More than two centuries have passed since his death in 1799. This Sunday, María Antonia de San José de Paz y Figueroaknown as Mama Antula and born in Santiago del Estero, she was consecrated a saint of the Catholic Church by Pope Francis, in a ceremony held in San Pedro Basilica. Is about the first Argentine saintalthough the country already had other saints.
The Argentine president was present at the event. Javier Mileihis sister Karina Milei and the chancellor Diana Mondino, who arrived in Rome on Friday, along with other ministers from Israel. Milei had his first meeting with the pope and will be received this Monday by him in a private audience at the Vatican, and then by the president of Italy, Sergio Mattarellaand the right-wing prime minister Georgia Meloni in the government palaces.
“You cut your hair”, the Pope’s communication with Milei began. This was the first meeting they had after the insults that the Argentine president gave him – like when, in mid-October 2023, he called him “fool” and that he was “the representative of the evil one on Earth.” – “No, I made him neat,” responds a bewildered Milei, referring to the fact that he had combed his hair. At the meeting, the president also claimed to be “the most important Argentine in the history”.
One of the bloopers —or moments—that will remain in the memory of the meeting between the two was that The Vatican announcer introduced Karina Milei as the president’s “wife.” Milei—who is in the midst of converting to Judaism and arrived from Israel after aligning himself with Benjamin Netanyahu— and her sister asked Pope Francis for a hug, a kind of emotional overacting.
In the basilica, Milei was sitting in the area designated for diplomats, not far from the pope. Before beginning, he saw the Argentine president walking towards the sacristy for a first greeting to the Pontiff, as planned. Francis did not celebrate the entire mass because he cannot stand for long due to his knee problems, but he did read the homily and other parts of the celebration. At the end of the mass, Milei got up and went to the chair where Francisco was. to greet him smiling.
Present at the ceremony were some 5,500 faithful, according to the Vatican. Among them numerous Argentine bishops, priests and nuns, as well as Claudio Perusini and his family, the Santa Fe teacher who was saved from a serious stroke thanks to the miracle of Mama Antula, the second miracle of the saint that precisely allowed her canonization. Both Perusini and his wife greeted Francis in the basilica.
The words of the Argentine Pope
In his homily, Francis referred to attitudes in life similar to leprosy, the tremendously contagious and deadly disease that killed millions of people, especially in ancient times and the Middle Ages, around the world. “Fear, prejudice and false religiosity They are three causes of great injustice, they are the three leprosies of the soul (…) When we distance ourselves from others to focus on ourselves, when we reduce the world to our “being well”, when we believe that the problem is always others, in these cases we must be careful because the diagnosis is clear: leprosy of the soul, a disease that makes us insensitive to love, to compassion, that destroys us by the “gangrenes” of selfishness, prejudice, indifference and intolerance.” So, what is the cure? “Loving God and to give oneself to one’s neighbor without fear or prejudice”, just as the new Argentine saint, Mama Antula, did, according to the Pope.
“Mama Antula traveled thousands of kilometers crossing deserts and dangerous roads to bring God. Today she is for us a model of apostolic fervor and audacity,” added Francisco. Furthermore, he recalled that when the Jesuits were expelled from the viceroyalty, “a missionary flame based on the trustthe providence and the perseverance“.
The ceremony ended around 11:30 Italian time. And the faithful waited, despite the heavy rain that at times flooded St. Peter’s Square, for the Angelus that the pope read from the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace. This time they saw each other more umbrellas than flags, when in general it is the flags that invade the square every Sunday. At the Angelus, the pope asked for applause for the new Argentine saint Mama Antula.
Who was Mama Antula?
Mama Antula He was born in Villa Silípica, today the province of Santiago del Estero, in 1730. Argentina did not exist then. The region belonged to the viceroyalty of Upper Peru until 1776, when Spain decided to create the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. At the age of 15 he took his vows and dedicated himself to prayer and the apostolate.
In 1760, she gathered a group of young women and They dedicated themselves to charity and collaborate with the Jesuits. Were consecrated lay women. Mama Antula visited several cities of the Viceroyalty, where she carried her messages and her spiritual exercises. She was walking barefoot, with a cross in her hand and a black habit. It took her weeks to arrive, but she did it.
After the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Viceroyalty and from Spain in 1767 by decision of King Carlos III, went from city to city through the poor regions of northeast Argentina, Córdoba, Montevideo and Buenos Aires, among others, promoting spiritual exercises as the Jesuits with whom she had always collaborated did. In Buenos Aires she tried to create a center for spiritual exercises, but people from high society and the viceroy of the time opposed it. Finally, on the outskirts of the city she managed to found the Holy House of Spiritual Exercises, located on current Independencia Street. Mama Antula died in 1799. Her remains are found in the Church of Our Lady of Mercy in Buenos Aires.
The path marked by the saint
According to the Argentine theologian and writer Emilce Cuda, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for Latin America from 2022, “the importance of declaring a life holy ands mark a path, set an example. And that example is completed with each generation and in each context. For me, as an Argentine, Latin American, Catholic woman, at the service of Pope Francis, a Jesuit Pope, the great message that he leaves me and that I am going to preach about this woman is the great capacity for organization, for achieving unity, for wearing that habit being secular, as a sign. And that was a long time ago, not in the 21st century where it is easier for women to have that role,” she told Page 12.
“The central message is the ability that woman had to organize differences and achieve unity. In the spiritual exercises she organized, she brought together the rich, the poor, and the workers. Every day they lived together while the exercises lasted. She sought the unity of all those social differences. And I say this, that is Catholicism. Us We are not here to annihilate but to share. The paths are different from those of politics. Politics seeks to eliminate enemies, religions seek to share. She was a master at being able to achieve unity of these differences. It reminds me a little of Pope Francis who, like a good Jesuit, always calls for unity, unity in difference, a unity that respects the other, that seeks dialogue and for that to happen we must know how to organize. She was a great organizer,” concluded the theologian.
He Dicastery for the Causes of Saints It has the obligation to study the cases of possible saints proposed by bishoprics or other Catholic organizations. By verifying his history and his actions, they must establish whether he has the qualities to be declared Venerable, which means that he meets the conditions to begin a canonization process. Mama Antula was declared Venerable in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.
He first step of the cause of canonization itself is that the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints approves the heroic virtues of the candidate, that is, his qualities as an outstanding Catholic and he can be called “God’s servant“. This was recognized for Mama Antula only on July 2, 2010. The decree was signed by Pope Benedict XVI.
He second step in the canonization process is the demonstration of that an attributed miracle be confirmed, after having done studies that cannot give any scientific explanation of the miracle. Mama Antula’s first miracle, performed in 1904 when she cured a nun of cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), was recognized by the Vatican in 2016 and shortly after she was consecrated blessed in Santiago del Estero.
He third and last step in the canonization process is the verification of a second miracle, always from scientists and experts. In the case of Mama Antula it was the cure in 2017, without scientific explanations, of Claudio Perusini. Born in Santa Fe in 1959, Perusini is a retired teacher who suffered a stroke in 2017. He was admitted to the intensive care unit of the José M. Cullen hospital in the city of Santa Fe in a comatose state. The prognosis was not optimistic, with little chance of returning to normal life due to the brain injuries. He remained in a vegetative state for several days, but then showed notable improvement and, with months of physical therapy, he resumed his independence and manual tasks. His family and friends had prayed to the saint from Santiago.
Mama Antula “gave me a second chance,” Perusini told the Argentine press. “I didn’t recover overnight. It was months of hospitals, work, many therapies… It was little by little,” she said. But was able to travel for the canonization which, he said, he never imagined he would be able to attend.