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By Stephen Haliczer

Someday in 1599, within the Spanish village of Saria, seven-year-old Maria Angela Astorch fell in poor health and died after gorging herself on unripened almonds. Maria's sister Isabel, a nun, got here to view the physique together with her mom more suitable, an ecstatic mystic and visionary named Maria Angela Serafina. conquer by way of the sight of the useless girl's blameless face, Serafina started to pray fervently for the go back of the kid's soul to her physique. getting into a trance, she had a imaginative and prescient during which the Virgin Mary gave her an indication. right away little Maria Angela began to express symptoms of existence. A second later she scrambled to the floor and was once quickly restored to excellent health.

During the Counter-Reformation, the Church used to be faced through a rare upsurge of female spiritual enthusiasm like that of Serafina. encouraged via new translations of the lives of the saints, religious ladies far and wide Catholic Europe sought to mimic those "athletes of Christ" via extremes of self-abnegation, actual mortification, and devotion. As within the center a long time, such women's piety usually took the shape of ecstatic visions, revelations, voices and stigmata.

Stephen Haliczer deals a accomplished portrait of women's mysticism in Golden Age Spain, the place this enthusiasm was once approximately a mass circulate. The Church's reaction, he indicates, used to be welcoming yet cautious, and the Inquisition took at the activity of winnowing out frauds and imposters. Haliczer attracts on fifteen situations introduced via the Inquisition opposed to ladies accused of "feigned sanctity," and on greater than dozen biographies and autobiographies. the foremost to recognition, he unearths, lay within the orthodoxy of the woman's visions and revelations. He concludes that mysticism provided girls the way to go beyond, notwithstanding to not disrupt, the regulate of the male-dominated Church.

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