Bartolome De Las Casas and Saint Rose of Lima doing theology in Latin America

Download 55.88 Kb.
Size55.88 Kb.
Bartolome De Las Casas and Saint Rose of Lima doing theology in Latin America

Talk 2 of 2

Gabriela Zengarini, OP (Argentina) Lima, Peru

February, 2007 Assembly of CODALC

(Confederation of Dominicans in Latin America and the Caribbean)


“The present acquires density when it is nourished with the memory of an itinerary, when one has the courage to identify the unresolved problems, the unhealed wounds that—for that very reason—voraciously consume many present efforts.”[1]

We want to continue discerning the present moment of our preaching in the midst of the peoples of Latin American, beginning with the memory of the testimony and the thought of Fray Bartolome and of Rose of Holy Mary.  Both Dominicans, they lived close to some of the historical events that caused the still “unhealed wounds” of many of our peoples and of some of some of us personally.  Wounds and problems that challenge our presences and the ministry of preaching.  In different ways, they denounced and questioned the colonial system and the way of evangelizing, but they also demonstrated alternative ways of doing theology, a committed and mystical theology.  Perhaps taking time with their words and gestures, their dreams and theology may help us to renew our alliance with these peoples and with the God present in their midst.

1. Bartolome de las Casas: missionary and therefore theologian

We all know the fascinating life of Bartolome de las Casas, his unconditional love for the indigenous peoples of America and his dedication so that “death not be so much a mistress”[2] in these lands.

The disciples of Jesus become missionaries from a foundational experience, the encounter with Jesus (Jn 1, 35ff; Jn 4; Jn 20, 11-18).  After this initial experience they cannot keep quiet about what they have seen and heard.  This experience is reflected upon by the community and is expressed in the theology of the gospels.  Within this same Christian dynamic I would like to take time with some events which marked the life of Bartolome and whose fruit was the first missiology treatise in Latin America; De Unico Modo.[3]  I feel that in this text we can drink of a profound Dominican mysticism and that the text is interwoven with a theology of mission that challenges us.

We all know how and why Bartholomew de Las Casas comes to America, his ordination, and his first practice as a priest-and owner of an “encomienda,” and the influence of the Dominicans in his conversion, but I would like to take time on some events which had more to do with the work De Unico and therefore with his theology and spirituality.

         Las Casas, now prior in Puerto de Plata, where he went in 1527, sees the pathetic remains of the Lucayos and narrates their extermination; from here he sends letters to the Council.  He is prohibited from preaching, and in two years he does not return to the pulpit.[4]

         Together with a friar companion he secretly visits Enriquillo in the mountains of Bahoruco, where this rebel chief had defeated and disarmed Spanish expeditions during a decade and a half.  He spends a month with this indigenous community and then, in a second visit, he takes the chief to Santo Domingo and a triumphant reception in the capital.  It was seen, then, that this was the only way: friars alone without soldiers, preaching and good example instead of conquest.[5]

         Cardinal Loaysa, president of the Council of the Indies, based on the defamatory reports of Betanzos (according to whom the Indians were “beasts” and all the laws for their protection were useless), revoked a law promulgated during his absence—the ordinance of 1530—that prohibited the enslavement of the Indians.  And he issued a general order, authorizing new slaving expeditions.[6]

         In 1533-1534, with De unico, Las Casas answers the defamation of Betanzoas and the revocation of the anti-slaving law; before leaving Hispaniola in 1534 he wrote the first version of De unico, which served as the basis for the next missionary phase.[7]

         Las Casas enters in contact with the strong Indian-favoring current in the capital of Mexico, headed by the Bishop Zumárraga.  Also, by this date, June 1535, Quiroga finished his treatise against slavery (Información en derecho), during the visit of Fray Bartolome.[8]

         Las Casas puts into the hands of Fray Bernardino Minaya his treatise De unico which will be the supporting treatise for the third section of the minutes of the Mexican conferences of 1536, which treats of the true missionary method and the rights of the Indians.  This principal document of 1536, prepared by Fray Bartholomew de las Casas, is signed by all the Bishops and leads to the great encyclical Sublimis Deus, that Fray Bernardino Minaya obtained in Rome in 1537.[9]

         Minaya carries to Rome the acts of the Mexican conferences of 1536 convoked by order of the king and the council;—the resolution on baptism, provoked by the controversy among the missionaries (with the treatises of Quiroga and Oseguera),-the resolution or Acta condemning the slavery of the indigenous (with another work of Quiroga) and –the mentioned principal document of the meetings of 1536 with the treatise “De unico.”

         After having had a study made of the material brought by Fray Bernardino Minayo, the Pope gives him three historical decrees:

1.      a brief, or short letter, directed to Cardinal Juan Tavera, archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain, Pastorale officium (May 29, 1537)

2.      a general bull or formal order directed to “all the bishops of the Western and Southern Indies” entitled Altitudo divino consilii (June 1, 1537)

3.      a bull directed to all the Christians who “may see this letter,” the Sublimis Deus (June 2 1537) (see whether it is a bull or an encyclical)

These three apostolic letters not only proclaim the universal rights and the rationality and liberty of the Indians, but they also order the missionaries to respect these principles which should be complied with against the Spaniards with the severest sanctions.[10]

Bartolome learn about the reality of the indigenous in America from a distance; he trod its earth, he saw and felt in his body the injustice and oppression.  With the Gospel as his starting point he denounces what he has seen and heard and this condemnation has its bitter consequences.  Nonetheless, strengthened by the Spirit, he keeps deepening his relationship with the indigenous communities, he forms networks with other brothers who join in the same cause and from these experiences he achieves a new reading of the theological sources in order to propose a new missionary project. Do we not feel that “our hearts are burning” when we hear this narrative?  Do we not believe that our brother continues to show us a way of being Dominican men and women today in Latin America?

Now I want to present just a few texts of De Unico that I propose we “ruminate” on in our hearts for I believe that they question our relationships and dynamics but at the same time they urge us to new practices.

The first objective of this word is to prove that “The norm established by Divine Providence to teach men true religion is one, unique and the same for the whole world and for all times; that is, persuading the understanding with reasons and gently attracting and exhorting the will.  And it should be common to all men in the world, without any discrimination of sects, errors or depraved customs.”[11]  And the second objective is that: “The contrary mode of preaching the Gospel, that is, to first subject the infidels to the dominion of the Christian people and, once subjected, preach to them the faith in an ordered manner, is condemned.”[12]

I will consider only some texts from the first part, because I believe it is here where Bartholomew best works the mystique of the new relationships so necessary in our day.

Las Casas reminds us that God acts in the midst of humanity and therefore he invites us to act with others: “The Divine wisdom, in a delicate form, sweet and soft, provides for and moves all created beings, so that they carry out their acts and tend to their natural ends.”[13]  Citing San Augustine, Las Casas says: “There are many who think and do not believe; but everyone who believes, thinks…”[14] “Consequently the understanding of the one who has to be instructed in Christian faith and religion must be convinced by reasons; so that by reflection and investigation it may seem good and useful to adhere and assent to a concrete part.”[15]  It is precisely here, when the understanding reasons and understands voluntarily that Las Casas places the root of liberty.[16]  “So that reason may investigate, doubt and discourse with liberty, and the understanding may freely judge and know any truth whatsoever, and one may firmly adhere to it by command of the will and, consequently, reason itself and understanding enjoy liberty, …that the will in its acts may absolutely lack any violence :then time, tranquility and serenity are absolutely necessary.  What is related to Christian faith and religion does not belong to that which is known in a natural way, but to that which is believed in a voluntary way, since its truth is not immediately evident to the understanding in a natural way, for it transcends every natural faculty.”[17]

So that men may freely assent to the truths of faith it is necessary that they “perceive them as suitable and worthy of desire, searching and love.”[18]  And this requires a method appropriate to human nature, which allows thinking about “whether it’s necessary to believe and accept by consenting, or refute by discrepancy what is proposed to us, and we may later consider whether it is suitable and worthy of being believed.”[19]

On the other hand if “they are proposed hurriedly and with haste, with sudden din or perhaps with the clash of terror-inspiring arms, with threats and lashes…, it is evident that the human mind is dismayed with terrors…, and the understanding does not learn, nor can it see as something lovable or delightful what has been grasped.”[20]

This argument is illustrated by Las Casas with a story that he got from the Pseudo-Clementine epistles, the Epistola Clementis ad Iacobum de gestis Petri[21].  According to the story, the apostle Peter speaks to Clemente himself and to his two brothers Nicetas and Aquila, who ardently desired the conversion of their father in the following words: “I know the great love you have for your father; but I fear that if, before time, you pressure him to accept the yoke of religion without being prepared, perhaps he will accede for your sake.  But that is not consistent…My opinion is that you allow him to live a year as he pleases, during which, traveling with us, while we indoctrinate others, he may limit himself to listening.  Learning in this way, if he truly has the healthy intention of recognizing the truth, he will ask to accept the yoke of religion; and, in case he is not pleased by such a commitment, he will remain a friend.”[22]

Las Casas again notes here that the way of conducting men to science as well as to religion is in conformity with nature, that is from the imperfect to the perfect, gradually and slowly, because of their tendency to a determined end, because they are born to act thus, and on the contrary “nature abhors everything violent and sudden.”[23]  And in this way of acting he will have to keep in mind that “men have the desire to hear speak of the things that are familiar to them…but when unaccustomed, they do not seem equally true to us.”[24]

The way to the encounter between different people that Fray Bartholomew proposes begins with confidence, respect and appreciation of the other.  Precisely for this reason he counts on the liberty of each person who can assent or disagree and whatever the decision may be he will continue to be a friend.  To think that this was written in the midst of the XVI century astounds us today, when many types of fundamentalisms generate violence and wars.


2. Saint Rose of Lima[25]: mystic and prophet

As we all know Isabel Flores de Oliva (Rosa de Santa María as she was later called) is born in Lima in the month of April 1586 and dies in August 1617.  At the beginning of the seventeenth century the City of Kings, as Lima had been baptized, was consolidated as a metropolis, the center of political and economic power of a new social space.  It was the most important community of the Western Indies, where sacred and profane ceremonies multiplied and letters, arts, political and theological thinking were all developed.

The first third of the seventeenth century was the high point of the baroque in Lima.  Of the 6,000 Spanish men who lived there, 2500 were friars.  On a par with artistic creation, the mystical life was the other form of living the pursuit by the changes which were advancing in the capital.  The term “baroque” which marked plastic arts and literature is also applicable to theology and spirituality.  The baroque characterizes the period following the European Renaissance, in which the values of fantasy and imagination overflow toward a kind of disorder because of its sumptuousness and contrasts.  It aspires to reach the invisible by means of the senses thanks to a certain exuberance.[26]  Lima was a baroque city in its customs, in its mentality, in its architecture, in its religiosity.

Midway through the seventeenth century the people of Lima were obsessed with appearances;[27] these acquired diverse manifestations such as spectacular public events, processions and the proliferation of exemplary lives. Extravagance characterized the city in this period.  In this context, where the appearance of a germ of nationality is produced in a universe fractured by tension, the abyss between the city and the country, between the Indian who resisted and the world of the Spaniards, peninsular or creole, whites and mestizos, the non-Indian republic, was the sign of the urban scene that sought its definition and its symbols.[28]

The arrival of the Jesuits, the organization of the Inquisition and the great quantities of silver that came from Potosí, changed the face of the city.  Dominican friars and Jesuits generated a climate of theological, economical and political discussion and they entered into the field of mystical and prophetic experience.  A sprout of illuminism[29]  sprang up among the religious and laity of Lima, and it was the most notable case considered by the Inquisition in the history of the city.  The practice of rumor, denunciations, factional fights, and acceptance of public corruption were established in Lima, but the long range search for identity was also initiated.

There arise at the beginning of the seventeenth century the first companies of actors and actresses and the world of the artists becomes a protagonist in the city, together with the gaming and amusement houses.  The “farcical and dissolute” spectacles led Francisco Solano, one of many “saints” who lived at the same time in the mystical Lima at the beginning of the seventeenth century “to break into a house of comedies and, pained by seeing so much time lost, holding a crucifix he exhorted the public to abandon it and repent.”[30]

According to the analysis of Patricia Martinez I Alvarez[31] the foundation of the Church in the Andes was marked by the influences and determinations of the Reform and Counter reform lived in Europe, manifested in the ecclesiastical legislation of the period, which expresses the need for unity of criteria for the conversion of the Indigenous peoples, the use of catechisms elaborated in Spain, confession manuals written by clerics, the naming of religious men by the Spanish monarchy, care for orthodoxy,  all the fruit of the concerns generated by the reform.  All this was oriented toward the construction of a “holy” church in colonial Peru, free from the dangers of European corruption.

In no city of the Christian world, except for Jerusalem and Rome, was there produced this phenomenon of the coexistence of so many “saints” at the same time as in Lima.  The religious mysticism of Lima was crowned with many canonizations recognized by the Roman hierarchy:  Rose of Lima (1586-1617), Toribio de Mogrovejo (1538-1606), Martin de Porres, mulatto (1579-1639), Juan Macias (1585-1645), Francisco Solano (1549-1610) and others recognized by the people although not canonized officially such as Pedro Urraca (1583-1657), Francisco Camacho (1629-1698), Francisco de San Antonio (1593-1677), Nicolas Ayllon, Indian (?--1677), Juan Gomez (1560-1631), Ursula de Cristo, mulatto (1604-1666), Estefania de San Francisco, mulatto (?-1640) and many others.  Iwasaki Cuati[32] points out that the massive presence of Dominicans among the candidates for the altars is striking and he notes that it may be due to a reaction to the cutting back of their power from the time of the Viceroy Toledo,[33]  when they lost Chucuito and the University of San Marcos and suffered the inquisitorial process against the friar Franscisco de la Crux.

The popular practices of the forms of Christian piety immersed in baroque sentiment transcended the closed universe of the aristocracy, integrating in its beliefs the urban castes with the hegemonic groups of colonial white persons of Spanish descent.

The same fervor that led the people of Lima to visit temples to pray the liturgical hours or acquire paintings or prints also motivated mystical and theology readings, texts which were considered threats by the guardians of dogma and doctrine[34], who believed it was a grave danger that theological treatises written in vernacular languages were accessible to unformed laity and above all women, who would fall into risks of mistaken interpretations and experiences.   The works of fray Luis de Granada y Juan de Avila circulated rapidly through private libraries and bookstores in Lima.  Granada is reproached for putting in the vernacular thoughts which make men turn aside from simple and unpretentious practices.[35]

In an ambience like Lima which aspired to be close to “heaven” but at the same time lived on the edge of the fire of the inquisition, the mystics of Lima are the figure and symbol of a city that seeks to endure in the face of the permanent threat of perishing.  Fear, harassment, was the dominant sensation of the urban perception of Lima in the seventeenth century.  The rumors of indigenous uprisings and the great Spanish fear in the face of the constant presence of pirates on the coasts, led the society to seek mechanisms of letting off steam and expiation.  The fears were not unfounded; the Indian conspiracy that sought alliances with the “pirate” enemies of the king of Spain was know by everyone.  The harassment by the Dutch or English was added to that of the Indians who inspired ever more lack of confidence with regard to their loyalty and “Christianity.”  The backdrop, as Glave[36] describes it, was the relationship of daily resistance in the Indian society and the continuation of the colonial imposition that entered into a new period of confrontation.  It was in Lima where there occurred the most violent and aggressive cases of the so-called “eradication of idolatries,” an institution with a methodology copied from the Inquisition for the indigenous universe.  This represented the urge to reestablish control over the population and its economic and cultural submission.  The cultural confrontation hid a quiet fight for the indigenous surpluses.  The reductions were justified as a way of preventing idolatry but in essence they expressed the efforts of the Spanish to control the flight of the surpluses, the collection of taxes and the fulfillment of the mita, or enforced labor.  The eradication of idolatries campaigns of 1610-1621, with the burning of towns as a means of forcing the Indians out, denotes their effort to create reductions.

The fight to control population and production became more and more bitter while there was a perception that the changes being lived would lead to unknown situations.  The harassment from the pirates at sea and, on land, the menacing presence of a persistent Indian culture were felt.  In this mental and worldly universe there developed the lives of women who edified through the imitation of Christ and became a propitiatory symbol of the fears and dreams of the people of Lima, but also of women who ended as scapegoats, depositaries of the faults of society.  A vague limit separated the two groups.[37]

Glave analyzes the life of the pious women of Lima as the product of an urban mentality in crisis and points out that the population of Lima was filled with guilt because of the constant transgressions of the morality that all accepted, so that they handed over to the pious women the role of expiating the sins of the city through their suffering and renunciation, thus liberating the tensions of the society.[38]   Nonetheless Martinez I Alvarez[39] points out that many of these women reflect the possibility of appointing themselves, constructing spaces of liberty, since they went beyond the role given by ecclesiastical and colonial institutionalism and sought to project and implant their own collective conception of the community in the construction of the feminine religious subject.  Saint Rose was one of these women—Dominican laywoman, mystic, missionary.

I would like to point out some of the facts of the life of Rose and try to approach her options in response to the contextual reality in which Rose lived:

Rose in the world of the miners:[40]  In Quives, writes Fr. Alvarez, Rose opened her eyes to an uncontestable reality: the mining mita was truly slavery.  Rose’s father goes to take charge of a mining operation in the town of Quives, some 60 km from Lima.  It’s known that after four years of operation the mine caved in.  What was the fate of the Indians who worked in those caves?  Nothing has been written about it. Very probably they died in the bottom of the mine.  Those who did not die by accident, died consumed by silicosis or from hunger, reduced to misery and to street begging.  While the 14 year old Rose was still in Quives the miners were required to double the mine production.  Many authors associate the penances which Rose did in solidarity with the suffering of the Indians in the mitas and the pain of the Indian women who saw their sons and husbands die in the mita.  The solidarity of Rose was not just with the miners.  It is said that she visited San Bartolome hospital for the blacks, Santa Ana hospital for Indians, and San Lazaro hospital for lepers. The physical conditions of those hospitals were depressing.  She also visited the sick who because of the gravity of their illnesses could not leave their homes, and when it was necessary she took them to a house where she had reserved some rooms that she called an “infirmary.”

Rosa and her love for the city:  In 1615 there appeared in the waters of the Pacific a Dutch pirate Spilbergen: they were times of slow colonial settlement.  When the presence of the Dutch ships was known, the Viceroy of Peru Marques de Montesclaros sent some ships to meet them.  Rosa was at the exposition of the Most Holy Sacrament in the Church of Santo Domingo.  At a certain moment she got up on the altar to harangue the people to defend the city, which according to Fr. Vargas, was unprotected.  Rosa was a 29 year old pious woman (beata) at that moment.  It was also said that she cut her third order habit so she could more easily climb the altar.  Rose—capable of moving the people, capable of transmitting her love of God and love of the city.[41]

Rose, a contemplative lay woman: Rose did not follow the paths of matrimony nor those of the convent, but rather she lived her Christian life as a lay woman.  She interpreted her lay vocation as God’s design.  Fr. Alvarez gives us a version of this event: “Her biographers recall two opportunities in which Rosa tried to be a nun and did not even get to the thresholds of the monasteries of Santa Clara and of the Incarnation.  The first opportunity was frustrated because her mother was opposed and her confessors judged that for the best.  The second time was in circumstances in which her grandmother and her mother were sick,…It was the time Rose had her brother Fernando accompany her and she remained stuck to the ground unable to move, in the temple of Santo Domingo.  Her biographers point out the event saying: At the end she thought that her determination would not be of service to God, as born of a moment of bad humor because of family annoyances.  She invoked the Virgin asking her to obtain her Son’s pardon for her fault,” and she returned home.  The fundamental reason, it seems to me, was different.  Rose desisted from being a nun, simply because the racial segregation in the monasteries was an anti-gospel sign and therefore a motive of scandal in the reduced world of Lima of that epoch…Rose lamented that the monasteries and convents of the epoch allowed themselves to be full of the ideas of the colonizers and did not know how to always put first  evangelical equality above the other human conditionings.  It is not a stretch to affirm that this excruciating factt in the incipient life of the Peruvian church inspired in Saint Rose the happy idea of founding a Dominican monastery under the patronage of Saint Catherine of Siena, where women of all social categories—Indians, Spaniards, mestizos, blacks, and descendents of Moors—would encounter each other as sisters.  The official paperwork that she sent to Spain to obtain the permission; the amounts of money that she sent; the letters that she directed to influential religious in Spain, and her dedication to the Christian and religious formation of the candidates for the future monastery in which she dies without having seen, are convincing proofs that Rose wanted something new from religious life in the Peru of her time.”[42]

Traditional hagiography accentuated the dimension of strong asceticism and mortification of Rose of Saint Mary, but it forgot other aspects of her life such as her mystical experience that make her equal to figures like Catherine of Siena. and Teresa of Avila.[43]  She was a great reader of the Dominican Fray Luis of Granada and promoted his reading in her sphere of influence; she also knew the writings of Henry Suso, O.P. and through them was familiar with the Rhine school founded by Master Eckhart, also a Dominican.  The reading of Fray Luis of Granada was very widespread in the Lima of the seventeenth century, above all among the pious women and mystics.  In his works he expounded the ways to reach mystical contemplation and therefore the Spanish Inquisition in the sixteenth century prohibited the reading of his books.

Familiarity with the life and works of Catherine of Siena is shown in the symbols used by Rose to express her interior experiences: bridge, ladder, feet, wound, mouth, wine cellar.  In the same way as Catherine, she constructs her hermitage, seeks prayer, solitude and silence; practices fasting and describes her experience of union with God drawing from the symbols of the mystical betrothal.  Rose, from her solitude, questions her contemporaries, above all, their antichristian ways of living, causes of the suffering of the Indians and the Negro slaves.[44]

A fundamental personage in the understanding of mystical experience of Rose, was the lay physician Juan del Castillo, with whom the saint of Lima conversed on numerous occasions during the two last years of her life.  He was a mystic and a recognized intellectual, given over to prayer and respected for his wisdom; his testimony was key in Rose’s process of canonization because of the meticulous evaluations based on mystical theology that he carried out on Rose.  After Rose’s death, Dr. del Castillo is censured and his writings are considered a threat, since he is “a mere secular and no theologian” and “to permit him to involve himself with ‘things foreign to his art’” is to open the door “to this being done regularly among other ‘secular idiots’” like him.[45]  This accusation permits us to see the concern for a lay spirituality vigorously developed in a way independent of clerical control.

Rose, missionary and theologian: One of the first biographers of Rose, the Dominican Leonardo Hansen[46] provides elements that permit us to discover the personality of Rose in her liberty to admonish the Dominican friars to fervently dedicate themselves to preaching;


especially to the religious of her order she begged, admonished and protested that they order to this end from the beginning all their studies and sleeplessness and that it be the glorious and sublime target of all their tasks (…) that it is not correct to be always holding on to metaphysical disputes, that most of the time consist of useless distinctions of terms, tiring themselves all their lives with controversies and disputes about the meaning of the words.  That they badly use such continuous works of the schools, so many nights without sleep, so much altercation with stubbornness and shouting; if the erudition acquired at the cost of so much work , not be employed in the health of their neighbors and the propagation of the faith.  And more if the only end were applause and vainglory, standing on acquiring the grade of master and the swollen pomp of the triumph of the schools (…) The saint assured that “if she were not a woman, it would have to be her first concern, on finishing the course of studies, to give herself completely to the missions and to the preaching of the Gospel, desiring to go to the fiercest, most bestial and cannibal provinces; only to go with health and remedies for the Indians, at the cost of her blood and sweat, and with the force of preaching and the catechism.[47]

Jacinto Parra, another of her biographers, relates the perception that her confessors had of her:

Rose allowed to be heard on this occasion—that of the examination of her spirit—axioms so profound and solid, concepts so sublime and sharp, sentences so appropriate, so pertinent, so intelligent and subtle, that the examiner could not help but confess before many persons that he had never seen so illuminated and perceptive a talent for reasoning.  This very thing he admired later, observing the method that Rose used when she confessed; with such distinction of words, such appropriateness and circumspection that it seemed to Master Lorenzana that he was hearing, not a woman but a consummate and prepared theologian.[48]


Many times we also surprise her animatedly dialoging with the masters, preachers and lectors of the convent, who, at that time, held academic chairs and occupied positions in the University of San Marcos.  Her confessor Fr. Juan Lorenzana relates: “she spoke of the life and mysteries of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in which meditation she was continuously occupied.”[49]

Rosa prophet: Especially noteworthy among the “visions” that Rosa had and which the witnesses at her canonization narrate is that in which Christ appears to the saint of Lima as a master stonecutter to conduct her to a quarry that He himself directed.  This trade, reserved for rough men or Indians obliged to forced labor was now in the hands of pretty young maidens “dressed in finery and very festive, as they usually dress in weddings or in the theater.  They dug out mountains, they sawed marble, polished jasper, smoothed stones, and so that the tools could conquer the hardness of the marbles, they were softening them with repeated rains of tears.”[50]

Rose’s dreams and visions[51] were interpreted as the utopia of a church renewed in the Indies, in which women have a important role and as the yearning for a society in which no work would be considered dishonorable.  The allegorical meaning of this dream was so identified with her person that it was one of the themes interpreted in the painting by the Tuscan master Lazaro Baldi (1623-1703) to ornament the Roman basilica of San Pedro during the feasts of the canonization.  Rose is represented chisel in hand carving a human figure in stone.[52]

The symbols of her visionary universe move within the Andean reality and translate sociopolitical messages into religious allegories.  The vision of Christ as a master stonecutter, explains Mujica[53], is inspired by the mining enterprise that the saint saw in Quives, when she lived there during her adolescence.  Her benevolent attitude toward the mechanical arts or manual labor—trades of Indians and mestizos—is oriented to the same thing.  The vision of a group of lay women who cut foundational stones for a new Creole -mestizo American church serves to illustrate the prophecy of Las Casas about the transfer of the church to the Indies.

The fact that she was elevated to the altars only a century and a half after the conquest, brought about in the Catholic world a strong sentiment of devotion toward that visible fruit of evangelization.  The demand for paintings, statues and prints with her image was immense.  The ancient chroniclers affirm that there was no home in the viceroyalty of Peru where there was not an image of her, painted, sculpted, or printed.


3. By way of conclusion:

I feel that Bartolome and Rose did theology because they were capable of living in a mystical espousal with Jesus Christ present in the peoples of America.  Mystical boldness is what allows men and women to defy systems of death such as the colonial-globalizing system and the patriarchal system.  They elaborated “a word about God” because they were capable of contemplation, prophecy and dreaming.

In the midst of a colonial system where gold and silver were the idols to which were offered millions of indigenous and negro victims, Fray Bartolome elaborates a theology of mission that denounces this system and proclaims a new paradigm of mission based on social justice, on the right of the “other,” where each person is worthy, capable and free and should be treated as such.  “The contemplation of God in the other, in life, in social matters, in history, in the struggle, installs mysticism in politics, in the economy, in the culture.  Is not this the surprising novelty of Las Casas?”[54]

In the midst of a patriarchal system where women cannot be theologians nor missionaries as we saw in the previous texts, Rose has the mystical daring to see a Church where it is women who prepare the foundation stones for a new Christian community, has the liberty to call her Dominican brothers to be more faithful to the preaching of the Gospel, denounces the religious life of her epoch that discriminates and especially, gives herself without limit to the very poor  and the scorned  thus transgressing family and social commands.

Can it be that as a Dominican family we will let ourselves be questioned by the mystical and prophetical daring of Bartolome and Rose?  And will our theology be the fruit of this same daring.  We count on their testimonies and company on the road.





Vision of Christ the stonemason.  Canvas of Lazaro Baldi, Rome, 1668. Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome.


The vision of paradise in a quarry in which Christ is the stonemason.  Anonymous canvas, XVIII century.  Monastery of St. Rose of Holy Mary, Lima

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page