Between Exaltation and Infamy: Female Mystics in the Golden by Stephen Haliczer

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By Stephen Haliczer

Sooner or later in 1599, within the Spanish village of Saria, seven-year-old Maria Angela Astorch fell ailing and died after gorging herself on unripened almonds. Maria's sister Isabel, a nun, got here to view the physique together with her mom more suitable, an ecstatic mystic and visionary named Maria Angela Serafina. triumph over by means of the sight of the lifeless girl's blameless face, Serafina started to pray fervently for the go back of the kid's soul to her physique. getting into a trance, she had a imaginative and prescient within which the Virgin Mary gave her an indication. right away little Maria Angela began to exhibit indicators of lifestyles. A second later she scrambled to the floor and was once quickly restored to ideal health and wellbeing. throughout the Counter-Reformation, the Church was once faced by means of a unprecedented upsurge of female non secular enthusiasm like that of Serafina. encouraged by means of new translations of the lives of the saints, religious ladies in all places Catholic Europe sought to mimic those ''athletes of Christ'' via extremes of self-abnegation, actual mortification, and devotion. As within the heart a long time, such women's piety frequently took the shape of ecstatic visions, revelations, voices and stigmata. Stephen Haliczer deals a finished portrait of women's mysticism in Golden Age Spain, the place this enthusiasm was once approximately a mass flow. The Church's reaction, he exhibits, was once welcoming yet cautious, and the Inquisition took at the job of winnowing out frauds and imposters. Haliczer attracts on fifteen instances introduced via the Inquisition opposed to girls accused of ''feigned sanctity,'' and on greater than dozen biographies and autobiographies. the foremost to popularity, he reveals, lay within the orthodoxy of the woman's visions and revelations. He concludes that mysticism provided ladies the way to go beyond, although to not disrupt, the regulate of the male-dominated Church.

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6 Elimination of vernacular Bibles left a gap that the authors of the Flos Sanctorum hastened to fill by including a variety of biblical stories in their works, thus guaranteeing them a wider audience. Alonso de Villegas incorporated such biblical items as the life and passion of Christ, the life of the Virgin Mary, and the story of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. Villegas also included a grab bag of material calculated to appeal to the interest or prejudices of his readers, including homilies on chastity and in favor of marriage as a remedy against carnal temptation.

Paul, the Gospel of St. 50 Within the convents, diffusion of the lives of the saints was made easy by high rates of literacy in Spanish. In some instances there is evidence that reading books written by or about saints was incorporated into convent routines. In Zaragoza’s aristocratic Convent of Santa Catalina, which had been founded by an aunt of King James the Conqueror, it was customary to choose one of the nuns to read a spiritual book or hagiography while the others sewed or performed other labor.

It was widely believed that reading the lives of the saints would inspire the individual to emulation. ”4 The extraordinary popularity of the Flos Sanctorum is indicated by the fact that they went through a large number of editions and appear in numerous private libraries in spite of the fact that they were very expensive. 5 Ribadeneyra’s three-volume opus appeared in 1599 and received eighteen editions up to 1761, including two in French. Unlike Villegas, who composed all six volumes of his Flos Sanctorum during a lifetime of unremitting labor, Ribadeneyra’s work gradually became transformed into a collective effort representing the best available Jesuit scholarship as 30 BETWEEN EXALTATION AND INFAMY other members of the order were invited to add to it in later editions.

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