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A Soldier Converts - Part 2

Novitiate and Religious Profession In Quito

Fr. Manuel Souza Pereira, O.F.M.

An excerpt from the book
The Admirable Life of Mother Mariana of Jesus Torres, Vol. 2
Translated and edited by Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.

Days of true spiritual delight passed happily and swiftly in the religious cloisters. Thus I passed my novitiate, tasting the true happiness that those in the world anxiously seek and rarely find, for it can best be found where God lives in a special way in the silence and austerity of the life of the cloisters, the antechambers of Heaven.

St Francis Monastery Quito

The baroque altarplace
of St Francis Monastery in Quito
When my novitiate ended, I had the incomparable good fortune of pronouncing my religious vows in the humble state of lay brother, considering myself more fortunate than the King of Spain.

On the morning of February 5, 1778, at the age of 27 years and two months, the Franciscan Community witnessed the act of my profession. Such was the happiness of my soul that I thought myself to be in the company of the blessed. No earthly concerns clouded the limpid heaven of my monastic life. Everything seemed easy to me. In a word, I was happy.

With this inexpressible joy, I lived in the Franciscan Monastery of Quito.

In the Convent of the Immaculate Conception

One of our Fathers directed some of the religious in the Convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Whenever he went there, I was permitted to accompany him, which pleased me greatly.

While the Father was in the confessional, I would draw near the grating of the lower choir. With a holy envy and profound religious respect, I would gaze into that blessed and privileged place where God and the Blessed Virgin had communicated with the angelic creature, Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres. I seemed to see her in all her different facets - her profound humility, her circumspect air, her gravity in bearing, in a word, her sanctity which reflected in her exterior way of being.

I would say to myself: "Oh! If I could have only come here during the earthly life of my holy sister, Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres!"

At times, my heart would be so deeply moved that I wanted her to rise from her sepulcher so she could respond to my pleas:

"Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres, my Spanish "Niña," finally I am in your house. Throw off the shrouds that cover you! Rise up and come to me at this grating! Bless me and speak to me words of divine fire that will set my cold heart ablaze. Hear the words of your brother, whom you have brought in such an admirable way from distant lands here to Quito, where I am most content.

Mother Mariana Way of the Cross

Every night Mother Mariana made the Way of the Cross in the lower choir of the Convent
"What I would not give to have arrived here when you were living your earthly life! How I long to hear the timbre of your voice, like that of a tender and chaste dove whose plaintive notes captivated the hearts of your Beloved Jesus Christ and Blessed Mother, inducing those sovereign Majesties to descend from the Heaven to speak familiarly with you and communicate to you great secrets, especially concerning the centuries to come. (1)

"Happy walls that guarded you, a red rose and white lily, in this seraphic garden of the Immaculate Conception of the Queen of Virgins. I beg you, do not forget me now that you sing the new canticle in Heaven in glory, after having sung so often the divine praises in this very choir on earth.

"My holy sister, you know all that has taken place in my past life. It was you who kept me from falling into the abyss. A thousand times blessed and glorified is the infinite mercy of God in me!

"Even though I am content in the humble state of lay brother, my brothers continue
to insist that I should begin my studies to become ordained a priest. My cheeks blush to say this, for I do not consider myself worthy. And my heart trembles to think that should I be raised to the altar without being called to the priesthood, I might deviate from the true road leading me to Heaven and hurl myself into the abyss of Hell. For I feel can securely save myself in the Seraphic Order, living and praying in the state of a lay brother.

"Moreover, how could I rise to the altar and, calling to Our Lord Jesus Christ with the sublime words of the Consecration, dare to touch His Most Holy Body with these hands that have borne and handled arms as a soldier?

"Speak to me from your grave, holy sister. Tell me what Our Lord desires of me, for I am a worm, an ignoble piece of soot, an ignorant lay brother! Once I know the Most Holy Will of God, I will follow it. I will spare no effort to do so, considering how He sacrificed Himself for my sake, allowing Himself to be suspended by three large nails to a Cross, His Blessed Body one wound and His Divine Blood flowing in torrents only for love of me.

"Contemplating Him thus, I am consumed with the desire for martyrdom so that I might also shed my blood as proof of my love, just as so many lay brothers of my Monastery in Quito have shed their blood. If only I am permitted to accompany the missionary priests on the missions they preach to the Indians on the coast and other places in these lands!"

Weeping like a child, I would unburden my heart at the iron grille of the lower choir of that fortunate Convent, returning to my Monastery with a tranquil heart, well disposed to love God and resolved to follow His Holy Will in all that He desired to ask of me.

Priesthood

One night, as I was soundly sleeping in the peace that stands as testimony to a good conscience, I again saw my "little Spanish sister" dressed in her blue and white habit. Beautiful and smiling, she said to me:

"Brother Manuel, I congratulate you for hearing the voice of God and leaving the world with the courage of a soldier. You will be blessed in time and in eternity.

"Know that the pious sentiments you feel before the iron grille of the lower choir have not passed unnoticed by me. I look down at you tenderly as a brother, and I respect you as a minister of my Lord Jesus Christ, Who has chosen you to rise to the altar and call Him down into your hands, treating Him with grateful tenderness and love.

"My Seraphic Father St. Francis has chosen you as his successor in the government of the Provincial House. There you will have the opportunity to do much good. Obey your Superiors and become ordained a Priest without fear of falling astray from the path, for not only are you called to this, but also chosen for it.

"After you become a priest, do not forget to assist my Convent, which will always need the support of its brothers, the Friars Minor, who will sustain it with their counsels until that longed-for day arrives when the Convent will again be totally under their care." (2)

I awoke from my mysterious dream, my heart filled with love for God. And I resolved to study to be ordained a priest, even though I trembled to think of treating and handling the Most Holy Body of my Lord Jesus Christ.

My Father confessor had been insisting that I should begin my studies. So he was pleased when I told him of my dream and the holy resolve that I had made upon awakening.

He listened with lively interest and then told me firmly:
"Brother, delay no longer and attend to the divine call the Eternal Priest is making for you to rise to the Altar. Do not fear, for you have been professed as a lay brother, and now, through the orders of your superiors, God is manifesting His Will to you, which was confirmed by the apparition of our Spanish religious sister. It would be a blatant sin if you remained deaf to this call."

"Yes, Father," I responded.
Taking my leave of him, I met with the Father Provincial and several members of the governing council. They were unanimous in their opinion:
"Brother Manuel, put aside your fears. Do you want to trifle with God and ignore the Divine Will? Tomorrow you will begin your studies to be ordained priest. No further excuses, for they would no longer constitute virtue on your part, but stubborn tenaciousness. And how unbefitting this is for a Friar Minor!"
I knelt and kissed the feet of my superiors. When they raised me from the ground, I responded:
"Fathers, let the Most Holy Will of God be done. I will obey you, certain that I can count upon your prayers."
My studies began and progressed with amazing ease. I had recommended them to my holy sister, Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres, telling her that if it was the Will of God for me to be ordained and if the things I had read in her life were true, then she should facilitate all my studies. And this she did.

After I completed the studies, my superiors took all the necessary steps for my ordination. Since I was Portuguese, the King of Spain, His Majesty Don Charles III, as well as the Franciscan Superior General of New Spain, Father Manuel Trujillo, had to incorporate me into the Province of St. Paul of Quito. This was approved and decreed in the year 1786, and in 1787 I was finally ordained a priest.

Henceforth, my greatest interest was to see that the Convent of the Immaculate Conception was well taken care of and that nothing was lacking to those religious virgins, inheritors of the spirit of their illustrious and holy Founding Mothers.

Fr. Pereira becomes the confessor of the Conceptionist Sisters

During a canonical visit to this Convent, His Excellency the Bishop requested that two Franciscan Friars accompany him. I was one of those fortunate chosen ones.

My desire to enter its walls was great, and the night that preceded the visit was long - very long. When morning came, my companion and I went to the Convent church to await the Bishop. Under his authority, we would then enter into the cloister.

In the lower choir my heart leapt with joy. They were singing the responses for the deceased, but I thought to myself: "What they should be singing is the Te Deum!"

The responses concluded, the Community of the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception, my most dear sisters who had been assisting at the ceremony, all strove to welcome and attend to their brothers, the Friars Minor. Different sisters alternated in accompanying the Bishop on his tour. I asked about the tomb of the Founding Mothers. When they showed me the place where Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres lay, involuntarily, I knelt and kissed that blessed spot.

I asked the sisters:
"Could I see these dearly loved remains?” I asked. “I would like to kiss her hands."

"Father, it is impossible," they responded. "The Bishop would find out, and then..."
While the others went through the lower choir, I remained at the sepulcher of my benefactress sister. I felt the efficacy of her virtue and an atmosphere of sanctity and love for God that issued from this beloved tomb. Even after the others left the choir, I remained there immobile until my companion came to call for me to leave. My soul and my heart, however, remained there at the tomb!

When they showed us the prison, tears flowed from my eyes. I seemed to see my holy sister imprisoned and shut up there. Seeing my emotion, the Bishop asked:
Mother MaAriana

In the halls of her cloister, Fr. Pereira sensed the holy presence of Mother Mariana
"Why these tears, Father?"

"Ah, Your Excellency," I responded. "How many holy memories there are in this venerable place, sanctified by the suffering of virtuous souls. Here Our Lord Jesus Christ was imitated, for although He was Innocence itself, He suffered as if He were a criminal."
As the visit continued, I felt myself overwhelmed by holy emotions, for everywhere I seemed to see my angelic sister.

It was during this visit that the sisters first came to know me. Seeing me so devoted to their Convent, the sisters called me to the confessional. I went with great happiness. I would stop whatever I was doing to attend to them, even if this necessitated that I work into the night to finish my work.

My soul delighted upon encountering these innocent virgins, most favored by God. And I, with the confidence of a brother, questioned them on all that they knew about Mother Mariana.

The sisters told me various facts that were not recorded in the biography By Fr. Alácano that I had first read in Portugal.

One of the sisters who I directed was kind enough to present to me a diary in which Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres had written her weekly meditations. I carried this little notebook with me always, nor would I trade it for anything in this life, since it was written by the holy virgin. For me it was a precious relic.

In all the circumstances of my life, I had the custom of recommending myself to my holy sister, whose protection and favors I received in extraordinary ways. (3)

Prayer
O Angel of innocence and candor, from the happy Homeland where you reside, do not forget your brother who still navigates on this tempestuous ocean of life. From Heaven you see my difficulties, needs, and fears in the pursuance of my priestly life. I was ordained because God so desired it and because you took an interest in this cause. Now watch over your brother so that he might please and glorify God in everything. These are my only desires in this miserable valley of suffering and tears.

When I reach the end of my life, assist me then, more than ever, so that I might die a holy death and be with you forever in Heaven under the blue mantle of our Immaculate Mother, in eternal happiness, contemplating and loving our God without fear of losing Him.
1) For the prophecies concerning the 20th century and these times, see my book, Our Lady of Good Success: Prophecies for Our Times.
2) The Conceptionist Convent in Quito left the jurisdiction of the Franciscan Friars in 1601, but Our Lady of Good Success foretold to Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres that they would return after a long time had passed. See Our Lady of Good Success, Prophecies for Our Times.
3) It is known that Mother Mariana concretely assisted this religious, appearing to him to defend him from dangers in his missionary work. She was the guiding star of this soldier, this holy religious Franciscan who died in the odor of sanctity.

***

Part One   l   Part Two   l   Part Three


Copyright 2002 (c) Marian T. Horvat All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever, including Internet, without permission in writing from Tradition In Action, Inc., except that brief selections may be quoted or copied for non-profit use without permission, provided full credit is given.


Posted January 25, 2005

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