NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Saint of the Month - April 2015: Blessed Mariana of Jesus Navarro

Bl. Mariana of Jesus Navarro
The “Lily of Madrid” ~ Memorial: April 27th

Bl. Mariana of Jesus Navarro was born in 1565 to a well-to-do family in Madrid, Spain.  Mariana's birth-mother died while she was still a little girl, and her father, rather than giving her the attention that she needed, focused his interests on a new wife.  Sadly, the stepmother treated the girl rather coldly but, surprisingly, despite her lack of parental nurturing, Mariana grew into a beautiful young woman who was deeply pious.  It was even reported that the visible presence and guidance of her guardian angel was a factor in the child's exceeding piety.

In her early twenties, Mariana's parents hoped to marry her off advantageously, and even arranged a marriage for her... but the young woman dashed their hopes when she revealed to them her intention to become a nun.  To further prove her resolve she went so far as to cut off her long flowing hair to make herself less attractive to her suitor.  Also adding to her stressful situation were horrible temptations that began assailing her and a mysterious illness that caused her lifelong chronic pain.  Mariana sought guidance from a holy priest of the Mercedarian Order - Fr. John Baptist of the Blessed Sacrament - who counseled her through this difficult period of her life and provided her with the spiritual direction that she desperately yearned for.  Her family made her a virtual prisoner in her own home, and this form of persecution lasted for over ten years before her father finally relented and allowed her to choose her own path in life.

A bust of Bl. Mariana that captures her true
features.  It was molded using a wax death mask
made at the time of her death in 1624.
Once freed from family obligations, Mariana left home to concentrate her energies towards her quest for sanctity. Her weakened health disqualified her from entering any convent, so she practiced a strict routine of prayer and daily devotions while living in a small rented cottage beside the Mercederian Church in Madrid. With the recommendation and permission of her confessor she professed private vows of chastity and obedience as a Mercedarian Tertiary, and took the religious name of “Sr. Mariana of Jesus”.

After becoming a consecrated layperson, her personal program intensified with more prayer, voluntary penances, and charitable social work. Sr. Mariana  developed a great attraction to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and she was often observed kneeling before the tabernacle for hours, absorbed in enraptured prayer. In addition, Mariana’s deepening union with God was confirmed through many mystical gifts, which included: Ecstasies; Levitations; the power to Heal; Visions; and the Discernment of Souls.  She used her heavenly charisms on behalf of her many visitors who sought her counsel and prayers.

Another special gift Mariana received was the Sacred Stigmata.  She felt the pains of invisible thorns upon her head, after she repeatedly asked Jesus for the grace to share, in some small way, the sufferings of His Passion. In response he appeared to her and placed a crown of thorns upon her head with his very own hands.  Furthermore, when she was 33-years-old, Christ granted her the physical sensation of his other stigmatic wounds, which she experienced while reliving the Passion during ecstatic trances. 

Towards the end of Mariana’s life, her illness and various sacrifices weakened her to such an extent that it became necessary for her to take in a female helper.  The lady who came to live with her – a woman named Catalina - turned out to be bad tempered and impatient, who rather than alleviating her pains, added to them through the ill-treatment she showed Mariana.  Despite this additional trial, the humble penitent continued to display admirable patience and kindness to all peoples, including Catalina.

When her holy death occurred in 1624, crowds flocked to Mariana’s funeral to pay their respects and to venerate her precious remains, which emanated a mysterious scent of flowers.  Miracles that were reported in her lifetime continued to occur even after Mariana died, resulting in her Beatification during the reign of Pope Pius VI.  Today, the shrine of Bl. Mariana of Jesus – the Lily of Madrid - still draws visitors, especially on her Memorial.  Her body, discovered perfectly incorrupt, attracts thousands of pilgrims during its annual exposition when many come to marvel at its remarkable state of perfect preservation.     

A Reflection
“You are the Light of the world.  A city built on a mountain cannot be hidden.” ~ Matthew 5:14

A Short Prayer
O, Bl. Mariana of Jesus, you are a light for the people of Spain.  Help us to be a light to the people we encounter each and every day, leading them to the Lord.  Amen.

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