Saturday, May 11, 2013

Raising of the Dead by Venerable Maria of Agreda

In one extraordinary report that her prayers were instrumental in the restoration of life to a dead man, the humble nun swore the witnesses to secrecy until after her death. The following account derives from witnesses’ sworn testimony in official records documenting the apostolic process in her cause for canonization. 

In 1660, with the bulk of writing [her visions] behind her and a certain slowing in the intensity of correspondence with the king [Philip IV] due to each of their increasing ages and health concerns, Sor María frequently retreated in quiet devotions. On one such day, she knelt in prayer in the lower choir adjacent to the church. Unbeknownst to her, or any of the other nuns, two workmen approached the minor sacristan who assisted the priest in caring for the church. The men asked for and received permission to set a large chest just inside the church door, indicating only that it contained merchandise for safekeeping. 

Deep in meditative prayer, Sor María heard “sad moans and profound lamentations.” In the report, she indicated that she had been frightened and disturbed because the sighs sounded horrible and seemed hopeless. She told how she approached the church doorway and saw the chest. The crying, she realized, came from there. Then she realized that the chest was a coffin harboring an anguished soul, one that had died impenitent. To Sor María there could be no worse fate. She prayed for God to put new life into the soul, so it could repent before facing judgment. In struggling for more understanding, Sor María said she realized not only that the coffin had been placed in the church in secret, but that a more astounding secret lay within: the body inside was none other than that of her brother, Padre Francisco Coronel. He had at one time held a position of authority at a Franciscan college in Madrid, but in later years he had felt that his efforts were not sufficiently rewarded and had returned to Ágreda, discontented, ambitions thwarted, bitter toward God and the church. 

Sor María grieved for her brother. She called upon God’s “infinite omnipotence and divine justice” to concede “new life for a brief time and space,” so her brother could confess his sins. In response, she felt prompted to arrange for a confessor to hear her brother’s confession. She left immediately to do so and did not return to the church. 

A neighboring priest responded to the call, almost frightened to death himself, he later reported, at the prospect of attending to a dead person. He was accompanied by another—perhaps the sacristan—who later served as a witness. 

Coronel, they attested, stepped out of his coffin and prostrated himself cruciform before the altar. After some time, he “came to the feet of the confessor, and made a painful confession.” The witness, who had left during the confession and penance, returned and saw Coronel reenter his coffin, arms raised toward the choir platform in gratitude to his sister. Then he reclined, the lid was closed, and the same two workmen carried it away. 

The priest who took Coronel’s confession made a complete record of the event, including his initial death and the witness’s testimony. Then he sealed the record. It remained a secret throughout the lifetimes of the three remaining participants. Finally, over a century later, church officials broke the seal and added the amazing account to Sor María’s growing file for sainthood.

María of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue
by Marilyn H. Fedewa