A lot is lost in translation from one language to another and from one age to another. In the case of the prophetic visions and life of the cloistered nun Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres, this is certainly the case. Mother Mariana lived more than 400 years ago in colonial Quito, Ecuador. She was a cloistered religious, a member of the contemplative Conceptionist sisters.
Mariana is probably best known today for the numerous prophetic visions she had during the course of her long life, many of which people say have come to pass — as recently reported by Martina Moyski at Church Militant.
Many people these days require a detailed explanation of what a contemplative nun is and how such nuns are different from other religious (which, ironically, compounds the misunderstandings about Mariana and her prophetic visions). And then, upon hearing the comprehensive explanation, these people may find it hard to imagine how individuals would choose to live such austere lives, secluded from the world and without the normal support from family and friends. Because the life of the contemplative religious is neither known nor understood in modern times, many, sadly, fail to understand fully the many visions Mariana had over the course of her life. To add to the confusion, the various versions of Mariana's visions, translated from old Spanish to modern, then from Spanish into English, tend to obscure the original message.
But before talking about Mariana's many visions, it's important to talk about Mariana. She joined the Conceptionists at age 13. At that very young age, with her aunt, Rev. Mother Maria de Jesus Taboada and four other Spanish sisters, she made the long voyage to Ecuador from Spain in 1576. The small group founded a new convent in Quito for their contemplative community — with the full blessing of the Spanish king, Phillip II, who was a founding patron and saw the convent's establishment as necessary for the success of Spain's new colony in Ecuador.
The founding community of contemplative sisters thrived in the New World and, with native Ecuadorian women joining them, quickly established the Conceptionist convent in Quito as a powerhouse of prayer. The nuns there were known for their austere way of life and strict adherence to their vows. The Conceptionist nuns make four vows upon their final profession. These are the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and cloister.
In Quito, on Oct. 4, 1579, at the age of 16, Sr. Mariana made her final profession as a Conceptionist. After her final profession, she had one of her first visions. During this vision, Marianna saw Our Lord place a ring on her finger with four stones representing her four vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and cloister.
At that moment, He addressed her, saying, "My spouse, I desire for you a life of immolation. Your life will be a continuous martyrdom."
Today, many, if not most, people would find the Lord's personal promise of martyrdom to Mariana as something abhorrent, not to be wished even upon one's worst enemy. Contemporary Catholics may fail to comprehend that, for a young contemplative making her final vows, the vision of Our Lord confirming that her life would be a hidden martyrdom was a phenomenal grace. The vision served to confirm that the tribulations she would undergo as a cloistered contemplative would serve a purpose, aiding her salvation and the salvation of others. Few Christians nowadays talk about martyrdom as a good to be sought after, let alone something to ask for from the Almighty. It is, moreover, one thing to accept martyrdom of the rapid sort (such as being eaten by a lion or slain by a sword). But a slow type of martyrdom is something most of us would reject outright.
We would be more apt to say, You know, Lord, I would rather not accept this type of cross. Give me one that's of shorter duration!
It's from this viewpoint of joyfully accepting crosses and tribulations during her lifetime that it's possible to understand why God permitted Mariana the numerous visions and consolations she received. From her own mouth, she did not understand the full significance of the many prophetic visions that she saw. But she remained steadfast, persevering in her life of contemplation and prayer, filled with hope. She knew she did not need to understand what she saw in the visions. She also knew that, despite the evils she saw playing out in the future, the Blessed Mother, in the fullness of time, would crush the head of the serpent and her Son would reign. Mariana knew that her lifetime gift of herself to God in worship, praise and countless atonements of all sorts was efficacious in aiding her Lord in His redemption of the world.
One of the repeated messages to Mariana, in the course of her visions, was that the Conceptionist convent in Quito would survive the tribulations of time and the machinations of the evil one. She was also made aware that the contemplative life she lived so well would continue — despite numerous tribulations in the future. Everyone knows about the trials brought upon the Church by secular forces outside of the Church. Few, even a decade ago, would have imagined that the Church itself would seemingly initiate a campaign to discontinue contemplative religious orders. But that is what appears to be happening, with the Holy See suppressing contemplative communities of men and women.
Just this past fall, it came to light that the Holy See had taken aggressive measures against two groups of Carmelite nuns in the United States. Both were well-known for their adherence to the original rule of their contemplative order, as well as for their love of the Traditional Latin Mass. As reported by Church Militant's Martina Moyski, "The Roman Curia — propelled by the pope's instructions — is targeting traditional Carmelites who seek to live lives of prayer, poverty and penance." Thus far, the Carmelites in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, blessedly have been able to maintain their traditional contemplative community against opposition from the Holy See. Tragically, however, other convents of contemplative religious have been shuttered by the Holy See in the last couple of years.
The assurance given by Our Lord to Mariana in her visions four centuries ago, namely, that the convent she helped found in Quito would survive despite the passage of time and the Devil's machinations against it, is no small blessing! It underscored to Mariana how phenomenally important the prayer of contemplatives is for the Church and for the world.
Where would we be without these holy contemplatives praying for the redemption of others and offering themselves as atonement for the sins of others? Upon Mariana's death, after her long life of prayer within the four walls of the Conceptionist monastery, hundreds, if not thousands, came to pay their respects and praise God for giving them such a holy nun.
Another strong confirmation of Mariana's saintliness is that she is one of those holy souls whose body, despite the passage of time, remains uncorrupted. The traditional group, Tradition, Family and Property, noted this in an article published on Nov. 6, 2016:
Saint Louis de Montfort Academy and I had the enormous privilege of assisting the nuns of the convent of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady of Good Success in Quito, Ecuador. We helped transfer the incorrupt body of Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres to a splendid new sarcophagus. This magnificent work of art was created by the organization Devotees of Our Lady of Good Success.
The image of the Blessed Mother as seen during the apparitions was carved to the exact specifications of Mariana, soon after she had a vision of the Mother of God. But some find the English word "success" in the title "Our Lady of Good Success" rather confusing. It has lost its complete meaning over the years. Some have equated the term "success" with monetary happiness, as if the Blessed Mother solely desires the faithful's economic well-being, as compared to their spiritual well-being wrought by the redemption of her Son, Jesus! Our Lady should not be viewed as something along the lines of a financial adviser, an image that would easily be promoted by televangelists.
This title was explained by the abbess Sr. Maria Flores Romero and three other council sisters in the Conceptionist monastery in Quito on July 1, 2017, in a letter to English-speaking Catholics:
The title of "Our Lady of Good Success of the Purification" refers to an event during the life of the Virgin Mary. This event occurred on the day of her purification in the Temple, which was also the presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple. It would be a misunderstanding to consider this title of good success by itself without joining it to the purification. ...
The title of "Our Lady of Good Success of the Purification" concerns the offering of the Divine Child in the Temple by the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this occasion, Christ entered the Temple for the first time. In a spirit of obedience and humility (as the Father hath given Me commandment, so do I), He offers Himself to the life and death destined by the Father for the redemption of mankind. At the same time, the mother truly offers her Son to the death on the Cross on Calvary. Her role as co-redemptrix did not begin at the foot of the Cross, but even at this moment, she already acts in this capacity. Moreover, the offering of her Divine Son is accompanied with the complete offering of herself. Christ the Redeemer offering Himself, the Co-Redemptrix, the Virgin Mother of God, offering Christ — the Most Blessed Virgin completely offering herself. This act of offering is the greatest sacrifice ever to take place in the Temple.
The life and prophetic visions of Mother Mariana, along with the divine gift to the world of the image of Our Lady of Good Success of the Purification, leave us all with many reasons for hope and consolation. In the fullness of time, the Infant Jesus, Who Our Blessed Mother extends to all of us, will eternally reign. Then there will be no more wars and no more tears, as Satan will be permanently crushed. Our Lady of Good Success of the Purification does not promise us temporal success in this fallen world, but eternal success in the Kingdom where Our Lord will reign forever!