Juana de la Cruz Vázquez Gutiérrez

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Venerable Juana de la Cruz Vázquez Gutiérrez
Santa juana-500x602.jpg
Anonymous Spanish artist (16th–17th century)

May 3, 1481

Numancia de la Sagra (Toledo)

May 3, 1534 (age 63)

Cubas de la Sagra (Madrid)
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church; canonization process began in 1619. She was proclaimed venerable on May 4, 1630. Her process was reinstated in 1980
Major shrine Santa María de la Cruz (Cuba de la Sagra)
Feast May 3
Attributes brown habit of the Third Order Regular Sisters, at prayer with a cross and her guardian angel

Sor Juana de la Cruz Vázquez Gutiérrez (1481–1534), also known as "la santa Juana" is a Spanish Franciscan sister of the early sixteenth century.[1] She was a pastor, a preacher, stigmatic and a mystic. Living at the start of Spanish mysticism's golden era, she is counted among Santa Teresa de Ávila's spiritual mothers.

Early life[edit]

She was the daughter of Juan Vázquez and Catalina Gutiérrez, who were Christian farmers near Toledo, Spain. She was born on the 3rd of May, 1481 in Numanzía (Toledo). In 1488 her mother died and Juana decided to join the convent of Santa María de la Cruz when she grew up, in order to fulfill a promise her mother had made while pregnant with Juana.

In 1496 she went to live with an aunt and uncle in Illescas. Her beauty and virtue were such that she caught the eye of a noble knight, don Francisco de Laorte. Juana's father betrothed her to him. Pressured by her family to marry, she dressed like a man and ran away from home. She was received by the sisters at Beaterio de Santa María de la Cruz de la Sagra. She eventually convinced her family to let her stay in the Beaterio (beguinage). In 1497 she made her religious profession, taking the name Juana de la Cruz. She lived as a Franciscan sister for 38 years, during which time she helped to spread the prayer of the Rosary and devotion to the Guardian Angel.

Franciscan life[edit]

In 1506, she lost the ability to speak for six months. Her biographers claim it was a time of purification that developed her gift of preaching. She grew in popularity due to her preaching. She received the gift of preaching in 1508 after several years in the convent. Her preaching was such that the Franciscan preacher, Fray Francisco de Torres, claimed that she "...taught, moved and delighted (the listener) more than any of the most eloquent orators, (she preached) in a humble and plain style as is the custom of the Holy Spirit."[2] She was elected Abbess in 1509 and made Pastor of the local parish of St. Andrés in Cubas (Madrid) by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros in 1510. The priest who had been pastor was made chaplain of the convent. Because several priests complained of her becoming pastor, Juana asked for and received approval for her position as rector/pastor from Pope Julius II.[3]

As Abbess and Pastor she mentored and spiritually directed Cardinal Cisneros, Emperor Carlos V, Juan I of Austria, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba well as many nobles, clerics, religious and lay people. Together with the Cardinal Sor Juana reformed her Beaterio, turning it into a Franciscan Convent of Third Order Regular Sisters dedicated to the education of young women. She and her sisters were able to extend the community with new foundations in Illescas, Fuensalida (1533) and San Martin de Valdeiglesias (1545).

When Cardinal Cisneros died in 1517, Juana became the victim of the secular clergy who tried to have her removed as pastor and rector. Because of this, Juana asked for and received papal approval for her position as rector/pastor. Her troubles, however continued when Sor Eufrasia, her community's sister vicar, desirous of taking over as Abbess, defamed Juana to the convent sisters. These false accusations reached the ears of the Franciscan provincial minister who deposed her as Abbess. She obeyed and exhorted the sisters to accept his decision.

The sister vicar did not last long as Abbess. She fell gravely ill and admitted her sin of envying and defaming sor Juana. In 1523, Juana was renamed Abbess. In 1524, an illness left her paralyzed, but she continued preaching. Slowly, she who had called herself “God’s trumpet” became “God’s guitar.”

Seventy two of her sermons were collected in 1509 in the manuscript called The conhorte, which includes visions of heavenly life. Her sermons influenced Poor Clares including Jerónima de la Asunción (foundress of the first Catholic monastery in the Philippines), Luisa de la Ascensión de Carrión (mystical poet) and Maria de Jesús de Ágreda (the Blue Nun of the Jumanos). The power of her sermons, led Venerable Fray Francisco de Torres to become her great admirer and supporter. He eventually added the glosa to her sermons.[4]

She died on 3 May 1534 at 53. Although she has not been canonized, popular piety refers to her as Santa Juana.

Process of canonization[edit]

Soon after her death she was proclaimed a Saint by the popular acclaim of the townspeople who named her la Santa Juana. Her remains were visited by kings, cardinals and the nobility.

In 1615-1617, the archbishop of Toledo proclaimed her holy and allowed the development of a public cult in her honor, which spread quickly throughout Spain and Latin America. However, the Council of Trent reiterated that to recognize the sanctity of a person, they had to be dead for at least one hundred years. In 1619 Juana’s cause for canonization was officially approved and her process of canonization began. On 4 May 1630 she was declared venerable, and the tribunal reported favorably on her virtue and miracles. Unfortunately the documentation was lost and her process halted. Her canonization process was restarted three times in 1664-1679 and 1702-1731 and again in 1980.

Mystical experience[edit]

Juana’s mystical life began at a very early age and was nurtured by traditional Christian practice. She had her first mystical experience at age four. She fell off a horse and was laying on the ground as if dead when the Virgin Mary and her Guardian Angel appeared to Juana and healed her. She gave herself to the popular devotion of the Cross, the Rosary, the Virgin Mary and Guardian Angels. She eventually developed a sacramental devotion to Penance and the Eucharist.[5]

During her adolescence she practiced mortification of the flesh, fasting and prayer vigils.

At age fifteen, guided by her Guardian Angel, she dressed as a man and ran away from home to join a Franciscan beaterio where she was welcomed by an image of the Virgin Mary that spoke to her as she waited to speak with the mother superior.

At age 25 she became mute for six months from the feast of St. Scholastica to the feast of St. Clare. During this time she began to experience moments of ecstasy and rapture that led to her become a preacher. According to her biographer Sor María Evangelista, Sor Juana told her that “when the Lord made her mute, he first spoke to her in spirit and told her: ‘Keep my secret and do not speak, because I will speak instead’. With this, His Majesty made her understand that he himself, because of her humility, with love for that he has of souls, wanted to speak to them and reveal secrets and great wonders (to them)…” (Vita y fin… c. VI, 1-3).[6]

Her silent ecstasies lasted from 1506-1508, after which she began to have auditory ecstasies and visions. During an ecstasy in 1507, she experienced her betrothal to Jesus with the Virgin Mary acting as Matron of honor (madrina) and giving her Son the ring for his bride. During another ecstasy in 1508 she received the stigmata which stayed with her from Good Friday to the Solemnity of the Ascension.

Her ecstasies and visions became the source of not only her preaching but her working of miracles and cures with the sign of the cross. Besides preaching and miracles, she also spoke in tongues, specifically Basque and Arabic.

Works about her[edit]

Sor María Evangelista, a companion of Sor Juana at the Convent of Santa María de la Cruz de la Sagra, began to transcribe her sermons in 1509 at the command of Cardinal Cisneros. At the same time she began to write Sor Juana's life story in a book that would eventually be called Comienza la Vida y Fin de la bienaventurada virgen Sancta Juana de la Cruz. The 137 page manuscript of this sixteenth century text is kept in the Real Biblioteca Escorial (Sign K-III-13).

Sor María Evangelista collected 72 of Sor Juana's sermons into a manuscript called El Conhorte (Mss.454) which can be translated as "The Exhortation" or "The Consolation". It too is kept in the Real Biblioteca Escorial (Sign J-II-18).

Franciscan preacher and scholar Venerable Francisco de Torres added glosa (sidenotes) to El Conhorte from 1567-1568. His glosa is interesting in his apologetic defense of Juana's authority and teaching, in his using her sermons as a polemical tool against the social abuses of his day and how he reveals the story of his own life in the glosa.

According to Innocente Gárcia Andrés[7] Francisco's glosa highlight several things about Sor Juana.

  • She was a simple, ignorant (idiota) woman who was "most wise", "educated by God" and "ingenious and most spiritual author" (17,6; 24,9; 12,3, etc.).
  • She was an orthodox and most catholic prophet. As a prophet she proclaimed conformity to the Gospel and preached against heretical movements and persons. Fray Francisco called her "a most wise sink hammer against heretics" (8.2).
  • She was an efficient, simple and heartfelt preacher. He especially saw her as a Franciscan preacher who conforms to the teachings of St. Francis and spiritual Franciscans (28,3).
  • She was a "vernacular" theologian, "the simple and ignorant daughter of the simple and ignorant Francis"(14,14). He especially valued her message of love as the experience and knowledge of God that implies love of neighbor.
  • She was a teacher of life and doctrine. Francisco declared her to be his teacher and he marvels at how the Holy Spirit speaks to the reader through her (24,7).

The first official chronicler of the Franciscans in Spain, Fray Antonio Daça wrote the earliest printed Life of Santa Juana de la Cruz in 1610. It was reprinted some 30 times in Madrid, Saragossa, Valladoilid, Treviri, Pavía, lérida, Paris, Florence, Modena, Leon, Naples, and Monaco. Its final reprint was in Venice in 1646. Fray Antonio is also known for having published Cuarta parte de las crónicas de la orden de San Francisco (The Fourth part of the Chronicles of the Order of St. Francis); Historia de las llagas de San Francisco (Story of the Stigmats of St. Francis).[8]

Other early works on the life of Juana de la Cruz include

  • Fray Juan Carillo, Vida y milagros de la Venerable virgen Sor Juana de la Cruz, Saragossa 1623, Mexico 1684.
  • Fray Pedro Navarro, Favores del Rey del cielo, hechos a su esposa la santa Juana de la Cruz, Madrid 1622, 1699.
  • Fray Juan g. de San Diego Villalón, Epitome de la vida de Sor Juana de la Cruz, Saragossa 1663.

La Santa Juana de la Cruz remained forgotten in the literary world from 1663 to 1986 when the journal Nueva Revista de Filogia Hispana (vol.33) published an article about her entitled "La M. Juana de la Cruz y la cuestión de la autoridad religiosa femenina" (483-490).

Contemporary bibliography[edit]

  • The Guitar of God: Gender, Power, and Authority in the Visionary World of Mother Juana de La Cruz (1481-1534). University of Pennsylvania Press. 1990. ISBN 978-0-8122-8225-2.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  • María Victoria Triviño, OSC., "La Santa Juana grande y legitima Maestra Franciscana", in Las Clarisas en España y Portugal. Congreso Internacional de Santa Clara, Salamanca 1993.
  • Ángela Muñoz, "Sor Juana de la Cruz. Imágenes de divinidad para las mujeres" in Acciones e intenciones de mujeres, en la vida religiosa de los siglos XV y XVI, Madrid 1995, 179-191.
  • Innocente G. de Andrés, El Conhorte. Sermones de una muijer. La Santa Juana (1481-1534) I y II, Madrid, F.U.E. 1999.
  • María Isabel Barbeito, "Y contó maravillas", in Giornate di Studio, Cubas de la Sagra, Maggio 1999, 67-79.
  • María Victoria Triviño, OSC.,"Fiestas del cielo, juegos y danzas en la predicación de Juana de la Cruz", in Giornate di Studio, Cubas de la Sagra, Maggio 1999, 89-109.
  • María Victoria Triviño, OSC., "Santa María Sacerdote Grande. Sermón 5: De la Purificación de Nuestra Señora" in Giornate di Studio, Cubas de la Sagra, Maggio 1999, 39-69.
  • María Victoria Triviño, OSC., Mujer, predicatora y párroco. La santa Juana (1481-1534), Madrid, BAC (Biografias) 1999,
  • María Victoria Triviño, OSC., "El arte al servicio de la predicación, La Santa Juana (1481-1534) Franciscana de la TOR" in La clausura feminina en España: Atti del Simposio I, El Escorial, Instituto Escurialense de Investigaciones Históricas y 2004,
  • Jesús Gomez Lopez. "Juana de la Cruz (1481-1534). La Santa Juana. Vida, obra, santidad y causa" in La clausura feminina en España: Atti del Simposio I, El Escorial, Instituto Escurialense de Investigaciones Históricas y 2004, 1223-1250.
  • María del mar Graña Cid, "la feminidad de Jesucristo y sus implicaciones eclesiales en la predicación mistica de Juana de la Cruz (Sobre la Prereforma y la Querella de las Mujeres in Castilla)" in Estudios Eclesiásticos, 84 (2009) 477-513.
  • Triviño, "Sor Juana de la Cruz. La Santa Juana (1481-1534)", in Misitici Francescani: Secolo XVI IV edited by Gianluigi Pasquale, Milano, Editrici Francescane 2010, 2223-2233.
  • Jessica A. Boon, "Mother Juana de la Cruz: Marian Visions and Female Preaching", in

A New Companion to Hispanic Mysticism edited by Hilaire Kallendorf and Colin Thompson Boston, Brill 2010, 127-148.

See also[edit]

Juana de la Cruz Vazquez

Juana Vázquez Gutiérrez


  1. ^ Triviño, María Victoria (2010). Pasquale, Gianluigi, ed. Misitici Francescani: Secolo XVI (Book) (Milano (Italy): Editrici Francescane) IV: 2223–2233. This article was originally based on Triviño's work. 
  2. ^ Barbeito Carneiro, 203-225., María Isabel (2000). "Maestras Iletradas: Juana de la Cruz Vásquez. "La Santa Juana" (Siglos XV~XVI)". Via spiritus 7: 212. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Barbeito Carneiro, María Isabel (2000). "Maestras Iletradas". Via spiritus 7: 213. 
  4. ^ Barbeito Carneiro, María Isabel (2000). "Maestras Iletradas". Via spiritus 7: 214. 
  5. ^ Gomez Lopez, Jesús (2004). La clausura feminina en España: Atti del Simposio I. El Escorial: Instituto Escurialense de Investigaciones Históricas y Artisticas. pp. 1233–1234. 
  6. ^ Triviño. Sor Juana de la Cruz. Misitici Francescani. p. 2227. 
  7. ^ García Andrés, Inocente (1999). El Conhorte: Sermones de una mujer. La Santa Juana (1481-1534) (Madrid: Fundación Universitaria Española) I. This section is a summary of pages 100-111. 
  8. ^ Enciclonet. "Daza, Fray Antonio (s. XVII).". MCN Biografias.com. Retrieved 17 February 2013. Fray Antonio was one of the first historians to write about the Franciscans in Mexico.