Maria Coronel y Arana was born in Agreda, Soria, in 1602. She died there, having never once left the area, in 1665. She was born into a comfortable family with a very strong religious grounding . From her earliest years, she was known for her deep knowledge of the Faith and for her mystical experiences, often given to trances and visions.
At the age of 15, Maria, her parents and siblings, enter the religious life. The Franciscan order claims them all. Maria, her sister and their mother stay in their home which becomes a convent of the Franciscan Conceptionist order. Later, after the raising of funds, they transferred towhat will become the monastery of the Immaculate Conception where Maria, now Sor (Sister) Maria de Jesus de Agreda, would become and remain abbess for the duration of her life.
Sor Maria de Agreda’s historical and religious inportance rests principally on three important achievements: her mystical-prophetic writings, her extensive correspondence with King Philip IV, and her bilocation dreams to Christianize the Apache Indians of the American Southwest.
Sor Maria wrote, among others, two important works: the 4 volume Mystical City of God and the Divine History of the Virgin Mother of God. The works are believed direct revelations to Sor Maria from the Virgin Mary. The subjects cover the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary in addition to the creation of the world and battles against the Devil. Ultimately, these works of revelation and prophecy, written twice by Sor Maria, called the attention of the Inquisition as they included heated theological topics, among them the controversial dogmas of the Immaculate Conception (not declared until 1854) and papal infallibility. Sor Maria influenced King Philip IV to write to the Pope regarding the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, leading to Pope Alexander VII’s decree of 1661 which paved the way for the 1854 Bull by Pope Pius IX.
Sor Maria’s reputation as a mystic and spiritual advisor reached the ears of King Philip IV. Still mourning the death of his young son and on his way to an insurrection, the King visits Sor Maria in her convent and begins a lengthy correspondence with her, covering all topics, but principally religious in nature, which became dear to the king over the course of 22 years. The King writes to her both before and after the signing of the Peace of Westphalia, pouring his heart out about a desire for peace that needs to be reconciled with the needs of the state. When the King poured his heart to the nun about his governing problems, Sor Maria ended up up giving common sense solutions to problems and always within a very sound moral framework, stressing justice and prudence. The royal visits and the correspondence increased Sor Maria’s fame throughout Spain and the convent became a place of pilgrimage and patronage for many nobles and court officials.
Around 1622, Franciscan friars , some led by Alonso de Benavides, began arriving in what is now New Mexico, Texas and other areas comprising northern New Spain. To their amazement, by 1630, had found the various Indian groups so well catechized that they proceeded to immediately baptize them. Upon inquiring, the Indians informed the friars that for a few years they have been receiving instruction in their own language from the Lady in Blue. Upon various investigations, on both sides of the Atlantic, including Benavides’ trip to Spain with the knowledge of the King, the Indians were shown various paintings of nuns and they identified Sor Maria de Agreda in her blue Franciscan Conceptionist habit. In the 1620s, Sor Maria had already begun to have trances, dreams and ectsasies which she reported to her confessor and other nuns. She detailed her experiences not only with the Indians but with others in other parts of the world. Sor Maria’s capacity to bi-locate and her visions were exonerated, after a 15 year Inquisitorial investigation.
She was declared Venerable in 1689 and her body remains incorrupt.
Fedewa, Marilyn H., Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue (University of New Mexico Press, 2010)
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University of Navarre, 2014: http://www.unav.es/catedrapatrimonio/paginasinternas/conferencias/clausurasfemeninas/SorMariadeAgreda/default.html