Mother Ignacia: Prophet and Mystic
By: S. Maria Corazon D. Agda, RVM (February 9, 2015)

A Reflection on the occasion of the RVM Superiors’ National Convention
Betania Retreat House, Tagaytay City
February 10-14, 2015



Prophecy and mysticism sound familiar.  But the feeling of strangeness bordering on unease tends to creep in at the thought of appropriating both words at the same time to the experience of Ignacia del Espiritu Santo.  For while the prophetic dimension of her life has been reflected on and written about albeit not yet comprehensively, the mystical aspect of her experiences remains to be a-still-to-be-delved-into-topic.  Nevertheless it is opportune that during this year of Consecrated Life, both descriptions can be ventured into and explored.

This reflection hopes then to answer: 

  • - Can the roles of the prophet and mystic be possibly appropriated to the experiences of Mother Ignacia without being hagiographical?
  • - Will available foundational documents yield a credible picture of her assuming or closely fitting into each role?
  • - If they do, how can we possibly respond to the inherent challenges that her roles carry?

To be able to do so, three considerations are kept in mind.  First, this reflection limits itself to the Christian view of prophecy and mysticism.  Second, to reconstruct some of Mother Ignacia’s experiences two documents that are attributed to her, the 1726 Constituciones y Reglas plus her July 1, 1726 escritto dated July 1, 1726, will be used. Third, the equivalent terms to the prophetic tasks as proposed by Jose Cristo Rey Paredes--“protest” and “proposal”—together with the concepts on mysticism by  Evelyn Underhill  are adapted to serve as templates  for presenting the Ignacian’ experience. 

It is hoped that this reflection will somehow add to the body of knowledge on Mother Ignacia and fill in some of the lacunae of her life as foundress.


The Prophet and His Role

Who is a Prophet?

The word “prophet” comes from the Hebrew word nabi which has the Greek equivalent of prophetes from the words pro phemi which means to declare openly, to make known publicly, to proclaim.  Thus, prophetes means a speaker. The understanding of this word has evolved.  In the Torah, it refers to persons who announce God’s message while at the same time foretelling disasters if people do not take heed.  In the New Testament, the prophet was more of a moral teacher.  In the later Christian tradition, the prophet was one who saw one aspect in Jesus’ message and brought it to people’s attention.  There do not seem to be standard requisites to being a prophet.  The prophet’s role is a direct call from God; it is neither inherited nor transferable nor deserved because of virtue, gender, age, and calling in life.  Schneiders (n.d.) defines the prophet’s task as “to bear witness to God, by word and work, to God’s people in a particular context or historical situation” (p. 85).

Moses is considered the paradigmatic prophet in the Old Testament.  His program consisted of evoking a consciousness and perception which is different from the dominant culture, and the formation of a counter-community with a counter-consciousness to match the vision of God’s freedom.  His criticism was characterized as “mobilizing people to their restless grief and nurturing them away from cry-hearers who are inept at listening and indifferent in response.”  He energized his community by giving them hope and helping them not only to face but also embrace the inscrutable darkness.  According to Walter Brueggemann (1978):

He did not engage in social action or in a struggle to transform a regime. Rather his concern was with the consciousness that undergirded and made such a regime possible; nor was he concerned with societal betterment through the repentance of a regime but with totally dismantling it in order to permit a new reality to appear (p. 28).

Jesus is described in the New Testament in Mark 6:15 and Mark 8:28 with parallels in Luke 9:8, and Mt. 16:14 and Lk. 9:19.  People ascribed the prophetic role to him according to their experiences of Him.  He  shared Moses’ proclamation of a God who is free and beyond the legalisms of the law, a God who is compassionate, merciful, loving, on the side of the poor and oppressed. He envisioned a counter-community, one that is inclusive and founded on love.  He opted to respond not only to the social situation of the poor and infirm but also to the policies and practices of the political and religious leaders of his time.  But he did not analyze poverty, infirmity, injustice, and oppression. 

He advocated specific steps to answer them.  He admonished those who have to give, to lead simple lives.  He proclaimed a God who is involved in the plight of humanity, a God who cares, a God whose love is constant and boundless.  He went beyond expectations whether as prophet or king.  He did not exactly fit into both molds according to the standards of his times.  He asked those who are hurt to forgive, to love enemies, to counter violence with love.  He called on those in authority to serve others in humility.  He advocated a radical stance towards women who were second-hand citizens in Hebrew society—he broadened their roles in terms of their personal identity and participation in community life.

Hill (2006) tells us that Jesus, considered an eschatological prophet and the new Moses, “seems to be aware of a special calling to speak and act through divine power” (p. 54).  But unlike the prophets in the Old Testament, he did not enhance his qualifications with the formula “Thus says the Lord,” nor did he have ecstatic states, visions, dramatic call to speak for God.  The core of Jesus’ message was consistently God’s eternal and constant love and His gracious mercy.  The God he proclaimed “was not only compassionate but compassion itself” (Schneiders, p. 87).  His faith in God and his growing understanding of God’s purpose for him are the foundations upon which his stance is hinged on.  He gave us a paradigm of a new order of relating with self, neighbor and God.  He elevated prophecy into a new level which is characterized by humility, obedience to God, and love, not as he would have willed it but “impelled by the Holy Spirit … spoke under God’s influence” (2 Peter 1:21). 

Both Moses and Jesus proclaimed the love of God for humanity.  But each had a particular way of proclaiming it to others, according to their personal qualities and historical circumstances.  The role of the prophet is not confined to the male gender, however.


Women Prophets

The Old Testament has three recognized women prophets.  Their respective contributions to their community are worth noting.

Miriam as an adult was given the title of prophetess.  She led women in publicly celebrating and worshiping God after the Israelites cross the Red Sea (Ex 15:20-21). For this singular act, Price (1994) ascribes to her the description “the first woman patriot and the first woman singer on record in the Bible” (p. 83) by being at the forefront praising God with song and dancing with her tambourine.  Her  spirited dancing and singing must have inspired people to join her in thanking the God of Israel.

Deborah, wife of Lappidoth was recognized for her role as judge of Israel.  The Hebrew word for judge is “shaphat” which means “to deliver” or “to rule.”  She is the fourth judge to lead the nation of Israel.  Her responsibilities included deciding controversies, giving verdicts, and executing judgments.  She was honorably called “a mother in Israel” whose decisions are sought.  She boldly spoke forth God’s commands.  She honored God in a song of victory.  There are no scandals or moral controversies mentioned about her (Judges 4:1-5:13).

Huldah, wife of Shallum, was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah during the reign of King Josiah, who at the tender age of eight became King of Judah.  He was a righteous ruler who attempted to rehabilitate the nation’s standing with God.  A major aspect of his reform was the repairing of the temple of the Lord.  During the repair he discovered the Book of Law.   The book of the Law reveals that covenant curses will fall down on the nation because of its many years of evil and rebellion against God.  King Josiah commanded five of his top leaders to go and inquire of the Lord, and see if judgment is indeed going to fall.  The five including the High Priest went and sought the counsel of Huldah who authenticated the book and presented a grim prognosis (Kings 22:14-20 and 2 Chronicles 34:22-28).

Moses, Jesus, Miriam, Deborah, Huldah shared something in common.  They proclaimed through their words and actions a God who is deeply and lovingly involved in human history.  While each of them had unique leadership qualities, they carried out their individual roles by weaving through these their deep personal experiences of God, whom they followed.

It is against the backdrop of the Old Testament and New Testament images that Mother Ignacia’s prophetic experiences will be examined.  The questions to answer are:  To what did she respond to the prevailing issues of her times?  What did she stand for?  How?  Since prophets and prophetesses share the common characteristic of breaking away from some traditional expectations and stamping a mark on their person responses, let us take a cursory look at Mother Ignacia’s experiences.


The Ignacian Breakaways

There were specific instances when it can be said that Ignacia broke away from familial, social, racial, cultural, and gender expectations without necessarily projecting a rebellious image.  By hindsight, she seemed to have displayed a tendency to adapt what is meaningful, wait, bear the consequences of her choices,  and in the process came up with something that can only be described as peculiarly her own.  What she did in response to her historical circumstances may be viewed as her alternative, which borrowing terms from Cristo Rey Paredes, were her “protests” and “proposals.”

First, belonging to the Dominican parish of Binondo, she went to the Jesuits to seek for guidance by undergoing a retreat, which led to her decision to “serve the Divine Majesty by the sweat of her brow.”  At a time when women were expected to marry, bear and rear children into good Christians, and at a time when natives were seen as incapable of serving God and unequal to their Western counterparts, she started a women’s community that may be classified as having an ambiguous identity—religious in practice but laywomen in theory—but racially inclusive in composition.

Second, as a Chinese mestiza who belonged to the segregated area of Binondo where Chinese-Christians were settled according to the colonizers’ requirements, she dared settle in the “foreigners’ turf” with others like her—yndias and mestizas who did not qualify to join existing religious communities not so much because of race but more for political and economic reasons.  Ignacia countered the prevailing policies of the colonizers by locating herself inside the walled city of Intramuros, albeit close to the wall and at the back of the Jesuit College.   And at a time too when the city was plagued with scandals and riven with ugly talks about prominent personalities, her community provided an antidote by not adding to nor participating in backtalk and rumor-mongering.

Third, with the doors of existing colonial institutions not yet ready to accept the non-Spanish, Ignacia and her companions through the Beaterio de la Compañia provided young girls and women the opportunity to improve themselves.   The beatas integrated catechism in its educational program aside from reading, writing, and works proper to women.  They assisted in the retreat ministry for women.  They came up with their own program of formation for those who wish to join the beaterio.

Fourth, being the daughter of possibly a Chinese businessman or artisan she could have followed in her parent’s footsteps and inherited his trade but instead she chose the tools of a trade—needle and scissors—that will never be outmoded.  On one hand, fashion will always be there to stay no matter which historical era one is born in.  Women particularly are eternal patrons of seamstresses.  On the other, it can be a venue for expressing not only one’s creativity but also a means for manifesting one’s entrepreneurial savvy.  Needless to say, Ignacia and her community earned most of their keep by sewing.

Fifth, for a new community to exist it has to have sufficient funds or stable support.  Not so with Ignacia’s beaterio.  While other women communities were subsidized by male religious groups (Monasterio de Santa Clara by the Franciscans, Beaterio de Santa Catalina by the Dominicans, Beaterio de San Sebastian de Calumpang by the Agustinians), her community supported itself by the “sweat of their brow” and some alms.  In fact, Archbishop Arizala assured King Ferdinand VI that the Beaterio de la Compañia was not a burden to the royal treasury.

Sixth, influenced by colonizers’ stereotyped view of women as inferior to men, she started a community that was known to be self-governed and yet respectful of and obedient to duly constituted religious and civil authorities.   Father Pedro Murillo Velarde described its members as “governadas por si mismas” with Rules formed by themselves.  Unlike the monastery of Sta. Clara, Beaterio de Sta. Catalina, Beaterio de San Sebastian Calumpang, Ignacia’s community was free from administrative connections with a male religious community. She neither belonged to a second order as the contemplatives of Sta. Clara nor to the third order as the tertiaries of Sto. Domingo.  Hers can be classified as “an indigenous first order.”


The Ignacian Responses

As results of Mother Ignacia’s going against the grain of perhaps her family’s and community’s expectations, we can now identify at least six offshoots that may be considered as the prophetic dimension of her individual as well as communal experiences.  Thus, in response --

--to the seeming religious immaturity of the colonized—from the eyes of the colonizers—she started a community which adapted the best practices of the times and although for the most part devotional, can still be considered as expressions of an indigenous women spirituality;

--to the scandal-plagued and divisive-ridden atmosphere of Intramuros where she ventured to live, she made a difference; the letter of Abp Pedro de la Santisima Trinidad to the King Ferdinand VI dated July 19, 1748 attests to this: They admit in their house Spanish and native girls whom they guide along the path of virtue and whom they teach manual labors proper to their sex. Their common life gives edification to the whole city and is a source of spiritual good to the people.

-- to the tendency to marginalize the non-Spanish, the beaterio where she was the leader opened its doors to those who had less chances of being accepted in the existing colonial institutions;

--to technological limitations and despite the difficulties she encountered from beginning to end, she showed fortitude and was even described as “mujer verdaderamente fuerte” (woman truly strong); the beaterio she started evolved into a venue where young girls and women learned not only to craft thing but also their lives; and even while the colonized were better known as “great imitators,” we see her and the beatas following models of holiness who served as their guide in serving the Lord through others;

--to economic dependence, right from the start she decided to serve God by the sweat of her brow and she lived through with this with characteristic fidelity; she observed the law of labor diligently and industriously;

--to political underdevelopment, she led a community of women, for women, and by women; she may have exemplified gynecocracy in its initial forms but she did interpret it in a way only an inhabitant of the islands can; but more than these, she was described as truly a humble woman who was capable of letting go of her position as evidenced by requesting to abnegate as Rectora of the beaterio. To top it all, Archbishop Arizala wrote the King: These native women, Sir, are so edifying in their way of life, so useful to the common good in the education of the youth and so beneficial to women ….giving edification and inspiration to the women of their country.


Mother Ignacia’s approach to the situations of her time tended to be unremarkable and modest.  She seemed to have a flair for starting at the margins, without fanfare.  In fact, the location of her Beaterio at the back of the Jesuit College can be a good image representation of her characteristic way of responding.  In short, personally she seemed to be generally self-effacing or unassuming, truly a far cry from a prophet’s usually high profile persona.  Yet, it can still be said that she fits into the prophet’s role in the sense that she protested in a quiet way and concretely countered with visible results that served the greater community.



Mother Ignacia like Moses did not promote a revolutionary way of breaking into the consciousness of those in authority.  Following Jesus who proclaimed a loving God, she, in turn, promoted and advocated a way of life that is anchored on love and centered on a God who is charity and love (1726.I.38; II.9).  Like Miriam, Mother Ignacia acclaimed God’s role in her life.  Her leadership was marked by recognizing that God is provident, compassionate, merciful, and loving.  Like Deborah, she was a strategist without even conscious about it.  What we consider now as her six-pointed strategy passed through difficult times but in the end transcended them—namely, live in community that is neither lay nor religious; countered the chismoso culture of the city by living in a community that gave edification; inclusive (accepted yndias, mestizas, espanolas), provided not only practical but also spiritual formation (educating those who came to the beaterio in the ways of the Lord), self-support, self-government  were not easy decisions.  The finger of God tended to point out the way through a life grounded on CHARITY.  Fr. Murillo Velarde was correct when he said that Mother Ignacia experienced great difficulties from beginning until the end (grandes dificultades desde al cimiento hasta el capitel) but she conquered them all.  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says, “A prophet’s true greatness is his ability to hold God and man in a single thought.” For Mother Ignacia, this somehow became true in the Beaterio she started where the practice of love and charity flowed out to edify others in the larger community.

Rabbi Heschel defines the primary work of the prophet as “interference.”   Ignacia surely did it her way—like water under the ground, silently present, helping the growth of plants above it.


Mysticism and Mystics Discovered

Mysticism is most often associated with the esoteric and beyond the ordinary.  It seems to have suffered from being misunderstood and relegated to the margins of discussion.  Mystics, on the other hand, are extraordinary beings that are way outside the circle of ordinary mortals.  Words do create worlds and images.

Mysticism has its roots in the Latin mysterium, which has the Greek equivalent musterion  (secret rites) from muein, meaning to initiate, to close the eyes or lips, hence to keep secret (as in religious initiation).  The heavy shroud of mystery surrounding the words started to be unveiled though the centuries.

Malone’s (2002) descriptions of three theological streams are helpful for our understanding.  According to her, the first stream is the theology of the schools or scholastic theology which used the art of reasoning for solving dilemmas of faith.  It grew from the teachings of Abelard and Peter Lombard … focused on the dictum “credo ut intellegam” (I believe that I may understand).  The second is monastic theology which was practiced by Bernard of Clairvaux.  It was popular among the Franciscans.  It focused on “credo ut experiar” (I believe that I may experience).  The third is a point of interest to our present reflection.  It is called vernacular theology where more women than men mystics played a central role.  Vernacular theologians “used letters, sermons, face-to-face counseling, visionary accounts and hagiography to present their teaching, and precisely because they used the vernacular rather than the traditionally sacred Latin language, their word was all the more widely disseminated ... focused on love as the primordial Christian value” (p. 178).

Moreover, she identifies the intention of the mystics as “to spread the love of God that they themselves had experienced” (p. 180).  She mentions Marguerite Porete, a French mystic burnt at the stake for heresy in 1310 but who is said to influence the Dominican Meister Eckhart, as having lived  this kind of mysticism.  Known for her early 14th-century spiritual handbook entitled “The Mirror of Simple Souls” which was banned for heresy but was later translated to English, Porete is considered as an exemplar of the love mysticism of the Beguine movement.  Her book, which was translated to English, is helpful “for all who want to venture on the greatest spiritual quest of all—union with God” (p. 181). One of the twentieth century’s significant personages was shown a copy of this book during the early part of the 20th century.  Her name was Evelyn Underhill.


Mysticism 101(?):  From Underhill to Over the Hill

Underhill, an Anglican author on mysticism, opens not only a door but also windows to understanding mysticism.  To make the terms “mysticism” and “mystic” less threatening, she used instead “spirituality” and “saints.” She was often criticized for believing that the mystical life should be accessible to the average person. As an Anglican, she was “was fond of quoting St. Teresa’s saying that ‘to give our Lord a perfect service Martha and Mary must combine’.” Thanks to her, explorations or discussions on present-day mystical experiences are possible and comprehensible.  Let us discover more what she thinks.

Underhill is said to have not agreed with what was considered as the pioneering work of William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), an objective treatment of the “four marks for the mystic state.”  More recent author Shrader (2008) defines these four as:

--Ineffability (inability to capture the experience in ordinary language … it is in some sense beyond expression (indescribable or unspeakable) and that expression is in some sense forbidden (any attempt to do so would be unfaithful or untrue to the experience;

--Noetic quality (mystical experiences reveal an otherwise hidden or inaccessible knowledge)

--Transience (mystical experiences last for a relatively brief period of time). James claims it can last in rare instances to half an hour or at most an hour or two.

--Passivity (mystical experiences happen to someone; that they are somehow beyond the range of human volition and control)


Underhill countered James by proposing that--

  1. Mysticism is practical, not theoretical;
  2. Mysticism is an entirely spiritual activity;
  3. The business and method of mysticism is love;
  4.  Mysticism entails a definite psychological experience.

Moreover, she identified five stages of the mystic’s path, which tend to be characteristic of persons undergoing the process of conversion towards something better and towards Someone Greater than themselves:  awakening of self, purgation of self, illumination, dark night of the soul, unitive life.

Describing mystics as “pioneers of the spiritual worlds,” she further asserts:


We are all the kindred of the mystics. ..Strange and far away from us though they seem, they are not cut off from us by some impassable abyss. They belong to us; the giants, the heroes of our race … . As the achievement of genius belongs not to itself only but also to the society that brought it forth; ... the supernatural accomplishment of the mystics is ours also … our guarantee of the end to which immanent love, the hidden steersman. on the path toward the Real. "


In Dana Greene’s article we find more gems of Underhill’s views on mysticism and mystics.

The mystical life is, for Underhill, the spiritual life because all true religion has a central mystical element. This does not mean that all those who lead the spiritual life have lives like those of the great mystics, but rather that the pattern of those lives is the same. She never principally associates mysticism with extraordinary phenomena -- visions, voices, etc., but with the quiet movement of the heart.


Among Underhill’s thoughts, “The business and method of mysticism is love” stands out.  For it is with this singular statement in addition to what the third stream of theology claims to be the mystic’s intention-- to spread the love of God that they themselves had experienced—that we can enter the world of Mother Ignacia as mystic.


Unveiling the Ignacian Mysticism

Matthew Fox can initiate us with his quote from William Hocking:  A prophet is a mystic in action! With this, let us see how this definition could have been possibly true with Mother Ignacia?  At this point, we can ask:  What were some of her experiences  that could be appropriated with the mystical?  What did she have in common with the mystics aside from going through her own awakening of self, purgation, illumination, dark night of the soul, unitive life?


Mother Ignacia’s Mystical Journey in a Nutshell

Her awakening must have started with her decision to go to the Jesuit Fr. Paul Clain, who encouraged her to go for a retreat after which she came to a decision to serve God by the sweat of her face.  Leaving home and bringing with her the tools of the seamstress’ trade—needle and scissors—she stayed most probably at the Casa de la Madre de la Congregacion, which used to be occupied by the exiled Japanese beatas and located in the Jesuit-administered parish of San Miguel.  There she spent time to discover what else and how else God wanted her to be and to do.

Being on her own and then later joined by other women who shared her vision, she discovered slowly what her call entailed.  Around 1703, based on the Proteccion Civil, the Beaterio de la Compañia was recognized as an institution which formed young girls and women--yndias, mestizas and españolas and also as a venue where retreat for women was held.  Where she started and where she developed as a foundress was where she must have experienced extreme difficulties.  She was practically on her own in many ways.  And even if she did have companions, that must have added to the difficulty of supporting all of them by the sweat of their face, what with only sewing and some alms as their means.

But whatever difficulties she and her community may have experienced ultimately developed not only their emotional muscles but also values that made their community recognized as edifying.  Faith in a God who is love and charity (1726. II.9), merciful and compassionate (1726.I.22) enabled them to endure adversities with patience.  It is, of course, impossible for anyone to go through life without experiencing the feeling of being so alone, confused, discouraged, and at the point of giving up.  We can only surmise that Mother Ignacia was not spared from these.  As the foundress  and recognized leader of the beaterio, it was inevitable she had more than her fair share of trying moments.  Yet, she passed through them and went beyond them.  Proof of these was that the community kept on growing.

Through the years—from 1684 to 1748—the beaterio she started evolved into the first educational institution for women in the archipelago.  And although its existence was ambiguous—it was religious in practice but lay in theory—and its identity as a religious community was long in coming, it continued to serve and remained true to its original intention for being:  to serve God with all their hearts and to learn the way of perfection (1726.I.1).


Language of Love

The clue to Mother Ignacia’s mystical experience is captured in her Constitution’s “with all their heart.” For this phrase connotes love and is consistent with the value of excellence which is to be understood as enduring adversities and going beyond human limitations not by their own merits but by the grace of God.

Meister Eckhart says, “Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.” The language that Mother Ignacia shares with other mystics is the language of love.  Her later experiences as foundress of the Beaterio de la Compañia led to her sharing in the common purpose of mystics:  to proclaim God’s love to others.  In fact, her Constitutions and Rules made it possible for her and her companions to practice this virtue in the context of community.  Figure-wise, the words LOVE and CHARITY which occur a total of 43 times (the most number) permeate it and are woven like threads consistently in the whole document.  










Spiritual Formation

Spiritual Advices

Distribution of Time

Form of Government




Number of Provisions









































Of the Rules prepared by her and her companions, the ecclesiastical fiscal who examined it commented:  “These Rules can only be attributed to the interior law of charity under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”  Silence plays a significant part in the mystic’s language of love.  For Mother Ignacia, it was observed so fervor can be maintained.  At the same time, it was a counterculture to the prevailing chismis-ridden city they were located in.


Being Present to the Divine Presence

Mother Ignacia also shares in the mystic’s desire to be one and be present with her God.  This desire is a constant call to holiness which Sheldrake (1987) defines as “a process, a continual movement towards God” (p. 22).  She and her companions actually even gave St. Catherine of Siena’s words a special place in her Constitutions:  for every beata to “form in her heart a private oratory where she could commune alone with Jesus” (VI.6).  What is so important about the heart?

Abraham Kuyper provides a beautiful and succinct explanation:  “God created hand, head, and heart; the hand for the deed, the head for the world, the heart for mysticism.” In addition, Kierkegaard’s brief statement “Christianity is a matter of inwardness and therefore the concern of each individual” (Vardy, 1997, p. 52) is a fitting recognition to every man and woman’s ideal relationship with the divine, and the possibility of experiencing the mystical.


A Program of Love

Mother Ignacia had a program of love with strong Pauline threads.   For every characteristic of love, there are equivalent provisions or counsels from her Constitutions and Rules:


Patient I.33 patience in the face of adversity
Kind II.21 Correct Sister pleasantly;
  II.16, 17 being kind to self
Not envious or boastful I.6 No one should aspire towards empty self-esteem of being prudent, wise and eloquent
  II.5 whoever envies the neighbor’s well-being acts like the devil
Does not insist on its own way I.9 to make the truth known … manifest with humility … without desiring triumph over their Sisters
  II.42 complying in all matters except what is sinful
  II.13 obey superior in spite of her failings … alacrity in obedience
Not irritable or resentful I.35 make efforts to joyfully and promptly fulfill that which is more repugnant to nature
  II.20 accept with humility and gratitude corrections and punishments … to complain or resent is the sign of the devil holding sway
Does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth II.10 praise the good in others
  I.9 to make the truth known … manifest with humility … without desiring triumph over their Sisters
Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things II.5 bears with the faults of her Sisters
  II.6 bearing with one another’s shortcomings
  II.18 do not complain of others


Timeless Saints Models

Each saint that Mother Ignacia and her companions chose to be their models shared a common conviction:  love.  They can be considered as the lamps that lit their way towards God. The saints her community had devotions to left the world their legacies of loving God through words and deeds.


Sts. Peter and Paul   (June 29) I.18, 20; II.7
Mary   (Aug 15) I.21
St. Ignatius 1491-1556 Jul 31 I.18, 20; VI.10
St. Francis Xavier 1506-1552 Dec 2 I.18, 20
St. Lawrence Justinian 1381-1456 Sept 5 II.7
St. Bernard 1090-1153 Aug 20 II.8
St. Bonaventure 1217-1274 July 15 II.10
St. Catherine of Siena 1347-1380 Apr 29 VI.6


Contemplation with Action

Like other mystics Mother Ignacia desired to be present to her God, who is charity and love. This desire is enshrined in two provisions of her Constitutions and Rules:  “All should at all times and in all places be in God’s presence.  In order to facilitate the exercise of this true presence, they should develop great purity of heart …” (1726.I.2). Kierkegaard’s  words make us appreciate better this provisions:   “…Purity of Heart is the very wisdom that is acquired through prayer.  A man of prayer does not pore over learned books for he is the wise man “whose eyes are opened—when he kneels down” (Vardy, p. 75).  For Ignacia, it was beyond kneeling to pray; for her it was contemplating and finding God in things, people, and events of the ordinary day.   Even at work, the sense of God was fueled by spiritual reading.  Conversations were centered on holy things and virtues that would enrich the soul.

Although the prayers of her community were for the most part devotional and reflected the popular practices of the times, it can still be said that these allowed them to be present and connect with their God.  Today these could have been described as falling under the category of  “popular piety … that is religion of the people” which is manifested through “patience, the sense of the cross in daily life, detachment, openness to others …”  (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 48).  The manifestations of popular piety as lived in the beaterio can be appropriated as “popular spirituality” or “the people’s mysticism” (Evangelii Gaudium, 124), the spirituality which shares common characteristics with the Latin American peoples:    “love for the suffering Christ, the God of compassion … the God who loved to the point of handing himself over for us; love for the Lord present in the Eucharist; the God who is close to the poor and to those who suffer; profound devotion to Mary.”().  How fitting and how very true of her experiences.  In short, the beaterio which she started and its observances is far from being an anachronism at any time in Christian history.


Tested by in the Crucible of Community

If it all seems community life was heaven because of their efforts to be their better selves, Mother Ignacia and her companions knew by experience that making it heaven is something to be worked at.  The last provision of Chapter II of her Constitutions gives us a glimpse of what they know would happen if the counsels are not observed:  the house will be a little hell and its government violent (II.26).  The whole of Chapter II—Spiritual Advices which should be observed by those who are engaged in the life of perfection and in the service of God—deserves to be called the LOVE CHAPTER.  It counsels the residents of the beaterio to practice love by living steadfastly in the love and service of God, to be mortified, to bear the faults of others, not to be envious, to correct others with meekness, to be a peace-maker, to praise the good in others and sympathize with their failures, to preserve unity and charity by bearing with the Superior’s failings, not to waste time in useless conversation, to be humble. 

The counsels suggest the obvious:  these were written down as reminders to counteract human tendencies to be unloving, but at the same time it directed members of the community to practice charity, which is love in action.  It can even be said that the “ministry of bearing” which is attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer was already part of the beaterio culture.  If gold is tested by fire, man and woman can be tested in community, which can either be a taste of hell or heaven.



Mother Ignacia, the woman who followed Jesus, and whom we are following has given us a lasting legacy:  a Christ-centered spirituality with a beaterio flavor.  The community which she started can be considered as a paradigm for practicing love to an edifying extent.  If charity/love is the center of holiness (CFC 1400) and “All—without exception—are called to holiness, the perfection of charity, though not all pursue the same path to holiness” (PCP 402), there is every reason to be convinced that we have a paradigm to inspire us to follow and tread the same path creatively and relevantly.

If, as William Hocking says, a prophet is a mystic in action, it can also be added that a mystic is a prophet in contemplation.  Mother Ignacia’s experience—and her beatas too—somehow proves this.  We can make their way of loving our templates for what Meister Eckhart says as “gladly doing our best to speak of God” whose love is ever constant and present.  Sheldrake’s (1987) “The roots of Christian spirituality lie in seeking to answer the question:  ‘What kind of God do we have’?” (p. 11) and “Our own spirituality is immeasurably deepened by the absorption of insights from traditions that are not our own” (p. 13) should move us to be grateful for what we have inherited—a timeless legacy enshrined in what we can now call “the mystic’s guide,”  the 1726 Constitutions and Rules.

What this write-up has done is only to present a woman who is an example of being a prophet and mystic without necessarily glossing over her life.  She has proven what David Hume ascribes to human nature:  "Mankind is so much the same, in all times and places,  that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature."  Be that as it may, Mother Ignacia has shown that each of us can be our better selves.  Each of us can be prophets and mystics.  She has left us a timeless legacy.  She outlined way of loving God through others and serving Him with all our hearts.  We are all invited to learn … to listen … to love. 



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