Just A Nun From Agreda?
Another notable character on our journey is Sister Marie de Jesus Agreda, born April 2, 1602, in Agreda, Spain. Christened Maria Fernandez Coronel, she donned the blue habit and took her vows as a nun in the Franciscan order, and in 1627 she became abbess of the Agreda Franciscan monastery until her death in 1665. The Encyclopedia Brittanica states:
“Her virtues and holy life were universally acknowledged, but controversy arose over her mystical writings, her political influence, and her missionary activities. Her best known work is The Mystical City of God (1670), a life of the Virgin Mary ostensibly based on divine revelations granted to Maria. It was placed on the Index Libroum Prohibitorum in 1681, but the ban was lifted in 1747.”
The 502 Raptures
In 1620, teenaged Sister Maria of Agreda, began having unnerving visions, or raptures. Cloistered in the convent, she would meditate for hours, sometimes all day, and return and tell her fellow sisters wondrous stories of her “over 500″ spiritual travels to a faraway land, meeting savages and telling them of the Word of Christ. She experienced many of these episodes of rapturous meditation and bi-location, and word began to spread of the young nun in the convent. Finally, convinced of the reality of her experiences, she wrote a book in which she described, in great detail, her missionary work bringing the Word of Christ to the savages of The New World. In early Fifteenth-Century Spain, this was not a prudent claim to make during the height of the Holy Inquisition, which quickly put to death untold thousands found “guilty” of witchcraft and dealings with demonic forces. Before long the Inquisition took a pointed interest in the good Sister of Agreda, and she found herself at the center of a dangerous, whirling controversy. She insisted to the Father Inquisitor that she was indeed bi-locating and doing God’s work, but to no avail. A very public trial ensued with the full brunt of the powerful Church bearing down on the poor nun from Agreda. During the height of her trial, a newly returned expedition of conquistadors and friars arrived in Spain with a wondrous tale.
A Puzzling Scenario
It seems that the Spanish explorers, while in the unexplored region north of Mexico, had encountered numerous Native American tribes in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas who had already been converted to Christianity, and somehow knew of “Jesus Christ” the Savior. Even more fantastic were the Indian’s claims of being visited by a white-skinned “Blue Lady” who appeared to many, drifting in a blue haze while she preached the word of the Lord in their native languages. She helped them to build crosses and places of worship, and even handed out rosaries and religious objects.
“From 1620 to approximately 1631 the Spanish nun flew from Spain to the North American State of New Mexico on more than 500 occasions. Thus it was established in the open case of the Holy Inquisition against the nun in 1635, in which it was affirmed further that no one in the convent noticed her absence during those flights. On occasion they would happen twice during the same day. How then can we explain a woman of scarcely eighteen years of age that could bi-locate to New Mexico, and while there, she would dedicate herself to distribute among the natives rosaries and other liturgical objects as she instructed them about the truth of the Christian faith? Her trips occurred shortly before the diocese of Mexico decided to send evangelizers [north] towards those unexplored territories. Her visits made their efforts considerably easier.
Possible Explanation For The Conquest of New Mexico
These first Spanish explorers to the Southwest were amazed by the Natives knowledge of Christianity and were baffled by the rosaries they were shown and by their earnest descriptions of the “Blue Lady” that had come from afar and preached to them.
Finally, when the first Franciscans, led by Friar Benvenedes, arrived [at the Isleta Pueblo] they discovered a singular spectacle. Thousands of Indians approached the Franciscans and asked earnestly for baptism.
Benvenedes wrote later of the Spaniard’s efforts to ascertain how the Indians had foreknowledge of Christianity:
When those Indians were asked to tell us what was the reason for which, with so much affection, they asked for baptism and religious indoctrination, they answered that “a woman had come and preached to each one of them in their own tongue.”
The rapid Spanish conquest and control of New Mexico in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries may have partially been due to Sister Agreda’s solo missionary efforts on behalf of a bewildered Catholic Church.
Only in New Mexico did the Franciscans baptize more than 50,000 people in record time and rapidly install twenty-five missions and minister to more than ninety towns. The Indians remembered with special veneration the Blue Lady, the one whom they gave this name due to her blue mantle of celestial tones she wore on her back. During the mid-1600s, the celebrated bi-locating nun from Agreda garnered national notoriety. King Philip of Spain may have enlisted her help in foreign affairs, and it is firmly documented that the king carried on a life-long correspondence with her. It is surmised by some that Sister Agreda may have even bi-located to foreign courts on covert foreign policy missions on behalf of Spain. Now one would think that this story, alone, is compelling, but the unbelievable saga of our talented nun and her doppleganger-twin does not end there.
Incorruptible In Death
Even in death, Sister Agreda defies the rationalists and supplies non-believers and the faithful with evidence of her fantastic talents. In a secluded crypt on the grounds of the convent we find what proves to be the latest dramatic chapter to her unbelievable story. Sister Marie Jesus Agreda’s body, it turns out, is incorruptible. Like a small number of deceased mystics and Catholic saints, the nun’s body refuses to naturally decay, even after 335 long years. The flush of her cheeks and her life-like features still baffle the Catholic Church and modern science. During an opening of her casket in 1909, a cursory scientific examination was performed on the pristine body in peaceful repose, astounding the scientists and doctors who were allowed to perform the examination. In 1989 a Spanish physician named Andreas Medina participated in another examination of Sister Maria Jesus Agreda as she lay in the convent of the Conceptionist nuns, the same monastery where she had lived in the 1600s.
Modern Science Puzzled
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.’” Complete photographic and scientific evidence was obtained by investigators before the respectful closing of her glass-lidded casket. She is beatified by the Catholic Church and may someday become a saint in the Catholic tradition. Although the Blue Lady is said to have visited the Rio Grande River Valley as far north as the pueblos around Sante Fé, New Mexico, less than a hundred miles from the San Luis Valley, I can find no direct evidence that Sister Agreda ever bi-located here. But I would not be surprised if she did. I feel her compelling story may provide all of us with important clues pertaining to the understanding of unusual religious/belief-based phenomena. Many thanks to Javier Sierra and Ana Cerro magazine for graciously granting permission to utilize Sierra’s well-researched Agreda material, and for use of his rare 1991 photograph of Sister Agreda for this book.