First iconography of Mama Antula, the future Argentine saint

They present the work of the Argentine priest Eduardo Pérez dal Lago, of the clergy of Buenos Aires, iconographer and president of the La Santa Faz foundation

After the approval of the miracle that allows the canonization of Mama Antula on Sunday, February 11, Father Eduardo Pérez dal Lago, iconographer and priest of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, in Argentina, began to “write” the first icon of the future saint.

In statements collected by the Argentine Catholic Information Agency (AICA), the artist explained that “Mama Antula’s saintly halo goes beyond the cornice – which is the frame of the icon -, and it is precisely because holiness transcends the human, it has no limits, it leaves the frame, and that sky, that transfigured and luminous life is made in gold, which is the color and material that represents God, the divinity, with the noblest material that does not degrade, corrupt or deteriorate oxidizes”.

The “Holy House of Exercises” appears within the work because the future saint is always represented in landscapes of Santiago del Estero, where she began her life and apostolate there. Although Antula lived in Buenos Aires the last years of her life, her great work and legacy was the Exercise House and the plans for it were made by herself.

At the bottom, a wheat field is visualized that, for the author, symbolizes three “Antulian aspects”: Argentina, blessed land, bread; Saint Cajetan, the saint of Providence, so venerated by Antula, whose ears of wheat were added by the union of Catholic workers in the midst of the economic crisis of the year 1930; and the fruit of the Spiritual Exercises, because upon the death of Mama Antula thousands and thousands of people had performed the exercises, renewing their life of faith”

To color Mama Antula’s habit, he mixed a pigment called ivory black with a lapis lazuli blue to give a blue-black effect, while the reverse of the cloak is bluish.

Until now, all the images said “Blessed Mama Antula” and this is the first time that she is presented as a saint, as it is the first image prepared for this occasion.


Pope Francis has authorized the promulgation of the Decree relating to the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed María Antonia de San José. The bulletin of the Press Office of the Holy See communicates that:

“During the Audience granted on Tuesday afternoon to His Most Reverend Eminence Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, the Supreme Pontiff authorized the same Dicastery to promulgate the Decree relating to the miracle attributed to the intercession of the Blessed María Antonia de San José (born Antonia de Paz y Figueroa), known as Mama Antula, Founder of the House of Spiritual Exercises of Buenos Aires; She was born in 1730 in Silipica, Santiago del Estero (Argentina) and died on March 7, 1799, in Buenos Aires (Argentina)”.

Pope Francis, remembering her, in the Angelus on August 28, 2016, after her beatification, expressed that: “May her exemplary Christian witness, especially her apostolate in promoting the Spiritual Exercises, awaken the desire to adhere more and more to Christ and the Gospel.”

Mama Antula

Virgin, consecrated laywoman, founder of the House of Exercises of Buenos Aires, called Mama Antula by the people. After the expulsion of the Jesuits from the country, she went from city to city through the poor regions of northeastern Argentina, promoting spiritual exercises according to the Ignatian spirit, trusting only in Providence. In just eight years, she managed to offer spiritual exercises to 70,000 people.

The miracle

Miraculous survival of Mr. C. P. (born in 1959) who suffers an “ischemic stroke with hemorrhagic infarction in several areas, deep coma, sepsis, resistant septic shock, with multiple organ failure.” Admitted to the intensive care unit in a comatose state, the CT scan shows a very extensive infarction of the brain stem. Inauspicious or very reserved prognosis, with very little chance of returning to normal life due to irreparable brain injuries.

After a few days, he showed notable improvement and, after a few months of physiotherapy, he was independent, autonomous in his daily life, performing normal manual tasks.

All the family and friends of the cure prayed for the intercession of Blessed María Antonia de San José, commonly called Mother Antula or Mama Antula. Seven people who were not friends or family also prayed for the health of the sick person, asking for the intercession of Blessed Mother Antula.​

The invocation and healing are part of a better-known framework, which is the fame of holiness and signs, which Blessed María Antonia de San José enjoyed. Already during her life, this fame accompanied the Servant of God, increasing, after the news of her death, in various regions and provinces of Argentina, Spain and France. A faithful disciple of Ignatian spirituality, she was trained in the school of Spiritual Exercises of the saint of Loyola. A defender and dissemination of the work of the Spiritual Exercises, she established a first House of Exercises in Argentina after the suppression of the Society of Jesus, which had the support of King Charles III of Spain.

The miracle presented for the healing of Mr. C. P. occurred in the Santa Fe hospital in Argentina. Comparing the scientific conclusions reached by the treating doctors and the Medical Consultation of September 14, 2023, regarding the healing of Mr. C.P., and the texts, all of which attest to the invocation of Blessed María Antonia de San José, the relationship between invocation and healing became clear and evident.

María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa

María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa was born in 1730 in Santiago del Estero, province of Tucumán, in Argentina. From a wealthy family, she received from her childhood a good and healthy religious and spiritual education, as well as cultural training, as can be deduced from her correspondence.

While still young, she soon came into contact with Ignatian spirituality. In 1745, she wore the habit of a Jesuit “blessed” by issuing private vows and, retired to the so-called “Beguinage”, she began to lead community life alongside other consecrated women. Under the direction of Jesuit Father Gaspar Juárez, she dedicated herself to the education of children, the care of the sick, and the relief of the poor.

In 1767, by order of Charles III, the Fathers of the Society of Jesus were expelled from the territories of the Spanish Crown, and María Antonia matured the intention of continuing the apostolate of the spiritual exercises, considered a precious asset for people of all ages. social levels. Her decision was not well received by the members of her Community, where there was a hostile climate towards the Society of Jesus, but María Antonia, now 37 years old, persevered in her intention to continue organizing Spiritual Exercises courses. . Between 1768 and 1770, participants lived the Time of Retreat for several days, receiving guidance and reflecting on their lives. For this project she had the full consent of her confessor and the Bishop of the city of Santiago del Estero, where she opened a house.

To do this, she traveled to various places: Santiago del Estero, Silípica, Loreto, Salavina, Soconcho, Atamasqui, etc. Later, she also went to other provinces such as Catamarca, La Rioja, Jujuy, Salta and Tucumán. The Bishop of Tucumán gave his consent to her initiative and allowed the dissemination of this new spiritual tax.

The method followed by Mama Antula was very simple. In fact, as soon as she arrived at a city or town indicated as a place for the Exercises, she immediately appeared before the various authorities to obtain the pertinent permits. The Exercise Courses lasted about 10 days and were held throughout the year. The participants were people from different social conditions. She returned to Buenos Aires in September 1779, after a journey of 1,400 km, presenting herself to the Viceroy and the Bishop, to obtain permission to organize the Exercise Courses. She waited about a year to get it, but she was denied it mainly by the Viceroy, who had an aversion to everything related to the Society of Jesus.

Only the following year, in 1780, did the retreats begin in Buenos Aires with incredible success. Observing the fruits that this spirituality produced among the faithful, the Bishop changed his mind and supported it. Groups of about 200 people were formed. In four years, more than 15,000 people participated in this spiritual journey.

Then, her desire to “go where God was not known” took her to Uruguay, Colonia and Montevideo, where she stayed three years. Returning to Buenos Aires, she began the construction of what is today one of the oldest buildings in Buenos Aires, the Holy House of Spiritual Exercises, on Independence Avenue number 1190. He made a pilgrimage from door to door in order to raise funds for the construction of the Exercise House. Her efforts were also known in France, and her epistolary was later translated into several languages.​

After such a virtuous, original and fruitful life in the apostolate of spiritual exercises and above all exemplary in virtue, she died on March 7, 1799, at the age of 69. She was buried in the Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy on Bartolomé Miter Street in Buenos Aires. On July 12, 1799, her body was transferred to the Basilica of Santo Domingo. At her death, it is estimated that between 70,000 and 80,000 people had benefited from the experience of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Her mortal remains rest today in the Church of Our Lady of Mercy in Buenos Aires. The Beatification Process began in 1905 and María Antonia was beatified on August 27, 2016.