Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Mystic of Tunja. the Writings of Madre Castillo, 1671-1742

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Mystic of Tunja. the Writings of Madre Castillo, 1671-1742

Article excerpt

The Mystic of Tunja. The Writings of Madre Castillo, 1671-1742. By Kathryn Joy McKnight. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 1997. Pp. xix, 282. $45.00.)

In The Mystic of Tunja Kathryn McKnight embarks on a thorough analysis of the writings of the only Latin American colonial woman except for Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz to be regularly anthologized, Francisca Josefa de la Concepcion6n or Madre Castillo (1671-1742). Born into a family of the local governing elite, Madre Castillo entered the Poor Clares in 1689 and held a variety of offices, including novice mistress and abbess (three terms). Family played a great role in the convent itself. Madre Castillo was descended from one of the founding nuns, and when she entered one of her aunts was already a nun in the convent. During her lifetime eight of her nieces and two of her sisters (as widows) entered the convent, and this in a period when the number of professed nuns averages about thirty. In spite of enforced enclosure she was able to exert influence beyond the convent, not only through her family but through more than ten confessors, and through her contacts with the convent's financial representatives. Inner-conventual squabbling features as part of the trials Madre Castillo undergoes, and a consistent refrain in her vida is her criticism of enemies and tormenters within the convent who are against her because of her attempts to institute a stricter order. Madre Castillo is not the engaging personality that was Teresa of Avila.

In addition to her spiritual autobiography she wrote two collections of spiritual writings, one entitled Sentimentos esptrituales, the other Affectos espirituales. Again in contrast to Teresa of Avila she is less interested in the inner path of mysticism than in the production of exterior signs of mysticism in both the body and text of the mystic. …

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