Carmen Alto Church and  Convent with Arco de La Reina          - St. Mariana's Home

Carmen Alto (Discalced Carmelites) de San Jose, Church and Convent of St. Joseph, on the corner of Rocafuerte and Garcia Moreno Streets, beats all on my list. This Quito monastery entered the scene in 1653.  I'm only disappointed that a museum now represents Santa Marianita's home so irreverently.

Santa Teresa de Jesus, or St. Teresa of Avila, as most people recognize her, reformed Carmel to the ancient rule together with St. John of the Cross in obedience to the Pope. Both became doctors of the Church. Her convent also carried the name of St. Joseph. Pope Gregory XV canonized her.

Under the main altar, lies the incorruptible, mummified body of a baby saint snatched from his mother's arms and killed many years ago.

The nuns removed the body from the public eyes to keep shutterbugs at bay.

Total Trust

These Carmelite nuns live a life of self-denial and poverty by a very strict schedule with total trust in God.  Their rule was relaxed after Vatican II.

They partially support themselves by selling their (singing nun) CD's, statues, cookies, wine and other things that they make, from their little store in the same building all the way around the back. A volunteer runs the store. Sometimes a relative of one of the nuns volunteers.

The new museum status helps financially, but the deep reverence disappeared.

The need of this church and convent for repair always gnaws at their extremely generous hearts, and medical bills mount high, but their endless joy carries them through...along with donations - always needed - always appreciated.

The skyrocketing price of flour - for the cookies they must bake to sell in their little store - requires money not readily available.

Santa Mariana de Jesus

Saint Mariana de Jesus Azucena (lily) de Quito lived and died in this, her home, before willing it to the Discalced Carmelites... to be donated by the widower of her niece, Juan de Salazar.

Saint Mariana, a Third Order Franciscan, became the lily of Quito because, according to records - after she died, lilies grew from the cross on which she crucified herself with the help of her maid. This total giving of self occurred every Friday for three hours from noon until 3:00PM... the time recorded in scripture as the time Christ was crucified.

The Church teaching prevails that if penance of this caliber or any penance does not lead to intense love of God and others, it must be discontinued. Very few people can do so. Most of us would become focused on ourselves and our pain, making us bitter.

Other stories concerning her title abound, but they cannot be verified. Except that wherever her blood spilled, lillies grew.

She transformed her room, later and until Vatican II the choir loft of the church, into her calvary.  Now it's just part of the museum.

She offered her austere penances for Ecuador at a time of great turbulence in the country. She stepped up to the plate to become a victim soul to take the place of a priest who had offered himself, so that he could continue to serve the people in their need for a priest.

These penances led her to intense love of God and others. This, her home, a very holy place, never lacks for vocations.

July 15 Feast of Carmel

The feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel gives cause for celebration and a procession from El Panecillo in July. The cloistered nuns themselves do not participate, as their Rule of Life prohibits them. These actors were asked to represent them.

Arco de La Reina

Arco de La Reina (Arc of the Queen) - usually associated with royalty of the world by tour guides - was built to protect the faithful from Quito's downpours.

The sick, the lame, and those bringing them would crowd outside the Reina de Los Angeles church at the door, long since replaced by a window.

Arco de la Reina - maybe - included royalty later, but the purpose for building the arc to serve as an umbrella for those waiting for miraculous healings seems elusive to some guides.

Downpours didn't stop them. Many are the claims that these healings happened. It didn't matter how long the wait, the church would fill to capacity and spill out into the street.

To many, this kind of faith boggles their mind, and so they choose denial. Yet, it doesn't take much to kindle the faith of the older Quitenos and many of the younger ones. This is the beauty of Quito - the mystery of faith... deep abiding faith.

The old church by force became a part of the Museo de La Ciudad. La Reina refers to Mary, Queen of the Angels. The painting of the Virgin remains visible through the glass from the outside.

Do You Believe In Miracles?

I don't know about you, but I strongly believe in miracles. I was born with an allergy to cold. I would break out in a rash and itch terribly at the first sign of cold...a lifetime allergy.

Then, one December day, I waited in line outside a local church when the relics of St. Therese, the Little Flower, came to our go inside and just touch the mini bier. The line hardly moved in all afternoon. I waited from 1:00PM until after sundown, after fasting, and the line barely crept about a block and a half.

Finally, I asked someone to save my place in line when we neared the back door of the church. I asked to be allowed in because of my allergy, although in the cold December evening, I still didn't show any sign of a rash, so nobody believed me.

Laughed to scorn, I stood shivering, rejected posada (entrance) outside. I then looked up to the heavens and said (prayed), "OK, St. Therese, if you want me to get that close to you, you're going to have to do something else. I'll be breaking out in hives any minute now if I stay here." Then I left.

I never broke out in hives in cold weather ever again, and I got invited by the nuns to spend the night at this convent that housed the visiting relics of St. Therese for a few days in Quito in 2008! Awesome!

Was that a miracle? I believe so.

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