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Who was Mama Antula, Argentina’s first female saint


During a Mass at St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, Pope Francis and Argentine president Javier Milei shared a moment of unity, symbolizing the convergence of Argentine faith and politics, as they celebrated the canonization of the nation’s first female saint. This significant event also marked the initial encounter between the Argentine pope and Milei, who previously criticized Francis for his advocacy of social justice, labeling him an “imbecile.” Throughout the ceremony, Milei, who took a prominent position to the pope’s right near the main altar, embraced Francis with a warm bear hug as the service concluded.
Francis greeted Milei with a lighthearted comment, “You cut your hair!” acknowledging the president’s well-known disheveled hairstyle upon their meeting.
The service was dedicated to Mama Antula, a laywoman from the 18th century known for her dedication to the poor and her efforts to sustain Jesuit spiritual practices in Argentina following the suppression of the Jesuit order, to which Pope Francis belongs.
The canonization attracted many Argentines, transforming the event into an Argentine celebration in the heart of Rome. President Milei engaged with attendees, acknowledging their support with waves and participating in selfie photos, as the assembly honored a saint renowned for challenging the societal expectations of her era to propagate her faith.
Here is all you need to know about Mama Antula:
– Her real name was María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, but she was known by her Quechua name of Mama Antula, which means “little mother”.
– She was born in 1730 in Santiago del Estero, a province north of Buenos Aires, into a wealthy family.
– At the age of 15, she left her home and family to join the Jesuits, who taught her the spiritual exercises based on the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Company of Jesus.
– She traveled throughout Argentina, organizing and leading retreats for people of all social classes, especially the poor and the enslaved. She welcomed everyone in her spiritual exercises, regardless of their status or condition.
– She faced many difficulties and dangers, such as the hostility of the authorities, the lack of resources, the harsh climate, and the threat of imprisonment. She never gave up and always trusted in God’s providence.
– She founded the House of spiritual exercises in Buenos Aires, which still exists today and is run by the religious order of the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, who follow her charism and spirituality.
– She died on March 7, 1799, at the age of 69, in Buenos Aires. She was buried in the Recoleta cemetery, where her tomb is still visited by many pilgrims and devotees.
– She was not widely recognized until 2013, when Pope Francis, also from Argentina, was elected and brought her to the public attention. He authorized her beatification in 2016 and her canonization in 2021, after two miracles attributed to her intercession were verified by the Church.
– She is the patroness of the spiritual exercises in Argentina and of the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus. Her feast day is celebrated on March 7.
(With inputs from agencies)

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