The Vida of María de Jesús

Nearly all of the books held by Gleeson Library can be found by searching Ignacio, our library catalog, but did you know that we’re adding information to Ignacio all the time?

Just this week, I cataloged a book from the Donohue Rare Book Room and put the information into Ignacio. The book was published in 1683 and it describes the life and miracles of a Conceptionist nun from Mexico, María de Jesús de Tomelín (1579-1637), also known as The Lily of Puebla.

Lemus, Diego de. Vida, virtudes, trabajos fabores y milagros de la Ven. M. sor Maria de Jesus angelopolitana religiosa. Leon: Anisson y Posuel, 1683.

The book was formerly part of the rare book collection at the San Francisco College for Women, and it bears the bookplate of Monsignor Joseph M. Gleason.

In adding information about this book to our library catalog, I inspected the volume and recorded the author, title, and other publication details. Then I needed to identify the subject, María de Jesús, and briefly get a sense of who she was so that I could classify the book and shelve it near other books on the same topic.

María de Jesús was born into a wealthy family in Puebla, Mexico in 1579, and is said to have had mystical visions from a young age. At 19, she made her profession of faith and joined the Convent of the Immaculate Conception in Puebla. Popular and controversial claims about María de Jesús included her reported visions of the Virgin Mary and of purgatory, as well as her ecstatic experiences that included physical manifestations such as levitation and bilocation. She died in 1637 and is said to have emitted a sweet smelling ‘odor of sanctity’ providing further evidence of her holiness.

Painting of María de Jesús Tomelin from the Museo Nacional del Virreinato

Following her death, there were efforts to have her named as a saint within the Catholic Church, and publications supporting María de Jesús’ beatification asserted that she had performed eleven miracles in life and many more after her death. These idealized biographies, known as “vidas” were accounts of her virtues, works, and miracles which emphasized her sanctified nature and were designed to increase her reputation beyond her home city of Puebla. Three notable publications about María de Jesús would be used to support her candidacy for sainthood. This book in the Gleeson Library special collections is one of those publications. It is written in Spanish, most likely based on manuscripts written by her fellow nun, Agustina de Santa Teresa, and her confessor, an Irish Jesuit missionary named Michael Wadding, who was known in Mexico as Miguel Godínez.

Although Pope Pius VI officially recognized the virtues of María de Jesús, she was never formally canonized as a Saint by the Catholic Church. The reliquary holding her remains is located in the chapel of the Convent of the Immaculate Conception, Puebla, Mexico.

If you would like to view this book about María de Jesús, stop by the Donohue Rare Book Room on the third floor of Gleeson Library.

For more about the life of María de Jesús and the lives of religious women in Colonial Mexico, try these books:

Drago, Margarita. Sor María De Jesús Tomelín (1579–1637), Concepcionista Poblana: La Construcción Fallida De Una Santa. City University of New York, 2002. PDF available to USF Library patrons

Ibsen, Kristine. Women’s Spiritual Autobiography in Colonial Spanish America. University Press of Florida, 1999. Ebook available to USF library patrons

Jaffary, Nora E. False Mystics : Deviant Orthodoxy in Colonial Mexico. University of Nebraska Press, 2004. Ebook available to USF library patrons

Myers, Kathleen Ann. Neither Saints Nor Sinners : Writing the Lives of Women in Spanish America. Oxford University Press, 2003. Ebook available to USF library patrons

Lavrín, Asunción. Brides of Christ: conventual life in colonial Mexico. Stanford University Press, 2008. Print book available via Link+

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