Our Lady of Good Success

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2011 Quito Pilgrimage – Part I

25 Years Later: Impressions of
Our Lady of Good Success

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.

This year, the 400th anniversary of the anointing of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Good Success, I returned to Quito on a pilgrimage with Excelsior Tours to see Our Lady once again. The 5’9” statue was completed miraculously by the three Archangels along with St. Francis of Assisi in the early morning hours of January 16, 1611. She was consecrated by the Bishop in the Conceptionist Convent in Quito on February 2, the Feast Day of the Presentation of Our Lord and Purification of Our Lady in the Temple.

More than 25 years had passed since I last viewed Our Lady of Good Success. Then I had only a vague knowledge of its miraculous origin and the many prophecies of Our Lady to Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres that relate to our time. It was the image itself that spoke to my heart: The face of Our Lady gleamed with a supernatural light and shone with her majesty and maternal goodness. I knew that this statue was much more than painted wood. In it one senses her presence, teeming with goodness, inviting us to come to her and confide in her. It is the work of angels and not man.

Would she look the same? I wondered, as my friend Judith Mead and I made our way on the morning of January 30 to see Our Lady in the recently renovated Conceptionist Church. In different pictures I had seen of her these last dozen years, she had seemed more distant, less radiant. Of course, as anyone who has viewed Our Lady knows, photos never do justice to the full beauty of the statue, which shines with inexplicable luminosity.

First impressions of Our Lady

Entering the Conceptionist Church, my attention was immediately drawn to the lighted statue on the main altar. Everything else fades to the background, and one is pulled to Our Lady.

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First view of Our Lady
There she was, as resplendent and glorious as I remembered her. “My daughter,” she seemed to say in her queenly majesty, “I am pleased to receive you. Approach and tell me your joys, your sufferings, your difficulties, for I am here to help you.”

This is how she responds to all who come to her, as she promised she would. In the 1600s Our Lady told Mother Mariana that this statue’s mission would be in the 20th century, when the Church would be suffering a great crisis and blasphemies, immoralities and heresies would be rampant. She would be here, in this sanctuary, for all sinners and afflicted souls to find pardon for their sins, and consolation and remedies for their needs and tribulations.

Our Lady also promised to work miracles – spiritual and physical – for those who would have recourse to her under this invocation during these difficult days. Praying before her, one has the sense that she is ready to work those miracles and is only waiting for us to come to her with confidence to ask for them.

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Coming closer, she seemed sad and distant
Our Lady was still as I remembered her – shining, majestic and maternal. At the same time, there was a profound difference in her physiognomy. Both Judy and I immediately sensed a great sadness in her visage. “She is so sad,” Judy whispered to me after we had greeted her and prayed several minutes before her.

Her gaze was sorrowful and a bit aloof. Her mouth was turned down, almost reproachful, as if warning an unresponsive world, “Why do you ignore my Son’s laws? Do you think I can forever restrain the Arm of Divine Justice from releasing the formidable punishment that this guilty earth deserves?”

Each day up to her feast day, we visited her and prayed before her; each day we sensed, along with her majesty and mercy, that profound sorrow which seems to portend some great chastisement from Heaven.

Yet despite that sadness, Our Lady of Good Success remains a mother, wanting to help her children in their many difficulties. We are drawn irresistibly to her, sensing in her presence her great desire to assist us.

One admirable Filipino lady in our group was there for the fourth time; each year she comes with the simple desire to be with Our Lady. Our Lady’s presence – a soothing balm for the soul – seems to dissipate the darkness of discouragement and replace it with a deep hope.

The incorrupt body of Mother Mariana

That first morning, tour director Matthieu Guillory had arranged for our group to enter the Convent cloisters for a Tridentine Mass. After our greeting to Our Lady, we went to the small chapel in one corner of the inner courtyard. Above the altar is a statue of Our Lady of Good Success and the Christ Child. Under the altar stone is a glass case with the incorrupt bodies of Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres and three other Founding Mothers. The bodies of all seven Founding Mothers are incorrupt.

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The cloister chapel, above; Mother Mariana’s incorrupt body, her face draped, below

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Mother Mariana – clearly taller than all the others, as we read in the manuscript – is on the top, closer to the glass. Directly under her is her aunt, Mother Maria de Taboado, who traveled from Spain to Quito in 1576 at age 33 to found the Convent. The glass door to the box encasing the bodies is locked, but there is a slight opening along the top edge that, with some effort, allows paper petitions to be dropped in. So, even with this exposure to the air, the bodies of these saintly Mothers remain completely incorrupt.

It is very moving to be there close to Mother Mariana, who lived and suffered in this Convent over 400 years ago as a victim for our times. When they exhumed her body in 1885 from the lower choir where it was buried, the official testimonies describe it in this way:

“The face has a natural color with a rose tinge on the cheeks and lips. Through the half-opened mouth one can see the tongue. Her eyes are closed and her eyelashes still preserved” (Admirable Life, Vol. 2, pp. 356-357).

Reading this description, one has the strong desire to see her face. How I wish the Archbishop would give permission for the black veils over the faces of the Founding Mothers to be drawn so we could see their features, as we can with St. Catherine Labouré in the Rue de Bac Church in Paris. What a confirmation in the Faith it would be for the faithful! What proof for the incredulous!

The Rosary of dawn procession

On the fourth day of the pilgrimage, Our Lady’s Feast Day, we joined the Rosary of the Dawn Procession. At 5:30 a.m., the streets in front of the Conceptionist Church teemed with excitement and expectation as several thousand people milled about awaiting the arrival of a smaller statue of Our Lady of Good Success to come out into the street.

The people of Quito love religious processions and they love Our Lady. So here they are – families, shopkeepers, business men, shoe shiners, maids – eager to greet her on her Feast Day and accompany her through the streets of Quito, praying the Rosary and singing hymns to honor her.

A festive Latin spirit dominates: people jostling to be close to the statue, general disorder in the crowds, thousands of rose petals streaming in the air to line her path, a brass band vigorously blaring, occasional bursts of fireworks - more loud than beautiful, like the band. Everything adds to the exuberant joy of the morning.

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The inner courtyard of the Conceptionist Convent
The procession wound through the City Square and colonial streets of Old Quito, then back to the Church, which quickly filled to capacity for the Novus Ordo Mass and Feast Day celebrations. There our group of pilgrims left the crowd and made our way again to the small cloister chapel that enshrined Mother Mariana’s body to assist at a Tridentine Mass. The calm and seriousness inside the cloister chapel made a striking contrast to the elation and festivities we had left behind and touched my soul deeply.

Here we were, alone with Mother Mariana, who had suffered so much from her own sisters as well as the authorities – calumnies, isolation, mistreatment and even imprisonment – in order to maintain the observance of the Rule, to not deviate an inch from the purity of the Faith. Her hidden life of suffering inside the Convent seemed to be as a metaphor for our times. And her voice from the past seemed to call to us, inviting us to follow firmly and courageously in her footsteps, to resist the novelties of Vatican II and the bad morals and customs of the world that have invaded even inside the Church.

Our Lady’s smile

Later that day at around noon my friend Judy and I returned to the Conceptionist Church to say our farewell to Our Lady. The Church was closing at 1 p.m. and our bus was leaving soon for the last trek of our pilgrimage to see Our Lady of Las Lajas in Colombia.

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Above, still sad, but tender;
below, ten minutes later, the smile!

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The church was still packed with people! What a difference from 25 years ago, when only handfuls of persons trickled in and out all morning. As Judy and I began to work our way through the crowd to the front of the church, we saw a friend on the altar, waving to us. We reached her, and she slipped open the communion railing door and let us into the altar sanctuary. Some of the crowd pushed to enter also, and a few fortunate girls slipped in with us.

There we were, before Our Lady, the crowds behind us. As we knelt to pray, it seemed we were alone with her, to entreat her to intercede for all our friends and benefactors, to make acts of gratitude and pleas for favors. Her face was still so sorrowful, but it seemed more tender, as if she were responding to the crowds who had come to her, and to us, who knelt at her feet.

It was nearing one o’clock, and we could hear the people behind us leaving the church. Andres Heckenkamp, representing the Apostolate of Our Lady of Good Success, had been taking articles from persons to touch to the small processional statue of Our Lady. Now, he was taking pictures of the miraculous statue with my camera.

The church would be closing in five minutes, and only a few persons were on the altar. Judy and I were making our last prayers and farewell; Andres was snapping pictures. Then Judy nudged me. “She is smiling,” she said. Andres rushed over with the same exclamation, “Look! She’s smiling!” He continued to take pictures.

It was the eyes that I had noticed first, more than the smile. It seemed to me that her gaze was changing: It was becoming warmer and more tender. Before, it had seemed cooler and more distant, at times even reproving. Now, her eyes looked down at us with a small smile, as if giving her approval for our work, our position of resistance, our fight against Vatican II. “I am pleased, my children,” she seemed to say. “Keep up the good fight.”

This was truly a great grace for me. Each morning I ask Our Lady to keep that smile in my memory - her sign to us to stay the good course until the end, and at that end, we can expect her victory.

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Our second day, January 31, 2011, Our Lady of Good Success, still with an expression of sorrows

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February 1, 2011; an impression of sadness, and a bit aloof

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February 2, 2011, a smile seems to be forming

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A grace from Our Lady: an expression of her warmth and approval


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Posted February 18, 2011

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