It was 5 am, January 24, 2018; the cobbled streets of Quito were still dark and deserted when fireworks began to shoot up from a church on la Plaza Grande, right next to the presidential palace.
Lenin Moreno, President of the Republic of Ecuador, was awakened by the sound of explosives and sent out security to investigate.
From her hilltop above the city, the 98-foot winged Virgin of the Apocalypse looked on with heavenly calm.
The pyrotechnicians were standing on the roof of the 400-year old Convento de la Inmaculada Concepción, which stands on the corner between the presidential palace and the Archbishop’s residence. In the street was gathered a small group of Catholics carrying statues and banners, about to begin the first of nine dawn processions in preparation for the feast of Our Lady del Buen Suceso de la Purificación on February 2nd, known in English-speaking countries as Our Lady of Good Success of the Purification.
On learning (with relief, no doubt) that the fireworks were in honour of Our Lady, the President sent good wishes to the procession; it soon moved off, singing hymns and the Rosary in Latin and Spanish. Each day of the novena, collecting passersby and stray dogs on the way, the procession would wend its way through the hilly Quiteño streets to a different religious house or church: one day the Franciscans’ startlingly opulent Baroque church at the Convent of San Francisco, another, that of the Oblate Fathers who have charge of the 20th-century neo-Gothic Basilica del Voto Nacional (built as a national memento of Ecuador’s 1874 consecration to the Sacred Heart by Garcia Moreno and Archbishop Checa y Barba); yet another to that of the Carmelite sisters, who remained hidden behind the grille but sang joyfully, accompanied by an organ with a slight wheeze.
At each destination, the religious joined the faithful in prayer to Our Lady of Buen Suceso for the Church in this time of interior upheaval and the renewal of the religious orders. After a short homily, the procession would return through the orange Andean dawn to the Convent of the Immaculate Conception, home to the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Buen Suceso and the incorrupt body of the visionary to whom she appeared, Mother Mariana de Jesús Torres.
The life of Mother Mariana de Jesús Torres was recorded by Fr. Manuel Sousa Pereira, OFM, among others. Mariana was a Spaniard who came to Ecuador in 1575 with a group of Conceptionist nuns, sent to found a convent in the New World. Only a young girl at the time, Mariana was already a mystic, favoured with visions, especially of Our Lady and Our Lord. In one of these visions she was asked to offer herself as a victim soul in reparation for the sins of the 20th century.
In those days, the Blessed Virgin said, the devil would launch a particularly vicious offensive via Masonic sects, which would gain political power. Corruption would spread, destroying the innocence of children in particular. The sacraments would be targeted: the children of Catholics would no longer receive Baptism and Confirmation as a matter of course, and the dying would be denied Extreme Unction out of ignorance or negligence.
The Holy Eucharist would be profaned, stolen from churches, “cast upon the ground and trampled upon with filthy feet.” The Sacrament of Matrimony, “which symbolizes the union of Christ with His Church,” would be attacked by laws doing away with marriage and promoting a life of sin, and the consequent immorality would result in a dearth of religious vocations.
As for the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Our Lady said, the devil would labour with assiduity to turn priests away from their vocations and would corrupt many of them. “These depraved priests, who will scandalize the Christian people, will make the hatred of bad Catholics and the enemies of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church fall upon all priests.”
Our Lady told Mother Mariana that in those difficult days, persons who invoked Her under the title of Our Lady of Buen Suceso would receive special graces and be under Her particular protection. She promised that, when all seemed lost, she would intervene to save the Church.
Our Lady asked Mother Mariana to have a statue made of her under this title, holding the Infant Jesus as well as the crosier of an Abbess and the keys of the convent, and to have the bishop anoint the statue , thus installing her as Abbess “for the consolation and preservation of my Convent and for the faithful souls of that time, an epoch when there will be a great devotion to me, for I am Queen of Heaven under many invocations… This devotion will be the shield between Divine Justice and the prevaricating world…”
With the approval of Bishop Salvador Ribera, a sculptor was hired. When the work was almost done, the sculptor absented himself temporarily in search of materials, only to discover on his return that the statue had been miraculously completed. It is said that the paint on the face and hands has never needed restoration.
On February 2, 1611, Bishop Ribera solemnly anointed the statue with holy oil, granting it the title of Maria de Buen Suceso de la Purificación. In 1991, Archbishop Antonio José González Zumárraga received permission from Rome to carry out the canonical coronation of Our Lady of Good Success as Queen of Quito.
In 1906 Mother Mariana’s tomb was opened, and her body was found to be incorrupt. The diocese of Quito initiated her cause for beatification in 1986. The postulator for her cause, Monsignor Luis Cadena y Almeida, was director of the Archbishop’s archives in Quito and has written several books about her life and prophecies.
Mother Mariana’s remains are preserved inside the convent. She lived into her seventies; today she occupies a glass casket, a tiny and impressive figure. Also preserved in the convent are the incorrupt bodies of nine other Conceptionist nuns; rumour has it that the sisters refer to them lightheartedly as “the sleeping beauties!”
Usually the miraculous statue is kept enthroned as Abbess behind the grille. However, during the nine days before the Feast of the Purification on February 2, it is placed in the sanctuary, and the church is busy from morning till night with Quiteños and pilgrims alike come to pay their homage. The dawn procession on the feast day is attended by thousands.
The Child Jesus once told Mother Mariana, “My beloved Mother, like a luminous star, will shine over [this convent] in all times. She will be its strongest support, its impenetrable wall, and she will always give it good success…” The convent has indeed stood in its current location since its foundation in 1577, in spite of wars, revolution, and fire: a symbol of hope for the Conceptionists, for the Church, and for all those who have put themselves under Our Lady’s protection.
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