Maria of Jesus spent her entire life within the confines of her family castle in Agreda, Spain, which her mother – when Maria was only twelve – had converted into a convent for herself and her daughters. In this Franciscan Convent of the Immaculate Conception of Agreda, Maria eventually served as abbess, renowned for her mystical writings and her ardor in prayer.
And yet, in the spiritual realm, she was anything but a stay-at-home nun. In her early twenties, she found herself repeatedly transported in prayer to the Indian settlements in New Spain, particularly to a tribe of hunter-gatherers called the Jumanos in present-day New Mexico. In the course of what she reckoned were five hundred trips, she was able to communicate with the Indians in their own language, instructing them in the faith, and urging them to seek baptism. This remarkable story gained credence when friars in New Spain encountered just such a tribe who requested baptism and claimed they had met frequently with a Lady in Blue (just like Maria).
These reports were taken seriously enough to justify a trip to Agreda by the Franciscan superior for New Mexico. Maria was also subjected to two inquiries by the Inquisition, resulting in no action. (Her defenders included King Philip IV of Spain.)
She died on May 24, 1665. Ten years later, she was declared venerable by Pope Clement X.