During a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on SunPay, Pope Francis canonised María Antonia of St. Joseph, Argentina’s first female saint, popularly known as “Mama Antula” in the pope’s native country. On February 11, at the canonization Mass, Argentina’s President Javier Milei sat in the front row, just to the pope’s right. At the end of the Mass, Milei embraced the pope.
During a period of intense anti-Jesuit sentiment in Argentina, Mama Antula (1730–1799), a consecrated laywoman, founded the House for Spiritual Exercises in Buenos Aires to spread Ignatian spirituality.
With “thousands of miles on foot through deserts and dangerous roads” leading people to God, the Argentine saint was lauded by Pope Francis as “a model of apostolic fervour and boldness” in his mission from God.
“My fellow believers, we are loved by God… He assured them that they, too, too become witnesses of the saving love if they would only allow themselves to be touched by Him. On February 11, 2024, Pope Francis will attend the canonization ceremony of María Antonia of St. Joseph, who is lovingly referred to as “Mama Antula” in the pope’s own nation. Vatican News
After the suppression of the Society of Jesus and the expulsion of its priests from South America, the Argentine Jesuit pop emphasised Mama Antula’s persistence in protecting Ignatian spirituality. “The Holy Spirit kindled a missionary fire within her based on trust in Providence and perseverance when the Jesuits were expelled,” he explained.
Former Buenos Aires archbishop and current Pope Francis has expressed interest in visiting Argentina later this year. Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has refrained from visiting his native country. During the canonization, the Pope had a brief encounter with the newly inaugurated president of Argentina.
At the conclusion of Mass, Milei embraced the Pope after shaking his hand; he had previously referred to the Pope as a “imbecile” during his campaign. At a short meeting at the conclusion of the canonization Mass on February 11, 2024, Milei embraced Pope Francis. Vatican News
On Monday, before Milei’s meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the two are set to have a private meeting at the Vatican. Meeting with Milei on Monday is an opportunity to “start a dialogue,” according to Pope Francis. He has also suggested that he was unfazed by the insults flung at him by Milei before his election as president, stating, “words during an election campaign come and go.”
Although he was brought up in a Catholic household, Milei has lately shown an interest in Judaism and has even hinted at the prospect of converting. Milei spent Friday in Rome after flying in from Israel. While there, he went to the Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains and shared an Instagram shot of himself gazing at the Michelangelo figure of Moses.
In a letter written on January 8, Milei formally invited Pope Francis to visit Argentina, shortly after taking office as president in December. St. María Antonia of St. Joseph’s canonization Mass on February 11, 2024. Vatican News During his homily at the canonization Mass, Pope Francis emphasised the need to reach out to the marginalised and helpless, just as Jesus did with the lepers he encountered.
What a number of suffering people do we encounter when walking the streets of our towns, Pope Francis remarked. “And how many believers’ inconsistencies, biases, and fears further inflict pain on them, even among self-proclaimed Christians!” Because of her selfless dedication to helping “those whom society discards,” Pope Francis has lauded Mama Antula as a model of virtue.
In Silipica, Santiago del Estero, in northern Argentina, María Antonia came into this world in 1730 into an affluent family. Even at a young age, she spoke passionately about her desire to serve God. In the beginning of her ministry, she focused on assisting families with their children’s education and caring for the sick and impoverished.
St. Peter’s Basilica hosted the Mass with a relic of St. María Antonia of St. Joseph. At the altar, the celebrant was Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, who is also the prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. With the help of CNA, Daniel Ibanez.
Despite the general anti-Jesuit sentiment, she set out on foot to protect and disseminate Ignatian spirituality after King Charles III of Spain expelled the Jesuits from the Spanish Empire. She also organised retreats.
She moved to Buenos Aires in 1779 after her initial retreats were successful, and she continued to grow her influence throughout Argentina. Imperial authorities first forbade her from reviving the Ignatian tradition, but she persisted and eventually gained the confidence of the local bishop, which led to the founding of the House for Spiritual Exercises in Buenos Aires.
The Buenos Aires cemetery is where she was laid to rest after her death on March 7, 1799, at the Church of the Pietà. Her remains were later housed in the church, which has since become a famous site for pilgrims. On February 11, 2024, Pope Francis delivers a speech at the Mass celebrating St. María Antonia of St. Joseph’s canonization.
St. Cajetan, whose full name is St. Gaetano of Thiene, is currently one of Argentina’s most beloved saints, and Pope Francis thanked Mama Antula for encouraging devotion to him in his sermon.
“All praise be to Mama Antula, this saint, intercessor of Divine Providence, who entered our homes, neighbourhoods, transportation, stores, factories, and hearts, to bring dignity to the lives of the poor through work, justice, and the provision of daily bread,” the Pope stated.
“May Saint María Antonia de Paz de San José, also known as María Antonia, assist us immensely in our prayers today.” On March 7, we shall commemorate Mama Antula’s feast day.
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