Mexico: Herederos de la viuda de Bernardo Calderon, 1695.
Octavo: 14.6 x 10 cm. , 196,  leaves. Collation: ¶4+1, A-I4, J8-Z8, Aa-Ee8, Ff2. Lvs C3 and P2 are cancels.
Bound in contemporary vellum, Soiled and rumpled, loss to lower corner of upper cover, coming loose from text block. Contents shaken, some minor worming in the gutter (mercifully avoiding the text (at worst just touching a single letter on a few pages), small paper defect in gutter of A2; occ. marginal foxing or light staining. Woodcut ornaments on leaf ¶2r and verso of final leaf. Author identification from Palau y Dulcet and from the license dated 1694 on folio [par.]3 verso. Rare.
PROVENANCE: With contemporary conventual provenance. Inscription on title verso: “Es el uso de la M.e María Manuela de Sta. Gertrudis, Religiosa de Regina Celi.”, referring to the now-defunct Conceptionist convent (1573- 1863) associated with the Iglesia del Convento de Regina Coeli, Mexico City. With other manuscript notes by the same owner on p. 39: “Este libro es de Sor María Manuela de Sta. Gertrudis. Lo tiene con licencia de [?] Prelada y replico a quien….” and again on p. 43: “María Manuela, esposa de Jesus.”
This is a rare adaptation of the Jesuit Spiritual Exercises for the use of Mexican nuns, written by Antonio Núñez de Miranda, S.J., confessor to Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. The book was the first of its kind in the New World and only the second such book to be published. It was preceded only by Giovanni Pietro Pinamonti’s (1632-1703) “La religiosa in solitudine”(Modena: 1694). Yet the approbation in the preliminaries makes it clear that Núñez de Miranda’s book had already been approved by May 1694.
The history of the performance of the Spiritual Exercises by nuns is a complex one. Even if Ignatius -and, following him, the Generals and Congregations- had not forbidden Jesuits to instruct women in the exercises, the practical problems of having a priest in seclusion with or in close proximity to a nun for an extended time would have been enough to stymie the practice. As a point of reference, it should be remembered that a Jesuit was not allowed to enter the cell of a nun to hear confession even if she were seriously ill.
Polanco, in the “Industries”, instructed Jesuits to pray with nuns only rarely and to avoid leading them in the Exercises, because the well-ordered religious life imposed upon women in their monastic existence was sufficient to ensure their spiritual growth. And, of course, because in this way priests would avoid the dangers of such encounters and the possibility of scandal. Lainez, who also discouraged the practice, nevertheless considered three ways in which the Exercises might be administered. The first, by having a priest guide the nuns as a group during the time of general confession. Another way was to instruct a few of the principal nuns in the convent; these women would then guide their sisters in turn. The third way was for the priest to give the Exercises to each woman independently, but with the Mistress of Novices or another figure of authority present.
In 1603, General Acquaviva reiterated the Ignatian mantra: Jesuit ministries did not include giving Exercises to nuns. Further, he added, if a Jesuit were to do so, he ought first to obtain permission from the regional Provincial and consider the “circumstances of the location and of the nuns who attend that nothing contrary to expectations occurs.”
The Society reaffirmed its prohibitions numerous times throughout the 17th c. The Seventh General Congregation met in 1615 and spoke in very severe terms about the spiritual care of “women who lived together in a house subject to certain Laws”. Although the new general, Vitelleschi, did not speak explicitly of the Exercises, he warned that interacting with women exposed Jesuits to “dangers and gossip” severely restricted interactions between priests and nuns. He forbade priests to go “to monasteries of nuns, or to confess or preach or say mass, or do business without the license of Our Father, who revokes any license that may have been given to some.”
And yet women, religious and lay, performed the Exercises using books and meditation manuals written for men.
Núñez de Miranda’s work satisfied cloistered women’s desire to make the Exercises by obviating the need for men to enter the convent and by situating the regimen of the Exercises within the context of the highly-regulated life of the convent.
More than just a guide to the Jesuit Exercises, Núñez de Miranda’s text included specific instructions for cloistered women’s behavior, essentially a fusion of a monastic and the Jesuit rule, but always with an eye to advancing their spiritual development. Women should exercise (take a bit of “honest recreation” in the garden, for instance) and relax their minds in order to restore themselves in order to better perform the Exercises.
Antonio Núñez de Miranda: Works Concerning The Lives of Nuns
Núñez de Miranda was an extraordinary figure. A prolific writer, he was confessor to viceroys, nobles, and the greatest intellectual of the age, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695), who died -as did Núñez- the year that this manual was published. For 32 years he served as Prefect of the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and for 34 as qualifier of the Tribunal of the Holy Office of New Spain.
Throughout his career, Nuñez de Miranda guided and served as confessor to numerous nuns (Sor Juana being the most famous of these) and wrote four books for their instruction: “Plática doctrinal… en la profesión de una señora religiosa del Convento de San Lorenzo” (1679), “Cartilla de la Doctrina religiosa”(1680), “Los Exercicios Espirituales de San Ignacio”(1695), and “Distribución de las obras ordinarias y extraordinarias del día para hazerlas perfectamente, conforme al estado de las señoras religiosas: instruida con doze maximas”(printed posthumously in 1712). Taken cumulatively, they form a comprehensive corpus of practical instruction for religious women in late 17th c. Viceregal Mexico.
A note on women reading:
Núñez’ “Exercicios” contains interesting passages detailing what books nuns should read. These included, of course, the Jesuit “Rule”, the “Constitutions”, and the “Exercises” but also other authors whose works were pertinent to monastic living and performing the Exercises, among them Luis de Granada, Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, Santa Teresa, and Sebastián Izquierdo.
“Although not with the same pedagogical requirements that were demanded of the men belonging to the regular monastic orders, nuns were familiarized with the most relevant religious authorities prevailing in their time. Their spiritual fathers [in this instance, Núñez de Miranda] instilled in them the famous Ignatian principle of the psychology of self-knowledge, expressed with didactic precision by one of Núñez de Miranda's favorite authors, Luis de la Puente, also a Jesuit, who in a central book for his institute: ‘Spiritual Guide in which it deals with Prayer, Meditation and Contemplation’ (Valladolid, 1609) has an entire chapter whose title is very significant: «In which one begins to deal with one's own knowledge that is achieved by reading and meditating in the book of one's own consciousness.»”(Bravo Arriaga, “El discurso de la espiritualidad dirigida”(México, 2001), translation mine.)
About the printers: The Heirs of Paola Benavides
Paula de Benavides and her husband Bernardo Calderón began printing books and pamphlets in Mexico City in 1631; widowed with six children, she took over the business in 1641 and died in 1684. This book was printed by her heirs. During her forty-three-year career as a printer, Benavides printed at least 448 titles in Mexico City and ran an expansive book store. She created a printing and bookselling dynasty that persisted for three generations after her death. (cf. Montiel Ontiveros, Ana Cecilia y Beltrán Cabrera, Luz del Carmen y (2006), "Paula de Benavides: impresora del siglo XVII. El inicio de un linaje." Contribuciones desde Coatepec, Vol. , núm.10, pp.103-115 [Consultado: 4 de Mayo de 2021]. ISSN: 1870-0365.
Medina, Mexico 1443; Palau 103582; Sabin 27761