About 5,500 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica this Sunday for the canonization of María Antonia de San José de Paz y Figueroa, well known as “Mama Antula”, among them were thousands of the Pope’s compatriots, including bishops, priests and pilgrims from the archdiocese of Portiña, where Pope Francis was once a pastor.
‘Mama Antula’ is Argentina’s first saint. She was canonised by the Pope – himself Argentinian– on the morning of Sunda, February 12, 2024, in a Mass in St Peter’s Basilica. She lived in Argentina in the 18th century.
The Holy Father canonises María Antonia de San José, describing her as a “wayfarer of the spirit” and “a model of apostolic fervour and audacity”.
At that time, the Jesuit order had been expelled from South American country, she made it her mission to spread Ignatian – that is, Jesuit – spirituality throughout the country.
Among the roughly five thousand present in St Peter’s Basilica for the celebration was Javier Milei, the newly-elected president of Argentina.
Towards the end of his homily, the pontiff laid to one side his prepared remarks and spoke off-the-cuff.
“Today we think of María Antonia de San José, ‘Mama Antula’,” he said. “She was a wayfarer of the Spirit. She travelled thousands of kilometres on foot, through deserts and dangerous roads, bringing with her God.”
“Today she is a model of apostolic fervour and audacity for us,” Pope Francis continued. “When the Jesuits were expelled (from Argentina]), the Spirit lit a missionary flame in her based on trust in providence and perseverance.”
“Let us pray today to María Antonia, Santa María Antonia de Paz de San José, that she may help us very much.”
The Litany of All Saints rang out solemnly under Michelangelo’s dome, and the Holy Father spoke the canonisation formula.
A deacon consecrated the relics of Maria Antonia and the Gospel was recited in Greek, as is customary on such particularly solemn occasions.
During the offertory, Claudio Perusini and his family brought gifts to the altar. Claudio had reportedly been healed by a miracle that took place through the intercession of the new saint and paved the way for her canonisation.
Vigils were organised across Argentina in the days leading up to the canonisation, and the Mass was shown on giant screens in public squares.
President Milei, who has been in Rome since Saturday, was also present in the Basilica, and will meet privately with Pope Francis on Monday, February 12, in the Vatican.