A Challenge
Three hundred years ago
when women were powerless
when no native of a colony would ever dream of bold initiatives a simple woman
IGNACIA DEL ESPIRITU SANTO broke the mold. She challenged the society and the Church of her time
and guided by the Spirit
opened new paths on Philippines soil.
Three hundred years later
the challenge remains as vital and vibrant as ever.
How can we, each of us
-men and women alike-
imitate her courage?
What can we, each of us
-men and women alike-
DO to challenge the society and the Church of our time?

Pedro S. de Achutegui, S.J.

In spite of the scanty records regarding the life of Venerable Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, there  is always something that a researcher can come up with when delving into them. As Foundress of the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM), she has followers who make it a point to know her more closely and have her known by other people. Along this line of thought, there are writers among them who strive to pick up some bits of information to present the life of this valiant woman who lived in the seventeenth century and is carried on to   our contemporary age. From their writings, Mother Ignacia becomes alive regardless of the lapse of more than three centuries since her earthly sojourn.


       In her book “Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo:  A Lamp to Our Path” Sr. Maria Anicia B. Co, RVM, pointed out in one of the chapters the spirituality of Venerable Ignacia which she summed up in the acronym OPPTIC spirituality which stands for Openness to the Holy Spirit, her Pondering heart, Perseverance, Trust in God, Intimacy with Christ, and her Courage.  Thoroughly discussed by the author, the editor of the ULIRAN Newsletter found itsignificant to have the other members of the RVM Congregation be more conversant of the topic if they did not have the opportunity to read the whole book. Thus, it was that the topic was serialized in the ULIRAN Newsletter for six issues.


            More about the virtues of Venerable Ignacia will be presented as found in the reflections of  Sr. Maria Rita C. Ferraris, RVM, a prodigious writer on the life of this Servant of God. The first of these reflections is entitled “Faith, Mother Ignacia’s Response to God’s Invitation”. She   ushered this in with the following introduction: “By revelation, God, from the fullness of His love addresses us as friends, and moves among us in order to invite all into His company.  The adequate response to this invitation is faith, whereby a person completely submits his intellect and will to God.”  The main reflection follows.  “ Mother Ignacia received the gift of faith during her baptism at the Church of the Holy Kings in the fifth Parian de Chinos. As with other yndias of her times, this faith gradually matured, nurtured by the Sacraments, teachings, practices and devotions inculcated by the zealous missionaries and a pious mother. The growing child’s faith manifested itself in the ordinary Christian observances in the context of parochial activities.  It was only when Ignacia was 21 years old, and her parents began to plan seriously for her future in terms of marriage, that the level of maturity in faith of this simple yndia manifested itself.  Her life’s aspiration was to live solely for her God.  She was not sure how or where, but that was her heart’s desire.  It was faith that prompted her posture of discernment, that she seek the will of God for her.  And God led her steps to a mentor in discernment, the son of Ignatius at the Colegio de San Jose. Paul Klein saw her soul the prepared ground for the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and put her through the process of discerning the will of God for her.  Her retreat experience was shrouded in mystery. We only know that during that time God ‘inspired her to remain in the service of His Divine Majesty,’ and her response was one great leap of faith: ‘to live by the sweat of her brow.’ With one act of the will she placed her life in the hands of the “Divine Majesty.’  Colonial policy dictated that no institution  could be established unless it proved financial stability or at least indicate its source of income so that it does not become a burden to the Royal Treasury.  What a presumption for this lowly yndia to set out on her own.  Perhaps her vision did not include an institution; and by herself,  her needle and pair of scissors would be adequate, supported by her trust in Divine Providence. Still it was her faith that gave courage to do the will of God the Father, whatever that would entail.  It was faith that allowed her to accept the coming of other women like her, seeking to serve the Lord in chastity, poverty and obedience, and not to panic at the thought of additional mouths to feed.  It was heroic faith to trust that as long as they did all they could , His Providence will supply their needs.”


            Indeed Mother Ignacia’s faith is akin to that of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s FIAT and very closely resembles it. When God’s messenger announced to her to become the Mother of the Redeemer, Mary answered: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.” She accepted the will of God in great faith although she was not certain on what to do. With an open mind and heart to God’s Divine will, she responded to the Father’s will without reservation. So it is with Mother Ignacia. Moved by the stirrings of her heart, her response to God’s call to give her life to serve the Divine Majesty is realized through God’s grace and the help of her spiritual guides. Would that her followers in the institution she established may emulate her virtues and become witnesses of God’s love.


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