Mariana de Paredes, the patron saint of Ecuador, was born in Quito to aristocratic parents. As a child, she dreamed of joining a convent, or even carrying the Gospel to Japan. But after her parents died, she moved in with her sister and brother-in-law, and there, under the direction of a Jesuit confessor, spent the rest of her life. Upon receiving the habit of a Franciscan tertiary, she took the name of Mariana of Jesus.
It is painful to read of the austerities she imposed on herself: extreme fasting, long vigils, and a crown of thorns. As a reminder of death, she spent each Friday night sleeping in a coffin. In exchange of these sacrifices, she received many spiritual favors, including the gift of prophecy and the power to effect miraculous healings.
In 1645, Quito was struck by a series of earthquakes, followed by a terrible epidemic that claimed over fourteen hundred lives. When a preacher proclaimed that these sufferings were a result of people’s sins, Mariana publicly offered herself as a victim. Immediately the earthquakes ceased. But Mariana fell mortally ill and died on May 26, 1645, at the age of twenty-six. Hailed as a savior of her city, she was mourned by all of Quito. She was canonized in 1950.