On Easter Saturday, in the year 1497, Magdalena is dying. At midnight, she lets out a great scream, sits up on her bed, once more rips off her dressings, saying that she is healed. She says that it is Jesus, himself, who has just appeared to her to announce her recovery…
Three months before her First Holy Communion, she stops eating for reasons of purety. The objurgations of her poor parents make no difference: she fasts right up until the Sunday of this great day, without losing her healthy appearance. On the day of the ceremony, at the precise moment of consecration, she lets out another dreadful cry and prostrates herself for a long time. When she exits the church, she explains that the Lord, himself, put a wafer in her mouth, without her needing to approach the priest.
At sixteen, Magdalena is the most saintly, but also the most beautiful, girl in Aguilar. When she whips herself to bleeding point, her wounds are miraculously healed the next day. Everything about her is beauty, purety and good health. Everything, except two fingers which have not grown like the others: at sixteen, they are no longer than the size of a normal phalange. These two fingers are those that Christ touched one night in her childhood, during an apparition…
In 1504, Magdalena at last obtains the unique desire of her life: to enter a Cordua convent. There, she immediately inspires the admiration of her companions. Always discrete about her merits, she inflicts unparalleled mortifications on herself: carries a heavy cross all around the cloister, kisses her companions’ feet, accomplishes, while singing, the vilest tasks. She stops eating almost completely, and lives only on the Holy Communion.
In 1509, at twenty-two, she already has such a reputation for sainthood, that it is thought necessary to let her take her vows alone. In Cordua, this event is brilliantly prepared. All the nobles scheme to obtain a good place in the church and, for the circumstance, the Archbishop has his throne covered by a dais of richly embroidered velvet.
At last, the day of the ceremony arrives. Magdalena, in religion Sister Magdalena of the Cross, in memory of her heroic crucifixion, advances. Her face hidden by a veil, but very upright, until she kneels to hear the Cardinal’s speech. To tell the truth, the Cardinal has a bit of trouble delivering it, he is so emotional. Rather than exhort the novice to piety, as is usual, he wants to ask for her protection. He owes it to this young saint…
When they get to the Kyrie Eleison, something unusual happens: a dove, which seems to descend straight fron the sky, makes everyone look up… The bird lands right against Magdalena and seems to speak in her ear. The pigeon only flies away at the end of the ceremony, and the good people of Cordua see it rise so high, and for so long, that the sky finally seems to close over it.
In the convent, Magdalena soon reveals extraordinary faculties. Without ever going outside the walls, she knows everything that happens on the other side. Particularly in the neighbouring Franciscan convent, or in the patrician homes of Cordua. Her ecstasies are numerous and, while her companions withdraw discretely after having carried her to her cell, they hear a gentle muttering of unknown words, moans too, in which joy seems to be stronger than suffering.
The gossip around these events swells, and soon spills out of Spain. Thanks to the donations which pour in, Magdalena’s convent is soon the most important one in town. It is at this time that another singular faculty of the nun becomes known: she can predict the future.
In 1515, she announces the death of King Ferdinand for the following year, and the regency of Ximenez over the kingdom of Castile. In sign of gratitude, the Grand Inquisitor has a superb vermilion ostensory given to her, which increases the admiration of her sisters, even more.
But then, on 25 March 1518, the day of the Annunciation, she gives her Abbess some news which fills this lady with great perplexity: the preceding night, she had conceived the child Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The nun Magdalena, the shining light of the convent of Saint Elizabeth of the Angels, is pregnant.
Forseeing the enormous scandal that such news risks provoking, the Abbess orders Magdalena to keep absolutely quiet about this business. She discretely watches her nun and, after a few weeks, she is obliged to bow to the evidence. The nun’s body is visibly rounding out, and the moment is going to come when they will no longer be able to hide the work… of the Holy Spirit… or of nature.
Soon, the convent is divided into two camps. On one side, those who feel hidden jealousy for the nun… Certainly, no-one doubts her sainthood, but all these miracles, all this money flowing in, tend to relegate the other sisters to the bottom of the ladder of perfection. A lot of them must have accused themselves of jealousy to their confessor, and still have some rancour toward her. To those, this supernatural pregnancy appears inconceivable. Such a miracle is not announced in the Holy Scriptures.
On the other side, there are those, also numerous, who say that God works in mysterious ways, and that the Most High has been pouring all sorts of extraordinary graces on his humble servant, the Clarissa of Cordua. Anyway, how could she have sullied her purety, she who never leaves the convent grounds? To that, the others reply that she receives her confessor alone, and that the bars on the convent fence are so widely spaced as to allow the passage of much more cumbersome entities than the Holy Spirit.
A vow of silence is agreed upon, but impious murmurs are soon heard in Cordua. What does the Clarissa do? She treats these insinuations with superb indifference…
To be continued.