(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 12.16.2023).- After the usual consultation with the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis decided to proceed with the Canonization of Blessed María Antonia de San José (in secular life: María Antonia De Paz y Figueroa), known as Mama Antula, Founder of the House of Spiritual Exercises in Buenos Aires. She was born in 1730 in Silipica, Santiago del Estero, Argentina, and passed away on March 7, 1799, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The Canonization Rite will take place on February 11, 2024, the VI Sunday of Ordinary Time, and the anniversary of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes.
About Mama Antula:
María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa was born in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, in 1730. At the age of 15, she began accompanying the Jesuits as a Blessed of the Society of Jesus in the mission of evangelizing the indigenous peoples of Santiago del Estero. She taught them the Word of God, how to read and write, and improved livestock and agriculture techniques. Mama Antula spoke Quechua, and it was the indigenous people who baptized her Mama Antula. When the Jesuits were expelled from America in 1767, at the age of 38, Mama Antula, in an epiphany in the chapel cell of San Francisco Solano, received the mission of her life: to continue the practice of Spiritual Exercises carried out by the Jesuits for the salvation of souls.
It was then that she began her mission and chose her Church name: María Antonia de San José.
At that time, women were confined to marriage or choosing religious vows. They neither read nor wrote, and certainly did not venture into the world without the company of a man and left to divine providence. Mama Antula defied the conventions of her time and traveled throughout the current territory of the Argentine Northwest – then part of the Viceroyalty of Peru – organizing Spiritual Exercises despite being prohibited by King Carlos III but obtaining authorization from local bishops.
She arrived in Buenos Aires after walking more than 5,000 kilometers, where she carried out her crowning achievement – in the early days of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata: the construction of the Holy House, a place entirely built with donations, exclusively dedicated to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It was inaugurated in 1795, and there Mama Antula died in 1799. Since then, it has continued to function. There, rich and poor shared meals and prayed together, and it is estimated that 70 thousand people participated in Spiritual Exercises there, sharing bread and learning the values that preceded and shaped the May Revolution and the creation of the Argentine State.
The first saint of Argentina is a laywoman, courageous, considered the first writer of the Río de la Plata; a strong woman who teaches us everyday holiness and to trust in providence with unwavering faith. She is the patroness of Argentine businesswomen, and prayers are offered to her asking for perseverance in difficulties and acceptance of God’s will. Her liturgical feast day is on March 7.