According to certain theories and testimonies, Sister Ana de los Ángeles is thought to have been born on July 26, 1604, although there is no way of knowing the exact date, given that her baptismal certificate was lost in a fire that broke out in the sacristy of the Great Church of Arequipa, the predecessor to the city’s first cathedral, in 1620.
Ana was the fourth of eight children born to Sebastián de Monteagudo and Francisca de León: Francisco, Mariana, Catalina, (Ana), Juana, Inés, Andrea, and Sebastián. We know that Francisco was a priest; Mariana married Gabriel López de Pastrana; Catalina married Gonzalo Tamayo; and Inés married Bernardino de Meneses. Nothing is known of the other siblings, who are presumed to have died from one of the plagues that ravaged the city in those days.
Sister Ana was handed over to the Catherinian nuns at the age of 3 for her education and instruction, which, at that time, primarily involved moral and religious formation. Her parents are thought to have taken her out of the convent at the age of 10 or 11 to give her in marriage, which would not have been unusual for the time; parents often arranged their daughters’ engagement before they had reached the age of 14, the minimum legal age at which they could be married.
While at her parents’ house, Sister Ana experienced a vision of Saint Catherine of Siena, in which the saint showed her the habit of the Dominican cloistered nuns. Sister Ana then decided to return to the convent, led by a little boy named Domingo, or Dominic.
Upon finding out about her decision, her parents tried to dissuade her, offering her jewels, but she remained steadfast. Her father finally accepted her decision and supported her, but her mother could not come to terms with it, and told her daughter never to come back home. The dowry Sister Ana was required to pay upon entering the convent was given to her by her brother Francisco. Her mother, despite being able to cover the amount, flatly refused to do so. Sister Ana made her profession of vows, taking the religious name "de los Ángeles" (“of the Angels”). From the very beginning, she practiced what she had professed, always aspiring to perfection.
On one occasion, she was elected Mother Superior of the Convent for a term of three years, a very important position that she attempted to refuse, saying that she was unqualified for the job. Some of the nuns supported her and promised to help her, while others were against her, asking how someone who could neither read nor write could possibly be mother superior. The position caused her many problems with certain nuns, who attempted to poison her on up to three occasions. They were unhappy with the austerity measures imposed by Sister Ana during her time as mother superior, as well as her demands that the nuns wear their habits without any gold adornments.
MIRACLES AND PREDICTIONS
Sister Ana de los Ángeles de Monteagudo’s close ties to souls in Purgatory played a decisive role in her predictions, which generally had to do with death. On several occasions, she predicted the illness of those close to her; for some, she foresaw a recovery, while for others, she predicted their inevitable passing. These omens were often received with repudiation, mistrust, and incredulity by those who were, in one way or another, affected. Aside from her predictions, Sister Ana de los Ángeles also had a hand in a series of extraordinary events during her lifetime. Those who knew her personally counted a total of sixty-eight predictions—all of which came true—made by the venerable nun.
The venerable Catherinian nun spent her final years in the shadows of blindness. She experienced great difficulty in walking, but she never complained or felt her fate to be unlucky. Despite the fact that there was no remedy able to sooth her terrible aches and pains, she humbly accepted everything that the Lord had in store for her, acting as a model of unfailing dedication and complete trust in God.
Before Sister Ana was buried, a painter captured her features in a portrait, which is the sole and true visual testimony of her face that has remained for posterity’s sake, since she avoided such earthly pomp in life. The painter came to the convent in spite of the severe pain he had been suffering in recent days. He had even experienced bloating throughout his body. After he finished painting his portrait of the venerable nun on a small canvas, he started to leave. Before he had even made it to the door, he was completely and immediately cured of the illness that had affected him.
Sister Ana de los Ángeles died on January 10, 1686. After Sister Ana’s death, it was not necessary to embalm her body, given the pleasant odor that it gave off. She was buried in the earthen floor of the convent’s church choir. Ten months later, Sister Ana’s body was exhumed and found to be fresh, with flexible muscles and joints, and free of foul odors. She even gave off a singular scent that kept the onlookers glued to their places.
After her death, the miracles continued. There were numerous cases in which persons suffering from an illness commended themselves to Sister Ana or touched an article of clothing that had belonged to her, causing their ailments to disappear. These events led the Catherinian nuns to collect testimonies and file a petition on July 19, 1686, six years after Sister Ana’s death, requesting that the venerable nun become the first saint from Arequipa, although this process remains incomplete to this day.