Mary of Agreda's Letter to the
Missionaries in America
Copy of the account which the Blessed Mother María de Jesus
Writes to the Said Friars of New Mexico (1)
I obey what Your Reverence, our Father General; our father, Fray Sebastian Marcilla, Provincial of this holy Province of Burgos; our father, Fray Francisco Andres de la Torre, who is the one who governs my soul; and Your Reverence, my Father Custodian for New Mexico, have asked me to tell in your name. That is, whether that which is contained in these notebooks is what I have said, discussed, consulted, and talked about to Your Reverence concerning what the mercy of God and His just and immutable decisions have worked in my simple heart. Perhaps He chooses the most insignificant and unworthy indi¬vidual to show the strength of His mighty hand so that the living may know that all things derive from the hand of the Father of Light dwelling on high, and that we attain everything through the power and strength of the Almighty.
And so I say that this is what befell me in the provinces of New Mexico, Quivira, the Jumanos, and other nations, although these were not the first kingdoms where I was taken by the will of God. By the hand and aid of His Angels I was carried wherever they took me, and I saw and did all that I have told the father, and other things which, being numerous, it is not possible to narrate in order to enlighten all those nations in our Holy Catholic Faith.
The first ones where I went are toward the east, I believe, and one must travel in that direction to reach them from the kingdom of Quivira. I call these kingdoms with reference to our way of speaking, Titlas, Chillescas, and Caburcos, which have not been discovered. To reach them it seems to me that one will meet with great obstacles on account of the many kingdoms which intervene, inhabited by very warlike people who will not allow the passing through their territory of the Christian Indians from New Mexico, whom they distrust. Especially they distrust the friars of our holy father, Saint Francis, because the Devil has deceived them, making them believe that the antidote is the poison, and that they will become vassals and slaves if they become Christians, when the opposite is true, since it constitutes their liberty and happiness in this world.
The signature of Mary of Agreda on her Letter to the Friars in America
It seems to me that the way to succeed would be to send friars of our Father, Saint Francis, and for their security and protection to require that they be accompanied by soldiers of good repute and habits, men who forbear patiently the hardships that may come upon them. By example and patience everything can be endured, as the example helps very much. By discovering these provinces great work will have been done in the vineyard of the Lord.
The events which I have reported happened to me from the year 1620 to the present year, 1631, in the kingdoms of Quivira and the Jumanos, which were the last ones where I was transported and which, Your Reverence says, were discovered by the very persons of those holy friars through their good intelligence. I entreat, advise, and urge them in behalf of the Lord to labor in such a blessed task, praising the Most High for their good fortune and bliss, which are great indeed. For the Divine Majesty appoints you His treasurers and disbursers of His Precious Blood and places in your hands what it can purchase, which is the souls of so many Indians, who, lacking light and someone to furnish it to them continue in darkness and blindness, and are deprived of the most holy and desirable fruits of the immaculate, tender, and delightful law and of the blessing of eternal salvation.
The said friars must outdo themselves in this field of the Lord to please the Most High, for the harvest is abundant and the workers are few and they must exercise the greatest possible charity with these creatures of the Lord, made in His image and likeness with a rational soul in order to enable them to know Him.
Do not allow, my dear fathers and lords that the wishes of the Lord and His holy will be frustrated and permitted to fail because of the many sufferings and hardships, for the Almighty will reply that He has His delights and joys with the sons of men. Since God created these Indians as apt and competent beings to serve and worship Him, it is not just that they lack what we, the rest of the Christian faithful, possess and enjoy. Rejoice then, my dear fathers, for the Lord has given you the opportunity, occasion, and good fortune of the Apostles. Do not let it go to waste because of considerations of difficulty. Remember your duty to obey the Almighty and to extend and plant His holy Law regardless of the hardships and persecutions you may suffer following the example of your Master.
I can assure Your Reverences that I know with all exactness and light that the Blessed Ones envy you, if envy could exist among them, which is impossible, but I am stating it thus, according to our mode of expression. If they could forsake their eternal bliss to accompany you in those conversions, they would do it. This does not surprise me, for, as they see in the Lord, who is the main cause and object of their bliss and the mirror in which all recognize themselves, the special bliss enjoyed by the Apostles and for which they stand out over the other Saints on account of what they have suffered for the conversion of souls. For this reason they would leave the enjoyment of God for the conversion of one soul. This will be a reason for Your Reverences to avail yourselves of the opportunity that offers itself to you.
I confess that if I could buy it with my blood, life, or cruel sufferings, I would do it, for I envy your good fortune. Because, although the Most High grants me to make this labor in my life, it is not on a course where I suffer as much as Your Reverences, nor do I merit anything because of my imperfections. But since I am helpless, I offer with all my heart and soul, to help those of this holy community with prayers and pious exercises. I beg my kind friars to accept my good will and desire and to let me partake of some of the minor tasks and undertakings carried on by Your Reverences in those conversions.
I shall appreciate it more than whatever I do by myself, as the Lord will be highly pleased by the conversion of souls. This very thing I have seen in the Almighty, and I have heard His blessed Angels tell me that they envied the custodians of souls who devote themselves to conversions. As ministers who present our deeds to the Most High, they affirm that the ones His Majesty accepts with greatest satisfaction are those who are occupied in the conversions of New Mexico. The reason for this, the blessed Angel explained, is that since the blood of the Lamb was sufficient for all souls and He suffered for one what He suffered for all, the Lord grieved more over the loss of one soul for lack of knowledge of our Holy Faith than over enduring many martyrdoms and deaths This should encourage such a holy occupation as well as much suffering to succeed in it.
Seeing as all that has been stated in my writing is true, and that my Father Custodian of New Mexico ordered me to do so by obedience, I signed it with my name. And I beg Your Reverences, all those I have mentioned here, in the name of the Lord himself, whom we serve and through whom I reveal this to you, to conceal and keep these secrets to yourselves, as the case demands that it should not be revealed to any living being.
From this house of the Concepción Purísima of Agreda, May 15, 1631,
Sor Maria de Jesus
1. Frederick Webb Hodge, George P. Hammond, Agapito Rey, Fray Alonso de Benavides’ Revised Memorial of 1634 With Numerous Supplementary Documents Elaborately Annotated, Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1948, pp. 143-146. For more on the letter see Mary of Agreda Describes her Travels in America
Posted February 5, 2010
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