Tribute to the Augustinian Recollect Foundress on the celebration of her 400th birthday anniversary
Antonia de Jesus, one of the Augustinian Recollect nuns who contributed positively to the promotion and growth of the female counterpart of the Augustinian Recollection, received homage both in Medina Sidonia (Cadiz) and Pastrana (Guadalajara) in June during her 400th birthday anniversary. As she continued the work begun by Mother Mariana de San Jose (1568-1638), Mother Antonia founded four monasteries in the southern part of the peninsula: one in Medina Sidonia, one in Chiclana de la Frontera, both found in the province of Cadiz; and another two in Granada.
The tribute began last June 12 in Medina Sidonia (Cadiz), where Antonia de Jesús passed away. The program included the juridical process of her canonization. The fame of sanctity of Antonia de Jesús has been upheld throughout the centuries and led to the opening of the cause for her canonization in October 2000. The diocesan phase was concluded in May 2005 and merited the approval of the Holy See two years later.
There are two important things yet to be done: one is the critical and documented biography of Antonia de Jesús, which is already at its advance phase; the second has something to do with the faithful’s access to the saint’s remains in order to ask for her intercession.
Nevertheless, the body of Mother Antonia was buried within the interior of the cloister of the Monastery of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Medina Sidonia (Cadiz). The tomb was in the inner courtyard accessible only to the nuns. Thus, taking advantage of the occasion of the fourth centenary of her birth, her remains were transferred to the Church of the convent.
Transfer of the remains for public veneration
In the morning of June 12, the exhumation, examination and transfer of her venerable remains were completed. It was both a juridical and public act, which was presided by the ecclesiastical tribunal appointed by Rafael Zornoza Boy, Bishop of Cadiz-Ceuta. The Prior General of the Augustinian Recollects, Miguel Miró and the Postulator for the causes of saints of the Order, Samson Silloriquez also attended the said event. Among the many devotees present, were 27 Recollect nuns, representing the four monasteries founded by Mother Antonia.
The event took place as prescribed by the proper ritual. First, in the presence of the ecclesiastical tribunal, the workers exhumed the coffin of Mother Antonia, which was taken in procession to the lower choir of the convent. There, the medical expert examined her body. Other examinations were done in 1837, 1871, 1875 and 1987 and the body had always been incorrupt. This time, her body remained intact, even though her face and hands have shown considerable deterioration. Once the examination of the body was completed and after the nuns have dressed her with a new habit, the body was placed in the same coffin and was exposed behind a grill for the faithful’s viewing.
In the afternoon of the same day, Miguel Miró, Prior General of the Augustinian Recollects presided the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. In his homily, he stressed the admirable virtues of faith, the untiring zeal for God’s glory and the unwavering hope of Mother Antonia. She promoted the revitalizing reform movement, an endeavor which the Order is pursuing today more than ever. After the Mass, the juridical act of the morning ended with the reading and signing of the proceedings. Afterwards, the judge-delegate closed and sealed the box that was brought solemnly to the new tomb in a chapel situated at the entrance of the Church.
A day of thanksgiving
Portrait, by Antonio Molina Torres The 13th of June was also a day of thanksgiving in the monumental parish Church of Santa Maria la Coronada of Medina Sidonia. It is just few meters away from the Recollect convent. The diocesan bishop, Msgr. Rafael Zornoza Boy presided the said event. He was joined by the Prior General of Order, the former Prior General Javier Guerra and some priors provincial.
Firstly, a cultural activity was held, which consisted of a conference. The speaker was the Augustinian Recollect Juan Manuel Gutiérrez Díaz, who is at present the Religious Assistant of the Discalced Augustinian nuns. He traced the biographical profile of Mother Antonia, by presenting an expanded and improved edition of Madre Antonia de Jesús. O morir o ser Buena, a work written by the deceased Domingo Bohórquez Jiménez.
Afterwards, the celebration of the Eucharist followed, with the Bishop of Cádiz as president, and 38 religious and diocesan priests as concelebrants. Added to its solemnity was the singing of the Sancti Petri Choir from the nearby locality of Chiclana de la Frontera.
A Tribute in her Birthplace
In addition to the activities in Medina Sidonia, other events were organized in Pastrana (Guadalajara), the birthplace of Antonia de Jesus. Curiously, in her own town, Mother Antonia was so not so much known until, in the presence of her fellow townspeople, the Fourth Centenary of her birth was inaugurated on June 23.
The place for the said occasion could not be more noble. It was held in the collegiate and parish Church of Our Lady of Assumption. There Manuel Gutiérrez presented in his conference the second edition of Mother Antonia’s biography. Then, Msgr. Mario Alberto Molina, the Augustinian Recollect Archbishop of Los Altos, Quetzaltenango-Totonicapán of Guatemala presided the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. He was then passing by Spain on his way to Rome to receive the pallium from the Pope. In lieu of the local Ordinary, Msgr. Molina was joined by Eugenio Abad, the diocesan vicar. Likewise, the Prior General Miguel Miró was present with a good number of religious and diocesan priests.
During the offertory, the fifth volume of the baptismal books of the parish was presented. In it, appears the birth certificate of Antonia Lopéz Jiménez, born on the 12th June 1612. After the Holy Eucharist and the recitation of the prayer for her canonization, they went to visit the baptismal font where the Recollect foundress was baptized on the 24th June four hundred years ago.
The Augustinian Recollect nuns with more than 400 years of history
The year 1603 is considered the official date of the foundation of the Augustinian Recollect nuns. It is the year when Mother Mariana de San José took possession of the Monastery of Éibar (Guipúzcoa, Spain). Thus, Mother Mariana is rightly considered the foundress of the female counterpart of the Augustinian Recollection.
Some of her spiritual daughters inherited her personal yearning as a foundress, called by God to erect convents or even groups of convents. One of them was Antonia de Jesús, who has now received a well-deserved recognition.
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