The Lady in Blue: Mystical Missionary of Texas

In the summer of 1629, about 50 Jumano Indians from western Texas appeared before the Spanish Franciscan friars at the town of Isleta, near modern-day Albuquerque, NM.

Smaller groups of the Jumano had been coming there for some years, each time asking for missionaries to teach their as-yet-uncatechized nation the faith of Christ. The friars inquired exactly how they had learned about Our Lord, and in return they would always tell the same rather odd story: that a mysterious “Lady in Blue” had been appearing among them and instructing them about God and the Christian religion. It was she, they said, who told them to come to this place and ask for Baptism.

Although the friars were sympathetic to the Jumanos’ need for missionaries, the tale about the Lady had been easily enough dismissed: there were no Spanish friars in that faraway region, let alone women.

But on this last embassy in 1629, that odd story struck a chord with their superior Fr. Alonso de Benavides, who had been charged to investigate these strange reports–and also to get to the bottom of strange rumors that a Spanish nun was somehow being mystically transported to the Americas. He interviewed the Jumano themselves, who pointed to a portrait of a nun and stated that the Lady in Blue, though younger in age, wore similar clothes.

Intrigued, he sent two missionaries to the Jumano homeland in western Texas. The missionaries found the people knowledgeable of the faith, and baptized a number of them. Benavides composed an account of what happened, then set off for Spain, trying to track down who the nun was. There he learned that it was Sister Maria of the convent of the Immaculate Conception in Agreda. Under obedience, she was directed to reveal these hidden aspects of her interior life, and she also described details of the country and the different peoples of the region. Benavides left the meeting completely convinced. Later, the ecclesiastical authorities investigated her and found her mystical gifts to be authentic.

To this day, American folklore reveres Venerable Mary of Jesus of Agreda as one of the founders of the Catholic faith in the state of Texas–despite her apparently never leaving her convent. But it is through her spiritual writing that she earned the most fame in her lifetime. Indeed, Benavides himself would later say that “I call God to witness that my esteem for her holiness has been increased more by the noble qualities which I discern in her than by all the miracles which she has wrought in America.”

Venerable Maria de Agreda–her cause for beatification is now ongoing–left her mortal life on May 24th, 1665, leaving behind a spiritual classic: the Mystical City of God.

And the locals continue to cherish a legend that when she said farewell to the Indians for the last time and faded away beyond the hills, she left the area blanketed in deep blue flowers the color of her robe–the Texas bluebonnet.

May 22, 2020