Tuesday, January 28, 2003

The Only Female Jesuit

From the Jesuit magazine Company

Then came Juana. She wanted, and got, for herself not a separate branch of the Society but membership in the Society itself.

So perilous was the project that all existing Jesuit correspondence about the situation avoids her name, using the pseudonym Mateo Sanchez, or Montoya, instead. In a quandary, Ignatius appointed a committee to advise him. It recommended that Juana enter the Society as a permanent scholastic; truly a Jesuit but forever in formation. Otherwise, with solemn vows, she would have been—according to canon and civil law—legally dead, dispossessed of everything, and incapable of ever marrying again.

With the novel, simple, and terminable vows of a Jesuit scholastic, she could have separated from the Society if necessary. When Juana pronounced her three religious vows as a Jesuit, absolute secrecy was enjoined on everyone.

She could make no obvious change in her manner of life. So, for her, poverty meant leading a rather austere life at her already simple court. Chastity meant never marrying again. Obedience—well, her letters show her sometimes trying to give orders to Ignatius and Borgia.