Archive for the ‘Juana Ines de la Cruz’ Tag

Feast of Juana Ines de la Cruz (November 12)   1 comment

Above:  Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz

Image in the Public Domain

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JUANA INÉS DE LA CRUZ (NOVEMBER 1648/1651-APRIL 17, 1694/1695)

Mexican Roman Catholic Nun, Composer, Writer, Philosopher, Feminist, and Alleged Heretic

Born Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramirez de Santillana

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Well-behaved women seldom make history.

–Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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You foolish men, accusing women for lacking reason when you yourselves are the reason for the lack.

–Juana Inés de la Cruz, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 493

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Juana Inés de la Cruz comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Ellsberg, All Saints (1997).

Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramirez de Santillana made history and was not by the standards of her time and place, well-behaved.  She was an intellectual, a scientist, a mathematician, a philosopher, a musical composer, a poet, and a playwright.  Our saint was also a theologian.  She was the first great Latin American poet, too.  Our saint challenged the patriarchy and earned her bona fides as a feminist.  She was ahead of her time.

Juana was a Criolla, a mixed-race person mostly of Spanish ancestry.  She entered the world at San Miguel, Nepantia, near Mexico City, on November 12, 1648 or 1651.  Our saint’s father was Captain Pedro Manuel de Asbaje, a Spaniard.  Her mother was Isabel Ramirez, a Criolla.  The couple was unmarried.  Juana and Isabel lied on Isabel’s father’s hacienda.  Juana’s grandfather had a profound influence on her.  Our saint grew up devout and bookish.  She had an insatiable appetite for knowledge at a very young age.  Given that Juana’s culture forbade the formal education of girls and women, her education was entirely informal.  It began with her grandfather’s library.

Juana was an intelligent and well-educated young woman.  She read and wrote Latin when three years old.  She wrote a poem about the Eucharist when eight years old.  Our saint, who taught Latin at the tender age of thirteen years, also mastered Nahuati, the language of the Aztecs.  The sixteen-year-old Juana became a lady-in-waiting in the court of the Viceroy of New Spain.  When she was seventeen years old, she matched wits and intellects with the leading minds, theologians, and poets in New Spain, and astounded them.  Yet Juana, as a female, could not matriculate at the local university.

Juana needed to study, write, and think.  The prospect of marriage and motherhood did not appeal to her.  Therefore, the 19-year-old became a nun.  She left the Convent of Saint Joseph, of the Discaled Carmelites, after a few months.  Yet our saint found that she could maintain her library, keep her scientific instruments, and write to her content at the Convent of Saint Jerome, Mexico City.  She did, and the Viceroy and his wife ensured the publication of he writings in Spain.

Juana was not shy about expressing herself.  She confronted the patriarchy that denied women and girls access to formal education.  Neither was she reluctant to challenge male authority figures and question their orthodoxy.  In 1690. our saint critiqued a 40-year-old sermon by a famous preacher.  He was an idiot, she was certain.  So, she composed a scathing, detailed critique, probably the first theological work by a woman in the New World.  The Bishop of Puebla replied by affirming Juana’s orthodoxy yet arguing that theology was not women’s work.

Toward the end of her life, Juana went quiet in the face of the threat of the Inquisition.  In 1693, she ceased writing, sold her 4000-volume library and her scientific instruments, and gave the proceeds to the poor.  On April 17, 1694 or 1695, Juana died of plague at the convent.  She had contracted the plague while tending to other nuns, afflicted with it.

To keep a portion of the population “in its place” is to harm society.  Keeping others in “in their place” holds them back.  It also holds back those who keep them “in their place.”  Therefore, enlightened self-interest (if not the Golden Rule–imagine that!) leads to lifting up everyone and granting equality of access to formal education, et cetera.  Mutuality leads to each person having the opportunity to become the person God wants him or her to be.  This may not be the person social norms dictate him or her to become.  So be it.

Discrimination is insidious.  It harms everybody–the intended targets, these who commit it and consent to it passively, and all other members of society.  Where discrimination exists, there are only victims, some of whom double as victimizers.  Whatever one does to another, one does to oneself.

Some accused Juana Inés de la Cruz of being uppity and presumptuous.  They were wrong.  She was bold.  She was of her time and ahead of it.  And she deserved encouragement, not intimidation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JAKOB BÖHME, GERMAN LUTHERAN MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA OF THE CROSS, FOUNDRESS OF THE CARMELITE SISTERS OF SAINT TERESA OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Juana Inés de la Cruz and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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