Stories & Legends
The Conversion of the Moor of Pamplona
Margaret C. Galitzin
Catholics in America have a special interest in the miraculous travels to our shores of the Abbess of Agreda, Ven. Mary of Jesus. Between 1620 and 1631, she bi-located from her convent in Spain to the New World over 500 times, instructing the Indians of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the Catholic Faith and preparing them for Baptism.
Another case of a bi-location of Ven. Mary of Agreda occurred much closer to her Convent in Spain. A well documented episode that caused a sensation in its time is the famous conversion of the Moor of Pamplona, a village some 80 miles from Agreda.
Without leaving her convent in Agreda, Mary of Jesus visited a Moor in a Castle of Pamplona
The name of the Moor and circumstances of his marvelous conversion are recorded in the baptismal book of the Parish of Agreda. The Pamplona governor of arms, a nobleman who periodically visited the Convent, recounted the event in the records.
In Fall of 1626, he received a letter from a friend in Madrid, asking him to return a Moor who had escaped from Madrid and was now being held in the Castle of Pamplona. He warned the Agreda official that he should take great care in transporting the Moor, who was a ‘big dog’ who could escape if he were not strongly tethered.
Mother Mary of Jesus, who heard these words, could not hide the pain that it caused her to hear that a creature made in the image and likeness of God should be treated like a dog. She asked the knight to bring the slave to Agreda before taking him to Madrid, because she believed that God would take mercy on the ignorance of that poor man.
When the governor of arms arrived in Madrid, he was surprised to learn that the Moor was claiming that he had been catechized by a nun who had appeared to him two times in the prison Castle. On her knees, she had begged him to become a Christian. After she instructed him in the mysteries of the Faith, he had decided to receive Baptism in the Parish of Our Lady of the Miracles in the village of Agreda and to take the baptismal name of Francis, as the religious had advised.
Virgin of the Miracles in the Agreda Basilica
In amazement, the knight conducted the Moor to Agreda. On the day appointed for his Baptism, the most distinguished persons of Agreda and the people from the area were present to witness this marvel. The Moor entered the Church of Our Lady of the Miracles, and, to the edification and joy of all present, he was solemnly baptized on November 28, 1626.
Since rumors were already spreading that Mother Mary of Jesus was appearing to the Indians in New Spain, there was a general feeling that the nun who had appeared to the Moor was Mother Mary of Jesus. To confirm this suspicion, permission was sought and granted from the Franciscan Superior to make a test at the Immaculate Conception Convent.
Fr. Juan Bautista del Campo, Franciscan Guardian of San Julian Monastery of Agreda, Fr. Antonio Vicente and Fr. Juan Ruiz, Vicar general and procurator of the Convent respectively, the mentioned governor in arms, the town notary D. Lucas Pérez Planillo and various other señores and señoras who had heard of the prodigious conversion accompanied the Moor to the Convent. They placed themselves near a door where they could remain unseen and view three nuns who were passing by with their veils raised.
The Moor was asked to identify which of the three was the one who had visited and instructed him in the castle of Pamplona.
The first one passed. “Is she the one?” they asked.
The desk and chair in Mother Mary of Agreda's cell
“She was dressed like that, but she is not the one,” he replied.
The second passed? “She is not the one,” he said.
The third, who was Mother Mary of Jesus, passed.
“It is she!” he exclaimed.
Not content with this test, the Superior obliged all the nuns of the community to pass before the Moor. “Not her,” he said about each one until the last one. “Look, look! She is the one who converted me!” he cried out. And then he added, addressing her, “Come here and tell me how it is that you, who are here in this Convent where you cannot leave, traveled to Pamplona to convert me while I was imprisoned in the Castle?”
The humble Servant of God said nothing, and slowly began to move away from the other nuns. Again he cried out in a loud voice, “Señores, this is the nun who appeared to me in Pamplona and converted me!”
The Notary, who knew Mother Mary of Jesus well, witnessed the whole incident and gave public testimony of what had happened. In the entry in the parish register of baptisms is a note (in his hand), ‘This man is a Moor converted by our Mother Mary of Jesus.”
The news of this young Abbess – only 24 years of age and professed for six years – who had converted a Moor traveled throughout the region and beyond, edifying the people and doing much good for the cause of our Holy Religion.
1. Ricardo Romero, difusor of the Order of the Immaculate Conception and the Cause for the Beatification of Ven. Sor María de Jesús
2. Pedro Luis Echeverria Goñi, “La Madre Ágreda y la construcción de su convent,” in Monografias universitarias: El papel de sor María Jesús de Ágreda en el barroco español, (Soria: Un. Internacional Alfonso VIII, 2002), pp. 75-103.
3. José Vilahomat, Sor María de Jesús Ágreda: La autoridad de la fe, Hendrix College
Posted June 9, 2010
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Testimonies of Mary of Agreda's Presence in the U.S.
Who Was Mother Mary of Agreda?
La Conquistadora, Our Country's Oldest Madonna
The Immaculate Conception in the Age of Discovery
Isabella of Castile’s Childhood
The Catholic Church in Colonial America
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