Venerable Mary of Agreda was born on April 2, 1602, in Agreda, Spain. Christened Maria Fernandez Coronel, she took the blue habit and made her vows as a nun in the Franciscan order, and in 1627 she became abbess of the Agreda Franciscan monastery until her death on May 24, 1665. The process for sainthood began a few years after her death, as she had lived a life of evident holiness in the eyes of her contemporaries. During her life, she had experienced mystical phenomena including private revelations.
The most famous of these writings is the Mystical City of God: Divine History of the Virgin, Mother of God, which had been dictated by the Virgin Mary Herself. Even after death, Sister Agreda continues to defy the rationalists and non-believers: her body is incorrupt and lies in her convent. Like a small number of deceased mystics and Catholic saints, the nun’s body refuses to naturally decay, even after 342 years. Here are excerpts from the popular abridgement of the City of God, translated from the original Spanish by Rev. Geo. J. Blatter
by Venerable Mary of Agreda
At the age of thirteen and a half years, Mary had an abstractive vision of God. In this vision, we might say, happened something similar to that which the holy Scriptures relate of Abraham, when God commanded him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, the only pledge of all his hopes. God tempted Abraham, says Moses (Gen. 12, 12), trying and probing the promptness of his obedience in order to reward it. We can say the same thing of our great Lady, that God tried Her in this vision, by commanding Her to enter the state of matrimony, even though She had often repeated and renewed the vow of chastity, which She had taken at such a premature age.
Nevertheless at this unexpected command, the most prudent Virgin suspended Her judgment, and preserved the calmness of Her hope and belief more perfectly than Abraham. Mary resigned Herself entirely into the hands of the Lord. His Majesty answered Her: "Mary, let not thy heart be disturbed, for thy resignation is acceptable to Me and My powerful arm is not subject to laws; by My disposition that will happen, which is most proper for Thee."
In the meanwhile, God spoke in sleep to the high priest, Saint Simeon, and commanded him to arrange for the marriage of Mary, the daughter of Joachim and Anne of Nazareth, since He regarded Her with special care and love. The holy priest answered, asking what was His will in regard to the person, whom the maiden Mary was to marry and to whom She was to give Herself as Spouse. The Lord instructed him to call together the other priests and learned persons and to tell them that this Maiden was left alone and an orphan, and that She did not desire to be married; but that, as it was a custom for the firstborn maidens not to leave the temple without being provided for, it was proper She should be married to whomever it seemed good to them.
During this time the most holy Virgin multiplied her prayers, beseeching the Lord with incessant tears and sighs, to fulfill His divine pleasure in that which She had so much at heart. On one of those nine days before the marriage, the Lord appeared to Her and said to Her: "My Spouse and My Dove, let thy afflicted heart expand and let it not be disturbed or sad; I will attend to thy yearnings and to thy requests, I will direct all things, and will govern the priests by my enlightenment; I will give Thee a spouse selected by Myself, and one who will put no hindrance to thy holy desires, but who, by my grace will prosper Thee in them. I will find for Thee a perfect man conformable to My heart, and I will choose him from the number of My servants; My power is infinite, and My protection and aid shall never fail Thee."
On the day on which our Princess Mary completed the fourteenth year of her life, the men, who at that time in the city of Jerusalem were descendants of the tribe of Juda and of the race of David, gathered together in the temple. The sovereign Lady was also of that lineage. Among the number was Joseph, a native of Nazareth, and then living in Jerusalem; for he was one of the descendants of the royal race of David. He was then thirty-three years of age, of handsome person and pleasing countenance, but also of incomparable modesty and gravity; above all he was most chaste in thought and –conduct, and most saintly in all his inclinations. –From his twelfth year he had made and kept the vow of chastity. He was known for the utmost purity of his life, holy and irreprehensible in the eyes of God and of men.
All these unmarried men gathered in the temple and prayed to the Lord conjointly with the priests, in order to be governed by the holy Spirit in what they were about to do. The Most High spoke to the heart of the high priest, inspiring him to place into the hands of each one of the young men a dry stick, with the command that each ask His Majesty with a lively faith, to single out the one whom He had chosen as the spouse of Mary. And as the sweet odor of Her virtue and nobility, the fame of Her beauty, Her possessions and Her modesty, and Her position as being the firstborn in Her family was known to all of them, each one coveted the happiness of meriting Her as a spouse.
Among them all only the humble and most upright Joseph thought himself unworthy of such a great blessing; and remembering the vow of chastity which he had made and resolving anew its perpetual observance, he resigned himself to God’s will, leaving it all to His disposal and being filled at the same time with a veneration and esteem greater than that of any of the others for the most noble maiden Mary.
While they were thus engaged in prayer, the staff which Joseph held was seen to blossom, and at the same time a dove, of purest white and resplendent with admirable light, was seen to descend and rest upon the head of the saint, while in the interior of his heart God spoke: "Joseph, My servant, Mary shall be thy Spouse; accept Her with attentive reverence, for She is acceptable in My eyes, just and most pure in soul and body, and thou shalt do all that She shall say to Thee." At this manifestation and token from heaven, the priests declared Saint Joseph as the spouse selected by God Himself for the maiden Mary.
The heavenly Princess took leave of the priests, asking their blessing, and of Her instructress and Her companions in the temple, begging their pardon. In the company of attendants who were some of the more distinguished laymen in the service of the temple, She betook Herself with Her spouse Joseph to Nazareth, the native city of this most fortunate married couple. Joseph, although he had been born in that place, had, by the providential disposition of circumstances, decided to live for some time in Jerusalem. Thus it happened that he so improved his fortune as to become the spouse of Her, whom God had chosen to be His own Mother.
Having arrived at their home in Nazareth, where the Princess of heaven had inherited the possessions and estates of Her blessed parents, they were welcomed and visited by their friends and relatives with the joyful congratulations customary on such occasions. Then Our Lady told Her spouse Saint Joseph about Her perpetual vow of chastity, and beseeched him to help Her in fulfilling this vow. The most chaste spouse Joseph, full of interior joy at the words of his heavenly Spouse, answered Her:
"My Mistress, in making known to me thy chaste and welcome sentiments, thou hast penetrated and dilated my heart. I have not opened my thoughts to Thee before knowing thy own. I also acknowledge myself under greater obligation to the Lord of creation than other men; for very early He has called me by His true enlightenment to love Him with an upright heart; and I desire Thee to know, Lady, that at the age of twelve years I also made a promise to serve the Most High in perpetual chastity. On this account I now gladly ratify this vow in order not to impede thy own; in the presence of His Majesty, I promise to aid Thee, as far as in me lies, in serving Him and loving Him according to thy full desires. I will be, with the divine grace, thy most faithful servant and companion, and I pray Thee accept my chaste love and hold me as thy brother, without ever entertaining any other kind of love, outside the one which Thou owest to God, and after God to me."
By divine operation, the two most holy and chaste Spouses felt an incomparable joy and consolation at seeing the Work of Divine Providence at the conformity of their sentiments.