member of her body. Aggravating her sufferings, the devil did his utmost to break her by suggesting to her that her life had been in vain, a lie, a hoax. He prowled around her bed constantly in the form of a hideous serpent, the sight of which tormented her unceasingly.
One night, no longer being able to bear this terrible five-month ordeal, she called on the Most Blessed Virgin. Then, feeling a hand caressing her head, she looked up to see the Queen of Heaven, beautiful, kind, and majestic in a nimbus of light.
She could now move and no longer saw the hideous serpent. Her condition still worsened, however, and, to the distress of the entire community, she once again breathed her last. It was Holy Saturday and her body was laid in state in the low choir. The multitudes came to view it and cried aloud: “The saint is dead! Our angel is gone!”
Yet, the next morning as the community filed into the high choir to recite the Office they found her praying! Like her Divine Spouse, Whom she sought to copy in everything, she had been resurrected on Easter morning and returned to life once more to continue suffering for souls and for the world.
In 1589, feeling her health failing and wishing to prepare herself for her approaching end, which had been predicted to her, Mother Maria Taboada suggested that a new superior be elected. She had ruled for sixteen years by the unanimous wish of her convent, who thought no one more suited for the task than the holy foundress.
Now, in deference to her wishes, they unanimously elected Mother Mariana of Jesus, trusting in her exalted virtue despite her being only thirty. She, as mother superior, guided the convent with great wisdom, prudence, charity, and goodness in the ways of the Lord, fulfilling every point of the holy rule, omitting nothing. Mariana knew she would still have her aunt with her for a while and took full advantage of her counsel and guidance.
Predictions about the community
Several times both Mother Mariana and Mother Maria received revelations about the future of their convent.
They knew each and every nun who would profess in their community to the end of the world. They knew that in every age there would be souls of great virtue, merit and holiness in this blessed house, but ungrateful and disobedient ones as well. The holy souls would divert great calamities from Ecuador and would maintain the faith burning even during the calamitous twentieth century.
The devil plots to destroy the convent from within
Both holy women were also shown that very soon, incited by mankind’s enemy, some unruly and disobedient nuns of their convent who wanted a less stringent rule than the Franciscan rule would attempt and obtain the separation of their community from the direction of the Franciscan Friars. Since the order of the Immaculate Conception was like a branch on the tree of the Franciscan Order, this separation caused the faithful nuns most grievous suffering.
Death of Mother Maria Taboada
In 1594 Mother Maria Taboada, who had been truly a mother to Mother Mariana and all those under her care, rendered her soul to God. She had suffered greatly before her death, and the community was inconsolable at the loss of their beloved foundress.
Nevertheless, from heaven she continued to guide her monastery as she had promised in her last words before entering her agony. Then she had suddenly sat up in bed, all traces of the illness gone and her face as fresh and young as when she was thirty three, the age at which she founded the monastery. She had left them with the most touching of farewells, promising them continuing assistance from heaven.
In fact, she frequently spoke with Mother Mariana in visions when the latter sought her guidance and counsel.
First Apparition of the Mother of Good Success
Around this time Mother Mariana suffered cruelly with all the cares of her community. They lacked proper financial support, and the added cross of the threatening separation from the Franciscans inflicted a real martyrdom on her.
In the early morning of February 2, 1594, Mother Mariana was praying in the high choir. Prostrate with her forehead touching the floor, she implored help for her community and mercy for the sinful world.
She then heard a sweet voice calling her name. Rising quickly, she beheld a most beautiful lady in an aura of light. On her left arm she held the Child Jesus and on her right a crosier of the purest gold adorned with such precious stones as are not to be found on this earth.
“Who art thou, beautiful lady?” she asked, “and what dost thou wish? Dost thou not know that I am but a poor nun, filled with love for God, true, but suffering and tried to the utmost?”
The lady answered: “I am Mary of Good Success, the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Precisely because you are a religious soul full of love for God and for His Mother who now speaks to you, I have come from heaven to sooth your burdened heart.”
Then the Mother of God showed her how her prayers and penances pleased God. She explained that she held the golden crosier in her right hand because she wished to govern the convent herself, and that the devil would do all in his power to destroy the convent by means of some ungrateful daughters of hers dwelling there.
“He will not attain his goal,” she continued, “because I am the Queen of Victories and the Mother of Good Success. Under this invocation I wish, in the centuries to come, to perform miracles for the preservation of this, my convent, and its inhabitants.
“Until the end of the world I will have holy daughters, heroic souls, in the obscure life of their convent, who, suffering persecutions and slanders from within their own community, will be much loved by God and His Mother.… Their lives of prayer, penance, and sacrifice will be extremely necessary in all times. After having spent their lives unknown to all, they will be called to heaven to occupy an exalted throne of glory.” She then revealed to Mother Mariana that hers would be a long and suffering life, but she bid her never lose courage.
Saying this, she placed the Infant Jesus in the humble virgin’s arms. Clasping Him tightly to her heart, Mother Mariana felt the strength to suffer all for His honor and glory and the good of souls.
Our Lady was to appear several times to Mother Mariana under the title of the Mother of Good Success. During some of these apparitions she prophesied many things about our own twentieth century.
Separation from the Franciscans
The ominous day predicted both to Mother Maria and Mother Mariana had arrived, the day in which their small flock would be separated from their divinely appointed shepherds. There had been new elections for a superior and Mother Magdalena of Jesus Valenzuela, the newly appointed prioress, lost no time in accomplishing this. This lady was not a bad person, but being weak, she often served as a tool in the hands of other nuns with evil intent.
Quickly, she worked to annul the obedience to the sons of Saint Francis and to submit the direction of the monastery to the Bishop of Quito. This was a sad day for the heroic and saintly foundresses and all the obedient Conceptionists of that house. As the Franciscan Fathers said farewell, Mother Mariana and all the obedient nuns wept inconsolably. Nevertheless, they obediently submitted to the new authority.
The Father Provincial of the Franciscans left them with words of encouragement and consolation, assuring them of their future return. For the unruly ones he left words of malediction.
Immediately, with Mother Valenzuela at the helm but manipulated by the unruly faction, observance of the rule began to decline, prescribed times of silence were no longer observed, and abuses multiplied.
Worried and afflicted in her heart with this situation, which defeated the true purpose of the conventual life, Mother Mariana humbly approached her new superior, begging as foundress and ex-prioress that these infractions and deviations be corrected for the good of the community.
The secular ecclesiastical prelate now in authority over the convent heard of this appeal. But the rebellious faction made sure he received the worst possible report, making Mother Mariana out to be unruly, insubordinate, and much more.
As a result, he ordered the innocent virgin to be imprisoned for three days. He also ordered that her veil be removed, that she receive a public scourging at meal times in the refectory, and that she eat kneeling on the floor. These three days were spent in a dark, underground prison. There, Sister Mariana had to expiate her perfect innocence.
After three days, she was removed to a solitary room. The Spanish foundresses, unable to contain themselves seeing her suffering, visited her there. For this they were ordered to be incarcerated along with Mother Mariana for a full month. Others who showed solidarity with them also joined the holy foundresses in prison. At one time they were twenty-five thus paying for their fidelity.
One night, a small cross that Mother Mariana had painted on the wall began to shine intensely. As the light increased marvelously to the astonishment of the innocent prisoners, the seven foundresses were each taken up in a sublime ecstasy and each shown a different vision.
As an example of these visions, Mother Francisca of the Angels, one of the Spanish foundresses, saw their Seraphic Father, Saint Francis of Assisi, in a state of fury and going about the convent with a bow, shooting arrows right and left. As one of the arrows pierced the heart of one of the disobedient nuns, she fell dead instantly.
(Explanation of Picture: The main square of Quito, Ecuador’s capital. The central building is the Presidential Palace. The smaller red arrow indicates the approximate place where, in exact fulfillment of Our Lady’s prophecy, Gabriel Garcia Moreno died. The larger red arrow indicates the Convent of the Immaculate Conception, directly across the street)
Then Saint Francis said to Mother Francisca: “This nun is the one mainly responsible for the separation from the Franciscans and the laxity introduced in the monastery. She will be held accountable for all the sufferings and lack of observance of the rule in the centuries to come until the jurisdiction of the Franciscan family returns. Then the rule given us by Pope Julius II will be perfectly observed. But I will see to it that in all times there will be souls who, loving the Seraphic Order, will sustain the regular observance of the monastery with their penitent and dedicated lives.”
The next morning, that nun was found dead in her cell, her face a blackish purple. The prisoners were made to carry her body for burial. Imagine Mother Francisca’s sorrow on having to carry the body of this sister she had loved and served but was not able to save! Mother Magdalen of Saint John beheld Saint John the Evangelist. He revealed to her that on the day of the Last Supper, as he reclined his head over Our Saviour’s heart, one of the secrets that had been revealed to him was the foundation of this monastery. Our Lord let him know how much He loved this house and that in it would live Eucharistic souls who would take upon themselves to offer reparation for the sacrileges committed against the Divine Victim.
Thus did these holy souls spend those bitter days of imprisonment within their own house, persecuted, reviled, and abandoned by their own.
Tortured by pity and remorse, Mother Valenzuela could no longer bear the thought of these innocent and holy nuns incarcerated in that awful place. She wrote a letter to the Bishop confessing her weakness in allowing the rebellious nuns to manipulate her and cause the imprisonment of these perfectly innocent women. The prelate was very upset on receiving this message. He reprimanded Mother Valenzuela severely and ordered the immediate release of the victims.
On being released, the poor suffering souls humbly kissed the feet of their prioress and those of their persecutors.
Despite this, it would take a veritable book to relate the continuing episodes of intrigue, calumny, and persecution stirred up by the father of lies against the faithful nuns. Let it suffice to say that this was only the beginning of the terrible persecution suffered by these holy souls, who were later returned to that awful prison.
Once more, election and...imprisonment
After this release from imprisonment, Mother Mariana was again elected prioress, receiving the majority of the votes from the obedient faction of the convent. This caused such a fury in the rebellious band that again she was slandered to such a point that the Bishop, not knowing what to do, had her isolated in a cell. The hate-filled, unruly bloc wished to send her to the dark prison again but Mother Valenzuela would not hear of it.
Further prophecies about the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
One day during this second period of isolation, as she prayed and suffered, Mother Mariana again beheld a lady of incomparable majesty and beauty surrounded by light. Once more the lady called herself Mary of Good Success. Again she carried her infant Son and the golden crosier. A diamond-studded cross shimmered like so many suns on the crosier; rubies adorned the center of the cross and the name of Mary was engraved on this ruby star, shimmering with many different lights.
This time, among many other things, the Mother of Good Success said: “In the nineteenth century a truly Christian president will govern Ecuador. He will be a man of character to whom God Our Lord will grant the palm of martyrdom on this same central square where my convent stands. He will consecrate the Republic of Ecuador to the Sacred Heart of my most holy Son, and this consecration will sustain the Catholic Faith in the years to come, which will be ominous for the Church.
“During these years, in which Masonry, that accursed sect, will take over the government, there will be a cruel persecution against religious communities. They will also violently attack this convent which is particularly mine. To those wretched men this monastery will seem finished, but unbeknown to them, I live and God lives to raise in their very midst powerful defenders of this work. We will also place unsurmountable difficulties in their paths, and the triumph shall be ours.”
These predictions were fulfilled to the letter.
Gabriel Garcia Moreno
Gabriel Garcia Moreno was a man of unshakable courage, brilliant intellect, and ardent love for the Church and the Papacy. As president of Ecuador, he led the republic in the paths of Faith and righteousness for several years, accomplishing tremendous religious, moral, educational, and economic reform.
Shortly after his reelection, in a great impulse of manly fervor, he shouldered a huge wooden cross during a Holy Week procession and led the cortege through the streets of Quito. Shortly thereafter, the Masonic lodges of Peru sent an assassin to kill him.
He was brutally murdered on August 6, 1875, in front of the presidential palace as he returned from Mass and Holy Communion in the Cathedral. He fell in the square on which stands the convent of the Immaculate Conception, just as Our Lady had predicted. It is said that while dying in a pool of blood from multiple machete wounds, he managed to dip his finger into his own blood and write on the pavement, “Dios no muere” — God does not die.
The Mother of God asks that a statue be made
During this same apparition the Blessed Virgin of Good Success asked Mother Mariana to have a statue of her made exactly as Mother Mariana saw her. She wished this statue to be placed in the Prioress’ seat in the high choir so that, from there, she might effectively rule over her convent. She wished a crosier to be placed in her right hand as a sign of her authority as superior, along with the keys of the monastery so she might defend it in the centuries to come.
Defend it she did. On several future occasions, hostile governmental officials sought to move the sisters or close the convent. Not one of these attempts succeeded. In some cases the person in charge died or was removed from office before the order was carried out. On one occasion, a large number of men assigned to converge on the convent at a specified time all forgot the rendezvous until the time had passed.
The Blessed Virgin is measured
Mother Mariana was puzzled over how to obtain the Heavenly Lady’s exact measurements. Noticing her confusion, Our Lady had her remove the cord from the waist of her habit. Then, with immeasurable grace, she took one end of the cord and held it at her forehead while Mother Mariana touched the other end to Our Lady’s foot. The cord, too short for such a measurement, stretched to the perfect length.
For some unknown reason, Mother Mariana experienced some temptations and difficulties in believing the validity of this apparition. Consequently, many years went by before the statue requested by the Mother of Good Success was made.
Trouble in the convent continues
Affairs remained far from settled in the Convent of the Immaculate Conception. Always spurred by the devil who had vowed to destroy this holy house that caused so much havoc to his plans, the same brood of rebellious, disgruntled, and envious nuns never ceased plotting.
Again came time for a new election for superior. The revolutionary element raised so much friction that after many sessions a decision had not been reached. The Bishop himself had to intervene and preside over the new election.
Blinded by envy and hate, the leader of the rebellion, a small nun known as “La Capitana” requested the post of prioress for herself while reviling and insulting Mother Mariana and the Spanish foundresses. She also requested their return to Spain.
This proved a fatal mistake for the revolted ones, for the Bishop now clearly saw with whom he was dealing. Indignant, the Bishop ordered La Capitana to be immediately removed and locked in the prison where her innocent victims had formerly suffered so much. As to the others, he revoked their right to vote and ordered that they be given the hardest and most menial work in the convent. If they resisted, they were to join their leader in prison. They were also expelled from the voting room.
Finally, Mother Valenzuela was elected prioress once more.
The immense sacrifice
As this hate-filled and crazed creature spoke to the Bishop, Mother Mariana was sitting quietly in a corner of the room, whence she beheld hideous monkeys approaching this nun. Their mouths, eyes, and nostrils vomited fire that they poured into her heart and into those of her rebellious followers.
Mother Mariana saw that this unhappy nun and several of her followers would not be saved. But, well aware of Mother Mariana’s unbounded love for souls, Our Lord appeared to her and proposed the unimaginable. There was but one way to save this soul from the eternal flames of Hell that she well deserved for her many sins and the harm caused to the community for the coming centuries: This way was for Mother Mariana to agree to suffer five years in Hell for her.
The heroic nun trembled to her very core, but she accepted.
One day, the prioress and ex-prioress heard ugly voices issuing from the prison. Mother Valenzuela asked Mother Mariana what she thought these might be, to which the holy nun responded: “Mother, this poor sister is a victim of the devil. Let us go and visit her and bring her out to the garden so she does not despair. We must look after her soul.”
On seeing them, the miserable creature began running around the prison hitting her head against the walls and screaming: “I’m dying! I’m dying! The devil is going to take me!” Then she fell face to the ground.
Turning to Mother Valenzuela, Mother Mariana beckoned, “Come, Mother.” “No,” answered the superior, Mother Valenzuela, much frightened, “your Reverence must go alone.”
Bending down to the fallen nun, Mother Mariana, turned her over, weeping as she did so. Her tears bathed the face of the wretched creature, who was foaming at the mouth and had blood flowing from her nose. Mother Mariana cleaned and rubbed her, attempting to bring her back to her senses. Then she asked for Mother Francisca of the Angels, who was the infirmarian, to provide a few remedies.
“Are you going to be all right?” asked Mother Valenzuela, who had remained panic-stricken at the door.
“Do not worry, Mother. Jesus and Mary are with me,” was the calm answer.
As Mother Mariana waited, she suddenly noticed two black creatures crouching against the wall in a corner of the room, timidly trying to hide from her. Indignant, she addressed them in a loud voice: “Vile and abominable beasts, what are you doing here? Go back to your cruel home, for this is a holy place, a house of prayer and penance. All your efforts to snatch my sister’s soul will be in vain. Jesus Christ died for her and, in spite of you, she will be saved. I command you in the name of the mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity, of the Divine Eucharist, of the Divine Maternity of Mary Most Holy and the glorious Assumption of her body and soul into Heaven, that you immediately leave this holy place. Leave it, and never more return to torment any of my sisters with your abominable presence.”
As she pronounced these last words, there was a terrible noise. The ground shook and horrible screams were heard. Then the devils were gone.
Infirmary and death
On returning to her senses, the sick nun was very embarrassed, but she would talk only to Mother Valenzuela. She spent a terrible night suffering the cruelties of a criminal conscience. Still, envy had such a hold over her heart that she could not bring herself to ask pardon of Mother Mariana, much less bring herself to love her.
At the doctor’s orders, she was moved to a room where she could be nursed, for she had a contagious disease and was very sick. Mothers Mariana and Francisca nursed her with great love, tenderness, and affection. Yet, the sick woman treated them rudely, complaining about everything.
Despite every care and treatment, her condition worsened to the point that death was imminent. Feeling herself dying, she cried in a terrible agitation: “It is too late for me. I cannot love her nor forgive her. I want to be saved but cannot. Oh! Get those black creatures to go away! Help me, because they will take me!” She pathetically clung to Mother Mariana, who silently wept a torrent of tears over the head and face of the dying nun.
A priest was called, but she would not confess. The priest left, saddened by this scene of dying impenitence. She then breathed her last.
Mother Mariana continued to hold the corpse in her arms. Her Spanish sisters and co-foundresses begged her to lay her back on the bed, but Mother Mariana said: “My Sisters and Mothers, do not so soon forget my sacrifice that was accepted to save this soul. Pray to God fervently for her. She is now before the judgment seat of God and she has realized all the evil she has done. She will live again. Do not be frightened; remain calm because she will repent and amend. Later she will die and be saved, but her Purgatory will last to the day of Judgment. This the Lord has revealed to me.”
As she finished saying this, the dead nun’s body quivered and she opened her eyes. She looked all around the room as if seeking someone. Then, fixing her eyes on Mother Mariana, she wanted to speak but her voice choked in a torrent of tears. The angelic Mother Mariana dried them with a mother’s love and spoke to her words of confidence in the goodness of God. The poor creature finally felt how much she was loved.
After a general confession, she slowly began to recover. She was now as docile as a child and never wanted to be away from her holy benefactress.
Mother Mariana enters Hell
Some time later, Our Lord appeared to Mother Mariana. He reminded her that the time had come for her to pay the price for the salvation of La Capitana’s soul. He let her know that next day, after receiving Holy Communion, as soon as the sacramental species dissolved within her, she would enter Hell.
The next day, as she approached to receive her God in Holy Communion and to take leave of her intimate relationship with Him for the long duration of five years, she felt as if her heart would break. She sought to hold on to Him as much as possible, but as soon as the divine species dissolved, she felt a terrible pain as if her heart had been wrenched from her chest. From that moment she became totally insensitive to God.
Although she was to remain five years in the state of a damned soul, she lost the notion of the time and was convinced that it would be endless. Her sublime love for God and her most holy Mother now changed into a feeling of hate, disgust, and despair.
Meanwhile, as her soul suffered all the torments of the damned, her five bodily senses were steeped in incredible torture. Her body was like a glowing ember, burning without being consumed amidst unspeakable pains. Her eyes beheld the most horrible infernal scenes while the most atrocious blasphemies constantly assaulted her ears. Her sense of smell was plagued by all the filth of humanity, and her sense of touch was tormented by sharp points penetrating to the very center of her body. Her palate was tortured by a horrible, unknown taste, while demons forced melted sulphur down her throat. At the same time, the demons beat her head to the point of spilling her brains, thus inciting her to wrath, despair, and blasphemy.
She suffered all this while living her daily life in the convent. She never opened her lips with a single complaint to the community. Rather, she remained a perfect example of sweetness, humility, and obedience. Only the Franciscan priest who directed her and the other foundresses knew what Mother Mariana endured, and they prayed for her unceasingly.
The only exterior sign of the hell she suffered was that her cheeks, normally rosy and healthy, enhancing her natural beauty, lost their color and became sallow. In the end, she was a walking cadaver.
Death of La Capitana
Five years later, while in prayer, Mother Mariana cried out and fell as if dead. She was unconscious for a long time and then finally, sighing deeply, opened her eyes, which filled with tears of relief. Her hell was over. Gradually she recovered her beautiful color and health. Not long after, La Capitana fell sick once again and approached her end. She confessed all her sins and died calmly, assisted by Holy Mother Church.
Mother Mariana of Jesus saw the sister’s judgement, where she was shown that her salvation was owed to her mother’s five years in Hell. She carried this immense gratitude with her to eternity. In Purgatory she was much helped by her benefactress, who did not cease to pray for her. After Mother Mariana’s death, this soul in Purgatory was gradually forgotten.
The life of this angelic creature was a steady succession of divine revelations, interventions, and miracles. During her life she levitated, bilocated to save a soul, multiplied bread, cured the sick, reconciled families, predicted the future, worked conversions. These are simply too numerous to relate here.
We will limit our story to the remarkable making of the statue of Our Lady of Good Success.
The miraculous statue
On January 21, 1610, the Blessed Mother of Good Success appeared for the second time, now accompanied by the three archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, to request again that her statue be made.
Then the sweet Queen indicated the artist who was to carry out this holy task. It was to be Francisco del Castillo, a man of good family and a consummate sculptor. Moreover, he was God-fearing, honest, and upright and, with his wife and children, scrupulously ruled his life by the ten commandments.
“But Lady and dear Mother of my soul,” said Mariana, “this tiny little ant before thee will never be able to convey to any artist thy beautiful features.… It would really be necessary that one of the archangels accompanying thee sculpt this holy image that thou desirest.” The heavenly Queen quieted her worries by assuring her that Francisco del Castillo would sculpt it and that her angels would refinish it.
Again the holy nun asked to take the heavenly Lady’s measurements. Again, as in the first instance, Mary Most Holy graciously took one end of the cord and placed it to her forehead while Mother Mariana touched the other end of the miraculously extended cord to her foot. But this time, so that the Blessed Virgin could easily place the end of the cord to her forehead, the three archangels raised her magnificent golden crown slightly above her head, then gently set it down again with boundless care and reverence.
Mother Mariana still hesitates; Our Lady insists
Incredibly, even after these two requests of Our Lady herself, Mother Mariana still hesitated.
She feared that the Bishop would doubt her and pose obstacles to the erection of such an image. She also feared that the Indian population of Quito, only recently catechized and still with inclinations to idolatry, would offer the wrong reverence to such a magnificent representation of God’s Mother.
On February 2 of that same year, Mother Mariana knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, finishing her customary nightly prayer, when she felt her heart leap within her in a mixture of joy and no little fright.
In an instant, she found herself before the Queen of Heaven, who stood bathed in glowing lights within an oval frame of glimmering stars. Mariana felt an impulse to escape but something restrained her. She saw the sovereign Queen looking at her with severity and without saying a word.
Mother Mariana begged Our Lady not to look at her like that and promised to carry out all she commanded even if it cost her her life.
The Heavenly Lady then reprimanded her patiently, asking her why she doubted and feared despite knowing her to be a powerful Queen. She assured Mother Mariana that there would be no danger of idolatry. Much to the contrary, this statue was not only meant for the good of the convent but also that of the people in general throughout the centuries.
Then Mother Mariana begged Our Lady that her own name be hidden so that she, Mary Most Holy be glorified.
This Our Lady granted, pleased at her humility, and assured Mariana of Jesus that the facts concerning the making of this statue and of Mother Mariana’s life would only come to be known in the twentieth century.
The statue is made
Word of Our Lady’s request profoundly moved the Bishop. He reprimanded Mother Mariana for not having conveyed it to him sooner.
With the Bishop’s permission and full support, Francisco del Castillo was contacted. The poor man could scarcely contain his surprise, joy, and gratitude at having been named by the
Mother of God herself for this holy project. He refused any payment, considering himself fully compensated solely by this selection. He asked only that his family and descendants always remain in the prayers of the community.
To find material for the statue, he travelled outside Quito and only returned when he was sure he had found the best wood, paints, and finishes the country had to offer.
Mother Mariana described to him as best she could the features of the Heavenly Queen as she had appeared and then gave him the exact measurements. According to these measurements, the Blessed Virgin Mary stood five feet, nine inches tall. Miraculous completion
In January, 1611, when the statue was nearly done and lacking only the final touches of paint and varnish, Francisco del Castillo informed Mother Mariana that because this last application was the most important one, he wished to make sure that he had the very finest materials. He said he would return in two weeks, on January 16, and resume work after receiving Holy Communion.
During those days the community talked of little else but the holy image that was about to be finished, blessed, and installed as Queen and Superior of their convent.
On the morning of January 16, as the sisters approached the high choir to pray the morning Office, they heard a beautiful melody. On entering the choir they beheld the statue, bathed in a celestial light, while angelic voices sang the “Salve Sancta Parens.” They saw that the statue had been exquisitely finished and that its face emitted rays of the brightest light!
Francisco del Castillo, arriving and beholding the image, fell to his knees saying, “Mothers, what do I see? This precious statue is not the work of my hands. I do not know how to describe what I feel in my heart. This was made by angelic hands!” In fact, the outer layer of the statue lay on the ground.
The Bishop, coming and kneeling before it, likewise acknowledged the prodigy as large tears welled in his eyes. He attested that the image had been modified and enriched by other than human hands. Afterwards, calling Mother Mariana, who was abbess once again, he asked her to come into the confessional. He knew that she must know something of what had occurred.
Finished by heavenly hands
Mother Mariana then revealed that a great light had filled the church and the choir while she prayed there in the early hours of January 16. She had beheld the Most Holy Trinity present in the church and understood the infinite love of the three Divine Persons for Mary Most Holy, who was also present, resplendent and queenly.
The nine choirs of angels then praised and offered reverence to her. The three archangels Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael each knelt before her, saying in turn: “Hail Mary, daughter of God the Father,” “Hail Mary, Mother of God the Son,” “Hail Mary, most chaste Spouse of the Holy Ghost.”
Then Saint Francis appeared with his sacred wounds shining like suns. Approaching the unfinished statue and taking his cincture from around his waist, he tied it around her waist, placing his beloved convent of the Immaculate Conception in her hands and asking her to be its defender, teacher, and mother in the difficult times to come.
Meanwhile, the statue shone as if in the midst of the sun. Lo and behold, the Blessed Virgin, approached and entered it as the rays of the sun penetrate a transparent crystal. At that moment the statue took on life and sang the Magnificat!
This happened at three o’clock in the morning.
Mother Mariana also saw her aunt, Mother Maria Taboada, who congratulated her for such graces granted to her and the community and once again showed her all the battles the convent would face, especially in the twentieth century. She also spoke of the holy souls whose names were inscribed in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and who not only would maintain the community, but would also avert many calamities from the people in those times.
At this, Mother Mariana returned to her senses. Looking at the statue, she saw it radiant and finished in a marvellous way!
At three o’clock on the morning of February 2, 1634, Mother Mariana had just finished her prayer in the upper choir when she noticed that the sanctuary lamp had gone out.
Instinctively she prepared to descend to the church in order to re-light it, but an unknown force immobilized her so that she could not take a single step. At this moment Our Lady of Good Success appeared carrying the Divine Infant in her left hand and the crosier in her right. Calmly approaching, she said: “My beloved daughter, today I bring you the pleasant notice of your death, which shall occur in eleven months. Your eyes will then close to the material light of this world in order to open to the brilliance of eternal light. Prepare your soul so that, purified ever more, it may fully enter into the enjoyment of your Lord.”
And so it happened. Mother Mariana’s health began to fail, but she still went about her duties in the convent for as long as possible. Yet, a time came when she had to be confined to bed.
Knowing the day and hour of her death, she prepared her aggrieved daughters for her final voyage to eternity. She was to go to her Lord at 3 p.m. on January 16, 1635. She was then seventy-two years of age.
Around one o’clock of that day, she asked the Mother Abbess to summon the community. When they arrived she read aloud her magnificent testament, which began by affirming that she died a faithful daughter of the Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Then, with a voice vibrant with emotion but firm with the strength of faith and sincerity, she echoed Her Master’s words: “It is necessary that I go but I will not leave you orphans. I go to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God, and the Divine Consoler will descend to comfort you.”
After receiving the Holy Viaticum, she, on fire with love, calmly closed her eyes and ceased breathing. Mariana of Jesus was with God.
A rose at her feet
We cannot refrain from mentioning a most touching and golden episode as an ending to our story.
Several years before, an anxious expectant mother had come to ask Mother Mariana to pray for her condition, which had been diagnosed as precarious.
Cordial and kind as ever, the holy nun gave her some aniseed water — with which she had performed innumerable cures — and allayed her fears by assuring her she would give birth to a beautiful baby girl. The comforted mother then asked her protectress to pray for her baby.
Mariana of Jesus responded: “You do not have to ask for my prayers, for this girl is more mine than yours. She is a soul chosen by God and will perfume this cloister with the aroma of her virtues. Bring her here often, for I wish to see her. She shall dress my body for burial.”
As predicted, a beautiful and healthy girl was born, receiving the name Zoila Blanca Rose. At the age of ten she begged to be admitted to the convent where she was already an example of virtues as well as a ray of sunshine by her ever joyful and innocent disposition. In the convent she became Zoila Blanca Rose of Mariana of Jesus.
When her beloved Mother Mariana fell ill for the last time, Zoila devotedly nursed her. Yet, the sunshine left her beautiful face, for she could not bear the thought of living without her saintly Mother.
One day she emerged from the sick room radiant again. On being asked the reason for such unbecoming joy in view of her Mother’s approaching death, she explained that Mother Mariana had promised to take her with her.
As Mother Mariana’s body was laid out in the low choir, surrounded by a profusion of flowers, Rose of Mariana knelt at her Mother’s feet and leaned her head on them. After a while, the prioress approached to bid her take some rest. She did not answer. On moving her, the nuns saw that she was cold and her mouth was filled with blood. They immediately summoned the doctor. After a thorough examination the doctor said, “She died instantly when the main artery of her heart was wrenched.”
All the flowers prescribed by the Rule for the adornment of their sisters’ bodies had been used for Mother Mariana. Improvising a bier, they carried the body of their youngest member to the low choir devoid of flowers, amidst sobs and canticles. As they passed the patio, they saw it abloom with most magnificent white roses, fragrant and double the normal size. Zoila’s body was covered with those roses, laden with perfume and the essence of miracles, and placed by that of her holy Mother Mariana. Blessed be God in his saints!
1. According to the Mystical City of God written by Maria of Agreda, another Conceptionist and mystic, the Blessed Virgin was taken to heaven on the day of Our Lord’s Ascension and also given the choice to stay or return to earth to help the young Church. [back to article]
DAILY QUOTE for September 28, 2020
SAINT OF THE DAY
In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.