Juana Inés de la Cruz vs. Gabriel the Archangel

Only in Lent Madness will you find a seventeenth-century nun doing battle with an archangel. But that's what we have going on in today's matchup between Juana Inés de la Cruz and Gabriel the Archangel. Is pitting a mere mortal against an ephemeral being unfair? Perhaps. Though, as always, it's up to the Lent Madness voting community to decide who advances to the next round.

In Monday action, Emma of Hawaii took down Hugh of Lincoln 64% to 36%.

In case you missed yesterday's stirring edition of Monday Madness, you can watch it here. Still hungry for Lent Madness news? Watch the Lent Madness anchor desk from Christ Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Lenten creativity knows no bounds!

Juana Inés de la Cruz

Juana Inés de la Cruz was a seventeenth-century nun, writer, philosopher, mystic, poet, and pot-stirrer in Spanish colonial Mexico.

Born in 1648 near Mexico City, Juana is described on her birth certificate as “a daughter of the Church,” which was a quaint way of stating that she was illegitimate. Her maternal grandfather, however, let her and her mother live in his massive hacienda, and little Juana would sneak into his library—something she was punished for as girls were not encouraged to educate themselves. By age 3, she had taught herself to read and write Latin, by age 5 she had taken over the hacienda’s accounts, and by age 8, she had written a lovely poem on the meaning of the eucharist.

At age 16, having thoroughly frustrated her mother and grandfather, her guardians sent her off to Mexico City, in a sort of debutante/finishing school situation. She didn’t take kindly to this—she wrote home and requested permission to disguise herself as a boy so she could enroll in real school. No luck. Instead, she was assigned as a lady-in-waiting to the colonial vicereine (the wife of the viceroy of New Spain.)

In 1667, she joined a Carmelite nunnery, seeking more time for study, quiet, and contemplation. The Carmelites didn’t quite fit the bill, so in 1669, she tried again, joining a Hieronymite order. This one stuck, and her fame began to spread throughout colonial Mexico for her writings and her poetry. Everything was fine until 1690, when the local bishop published a letter she wrote, containing her critique of a 40-year-old sermon given by a well-known Portuguese priest. The bishop attached his own commentary to Juana’s critique, saying, essentially, “This is why women shouldn’t write and should stick to praying.” Juana, irate, then published another letter, which argued at length for a woman’s God-given right to educate herself and instruct others. “One can perfectly well philosophize while cooking dinner,” she said, while listing all the women in the scriptures who did not appear to heed the bishop’s advice. The local bishop (and the archbishop of Mexico) did not care for her input. They convinced her to cease public writing and counseling, at the risk of official censure or ex-communication. (It was the Inquisition. They weren’t playing.) She died in 1695 while nursing her fellow nuns during a plague outbreak.

Collect for Juana Inés de la Cruz

Almighty God, Source of all knowledge, we give you thanks for the witness of your servant Juana Inés de la Cruz in her fierce passion for learning and creativity. Teach us to be faithful stewards of our minds and hearts, so that, following her example, we might forever proclaim the riches of your unending love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Jesus Christ who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Megan Castellan

Gabriel the Archangel

Three of the world’s major religions—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism—hold Gabriel in high esteem, as he appears in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qu’ran.

While Gabriel means “God is my Strength” in Hebrew, the archangel has many monikers: Celestial Messenger, Strength of God, Keeper of Holiness, Angel of Mercy, and Angel of the Power of God. In the Bible, angels are considered agents of God. And being an agent was clearly Gabriel’s calling.

We first meet Gabriel in the Old Testament where he explains and interprets Daniel’s dreams to him. The Book of Daniel contains two other references to unnamed angels who some scholars believe are both Gabriel.

His most famous appearances are in the New Testament Gospel of Luke, where Gabriel has two significant visitations: to Zechariah to announce the birth of his son, John the Baptist, and to Mary announcing the coming of her son, Jesus. Gabriel’s greeting to Mary forms the basis of our familiar and loving prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace.

Gabriel is believed by some to be the angel who sang to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus. Other legends point to Gabriel as the angel who warned Joseph to take the Holy Family to Egypt, sat with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and spoke to the women at the tomb on the third day. Gabriel is a favorite subject for artists. For example, the Annunciation—the commemoration of when Gabriel visited Mary—is illustrated in many forms, from famous paintings to magnificent stained-glass windows. In these depictions, Gabriel is often portrayed with his wings outstretched, wearing white, carrying a lily, a scroll, or a trumpet.

His feast day is September 29, shared with fellow Archangels Michael and Raphael. Gabriel is the patron of telecommunication workers, radio broadcasters, messengers, postal workers, clerical workers, diplomats, stamp collectors, Portugal, Santander in Spain, Cebu in the Philippines, ambassadors, delivery workers, and garbage collectors.

Collect for Gabriel the Archangel

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Neva Rae Fox


Juana Inés de la Cruz: Fray Miguel de Herrera, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Gabriel the Archangel: Gerard David, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


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122 comments on “Juana Inés de la Cruz vs. Gabriel the Archangel”

  1. “Education is a woman’s to choose”:
    So said Juana Inés de la Cruz.
    Her religious critique
    Puebla’s bishop did pique;
    Today vote for her — and her good news!

  2. Sister Juana gets my vote! Standing up against "the guys in charge" is always daunting.

  3. Hard to not vote for an angel, but come on! She taught herself to read and write Latin by age 3? That alone is incredible. Most of us in my high school class struggled with that language.

  4. You're kidding. Angels are not saints. They are the voice of God or God's messengers. God doesn't compete. God just IS, the great I AM.

  5. Gabriel, never having been a mortal human, is not a saint at all, imo. The essay calls Gabriel the patron of several professions and towns, while avoiding the phrase "patron saint." Juana gets my vote today.

  6. This was the easiest vote of all. An archangel is not a saint, and does not belong in this competition. Gabriel wast incarnate on third base, and didst not get there by hitting a triple.

    "For the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too."

  7. We all need an angel on our shoulder! For that, I must vote for Gabriel. Angels are present in our lives in many forms you just have to be open to their presence.

  8. I love the Angel , St Gabriel, but St Juana Ines de la Cruz during her life & was so courageous throughout her life in the face of obstacles. This was a difficult vote.
    I love both these wonderful saints!

  9. Does not seem fair to throw an Archangel into the mix. Angels are another whole sort of being. Saints are Saints and human in origin.

    1. This is the second time an archangel has been in competition. Michael was in the bracket a few years ago. Didn't get past the second round.

  10. The Commitee messed up! Gabriel is already a MVP and ensconced in the Hall of Fame. Gabriel shouldn't have taken a bracket from an aspiring human. Juana all the way!

  11. You should watch the movie about her life. I think it’s you la peor de todos. Watching it sent me over the edge to seminary

  12. Gabriel's spot is already fixed--he already has a 'Holy Halo'! a vote for Juana, who, to live authentically, had to live counter-culturally.

    1. Two deeply descriptive words... Authentic, Counter-cultural.... aptly describe Juana. Strong women in times so heavily dominated by men are what we need as we continue to strive toward greater value for women as persons. Juana has my vote!

  13. My vote goes to Gabriel. I am so grateful for those who have been blessed with the strength to recognize and hear God’s Celestial Messenger. May we all recognize the angels among us. And I pray that today’s diplomats are blessed and guided by their patron.

  14. Though Gabriel oft brought the news,
    'twas Juana who expressed her views;
    so does one vote for wings so white,
    or she, the onetime Carmelite?

  15. In their 1950s classic, "Mardi Gras Mambo," the Meters sang:

    "Down in New Orleans where the blues were born,
    It takes a cool cat to blow a horn. . . ."

    Horn-blowing Gabriel gets my vote. Appropriately, there's a church in New Orleans dedicated to him

  16. Juana has my vote! Multitasking & standing (or writing) up for what is right is my kind of person. As for Gabriel, there needs to be a separate category for angelic beings. Well, time to get off my pulpit.

  17. I love the Archangel Gabriel. In fact, he is my favorite Archangel. But in this contest, I just don’t think he belongs. He had his golden halo long before he visited Mary in Nazareth to give her the good news and so I say we should celebrate him for his role in announcing the incarnation but vote for the very human Juana today!

  18. An excerpt From Sor Juana Ines’ most famous poem “Hombres Necios” (Foolish men) came to mind as Mexico’s most beloved female saint battles an archangel in this matchup….

    You foolish men who lay
    the guilt on women,
    not seeing you're the cause
    of the very thing you blame;

    if you invite their disdain
    with measureless desire
    why wish they well behave
    if you incite to ill.

  19. Juana is one of my heroes. She just wanted to be herself, use her God-given talents (what a brilliant woman), and glorify God using those talents and fought sexist oppression every step of the way. You go girl! Let's not hide her light under a bushel. Vote Juana!

    What is it with hierarchy and humans that we keep seeking to crush and obliterate the light of others? Especially when that light shines on us too and can so illuminate our lives? Why choose darkness? Over and over again? People who oppress others and choose darkness over light IN THE NAME OF GOD have been so loud throughout human history, including right now . . . How do we seek justice?

  20. Here's one of Juana Inés de la Cruz's poems which begins (in English)
    "Foolish men who accuse
    women without reason
    without seeing that you are the occasion
    of the very thing you blame:

    if you solicit
    their disdain with matchless eagerness,
    why do you want them to do good
    if you incite them to evil?"

    The original
    "Hombres necios que acusáis
    a la mujer sin razón
    sin ver que sois la ocasión
    de lo mismo que culpáis:

    si con ansia sin igual
    solicitáis su desdén
    ¿por qué queréis que obren bien
    si las incitáis al mal?

    Combatís su resistencia
    y luego, con gravedad,
    decís que fue liviandad
    lo que hizo la diligencia.

    Parecer quiere el denuedo
    de vuestro parecer loco
    al niño que pone el coco
    y luego le tiene miedo.

    Queréis, con presunción necia,
    hallar a la que buscáis,
    para pretendida, Thais,
    y en la posesión, Lucrecia.

    ¿Qué humor puede ser más raro
    que el que, falto de consejo,
    él mismo empaña el espejo
    y siente que no esté claro?

    Con el favor y el desdén
    tenéis condición igual,
    quejándoos, si os tratan mal,
    burlándoos, si os quieren bien.

    Opinión, ninguna gana;
    pues la que más se recata,
    si no os admite, es ingrata,
    y si os admite, es liviana.

    Siempre tan necios andáis
    que, con desigual nivel,
    a una culpáis por crüel
    y otra por fácil culpáis.

    ¿Pues cómo ha de estar templada
    la que vuestro amor pretende
    si la que es ingrata, ofende,
    y la que es fácil, enfada?

    Mas, entre el enfado y pena
    que vuestro gusto refiere,
    bien haya la que no os quiere
    y quejáos en hora buena.

    Dan vuestras amantes penas
    a sus libertades alas,
    y después de hacerlas malas
    las queréis hallar muy buenas.

    ¿Cuál mayor culpa ha tenido
    en una pasión errada:
    la que cae de rogada,
    o el que ruega de caído?

    ¿O cuál es más de culpar,
    aunque cualquiera mal haga:
    la que peca por la paga,
    o el que paga por pecar?

    Pues ¿para qué os espantáis
    de la culpa que tenéis?
    Queredlas cual las hacéis
    o hacedlas cual las buscáis.

    Dejad de solicitar,
    y después, con más razón,
    acusaréis la afición
    de la que os fuere a rogar.

    Bien con muchas armas fundo
    que lidia vuestra arrogancia,
    pues en promesa e instancia
    juntáis diablo, carne y mundo."
    Yay Juana Inés.

    1. Hi Sandra- Thank you so much for adding the original version of Juana de la Cruz's poem. I speak and write Spanish as a psychologist and in my daily life. It is so powerful and fascinating and it could have been written for today's world as well. Muchas gracias mi amiga.

  21. It seems to me that the unfairness of this match is to Gabriel, who was, after all, just being the messenger he was created to be. It says a lot about the wonders of humanity to even put one up against an angel.

  22. I voted for Juana, but I'm curious. What does Islam say about Gabriel? And do they have other names for him like Judaism and Christianity do? He didn't get my vote because I agree that he already has a golden halo, and Juana is amazing.

    1. Gabriel was the angel who revealed verses of the Koran to Mohammed. IIRC he's the foremost angel in Islamic tradition.

      This archangel's importance in three major world religions was a deciding factor when we had trouble deciding on a name for our son -- though we also considered ease of spelling and relative popularity, not wanting him to be one of five kids in the class with the same name nor the man who has to spell his name all his life. His name is Gabriel.

  23. The comment section of Lent Madness sustains me every day. I often read and then contemplate the thoughtful writing of friends like you. Thank you.

  24. Juana Inés de la Cruz gets my vote for being an exceptional woman in an era that was not entirely receptive to women, exceptional or not. And also for being, unlike Gabriel the Archangel, a historical personage. But a shout out to Gabriel nonetheless; as patron of diplomats, may he assist them in miracles of diplomacy during this time of crisis.

  25. Easy vote since Gabriel didn't meet the criteria for inclusion in Lent Madness -- he isn't dead and didn't have a separate day on the liturgical calendar. So I chose the one who followed the criteria -- Juana de la Cruz.

    1. Absolutely agree. Gabriel definitely does not belong in the bracket although it was tempting to vote as I was in Gabriel house at my convent school!!

  26. For the last two days I have not been able to vote for the person of my choice. When I click on the circle it does not register. Yesterday I tried the opponents circle and that did work so I wound up voting for Hugh instead of Emma. Today I guess I will opt not to vote if I can’t vote for my choice.

    1. Jane, try another device. I cannot vote on my tablet (Google Chrome browser) but can vote on my IPhone (Safari) or desktop.