chapter  6
19 Pages

6 FlyinginFormation:SubjectivityandCollectivityinLuisa

ByMelgarejodeSoto’sMysticalPractices Stacey Schlau

One of the most notable (and notorious) disciples of Rosa de Lima (1586-1617), Luisa Melgarejo de Soto (1578-1651) played a key role among the supporters and comrades of the Dominican tertiary who would later become America’s first patron saint. Significantly, she also engaged in a mystical exploration of her own, especially after the young holy woman’s death. Yet unlike the soonto-be-canonized ascetic, she found herself caught up in the web of inquisitional procedures, and was prosecuted and incarcerated for many years because of her writings and teachings. The extant part of the record of Melgarejo’s trial offers a glimpse into her spiritual practices as a devout laywoman, albeit filtered through the biases of ecclesiastic officials. Additional documents in her voice and those of others called to testify at the trial and in other proceedings enrich the portrait of a woman considered a pious exemplar by many, including the influential Jesuits with whom she was closely associated. Embedded in the socio-religious manners of colonial Lima’s elite classes, Melgarejo’s and others’ written accounts of her religious thoughts and behaviors provide insight into what Nancy Van Deusen has called the “circuits of knowledge” generated by the women who were inspired by the virginal beata Rose of Lima.1 Melgarejo attempted to fashion a life not as a miracle-working ascetic but as a visionary witness and intercessor. Her model of sanctity, quite different from Rosa’s, met with mixed success in a society that harbored deeply ambivalent attitudes toward would-be holy women.