May 26, Feast day of St. Mariana de Jesús de Paredes y Flores, the Lily of Quito.
Who was this amazing young saint whose feast day we celebrate this month? St. Mariana (not to be confused with Sister Mariana Torres, also of Quito, who has not yet been canonized) was the daughter of a noble couple of Quito, descended from Spanish aristocracy. At her birth on October 31, 1618, those attending to her mother were astonished to see amazing phenomena among the stars in the heavens, to which they testified when the local bishop initiated an inquiry into a cause for her canonization .
From her earliest childhood, Mariana exhibited a great love of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, an extraordinary attraction to prayer and physical mortification, and the desire to bring the Faith to those who were spiritually impoverished and ignorant of Jesus Christ.
At the age of ten she took the evangelical councils of poverty, chastity, and obedience, hoping to become a religious in one of the many convents of Quito, or to travel abroad to become a missionary. God wanted otherwise, however. Mariana, ever obedient to the Divine Will, became a recluse in her own home, which was that of her sister and bother-in-law, her parents having passed on when she was yet a child. She practiced incredible austerities, as did certain other ascetics, who are more to be admired than imitated. On most days she ate nothing; when she did eat it was usually just a few morsels of dry bread every eight or ten days. Indeed, her body seemed to be miraculously sustained on Holy Communion, which she was given the privilege of receiving daily. One of her many penances was to drag about a heavy wooden cross in imitation of her beloved Jesus on the way to His crucifixion, and on certain days of the week, she would lash herself to transfixed beams that were affixed to the wall of her room and hang there for three hours, all to bring herself closer to the crucified Savior.
Mariana was endowed with wonderful mystical gifts: she could read hearts, she could affect cures, predict the future, and on at least one occasion, she restored a dead person to life. She seemed to be able to see distant events, past and future, as if they were passing before her.
Perhaps all of Mariana’s spiritual gifts would have remained a secret but for her ultimate sacrifice. In the year 1646, the city of Quito, capital of Ecuador, was being ravaged by many scourges on account of the sins of its Catholic population. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and terrible diseases were decimating the population. More than fourteen thousand people had been killed and many buildings were destroyed in the quakes. When the volcano Pinchincha erupted after being dormant for more than eighty years, the people began to accept the truth that their sins were the cause.
Father Alonso de Rojas, pastor of the Jesuit church, offered himself publicly, as he preached from the pulpit, to be a propitiatory victim and asking God that he might die to save the people from the punishment they deserved. After his sermon, Mariana, who had been sitting right in front of the church, calmly rose from her seat and announced in a loud clear voice that she would take the place of Father Rojas because he was a good priest and much more needed in Quito than she was. She then asked Our Lord to accept her offering “in defense of her country, her compatriots, and her kindred” and that she “might be chastised for everything in the city which deserved chastisement.” Upon arriving at her home, she was immediately struck with a mortal illness to which she succumbed within two months. During her final suffering the earthquakes stopped, the volcano quieted, and the plagues died out.
All of Quito prayed for Mariana’s recovery, realizing what a great sacrifice she had made for them. God accepted their prayers as repentance, but Mariana’s soul was taken to paradise to be with her Beloved forever on Ascension Thursday, May 26, 1645. When she breathed her last, her body fell over on the dirt floor, and on that very spot a white lily sprang forth from the earth that had received some of the blood that was still moist on her garments. This is why she is known as the Lily of Quito.
We surely live in sinful times. Our beloved country is steeped in horrible offenses that make God weep. Will we have a victim soul like Mariana to help us?
St. Mariana, Lily of Quito, pray for us.
Thanks to Kathy Heckenkamp of the Apostolate of Our Lady of Good Success for information on St. Mariana of Quito. For more on the Apostolate go to www.ourladyofgoodsuccess.com