By John Vennari
Dark days were approaching for Mother Mariana and the convent in Quito.
Mother Maria Taboada, a holy foundress of the order and beloved aunt of Mother Mariana, was coming to the end of her days. She would die in 1593 on October 4, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. Prior to this, Mother Mariana was the recipient of dire prophecies concerning the Order.
As Mother Taboada’s health was in decline, Mother Mariana was elected prioress. She was twenty-nine years old.
On the night of her election, Mother Mariana went into ecstasy for five hours, during which she foresaw the death of her aunt, the removal of the Franciscans Friars from the government of the convent, and her own persecution and imprisonment by the non-observant sisters.
After Mother Taboada’s death, Mother Mariana was seized with grief and trepidation. Grief, because she truly loved her aunt on both the natural and supernatural level; trepidation, for she knew a group of wayward nuns would rebel and wreak havoc at the convent.
The rebellion was not long in coming.
A cadre of wayward sisters chaffed at the strictness of the Franciscan Friars who were governing the convent, and who, along with Mother Mariana, insisted on exact observance of all aspects of the Rule.
The wayward nuns began a campaign to remove the Franciscans from the convent’s governance, and to place the convent solely under the direction of the bishop. With the Franciscans no longer ‘on site’ to monitor daily life inside the convent, there was opportunity for greater laxity.
The Franciscans, in response, partially withdrew from governance, which served to embolden the rebellious sisters.
Mother Mariana, plunged in sorrow, prayed to her deceased aunt Mother Taboada, “I cannot bear any more, my mother, rise up and help me.”
Mother Mariana had good reason to invoke her aunt. When Mother Taboada died, Mariana received a supernatural communication that her aunt would spend eight days in Purgatory, and here she would suffer only the pain of loss, not the pain of fire. Mother Mariana had prayed that this brief stay in Purgatory be shorter still, and her prayers were heard. During Mass, five days after her death, Mother Mariana saw her aunt’s soul soar to Heaven. Mother Mariana thus had moral assurance of her aunt as an advocate in Paradise.
When Mother Mariana offered her prayer of consternation to her aunt, Mother Taboada miraculously answered. She related, among other things, “My daughter, for now the separation from the Franciscans is necessary … but the golden time will come when the Franciscans will again govern my convent … there will be a member of my community who will change the spirit of the religious … She will be blind, without light to see the things of God … she will make the community suffer much, complaining to the bishop. She will boast about this, but God’s hour will come… Speak with the foundresses, since they all receive Heavenly visits …”
Mother Mariana then knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, praying to die rather than endure the upcoming turmoil. A brilliant light then came from the tabernacle and a voice said to her, “For now it is better that the Franciscans separate themselves from the convent, but this will not happened during your time as prioress.”
The separation would take place in the near future under a weak prioress named Mother Valenzuela, and we will tell this story shortly.
First Mention of “Our Lady of Good Success”
From the very beginning, the demons were determined to persecute and bring down the Conceptionist convent. One night while Mother Mariana was walking through the cloister, carrying a huge cross, a vision of an immense sea of fire rose up before her. A horrid voice came from the depths of this vision, “We want to bury this accursed convent, but those accursed nuns do not let us, especially this accursed nun.” Two monstrous dogs then appeared on each side of Mother Mariana.
Frightened, Mariana cried out, “Star of the Sea, Blessed Mary of Good Success, help me.” The salutation “Mary of Good Success” had been a title of Our Lady popular in Spain, but this was the first time there is a direct connection between this title and the Quito convent.
When Mariana cried out, a bright enormous star appeared. In the center of the star was the name “Mary.”
The text of the account reads, “From this star emerged a small golden canoe, and an Angel was steering the boat.‘I am the Archangel Gabriel, sent by your Mother, Mary of Good Success to help you.’ The archangel, despite everything, put Mother Mariana and the cross into the boat and went forward. ‘This canoe represents your long life,’ he said.”
Crossing this sea of fire, they underwent a similar attack they suffered on their ship voyage form Spain. The Angel then placed her safe on land in her cloister, after which the Archangel Gabriel prayed the Hail Mary. The Angel then instructed, “There are such grandeurs which are contained in the Angelical Salutation [the Hail Mary] that mortal men are unable to comprehend.”
With these words, the Archangel and the sea of fire vanished and calm returned.
This brings us to the second apparition of Our Lady of Good Success, which occurred on February 2, 1594 – five years after the first apparition.
A beautiful Lady appeared before Mother Mariana. She was holding the Child Jesus in her left arm, and held in her right hand a scepter adorned with precious stones.
“I am Mary of Good Success, the Queen of Heaven and earth … I hold in my right hand the scepter that you see, since I wish to govern this my convent as Prioress and Mother. The Franciscans are ready to give up the government of this convent, which needs, more than ever, in this hard trial which will last for centuries, my patronage and protection. Satan has begun to try to destroy this work of God by availing himself of my ungrateful daughters, but he will not succeed because I am the Queen of Victories and the Mother of Good Success, under which invocation I wish to perform miracles in every century, for the benefit of this convent of mine and its inhabitants … Your life will be long for the glory of God and of His Mother who speaks with you. My Blessed Son will submit you to all kinds of sufferings, and in order to instill you with the courage that you need, take Him from my arms and receive Him into yours.”
At this point, the Virgin placed the child into Mariana’s arms, “who held Him close to her heart and lavished Him wish signs of affection.” Mother Mariana would need this supernatural consolation to prepare for the days to come.
The Franciscans Depart, Mother Mariana Persecuted
The time arrived to elect a new prioress, and Mother Jesus Valenzuela was chosen. Mother Valenzuela was weak in character and gave in to the demands of the non-observant sisters. She quickly arranged the departure of the Franciscans and transferred convent governance to the bishop.
As a result, writes Father Pereira, “The observance of the Rule began to decay, strict silence disappeared, and lapses occurred in the matter of enclosure. In short, the relaxation of monastic perfection had begun.”
Mother Mariana asked Mother Valenzuela to rein in the wayward religious. These nuns, however, under the leadership of one who came to be known as La Capitana, wrote the bishop making false accusations against Mother Mariana, including the claim that Mariana was interfering with the governance of the community.
The bishop responded by sentencing Mariana to the convent prison for three days, a punishment that included the removal of her veil and other humiliations. After her imprisonment, Mariana was the placed in a wretched little room and forbidden all communications with other nuns.
The six other Spanish foundresses, along with eight other observant nuns clearly recognized this travesty for what it was, and visited Mother Mariana anyway. The wayward nuns complained to the bishop. He responded with a new document that ordered the fifteen nuns to a month’s imprisonment.
Other good nuns, scandalized by the injustice, risked the scorn of the rebels and visited the imprisoned nuns. These too were thrown into the convent prison, so that the number of faithful nuns in prison rose to twenty-five.
We cannot help but see in this a veiled foreshadowing of the Conciliar crisis of Faith in our time, wherein wayward and modernist prelates, who are “non-observant” in the traditional Faith, persecute and effectively “outcast” true Catholics who preserve the Faith of all time.
While in the convent prison (a description of which will be included in next month’s installment) the Mothers received supernatural consolations and reassurances. Some of these are as follow:
Mother Mariana was granted a vision of Golgotha, wherein in Our Lord told her His wounds were due (in part) to the nonobservant sisters. He also complained of the dismissal of the Franciscans, and said that Mother Valenzuela, after death, would remain in Purgatory until Judgment Day.
Mother Francisca of the Angels saw (in vision) St. Francis of Assisi with bow and arrows going through the cloister and shooting arrows right and left. “One of the arrows hit the heart of a sister who died instantly.” St. Francis revealed that this sister was a principle agitator in the removal of the Franciscans. The next morning the body of the sister was found with a black and blue face. Most of the other sisters did not know the sudden death was a direct punishment from St. Francis.
The other Foundreses who were cast into prison – Mother Ana of the Conception, Mother Lucia of the Cross, Mother Magdalena of Saint John, Mother Catalina of the Conception, Mother Maria of the Incarnation – were also graced with consoling visions.
In the meantime, Mother Valenzuela became stricken with remorse at seeing the innocent nuns imprisoned. She wrote a letter to the bishop declaring herself guilty of negligence “for being manipulated by the nonobservant nuns,” and asked that Mother Mariana’s priorship be reinstated.
The bishop responded by reprimanding Mother Venezuela and ordering the release of all the nuns, but he left Mother Venezuela as prioress.
Mother Mariana was again elected Prioress in 1598 after the term of Mother Valenzuela expired, despite receiving not a single vote from the wayward nuns. One of these nuns left the celebration of the new prioress and planned to form a parallel community. This nun was struck dead the same night, but Mariana’s troubles were far from over.
The nonobservant nuns, after a month of Mother Mariana’s priorship, sent a note to the bishop calumniating her. They claimed she conversed with Franciscan friars until late at night, said she seeks to do away with the bishop’s rule, and asked that she be imprisoned.
The bishop seemed too willing to believe these missives without his own investigation. He immediately suspended Mother Mariana’s priorship and ordered her imprisonment. Over the next few days, the rebel nuns, under various pretexts, imprisoned all the Spanish foundresses.
This greatly distressed Mother Valenzuela. Though ill, she reprimanded the non-observant nuns and tried to write to the bishop, but the bad nuns assured the note was never sent. Once again, laxity at the convent prevailed.
Third Apparition: January 16, 1599
We now arrive at the third apparition of Our Lady of Good Success, which took place five years after Our Lady’s second appearance. This vision occurred shortly after midnight on January 16, 1599, while Mother Mariana and the other holy nuns were still in the convent prison.
The Virgin said, “My very beloved daughter, why are you downcast and heavy of heart? That which you have before your eyes is not an imaginary illusion. I am Mary of Good Success, your Mother in Heaven, to whom you always have recourse with this invocation known in Spain … The tribulation whereby today my Blessed Son tries you is a Heavenly gift with which souls fortify themselves and hold back the Divine wrath, ready to let loose a dreadful punishment upon the ungrateful colony. How many hidden crimes are committed in its cities and towns!
“Precisely for this reason the convent was founded in this place in which He is offended and unknown … instruct your daughters and instill in those present and in those who will come, the love of their divine vocation and of the place that God and I have chosen as our possession and inheritance … In every century I will live there, exteriorized in some of my beloved daughters. Here, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the ungrateful world, God will have some contemplative spouses worthy of His Majesty; those who, in obscurity, in silence, in humiliation and in contempt … will be powerful in appeasing Divine justice and in obtaining great benefits for the Church, country, and souls.
“Within a short time the country in which you live will cease being a colony and will be a free republic. Then it will be known by the name of Ecuador, and will need heroic souls to sustain it in the midst of so many public and private calamities.
“God will always find here those souls, as if they were hidden violets … and no powerful monarch in the world will be able, with his treasures, to build new buildings in this place, which is God’s possession … The forces of man against the Lamb of God are vain! I will look after this convent with maternal solicitude … and if it would be necessary to hold up with miracles the walls which protect the cloister, I will hold them up…
“A truly Catholic president will come in the nineteenth century, a man of character, to whom Our Lord God will give the palm of martyrdom in the plaza where this convent of mine is. He will consecrate the republic to the Divine Heart of my Blessed Son. This consecration will uphold the Catholic religion in subsequent years, which will be tragic for the Church.”
Comment: It is clear this prophecy was fulfilled in President Garcia Moreno, who solemnly consecrated Ecuador to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on March 25, 1874, the feast of the Annunciation. Ecuador was the first country in the world to do this, and President Moreno was inspired to enact this consecration after learning of Our Lord’s original request to the King of France. A year after the Ecuador consecration, on August 6, 1875, Garcia Moreno was brutally assassinated by agents of the revolution in the Plaza of Quito, which is at the foot of the presidential palace and directly across from the convent of the Immaculate Conception.
Make a Statue
Our Lady’s words continue, “In those years, in which Masonry, that accursed sect, will take control of the civil government, there will be a cruel persecution of all religious communities and it will also be violently launched against this convent of mine. In the opinion of those ungrateful men, the convent shall be closed, but as God lives and I live … we will place difficulties impossible to vanquish, and the triumph will be ours.
“For this end it is My Blessed Son’s will that you yourself order a statue of me to be made, just as you see me, and you will place it above the seat of the prioress, so that from there I may govern my convent, by your placing in my right hand the scepter and the keys of the cloister as a sign of ownership and authority.
“You will have my Divine Child placed in my left arm: firstly, so that mortal men may understand that I am powerful in appeasing Divine justice and in obtaining devotion and pardon for every sinful soul who comes to me with a contrite heart … And secondly, so that in every century, my daughters may understand that I show and give them my Blessed Son and their God as a model of religious perfection…
“The separation of the Franciscans at this time was by Divine permission … But, after a few centuries have passed, they will return to govern this beloved flock of mine … that prelate, my beloved son, will be happy and rewarded by God here on earth, he who … will ask the vicar of my Blessed Son here on earth, that the Franciscans govern this convent. This day will be when the corruption of moral behavior in the world seems to have reached its peak …
“Happy, fortunate and much loved by God will be my daughters of that time, who… show their desire of submission to the Franciscans, in their compliance with their Rule , and to that bishop, my beloved son. Their names will be written in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus …” [Note: this return of the Franciscans has yet to occur.]
Mother Mariana answered her, “Lovely Lady, your beauty enchants me… But allow me to tell thee that no human being, no matter how knowledgeable in the art of sculpture, could make thy enchanting image in wood, with every detail, the way thou askesth me … I would not know how to explain or even know and give the measurement of thy height.”
The Virgin answered her, “Let nothing frighten you, my daughter; approach my feet. My servant Francisco, with his wounded hand, will make my statue and the Angelic Spirits will be his skilled workers, and he himself will put his cord on me… Regarding the measurement of my height, you yourself measure it with the Franciscan cord which you wear around your waist…”
The nun replied, “Lovely Lady, my dear Mother, shall I, who am an earthly creature, dare to touch thy Heavenly forehead, when not even the Angels can do this? …”
The Virgin answered, “Your humble fear delights me and I see your ardent love for your Mother from Heaven who is speaking with you; bring and put your cord into my right hand, and you, with the other end, touch my feet.”
Mother Mariana, trembling with reverence, did as the Virgin ordered her. The Virgin gave her the other end of Her cord, which had miraculously stretched to reach Her height, and said to her, “Now you have, my daughter, the measurement of your Mother from Heaven. Give it to my servant, Francisco del Castillo, explaining to him my features and my posture. He will exteriorly make my statue because he has a delicate conscience and scrupulously observes the Commandments of God and of the Church; no one else will be worthy of this grace. You, for your part, help him with your prayers and with your humble suffering.
“Soon you will leave this prison … Wake up your sisters now out of their sleep, so that … in your company they may offer up the morning recitation of the Little Office which pleases me so much …”
Our Lady then disappeared. Mother Mariana lit the candles to awake her sleeping sisters. The nuns immediately applied themselves with extraordinary fervor to the recitation of the Little Office of the Blessed Mother.
Though the nuns were grateful for this extraordinary consolation, the worst confrontations between Mother Mariana and La Capitana were yet to come.
– The material on these accounts comes from The Story of Our Lady of Good Success and Novena, An Abridgment of the book written by Rev. Father Manual Sousa Pereira [Dolores Press, 2013]; and The Admirable Life of Mother Mariana, Vol. I, Father Manual Sousa Pereira, translated by Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D., [Tradition in Action, 1999]. Father Pereira’s original work was written in Spanish in 1790. In all quotations, emphasis added by JV.