In the early 1600's, Spanish missionaries came to the Texas wilderness to teach the Indians about Jesus and God. They found the "savages" were already in possession of a number of religious material - a stone alter with Jesus on the cross, crude but recognizable paintings of several Catholic saints, and some who wore carved crosses on leather strips around their necks. And they all told of white-skinned gods who had once walked among them.. According to the Indians, these divine visitors had spoken to them in a language different from theirs, but one they could understand. These gods had come and gone in ages past, but all promised they would come again someday.
A common story which got the most attention from the missionaries was about a beautiful young white goddess who appeared among several different groups of Indians living in Texas and elsewhere in the southwest. The Indians called her the "woman in blue" because every time she came, she wore a blue cloak.
Intrigued and confused by these stories, the missionaries quickly informed the church back in Spain that something very strange was going on over here. It was a profound spiritual mystery - how could these pagan savages living on the far edge of a strange new world know about the Catholic doctrine and be in possession of symbols of Christian faith? In response, numerous more missionaries were sent to Texas by the church with an assigned task - solve the mystery of the "woman in blue."
One of these emissaries from the church was Father Damien Manzanet. By chance, Father Damien had recently read a new book titled The Mystical City of God. In the book, Sister Maria de Agreda, a cloistered Castilian nun who was then 29 years of age, told how she had been mysteriously transported to a remote wilderness on the edge of New Spain. There she had met a race of pagans and she introduced the Christian religion to them. The sister claimed to have made the mystical journey more than 500 times. She told how she had been well received by a tribe of dark-skinned savages who called themselves "Tejas" and that they had somehow understood her every word. She claimed her out-of-body travels occurred only as she slept when she would suddenly grow rigid in bed and a state of supreme ecstasy would seize her. She would then suddenly be whisked away at blinding speed to the wilderness where she worked and prayed with the naked savages. Most of her visits were with the Tejas tribe, but sometimes she would be sent to a different group of natives. Even though the different tribes spoke different languages, she claimed they all could somehow understand her. All of this was naturally looked on with skepticism by the church since Sister Maria had come to the convent when she was just 15 and had never been outside the convent walls since her arrival.
The same year Father Damien came to this new frontier, about 50 Jumano Indians appeared at Isleta, a Pueblo mission near Albuquerque asking that missionaries be sent among them to teach them more about God and to baptize them. When asked why they wanted this, they explained that a beautiful white goddess had been coming to them for many years and instructed them in "the truths of Christian faith." She had recently instructed them to come to the mission and ask for missionaries to come to their village and baptize them. She had given them directions from their village to the mission over 300 miles away and had seen them safely during their journey through the territory ruled by the fierce Apache.
The stories and legends told by so many different Indians and the similarities between them and what Sister Maria de Agreda claimed in the book led Father Damien to conclude that God had indeed sent her among the Indians in the new world to spread the Gospel. He eventually traveled back to Spain and met with Sister Maria. He found her to be extremely pious, always dressed in the white tunic and blue robe of her order, and physically very beautiful, just as the Indians had claimed. She accurately told him not only the names of numerous tribes, but even the names and descriptions of individuals. Nearly all of the tribes and most of the individuals she talked about were verified by Father Damien who had met them during his travels.
|Isleta Pueblo where Franciscan friars first learned |
about the "Lady in Blue" teaching God to
Sister Maria died of natural causes in 1665. After 244 years in the ground, her body was exhumed in 1909 and was found to have not decayed. She was placed in a glass-lidded coffin and moved inside the convent she had faithfully served for 45 years. Her body is still there and with permission, may still be viewed.
Today, there remains legends about the beautiful "goddess" dressed in blue who supernaturally roamed the southwest teaching Christianity. Some believe she still roams the hills and deserts causing flowers to bloom and bestowing love and riches on the unfortunate. Who's to say she doesn't?
|Sister Maria almost 350 years after death|