In 2003, the Apostolate of Our Lady of Good Success was doing some research and was made aware of another “Mariana de Jesus” in the Colonial history of Quito. Besides Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres who had visions of Our Lady of Good Success there was another called Mariana de Jesus Paredes y Flores now known to the Catholic Church as St. Mariana de Jesus, “The Lily of Quito”. We discovered that these two Marianas’ lived in the same century though one was much younger than the other; they knew of each other and had a mutual respect for each other. We have a story about one such incident on ……(“Lily of Quito”)
The Apostolate of Our Lady of Good Success has been blessed on its pilgrimages to visit Carmen Alto, a Carmelite convent that is within walking distance to the Conceptionist Convent in Quito where the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Good Success resides. Prior to becoming a Carmelite convent, this building was once the home of a canonized saint. This saint’s name in life was Mariana de Paredes y Flores. Later she took the name of Mariana de Jesus. The residents of Quito came to call her by the very endearing nickname of “The Lily of Quito”. We hesitated to include her in our devotional pages because people have a tendency to get very confused with the two Mariana’s attributed to the city of Quito, Ecuador in the Colonial Era; St. Mariana of Quito, the hermitess and canonized saint and Mother Mariana the Conceptionist mystic that had visions of Our Lady of Good Success.
However, on our last visit to Quito it seemed quite apparent by certain circumstances that took place that St. Mariana wished to be known by Catholics other than those in Ecuador. One of these circumstances was the obtaining of the Nine day Novena to St. Mariana in Spanish and the approval of the Mother Superior to translate it. (We have made this available to you on the internet following this article on St. Mariana.)
While we visited this convent, we were able to express our wish to help promote St. Mariana as we believe her to be a patroness for our times. The Mother Superior was very agreeable to this proposal but she asked, “How could St. Mariana be for people other than the residents of Quito?” and “Why would the people in the United States or anywhere else want to know and pray to St Mariana de Jesus?” We explained to the Mother Superior that we felt that since St Mariana taught little children in her home and cared for them she could well be considered a “Patroness for Home schooling families”. She nodded her head in agreement. St. Mariana could be a patroness of many causes and for many people such as catechists, teachers, youth, sick and the dying, lay people having trouble discerning their vocation, religious, third order religious, health care workers, even mothers for she cared for the poor children of Quito as if she were another mother to them”
Circumstances involving her cause for canonization lead one to believe that this initiative of titling her a “Patroness for Our Times” is even truer than a mere suggestion. The primary reason for believing this is due to the fact that she was canonized over 300 years after her death in 1950 by Pope Pius XII-at a time in which the Church, unbeknownst to the Catholics living at that time, would see the termination of one era and a heralding of a new one….for many changes began to take place after the death of Pope Pius XII. Soon the Catholic Church as we once knew it to be, would be in eclipse. Pope John XIII would be elected; call a council and the rest would be history….
Additionally, according to the documentation over the last centuries, despite the fact that her cause for canonization was put forth very quickly, that is 25 years after her death, circumstances curtailed her beautification and canonization. It seems quite fantastic that her Cause for Canonization was deterred, though St. Mariana had the very distinguished of personages of that time and most brilliant scholars of Quito studying, and documenting her case and representing her before the proper authorities. Uncannily every time the documentation of her life, her virtues, her gifts and her miracles were to be sent to Rome, tragic events such as shipwrecks, death and even pirates obstructed and hindered this objective. Not until 1850 was Mariana beautified. It was the Catholic President of Ecuador, Gabriel Garcia Moreno who organized an illustrious restoration of the shrine in Blessed Mariana’s honor at the Jesuit Church of “La Compania”. Incidentally he was also the President that consecrated Ecuador to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion St Mariana herself practiced. Despite the delay, the devotion to Mariana de Jesus continued to spread and grow. Yet another one hundred years were to pass before she was canonized.
Over the course of history, her story of canonization reads as an overly dramatic novel. However despite these apparent interruptions, perhaps God, Himself, caused these procrastinations of sorts in order that her canonization would take place in the Twentieth Century. With God are there really any coincidences? Does He not, in his Omnipotence, allow everything, even evil deeds or occurrences, to work for Himself and His Goodness? …. for even the devils in Hell ultimately must bow before Him and obey.
Mariana de Paredes y Flores was born in Quito on the Eve of All Saint’s Day-October 31, 1618 and baptized on November 22 the feast of St. Cecilia. She was the eighth child of Captain Jeronimo Zenel Paredes y Flores from Toledo, Spain and Dona Mariana Jaramillo de Granobles a native of Quito. Dona Mariana was middle aged when she became pregnant with Mariana. Her pregnancy was quite troublesome and miscarriage was feared. However despite all of this Dona Mariana carried her to term, delivering a most beautiful and delicate baby girl. . Interestingly enough Mariana’s arrival onto this earth was proclaimed in the Heavens on All Hallow’s Eve. There, glimmering above the house where Mariana was born, shown a cascade of stars in the shape of a palm leaf not so unlike that blessed star above the stable in Bethlehem so many thousands of years ago. Few future saints have had such an announcement of birth quite like this one and what a night to be born-the eve of All Saints Day! It was as if God was indicating that this babe had been endowed with angelic qualities making her worthy to enter into that Communion of Saints in Heaven.
Mariana was, in fact, no ordinary child. Like St. John the Baptist she did penance from infancy. It is said that she fasted taking nourishment only twice a day during her babyhood. Her mother was very concerned and had even procured several wet nurses to interest the baby in taking nourishment-all to no avail.
Perhaps, the devil, noticing in this infant, her predilection for penance and suffering, and sensing that this child was destined for spiritual greatness, caused dreadful accidents to happen to Marian. No one knows for certain. What is known, however, is that Mariana had several instances which were recorded when she was just a small child in which her life was spared. She was miraculously saved from drowning, a deadly plunge off a remodeled second story building onto a pile of stones and rock and even escaping a crushing death from stone walls collapsing just seconds before where she had been playing with her friends. In all of these situations she came out unscathed. Divine Providence was definitely demonstrating its power of direction in her life.
As she grew into childhood, she and her neighborhood friends and cousins would construct altars at playtime and process around the gardens imitating the church ceremonies they had participated in with their parents. She would lead hymns and prayers. On a number of occasions she was so successful at winning over souls for Christ that she convinced her friends to join her and leave home and go off to the missions to convert heathens even risking life if need be.
On one such event, she and her co-missionaries had gone so far as to attempt to climb the mountain of the volcano of Pichincha. Prepared to offer their lives as hermits for the conversion of sinners, they instead encountered a wild bull which mysteriously appeared snorting and stamping the ground in front of them. What an ominous sight for these children! However, it did not immediately deter the little troop of penitentials. They made several attempts to pass this creature but the passageway seemed impossible to permeate. Mariana began to take this as a sign from God that He may be displeased with her attempts at hermitage at such a young age. So she pardoned herself for a minute to recollect and pray kneeling beside the road to discern God’s will. After the end of her little retreat, she called off her missionary expedition telling her friends that this was not God’s will. As she did this, the bull docilely left the roadway.
These rather public attempts at a religious life at such a young age disturbed her sister and brother in law whom she lived with. Afraid of what the neighbors and friends would say about what some might call flagrant displays of religiosity and fanaticism, they asked Mariana if she would not like to be a religious in a convent. She agreed that she would indeed like to join a convent as she had already consecrated herself to Our Lord making vows of chastity, poverty and obedience at the age of ten. So it was decided that she would enter St. Catherine’s Convent in Quito. When Mariana presented herself to the Mother Superior there, she was thrilled to know that Mariana was interested in a vocation at her convent and she could move in that very afternoon. The only impediment to her entrance was the signing of authorization papers by her legal guardian, her brother in law. So a messenger was sent to his places of business and other locations where he was known to frequent on that given day. However he was not to be found anywhere. Later that day it was discovered that he had been at all of the places the messenger had looked but for some strange reason he was not found. Mariana took this as a sign from Divine Providence that she was not to go to this convent so she never entered St Catherine’s.
Later her brother in law proposed another convent to her. The convent of St Clare looked like a wonderful place for Mariana. So once again she agreed “if it was God’s will”. This time her brother in law was much more careful about signing the necessary paperwork and preparing her dowry as he was very anxious to rid himself of this problematic situation. A great celebration, a going away party of sorts, was planned. Many guests were invited….a great commotion and to-do was made of this occasion. Everyone was so excited about her entrance into the convent-that is everyone, except for Mariana. Due to her disinterest, she decided it was, once again, God’s way of letting her know that convent life was not for her.
At this point, it is said she had recourse to her confessor, Father Monosalvas. He was the one to come to Mariana’s aid in regards to her brother in law since he was beside himself with anger and rage towards Mariana and her indecision! This good priest went to her family and made them see that Mariana should be allowed to live as a religious in seclusion in their house. Inspired by God through this saintly priest, they resigned themselves to aid Mariana in whichever way she wished to live.
And so it was at the age of twelve her vocation was decided. Many people that knew her in the parish church where she went to Mass and received the sacraments were shocked by such a thing! First, she was able to receive the Holy Eucharist at the very young age of eight years old. Then at the age of twelve, she was allowed to receive communion daily. This was an outrage!. This incident created such indignation that the priest that allowed it was called into question and asked to defend his decision before the religious of Quito including the bishop. In the end, the decision was upheld. This still did not put an end to the gossip about her living as a religious at home. Mariana suffered greatly because of all of this. However she did so very willingly as to imitate the sufferings of Our Lord in His own humiliations and insults.
Mariana wore the habit of a Jesuit and the veil and cord and scapular of the Third Order Franciscans. Her confessor regimented her days with 5 hours of prayer, and spiritual reading, one hour for weaving and sewing to earn her keep and 4 hours of rest. The money earned for her handiwork was given to the poor. Besides that, she spent her time in works of mercy. Every day at noon, the poor would come for assistance from St Mariana. She was not the most educated of people. She could read and write and play a musical instrument or two. Despite her somewhat limited education, she managed to found the first organized Catholic Action, the first free clinic in Quito and “a seventeenth century kindergarten” for the Indian and Negro children. She feed, clothed and bathed them. She took care of their ills with medicines. She was able to accomplish much in these hours with them.
“A woman unenlightened by learning, who had always lived a secluded life in the bosom of her family, lacking contacts with scholars, statesmen and persons otherwise experienced in the ways of the world, nevertheless undertook a campaign identical to the one proposed at the same time by the greatest authorities for the education of the aborigines and the development of social welfare. Without the ostentation of publicity, without forming committees or making speeches, supported only by the will power which was founded on the love of God, she began the teaching of Indian children. She received no diploma for her philanthropic work, she was not decorated with any kind of a medal; but the consciousness of well doing enraptured her, she was following the command of the Savior, ‘Love they neighbor….’ Under her supervision the little Indians learned to read, to write, to sing, to play the flute and pray. They were encouraged to play games. Mariana bent over their books with them, her delicately chiseled profile clear and white against their copper colored faces, and moved serenely among them, her slender black-clad figure silhouetted against their many-hued garments. Her whole heart, her whole soul went into her work. That is why the good she did is not limited to the narrow confines of her own era. She struck chords which have vibrated through the centuries and which can still be heard above the tumult of our own troublesome times.”
“Mariana went to Mass, practice her penances, played her guitar, fed the poor, nursed the sick and taught the ignorant. She spent long hours reading the lives of the saints and still longer hours kneeling in prayer; she communicated daily and confessed almost as often.”
It is of interest to note some of her favorite devotions. We know that Mariana had a strong devotion to the Holy Trinity. Pentecost was considered a very important feast for her. Also she had a love for Our Lady of Loreto. She had a shrine in her house of Our Lady of Loreto and she asked to be buried at the church of La Compania under the altar dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto. Mariana would like to meditate on Our Lady in her House of Loreto-the House of Nazareth were Our Lady was born and where the Annuciation and Incarnation took place. Imitating Our Lady, she was able to create another House of Loreto in her own home in Quito.
In 1645, when St Mariana was 26 years old, Quito suffered from three terrible scourges. First there were earthquakes killing more than 2000 persons and destroying many churches. Then there were epidemics of measles and diphtheria which eradicated over 12,000 inhabitants. Finally, the volcano of Pichincha erupted after being dormant for over 80 years, terrorizing the city. The whole city of Quito felt keenly that the Wrath of Almighty God was upon them.
On March 26, 1645, the fourth Sunday in Lent, Mariana’s confessor, Father Alonso de Rojas, declared from the pulpit of St Mariana’s parish church “La Compania” that all of the disasters which had occurred were the result of sin and a call of God to the people to repent. He offered himself to God as a propitiatory victim and asked that he might die to save others from the punishment that they deserved. Mariana was present for this sermon, sitting right in front of the pulpit. She rose from her seat and gracefully spoke in a loud and clear voice so that all could hear her. She proclaimed that she would take the place of Fr Rojas as victim for Fr Rojas was greatly needed in Quito because he was an excellent priest. She asked Our Lord to accept her offering “in defense of her country, her compatriots and her kindred” and she besought Him “that she might be chastised for everything in the city which deserved chastisement.”
After Mass, she left silently and went straight home. God had accepted her sacrifice for she was immediately struck with a mortal illness. From that moment on, the terrible menace caused by the earthquakes, plagues and volcano was terminated. Quito, the city that she loved dearly, was freed from disaster.
From the moment she had made that public announcement of her self-immolation the word was passed quickly through the city. Quito feared to lose their dear friend. Many prayers and novenas were offered for their victim soul but to no avail
She suffered in her last illness for 2 months. On May 26, 1645, Ascension Thursday, she passed into Paradise.
Immediately after St Mariana had died, Hernando de la Cruz was given to know from God that Mariana de Jesus was already in Heaven. Coming out of a state of ecstasy, he joyously announced, “We have a new advocate in heaven, for Mariana is already there.” Giving directions on how to conduct the funeral arrangements, he continued “Do not put on mourning and do not drape the house in black. This is a day of jubilee; it is Mariana’s day of triumph. Therefore adorn the drawing rooms with tapestries, as you would on any other day of jubilee. Spread the bier on which the coffin is to stand with crimson and decorate it with the masses of flowers, which all the convents will send, vying with each other to provide the most beautiful offerings….. The servant of God is already rejoicing in His Presence.” He left her side briefly only to grab his paints and canvas in order to paint her portrait in death.
Fr Alonso de Rojas, whose place Mariana took in her self- immolation for Quito preached at her Requiem Mass testifying to her sanctity. He testified to God’s acceptance of her prayer for the relief of the vengeance that God had meted out upon the city of Quito and of God’s approval of her ultimate sacrifice for the sins of this city. He presented her as their national heroine. By the end of his sermon, there was hardly a dry eye in the church and many people were crying audibly as they departed from Church.
“For the honor of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic Church and the increase of the Christian Religion by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, …….We declare and define Blessed Mariana de Jesus de Paredes to be a Saint….”
“We are not dealing with a foundress of a great religious order …., not with a personality prominent in history, …; not an apostle of charity, ….; not a queen …, not a champion of the rights of the Church…; not a martyr of virginal purity. But rather we are dealing with one who is, in a certain sense, like the final phrase of a symphony, which gathers up all of the themes , taking from each one something characteristic, to put together the marvelous harmony of spirit.”
“The story of Mariana de Jesus de Paredes is very brief. Sprung from a noble Spanish family, whose genealogical tree has roots both in Castile and in Andalusia, she was born in Quito in 1618. From the first moment, she had in her soul all the sweetness of that climate, al the brightness of that sky, all the grace of its palm trees and its flowers. Her piety was amazing; her soul precociously mature; at the age of ten, she took the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Clearly, the branch transplanted from the Iberian trunk was strong and the soil of the New World was generous. The example of the missionaries attracted her, enflamed her soul and filled her with the most lofty desires, which materialized in fervent prayers, extraordinary contemplation and other mystic abilities, together with such austerities that their mere enumeration would cause great amazement. A victim of her first love, she ended her days as a holocaust of charity in 1645, offering her life for her people. And when the earth stopped trembling and the plague vanished from the air, she breathed her last amid indescribable ecstasies, though still clad in her rough hair shirt. She was only 26 years old.”
“She did not live in a cloister, because Providence wanted her to be out in the world; but she aspired to the same perfection as the most observant religious. She was not a great historic figure, but today she is the pride of a great nation which acclaims her as its ’national heroine’ [On November 30, 1946 Ecuador did officially name her the “National Heroine of Ecuador” for offering her life to save her country men from earthquakes and the plague-Does it not seem alien to even suggest that a government would recognize something so lofty and ethereal as this?]. She did not give her time exclusively to charity, but in the end she gave her life for her brethren. She loved the Church as much as the most zealous defender of its rights and she honored it with her virtues. Finally, she was not martyred by the fury of another but she knew how to mortify herself with her own hands.”
“In this Saint, may all men learn the immense power of Christian virtue, capable of bringing a spirit to maturity with more vigor than the sun of Quito, ripening the rich fruits of Ecuador. May the world learn of the energies hidden in prayer and sacrifice. May the epicureans of all time learn that the goal of the spirit is found at the end of the hidden road on which love seeks sorrow in order to overcome material bonds. May the worldly youth of today learn of that in their own circumstances which can make a soul enamored of the Lord. And may all those who live today in the full light of devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus admire the perfection of this innocent victim who, in the dawn of the 17th Century, already knew how to make reparation the center of her spirituality."
“But it is evident that We will not be able to conclude these words without the addressing ourselves specially to the most noble of representatives of Ecuador present here ..
Mariana de Jesus de Paredes is an example for all, but in a special manner for you, beloved Ecuadorian sons. On many occasions, the contingent alternatives of everyday politics can influence guiding principles in such a way that values as fundamental as Christian education may be endangered. Do not permit, but rather demand for your future generations an education framed by the virtues which made your Saint great. Offer to your sons the perfect model of your ‘national heroine’ Saint Marian de Jesus de Paredes.”
Finally, it is interesting to note just what Our Lady of Good Success said of the Twentieth Century to Mother Mariana, the Quitenian contemporary of St Mariana prophesizing:
“The small number of souls who hidden, will preserve the treasure of the Faith and practice virtue will suffer a cruel, unspeakable and prolonged martyrdom. Many of them will succumb to death from the violence of their sufferings, and those that sacrifice themselves for the Church and their country will be counted as martyrs.
In order to free men from the bondage to these heresies, those whom the Merciful Son has designated to effect the restoration will need great strength of will, valor and confidence in God. To test this faith and confidence of the just, there will be occasions when all will seem to be lost and paralyzed. This, then, will be the happy beginning of the complete restoration.”
Does it not indicate that the people of this era would be called on to imitate in some small way this little saint, St. Mariana ? St. Mariana spent her life in self sacrifice. She was a victim soul for her city and her country and the Church.
Our Lady of Good Success also indicated that there would be hardly any virgin souls in this epoch… “During these unfortunate times,” she foretold, “evil will invade childhood innocence. In this way, vocations to the priesthood will be lost, resulting in a true calamity.”
She described the priesthood in the 20th Century: “The secular clergy will leave much to be desired because priests will become careless in their sacred duties. Lacking the divine compass, they will stray from the road traced by God for the priestly ministry, and they will become attached to wealth and riches, which they will unduly strive to attain. How the Church will suffer during this dark night! Lacking a prelate and a father to guide them …many priests will lose their spirit, placing their souls in great danger.” Because of this almost universal condition, imitating St. Mariana’s life by living as a religious in a home setting could be considered a choice for some.
As we have entered into the 21 Century, we wonder how long we must suffer until we will see the “restoration”? We have no way of knowing. All we can see is what lies before us in the immediate future which does not look so agreeable for the Church. Let us turn then to St. Mariana along with the other saints of Ecuador, Mother Mariana and the courageous Catholic President Gabriel Garcia Moreno who now stand before the thrones of Heaven and ask them to intercede for us. We ask them to implore Our Lord as Christ the King and Our Lady of Good Success, Our Most Loving Queen to end this present Crisis in the Church quickly. If not quickly then, grant us the grace to withstand the future and all of the events that must unfold in order to effect the restoration of our most beloved One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.