“One can perfectly well philosophize while cooking supper.”
– Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
I was introduced to Sor Juana in several of my spanish literature classes in college. She is well known for her poetry, commitment to her education, and a certain letter written in defense of her right to be educated. In pursuit of eduction she decided to join an order of catholic nuns simply to continue her studies (her first plan was to dress as a man and go to school, but that was not allowed). In an attempt to curtail her explorations into science and to force her to focus only on her theological studies and her salvation, the bishop required that her books and scientific equipment be confiscated. In short she had many altercations with the priests, bishops and authority figures in her order, but managed to find her education in the middle of it all. We could fairly easily surmise her niche was education for herself and for women.
The most interesting discussion about Sor Juana was in my women’s studies class in Chile, since, instead of just focusing on her writing as we would in lit classes, we also discussed social and cultural facets of her life and struggle for education. My profesor argued that the only reason Sor Juana joined the convent was so that she could further her education and the church was actually a hindrance to her education instead of a help because of patriarchy.
I didn’t really buy into her reasoning at the time, but remembering her statement led me to question my decision to include Sor Juana Inès here. I wondered if her motives were wrong because she joined the convent for educational purposes only and not only to be holy? I kept trying to qualify what she had accomplished for God. I also wondered if she was even “saved” in the most evangelical sense of the word?
But then I realized, isn’t that the point? Who am I to qualify what counts or doesn’t when we’re talking about the kingdom and christianity. Did she have a saving knowledge of Christ? I don’t know. I do know she wrote a brilliant piece arguing for women’s education, introduced us to the idea of kitchen theologians, and argued that in order to have good theology we must also learn about how the universe works. We can’t have good theology without that knowledge and respect for his creation.
Can I embrace a God who is big enough to transcend our expectations of what salvation, good motivations, or worthwhile work for the kingdom of God might look like?
I’m not saying we should not be discerning, but what if we were meant to ask fewer questions and instead look for God at work a little more?
It’s a challenge.
But it invites more awe of God than it would if I knew all the answers.
I’ll leave you with a few lines of her poetry and my rough translation. (Those of you who have a more fluent/accurate translation feel free to contribute!)
“Suplico por amor a Dios y de su Purísima Madre,
a mis amadas hermanas religiosas que son
y en lo adelante fuesen, me encomienden a Dios,
que he sido y soy la peor que ha habido.
A todas pido perdón por amor a Dios y de su madre.
Yo la peor del mundo:
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz”
“I ask out of love for God and his holy mother,
To my beloved religious sisters as they are,
And in it gradually might, recommend me to .god,
That i have been and i am the worst that has been.
To all i ask pardon out of love for God and his mother.
I the worst of the world:
Sister Juana Ines of the Cross.”
Excerpt From: “Libertad interior. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz” by Marcela Magdaleno. On Scribd.
She sounds a bit like Paul to me :)
Would you consider sharing your thoughts on thr questions in bold above? Or any others? I’d love your input! Especially if you disagree.
Had you heard of Sor Juana before this?
More resources on Sor Juana:
I pulled information from these textbooks:
Voces de Hispanoamerica: Antologia literaria (Spanish Edition)
Aproximaciones al estudio de la literatura hispanica
And this book on scribd that I would honestly like to read in full sometime:
Libertad interior. by Marcela Magdaleno