Sunday, May 27, 2012
It took Mother Jeronima and seven another volunteer to embark from Spain to the Philippines in 1620. By that time, she was already sixty-six years old but still strong and determined to start the first monastery for women in Asia. Her companions were from the Monastery of Santa Isabel, Sr Ana de Christo; Sor Leonor de Sanct Francisco, mistress of novices; and/or Juana de Sanct Anttonio, novice and secretary of the group; from the Monastery of Santa Juana de la cruz near the town of Cubas, Sor Maria Madalena de la Cruz, vicars; and Madalena de Christo; from the Monastery of La Column in Sevilla, Sor Luysa de Jesus, novice; and Sor Maria de la Trinidad (who unfortunately died at sea). In Sevilla, the Franciscan provincial commanded Mother Jeronima to pose of a full-sized portrait by budding artist name Diego de Velasques, who later turned out to be one of the greatest Spanish masters. Velasquez painted not one but two pictures of hers which now hang at the Prado Museum in Madrid. In Mexico City, they were joined by two more nuns from the Monastery of the Visitation: for Leonor de Sanct Buenaventura and Sor Maria de los Angeles.
The First Enduring Monastery
After more than a year and three months of voyage on a galleon ship, the religious pioneers arrived in Manila on 5 August 1621. Dona Ana de Vera, the childless widow of the Master of Camp Don Pedro Chaves had deeded to them her two houses in the Walled City, which became the site of the Royal Monastery of the Immaculate Conception of the Barefoot Nuns of St. Clare, called Monastery of Santa Clara for short. True to their vow of poverty, the nuns returned the additional donation of Dona Ana in form of a ranch in Sampaloc with cows and horses and land for cultivation. They also turned down another house offered by another widow, Dona Maria de Jesus de Angulo, as well as other donations of money and material things they did not need.
Within two months after its inauguration, the monastery attracted twenty Spanish maidens and they vanished from view of the outside world. The deprived bachelors of Manila lodged a formal complaint against the institution with Church and state authorities. The latter tried to restrict the number of applicants but Mother Jeronima opposed the move. She appealed directly to the king who ruled in her favor. On the other hand, in view of the deteriorating health of some of the nuns, the Franciscan provincial tried to pressure her to mitigate and adapt the monastic rules to the tropics. But this, too, she resisted and she was eventually upheld by the general of the Order in Rome. Notwithstanding her personal victory, she did not hesitate to modify the strict statutes when she realized the havoc they wreaked on the members of the congregation.
The Repudiation of Filipinas
A more sensitive issue was the admission of native applicants to the monastery. The royal foundation as specifically created for"pious (Spanish) women and daughters of the conquistadors who cannot marry properly" without mention of native women. Silence with regard to the latter was conveniently interpreted as prohibition. Further, it was questions in this era whether Indios, like "Jews, Moors, Negroes, and gypsies" possessed the "purity of blood" necessary for admission to sublime Spanish institutions like monasteries. Despite the legalistic controversy, the Filipino beatas knew instinctively that they were ready and able to move on from the Third to the Second Order. Indias began to knock at the convent gate begging for admission. Around 1628 Dona Maria Uray, the beata of Dapitan, tried to apply in the monastery. She was rejected because she was an "India." Undaunted, she reapplied as a slave, although she was of the native nobility being the granddaughter of Datu Pagbuaya of Dapitan to whom the the Adelantado Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi was beholden. "Uray"signifies a lady rajah. But no matter. She was turned down anew. He Jesuit advocates, asserting that she had arrived at "the genuine science of the soul," consoled her by pointing out the greater glory she would render to God by continuing her quasi-monastic life in Dapitan interspersed with corporal works of mercy. She died around 1630.
Dona Maria's case apparently gave qualms to Madre Jeronima. She considered building a separate house for native contemplatives in Pandacan, which was then a rustic town. The church and civil authorities, however, turned a deaf ear to her proposal.
The difference between a monasterio of the Second Order and a beaterio of the Third Order became clearer in the minds of Filipinos, in general, and the local beatas, in particular. The former was contemplative and isolated from the community whereas the latter combined contemplation and interaction with the outside world. The former seemed impossible for them to attain whereas the latter was more accessible especially to Filipino beatas who had been enrolled in the Third Order. As noted earlier, until now, in Filipino, the particular word for a contemplative nun is monja (Spanish for nun) whereas the word for a "regular" nun is madre.
When the Spaniards sold the Philippine colony to the Americans in 1898 and uneasy peace was restored, the Monastery of Santa Clara began to admit Filipina applicants in earnest. The Spanish membership had dwindled during the long strife. The first Filipina Poor Clare in the twentieth century was Madre Sor Concordia de San Francisco, OSC (1886-1959). She was born as Concordia Lopez y Gonzalez in San Nicolas, Cebu. Receiving investiture in 1906, she professed simple vows in 1907 and solemn vows in 1910. During the war in 1944 she was elected abbess. The next year, she and her community witnessed the total destruction of the 300-year-old monastery by American bombers trying to dislodge the Japanese Army in the Walled City.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The Spanish Beaterio: The Beaterio de Sta. Catalina de Sena now Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena
THE SPANISH BEATERIO OF STA. CATALINA
Captain Simon de Fuentes, assisted Governor General Don Sabiniano Manrique de Lara in suppressing the Filipino Revolt of 1660-1661. The chivalrous captain belonged to one of the first Spanish families to settle in the city of Manila. He was named after his father, and his mother was Dona Ana Maria del Castillo y Tamayo. Unfortunately, Simon died of physical illness soon after the uprising. But radiant in the spiritual realm were the accomplishments of hos women relatives who were afflicted by his untimely death. His childless widow, Dona Antonia Ezguerra (1640-1694) decided to withdraw from the profligate world into a life of propitiation and prayer in her house in the Walled City. Before long, she was joined by her sister-in-law, Dona Francisca Fuentes (1647-1711) and still later, another sister-in-law, Dona Maria Ana Fuentes (1638-1708), both widows like her. The three Spanish ladies had journeyed from grief of widowhood to the joys of religious life. The sisters-in-law, Dona Antonia Esguerra vda. de Fuentes and Dona Francisca Fuentes, received the tertiary habit of St. Dominic in 1682. The first took the name Sor Antonia de Jesus Maria and the second, Sor Francisca del Espiritu Santo. The two beatas continued to live in seclusion in Sor Antonia's house in the Walled City. In their daily visits to the church of Santo Domingo in Intramuros, Sor Antonia and Sor Francisca crossed paths with an India mystic, by the name of Sebastiana Salcedo (1652-1692), from the ancient town of Pasig, a suburb of Manila. The sisters-in-law invited her to join them in their house of penitence and contemplation. Sebastiana was a ladina who was quite at ease in communicating and interacting with high-born Spanish ladies in the Walled City who shared her religious vision. She appeared to be God send to the community of Spanish beatas as though to remind them that no race has monopoly of God's grace. Her Spiritual touched not only her two Spanish friends but also the Dominican community such that in 1683 or 1684, the Order of Preachers invested her with the holy habit and became Sor Sebastiana de Jesus. Transcending racial lines, the fervent trio formed the nucleus of the Dominican beaterio.
"Before God, race does not matter," writes Sor Sebastiana's Dominican biographer. He created both the noble and the humble and looks after them equally. Though this truth is evident in sacred Writings, there are still some presumptuous people who misinterpret the lowliness of these Indios (natives) and the naivete of their thought and speech as signs of their incapacity for heroic virtues and lofty contemplation. They arrive at this conclusion because they use nature as their standard and not the power of Divine grace which can turn stones into sons of Abraham and raise the poor from dirt to the highest nobility (Sto. Domingo 1911). Around 1684, a young Spanish mestiza, Maria Ana de la Vega (1668-1690) joined the Dominican tertiaries in their house, thus increasing their number to four. Mother Sebastiana's confessor, Fray Bartolome Marron, OP (1646-1717), was elected provincial of the Order in 1686. Privy to the dream of the four beatas, he, together with the Order's chapter, formally recognized their communal life on 4 May 1686. This act was confirmed by the Dominican master general in Rome on 11 January 1688, entitling their humble abode to "all the rights', privileges, immunities, favors, and graces in all such houses and convents of the sisters of the third Order as concealed by the supreme pontiffs, kings and princes." Yet it did not mean that they constituted a beaterio for they were not allowed to profess simple vows.
Fray Juan de Sto. Domingo, OP (1640-1726), the confessor of Mothers Antonia and Francisca, succeeded Fray Bartolome as the provincial in 1690. The pioneer beatas took this opportunity to bring forward their definitive plans for a beaterio. To their disappointment, Fray Juan set aside their entreaties citing the formidable problems involved in such an undertaking that they had encountered six decades ago albeit with regard to a monastery. Endowed with the gift of prophecy like some catalonan of old, Mother Sebastiana assured Mother Antonia: "The beaterio will be established eventually near the convent of Santo Domingo and not in your house where we live. Neither you nor I will see it." True enough, before the beaterio could become a reality, Mother Sebastiana departed from this world on 20 March 1692 at the age of forty. Mother Antonia had another maid, Catalina de los Angeles, a Chinese mestiza, she had been living with them "in recollection and virtue for some years." She was to be accepted five years later as one of the first Filipino lay Sisters. To help support the remaining beatas as well as the future of the beaterio, Sor Antonia willed her house and other possessions to her sister-in-law, Mother Francisca. The biggest single benefactor was the Spanish General Don Juan de Escano y Cordova, an affluent Dominican tertiary, who contributed funds for the building and maintenance of the beaterio; ultimately, he declared the beatas his universal heirs.
INAUGURATION OF THE SPANISH BEATERIO
At long last, the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina de Sena de las Hermanas de Penitencia de la Tercera Orden was
formally inaugurated on 26 July 1696, the feast of St. Anne. Mother Francisca del Espiritu Santo became the prioress for life. Considered as the co-founders were Fray Juan de Sto. Domingo, Don Juan de Escano, Mother Lorenza, Mother Juana, Mother Rosa and Mother Maria del Espiritu Santo, the surviving Spanish beatas in the Ezguerra house. Unfortunately, it was specified in the foundation papers that there would only be FIFTEEN CHOIR SISTERS OF SPANISH BLOOD in honor of the FIFTEEN MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY. This discriminatory practice as in the Monastery of Santa Clara, the inevitable questions came up as to what to do with the Filipina applicants who were also begging for admission to the Beaterio de Santa Catalina. It had become very obvious that religious life always struck a deep chord in the soul of many Filipinos. After some deliberation, the founders of Santa Catalina determined in 1699 that, to begin with, five native women could be accommodated as "SISTERS OF OBEDIENCE" (HERMANAS DE LA OBEDIENCIA). ALTHOUGH PERMITTED TO TAKE SIMPLE VOWS, THEY WERE TO BE DEPRIVED OF VOTING RIGHTS, BARRED FROM HOLDING OFFICE, AND CHARGED WITH THE MENIAL TASKS IN THE CONVENT. FOR DEVOTIONAL NAMES, THEY COULD ADOPT THE NAMES OF THE ANGELS AND SAINTS OR RELIGIOUS CONCEPTS OTHER THAN THE MYSTERIES OF THE HOLY ROSARY, WHICH RESERVED ONLY FOR THOSE OF THE SPANISH RACE. Also called LEGAS, the Filipino beatas offered special testimony to the monastic spirit of total humility. Paradoxically, had she lived longer, Mother Sebastiana-who helped lay the beaterio's strong foundation and was the one who predicted there would be fifteen members-would not have qualified as a full member herself. Perhaps she foresaw this paradox, too, but kept it to herself.
THE FIRST UPHEAVAL
After seven years of fervent existence, scandals began to mar the image of a few of the Spanish beatas who were admitted at the start of the eighteenth century. They resented authority and constant admonitions of Mother Francisca, the prioress. Defying the rules of the beaterio, they, including a certain Sor Jacinta, goddaughter of Fray Juan de Sto. Domingo,OP, the co-founder, began to live separately in private homes. To the residents of the Walled City, it was unseemly for beatas to go out and worse, stay out of the beaterio without any compelling reason to do so. The Escano bequest had spared them from having to beg alms for their subsistence, unlike the poor beatas of the Compania. Inevitably, the two beaterios were now being compared with each other. On the other hand, the growing community, counting about twenty-four members in 1703, seven of whom were Filipina lay Sisters, had decided to build a bigger edifice to accommodate new applicants and helpers. The situation stirred up legalistic issues regarding beaterios, which agitated canon and civil law experts no end, their opinions depending, not surprisingly, on which faction they belonged to. Caught unwittingly in the middle of the controversy were the beatas in whose name the war words and documents were being waged. Concluding that the Dominicans had been unable to maintain discipline among the beatas, Archbishop Camacho of Manila claimed jurisdiction over the institution and insisted on the practice of closure. The Dominican provincial protested that the authority of the master general of their Order was sufficient to justify the existence of the beaterio and that it enjoyed prior exemption from the closure which was a later requirement of the Council of Trent. But the beatas, upon the advice of their Dominican counselors, refused obedience to the archbishop who was left with no other recourse but to excommunicate them. In the beginning of 1704, the beatas chose to dissolve their community and live as a group of laywomen in exile at the College of Santa Potenciana whose premises were courteously offered by the governor. Henceforth, they were dispensed from their vows, divested of their habits and deprived of their religious names. Their "Babylonian exile" lasted for two years and three months from January 1704 to April 1706. During this period, Sor Jacinta, whose laxity triggered the upheaval, was expelled and four other unnamed Spanish beatas left the fold. The fact that the Filipino lay Sisters tended to "persevere in their good intentions" more than the Spanish Sisters ran counter to the assumptions of the Dominican Chapter of 1663 cited above.
RETURN FROM EXILE
Archbishop Camacho, relented after a few months and humbly made the first move to negotiate for the beatas' return from banishment. Because of the initial reluctance of Fray Juan, the co-founder, to get involved again with the institution, it took two years to fashion an acceptable agreement between the prelate and the beatas who now accepted the principle of closure in their letter in the first week of February 1706. In response, the archbishop gave up his claims of jurisdiction and, henceforth, became and avid advocate of the beaterio. The Sisters returned to their blessed abode after 24 April 1706 when the archbishop signed the last of series of documents on their reinstatement.
With such tenuous arrangements, the community sailed innocently too near the wind. In 1746, a tempest roared like a lion battering the beaterio to its foundation, which reverberated to the other beaterios. Sor Cecilia de la Circuncision, whose secular name was Ita y Salazar, had withdrawn to Santa Catalina to avoid marrying an elderly uncle and professed sixteen years previously. Now entering middle age, she fell in love with, of all men, Don Francisco Figuerora, the secretary of the governor-general. The acting governor then happened to be a Dominican friar, Bishop Juan de Arechedrra of Nueva Segovia. Mother Cecilia turned to the vicar general of the archdiocese, sede vacante, to declare her vows null and void. The vicar convinced her that this was not the best time to press her case. The time finally came in 1750 when the new governor, the Marques de Obando arrived and there was also a new archbishop, Fray Pedro de la Santisima Trinidad who was a Franciscan. The prelate ruled in favor of the Spanish beata on the basis of the royal orders, which repeatedly forbade the beaterio to be a convent. Over the protests of the Dominicans, Sor Cecilia was able to leave the community borne on a hammock muttering of some illness. But now she was free to marry Figueroa. The couple later transferred to Mexico where Cecilia's case was upheld by the archbishop there. When the report of their infringement of royal laws reached the king of Spain, he decreed, as punishment, the extinction of the beaterio upon the death of the remaining beatas. This gave the Dominicans ample time to move heaven and earth to have the royal order rescinded. In the meantime, the governor trained his critical gaze at the other beaterios to ensure that they, too, would comply with the king's edicts or face the threat of extinction-at least during his cumbency. The royal decree suppressing the beaterio was finally lifted after the war about 1769.
CHANGES AND COMPLICATIONS
The missionary phase of the Beaterio de Santa Catalina gave rise to certain complications in their serene existence. In 1865, the Dominican priests began recruiting Spanish nuns for the Asian missions. They were to be housed temporarily in the beaterio while waiting to be transported to their respective assignments. Unfortunately, their efforts to set up religious houses in Spain to train missionary nuns was not successful because of lack of funds and vocations. Hence, the Spanish nuns remained permanently in the beaterio occupying the principal offices since the Filipina members were mere lay Sisters. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, however, in order to accord full membership to Filipino applicants from choice families, the beaterio extended the definition of "Spanish mestiza" to the broadest possible meaning of the word. The community began to accept not only Spanish "half-breeds" , but also those families had been classified as "Spanish mestizos" for generations, regardless of the proportion of Spanish blood flowing in their veins. Under this mitigated policy were admitted two Filipinas as choir Sisters who were to figure eminently in the development of the beaterio. It was only in 1917 that the Filipino lay Sisters gained the status of choir Sisters more than two centuries and a half after the inauguration of the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina. During his canonical visit to the Philippines in that year, the Dominican master general, Father Ludovicus Theissling, OP, a Dutch, noted the wide discrepancy in status between the Spanish and Filipina Dominicans. This was two decades after the Spanish colonizers had left and even the Royal Monastery of Santa Clara had opened the door of its cloisters to Filipina applicants. Led by Mothers Catalina Osmena and Felomena Medalle, the Filipina beatas petitioned the highest official of the Order to grant them full membership to native aspirants who were at least high school graduates regardless of their racial background. The master general readily gave justice to their request. Inevitably, the polarization between the Filipina and the Spanish beatas-which paralleled that between the Filipino secular clergy and the Spanish religious Orders during the colonial regime-led to the division of the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina in 1933. The Spanish Sisters, without consulting the Filipina beatas, formed a new community, the Congregacion de Religiosas Missioneras de Santo Domingo. When the plans were officially disclosed, the surprised Filipinas, including the criollas and the mestizas, except for a few, opted not to join the Spaniards. They chose to remain in the beaterio and to preserve their institutional identity, this time under diocesan authority. A few of the Spaniards decided to stay in the beaterio with the Filipinas. The Spanish Dominican priests of the Most holy Rosary allowed the Filipinas to retain their old edifice in the Walled City. In startling contrast, however, they gifted the new Spanish congregation all the other houses of the beaterio in the Philippines, China, Japan and Taiwan, numbering to seventeen. Thus, the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina was unexpectedly deprived of their mission field. Invoking the patience of Job, the Filipino nuns refrained from protesting the unequal partition. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!". The Beaterio de Sta. Catalina's eye witness historian, Sor Maria Luisa Henson 91904-1995), expresses the sentiments of her sisters regarding this sad episode in their development: We, of the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina de Sena, were the first daughters of the province of the Most Holy Rosary, and worked side by side with the Dominican Fathers in the missions. But during the crucial moment in 1933, we were abandoned and disappointed by the then Provincial Administration under Father (Ricardo) Vaquero (1931-1934). When two daugthers separate from the father, do they not get equal share? Perhaps, the Father Provincial Vaquero was angry because we did not join the Spaniards. (Davis 1990,88) The only building allotted to the Filipina Dominicans, newly remodeled and reconstructed through the generosity of Mother Catalina Osmena, was bombed to the ground by Japanese invaders.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
The Second Native Filipino Beaterio: The Beaterio de San Sebastian de Calumpang now Congregation of the Augustinian Recollect Sisters
Two blood sisters, Mother Dionisia Mitas Talangpaz de Santa Maria (1691-1732) and Mother Cecilia Rosa Talangpaz de Jesus 91693-1731), of Calumpit, Bulacan, founded the second enduring beaterio for native women in 1719. Their surname, "talangpaz," means "rock, or boulder" and it evokes the religious house they buil on rock. Now called the Congregation of the Augustinian Recollect Sisters, it is the oldest beaterio or noncontemplative religious community for women in the worldwide Augustinian Recollect Order. It is also the third continuing congregation founded for native women in Asia after the Amantes de la Croix, founded in Vietnam in 1670, and the Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus, now Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, founded in Manila in 1684.
THE NOBLE AND PRIESTLY LINEAGE
The Talangpaz sisters belonged to the ancient Philippine nobility on both sides whose rare genealogy can still be traced to the pre-Hispanic period. As explained earlier, the matriarchs of this venerable clan may well have been catalonan who officiated at spiritual rites held on a hallowed rock, the meaning of "Talangpaz." This is one precious instance to show the possible direct evolution of a particular clan of priestesses into beatas and then into a congregation of nuns. The two sisters were destined to continue to carry the nacient surname into the pages of Philippine religious history. The sisters' maternal great-granduncle, hermano Phelipe Sonsong (1611-1684), of Macabebe, Pampanga, was a Jesuit brother who was martyred in the Marianas. A deep devotee of Our lady of Carmel, he also presaged the special Marian devotion of the sisters. Their maternal grandfather, Don Augustin Pamintuan, figured prominently in the Pampango Revolt of 1660.
FROM REJECTED STONE TO CORNERSTONE
The brave sisters Talangpaz left their comfortable home in Calumpit, Bulacan in 1719 in pursuit of their spiritual calling after their Augustinian pastor repeatedly turned down their request for permission to wear the habit of mantelata. Having heard that the Recollects were more amenable to admitting Filipino women to their Third Order, the proceeded to the Shrine of Our Lady of Carmel in San Sebastian de Calumpang in Manila, which had been administered by the Recollects since 1621. They rented a nipa hut in Bilibid Viejo behind the church apse and soon two other native beatas joined them. They also found a symphatitic confessor, Fray Juan de Santo Tomas de Aquino, OAR. After six patient years, their life of prayer, penance, and needlework brought the self-effacing sisters to the notice of the Recollect friars as well as the other residents of Calumpang. The revealed to the priests their desire to don the habit of mantelata, whereupon their request was forwarded to the provincial who approved it on the strenght of the recommendations of their confessor and the other friars. The rites of investiture were held on 16 July 1725, the feast of Our Lady of Carmel which was also the thirty-second birthday of Mother Cecilia Rosa. After the ceremony, the prior of San Sebastian, Fray Diego de San Jose, OAR, presented them with a small house of nipa and bamboo at the convent's other end of the garden. Although in the beginning there were no indications of any plans to form a religious community, the sisters became interested in this project because other native women became attracted to their luminous house in the convent garden. soon, two Indias of noble birth like them also begged for and obtained the habits of terciarias from the Recollects and joined them in their residence. A few months later, two more followed suit until they constituted a community of six beatas. At This point, the Beaterio de San Sebastian de Calumpang was formed.
The fame of the second native beaterio continued to spread far and wide until, unexpectedly, it drew the attention of more aspirants than it could manage. As in any religious institution, the applicants were generally of two kinds: those who were genuinely disposed to a common life of prayer and work and those who seemed to be searching for a currently prestigious way of life or running away from the harsh realities of the outside world. The problem was it was not easy to tell who was who among those ho knocked at the gates of the beaterio. The burden of screening them and supporting the growing but poor institution fell to the recollects who were then hard-pressed because their southern missions were being continually ravaged by the "Moros." Some of the aspirants tried to use the influence of important personages to gain admission to the beaterio while others refused or were unable to give a dowry or any form of material contribution to the community as required by the rules of the Tertiary order. The state of affairs polarized the recollects into two groups whom we may call the "pros" and the "contras." The pros were of the opinion that they should receive as many deserving applicants as possible with or without a dowry and trust in Divine Providence for the sustenance of the beaterio. The contras, on the other hand, ever mindful of their onerous obligations at present and in the future, recommended banning further admission to the community. The temperamental prior, however, exasperated by the unexpected crisis, resolved the issue impulsively by demanding back the habits he had bestowed on the Talangpaz sisters and their four companions, ordering them to vacate the house in the convent garden immediately and, despite the beata's tearful entreaties, demolishing the house with his own hands with the same zeal as he had it built earlier. The forlorn sisters rented back their old nipa hut near the church and resumed their religious life even as they mourned the loss of their treasured habit of mantelatas. Many of the Recollects, including the contras, commiserated with them but most especially their confessor, fray Juan, who gave them the strong support they needed in their desolation. "Father, they intimated to fray Juan, it is clear that God and the Most Holy Virgin have deigned to test us and purify our souls in the crucible of sorrows. But we are so determined in our endeavor that we find more courage to suffer each day. We are like mustard seeds, which have been pressed and nearly crushed. From these shall emerge a sapling which, as the father prior will surely witness, shall grow into a big tree under whose shade the birds will build their nests and sing their canticles to God." The quotations here come from an eyewitness account of their lives by Fray Benito Gomez de San Pablo, OAR.
Strong in hope and gifted with sibyllic vision like earlier Filipino priestesses and beatas, the sisters also sought out the prior himself to assure him with these predictive words: " Fray Diego, please bear with us. Now you spurn us and send us away, but you can be certain that later, you will be pleased to receive us back and grant us the holy habit again, and not only the two of us but others as well whom Our Lady of Carmel will call to give us company. We have great hopes that she will grant us this favor to our deep joy and that of the Recollect fathers, too. But for now, we have to be patient and suffer till Our Lord and his Most Holy Mother will have mercy on us.
THE HOUSE BUILT ON ROCK
Haunted by these words and observing his brethren's growing symphaty toward the two sisters, the irascible prior went through a remarkable metamorphosis. from being their ruthless antagonist, he became their staunch supporter. Soon he sent word to them to come to the convent where he did receive them with great warmth and respect promising to help them from now on with their interrupted plans for a beaterio. Using his resources and those of the convent and the other friars together with the contributions of lay benefactors, the prior ordered the construction of a new and bigger house made of wood for the sisters and their future companions. It was located on the same site on the church hill as their first house. He had it enclosed with a fence of brick and stone for their greater security and solitude. As soon as the building was finished, he had the sisters called to transfer again tot he sanctified site under the auspices of the Recollects. The latter assured them of support in exchange for their taking charge of the cleaning and washing of the sacred vestments and linen in the shrine of Our Lady, a task they were only too happy to accept. This heart warming turn of events occurred in 1728. Fray Andres de San Fulgencio, OAR, the new prior of San Sebastian Convent compiled the rules and regulations of the beaterio, entitled "Formula y Metodo de Gobierno para Nuestras Beatas Agustinas de San Sebastian". These were based on the rules of the Third Order with a collection of prayers and meditations for seven canonical hours. the first superior of the beaterio was Mother Dionisia de Santa Maria, the elder of the two founders. Their spiritual quest fulfilled, Mother Cecilia Rosa de Jesus and Dionisia de Santa Maria died one after the other in 1731 and 1732, respectively, shortly after professing their simple vows. "Of these two sisters," their biographer Fray Benito concluded, "it can be affirmed that the Queen of Carmel had called them to nourish them in a special manner with the sweetest nectar of her compassion. Their faultless and fervent lives, which we have witnessed, up to the time they died, move us to believe so."
Quite prophetic were the words of Fray Benito de San Pablo, OAR who spoke of them: Living under God's watercourse, these striving Beatas may increase in number in God's due time and cheerfully hover over the branches of the Biblical mustard.
From the Beaterio de San Sebastian de Calumpang started the growth of the Congregation. The foundation which the Sisters had laid on solid rock continued to flourish and develop even after they were called to their eternal reward-Mother Cecelia Rosa on the 31st of July 1731 and Sor Dionisia on 12th of October 1732.
The Congregation of the Augustinian Recollect Sisters, which originated in 1719, is he fruit of the missionary zeal of the Augustinian Recollect Fathers in the Philippines. It was canonically established as a Religious Congregation on August 19, 1929 and was declared of juridical autonomy by Pope Paul VI on November 20, 1970.
The cause for their beatification was introduced in Rome through the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1999.
Prayer for the glorification of the Servants of God,
Mother Dionisia and Cecilia Rosa Talangpaz.
Merciful God, you have called your servants Dionisia and Cecilia Talangpaz to manifest your grace of humility and fortitude in serving your Church, under the mantle of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Grant this favor (mention your intention) united with the loving supplications of these courageous Talangpaz Sisters whose glory and joy in your kingdom we ask you to reveal in their beatification through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen
(One Our Father, One hail Mary an One Glory
The First Native Filipino Beaterio; The Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus now Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM Sisters)
The "soul" of the Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus, Mother Ignacia embodied the optimal blending of the three magnanimous traditions in her background: the spiritual leadership of women in the Malay culture; the distinction of "virtuous and chaste women" as recorded in Chinese annals (fang-chih) since the fifth century, and the monastic tradition of Western women. Mother Ignacia was also the first native beata to write the brief history of her foundation in 1726. Her Spiritual journey would imprint her and her daughters upon the pages of Philippine religious history.
THE SPIRITUAL DIRECTION OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS
According to Mother Ignacia, writing in the third person, they " petitioned the Reverend Fathers of the Society of Jesus to help them in their desire to serve God. Since then, the Jesuits have assisted them, encouraged them and showed them the way to perfection." Since the Jesuits had neither a Second nor Third Order, the native Filipina beatas applied for the erection of a diocesan beaterio. It was to be the only one of its kind in any Spanish colonies, which has endured up to the present. Almost all the other religious houses for women were supervised by friars of religious Orders. The only two other diocesan beaterios in the Philippines, that of Balingasag (1880) and Santa Maria Magdalena (1887) did not live on.
From what we have seen of the experience of the Spanish Beaterio de Santa Catalina, it was an agony even for influential Spanish ladies to achieve the goal of founding a beaterio. How much more for poor native Filipino women ? As Mother Ignacia's Jesuit biographer and contemporary, Father Pedro Murillo Velarde, observed; "She overcame the great difficulties which she met in this foundation from the beginning till the end." It was unthinkable in the era for Filipino group to be formally recognized ahead of their Spanish counterparts. Sor Christina Gonzales, her niece by a cousin, was the first beata to be admitted to the beaterio together with Sor Teodora de Jesus and Ana Margarita appeared as the three earliest followers of the foundress in the first extant list of members of the beaterio (18 July 1748) when Mother Ignacia was still living.
THE FIRST NATIVE FILIPINO BEATERIO
The Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus (now The Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary) was named for its spiritual directors, the Society of Jesus. Their plain edifice was built near the Jesuit Church in the Walled City. Their constitution limited the membership to"pure Indias or mestizas and daughters of Chinese mestizas." The third group-daughters of Chinese mestizas-had to be specified because by law, a Filipino woman followed the racial classification of her father only, and upon marriage that of her husband's. Officially, the maternal branch was not taken into consideration as though it did not exist. Thus the beaterio took a revolutionary step by recognizing the mother's lineage in its constitution. A Spanish woman may gain admission with the approval of two thirds of the vote cast by all the perpetually professed beatas. The beaterio is also the second enduring religious congregation for native women in Asia. The first is the Amantes de la Croix (Lovers of the Holy Cross) which was started b in 1670 by Bishop Pierre Lambert de la Motte in Annam, Cochin China, now Vietnam. The Filipino beatas were the first to be conferred the privilege of professing the simple vows of chastity and obedience. Although the spirit of poverty was emphasized in their constitution and they lived in almost dire poverty, ironically, it was not formally included in their vows. They had to refrain from explicit provisions that would mark their institution as religious convent, which was forbidden by the king. They tucked several prescriptions in their original rules, which prohibited the possession of any personal property. In fact, no beata of great wealth was ever associated with the Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus. In the late eighteenth century the institution, together with the Beaterio de San Sebastian, started accepting recogidas, middle-aged women who retired to a Casa de Recogimiento. Despite having reached the age of retirement, which at that time was fifty years, the recogidas of the Compania were to spearhead its missionary expansion in the nineteenth century.
In 1726, Mother Ignacia presented to the archdiocese of Manila, sede vacante, "these rules for the consolation and encouragement of the beatas, that they might continue to serve and please God under the protection of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary and under the guidance of the Reverend Fathers of the Society of Jesus." The constitution was approved in 1732.
PIONEERS IN THE RETREAT MOVEMENT FOR WOMEN IN THE WORLD
Archbishop Pedro de la Santisima Trinidad Martinez de Arizala, OFM, paid homage to the brown beatas of his archdiocese in 1748 they live in community with great edification to the whole city and contributing to the common good. They are clothed in black cotton tunic and mantle. They attend daily Mass at the Jesuit church where they also frequent the Sacraments...They do not observe cloister, as they support themselves partly through the work of their hands and partly by charity of pious people.
They admit to their house the daughters of neighboring Spanish families as well as native children, instructing these young girls in the work proper to their gender. They number ordinarily between 40 to 50. Some 250 women, Spanish, Indias, and mestizas, make the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius during the months of September, October and November. The retreatants gather at the Church of St. Ignatius to hear points for meditation from one of the priests. Then everyone returns to the beaterio for reflection. Here Mother Ignacia and her Beatas instruct them in their own tongue on how to derive the most benefit from these reflections and to prepare for a full general confession. Like Martha of Bethany, the Beatas attend to the needs of the retreatants. Conceived from and born of the spiritual retreat of its foundress, the Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus became the pioneer in the retreat movement for women in the Catholic world-not only in the Philippines. It was a mass based and large scale movement. The beatas formed the first retreat center for women and took a leading part in the spiritual exercises facilitating the role of the retreat master. In comparison, in Latin America, an Argentinian beata, Sor Maria Antonia de San Jose de la Paz (1730-1799) started the retreat movement for both laywomen and men in her country. In Europe St. Therese Couderc (1805-1885) founded the Religious of the Cenacle in 1826 in France dedicated to conducting retreats for women. Padre Murillo Velarde, SJ, collaborated the archbishop's observations on the Filipino beaterio : What has always been a source of wonder to me is that in spite of their large number and of being all Indias (natives) or mestizas, governed by themselves, in more than seventy years they have not given any reason to talk in the colony. rather, they have given much edification to all their devotion,humility, application to work and to the Spiritual Exercises. May God give them perseverance and not permit that there be introduce any relaxation or disorder which might destroy in a day the work of so many years.
Mother Ignacia died on her knees after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion at the communion rail of the church of St. Ignatius in Intramuros on 10 September 1748. She was truly a valiant woman, for she not only overcame the great difficulties which she met in this foundation form the beginning til the end...she was self-sacrificing, patient, devoted, spiritual, zealous for the good of souls. She was so humble that she proved it in what I believed to be the greatest way in this matter: by insisting on renouncing the government of that house without letting herself to overcome by that desire to command, which like a wood borer destroys everything from lofty cedar to the lowly hyssop. She was honored at her burial, which was in our church, by ecclesiastics and Spaniards, who bore her coffin. Thus, after much hardship borne in her lifetime, she rests in the peace of death and hope in the mercy of God that she will receive the reward of rest and glory which is the dawn of joyous consolation in eternity after sad evening of tears in this life.
In 1737, when Mother Ignacia relinquished her leadership of the beaterio she was succeeded by a Spanish mestiza, Mother Dominga del Rosario Dizon (1690-1763) who had entered in 1710.
THE ROYAL PATRONAGE
In response to the archbishop's petition, His majesty bestowed his official protection of the native Filipino beaterio in the decree of 25 November in 1775 which was received in Manila one or two years later.
The first Filipino beaterio with the new name Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary became the first Filipino institute to obtain pontifical approval of its constitutions in 1948. Its foundress, Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.
Novena Litany To Venerable Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo
- Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, listen to us
You whose presence we feel in our families, schools, retreat houses, and land, hear us.
You who taught us to pray the rosary everyday to stay with Christ, hear us.
- Mother Ignacia, pray for us.
Daughter of St. Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Life, pray for us.
Bride of Christ from early youth unto all eternity, pray for us.
- Mother Ignacia, we love you.
A child of humble parents, like Jesus of Nazareth, we love you.
- A young girl who made a retreat before making the first big decision of her life, we love you.
The young woman who prepared herself by living alone with Christ in a house of prayer we love you.
The young woman who supported herself by working with needle and a pair of scissors, we love you.
The woman of faith who built her community around the Eucharist, we love you.
The woman of hope who relied on the providence of God for daily salt and rice, we love you.
The woman of hope who gathered sticks and firewood to cook her community's meals, we love you.
The woman of hope who led her community through poverty and daunting obstacles, we love you.
The woman of love fully aware that love is shown in deeds, we love you.
The woman of love whose goal is to love God by praising, reverencing, and serving him every moment of her life, we love you.
The woman of love whose loveliness is the loveliness of Christ nailed to the cross, we love you.
The founding Superior who insisted on abdicating the power to command and wanting only to be anonymous and be the servant of all, we love you.
The founding Superior at whose death and funeral the whole city turned out in grief to show its respect and love for her, and gratitude for opening its eyes to the values of the Kingdom of God, we love you.
Beloved Mother Ignacia, whose community never ceased drawing its strength and fire from the Paschal Mystery of Christ, we love you.
Beloved Mother Ignacia, whose community started to attract and receive women of all nationalities and continues to attract and receive them in our day, we love you.
Beloved Mother Ignacia, whose community built and continues to build other communities to shelter the poor of the land and proclaim the Kingdom of God until the Lord returns, we love you.
Let us prayO God Our Father, look upon our love for Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, a love which you yourself have instilled in our hearts and continue to nurture in the power of your Holy Spirit. Look also upon our faith and hope as we present to you our petition for a miracle for her beatification: (Petition)
We ask this in the name of your Son, Our Brother and Savior, who has encouraged us, saying:"Whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you." Amen.
(1 Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be for the intentions of the Holy Father).