Josefa Segovia: Facing Truth and Life

JS1008MADRID, Spain.
October 10 marks the birthday of Josefa Segovia. This is a good day to remember and re-read some of the writings that have been written about her. This time, this is to know what she thinks about intellectual endeavor. The Revista de la Institución Teresiana (Journal of the Teresian Association) devoted a special issue to her on the occasion of her death on March 29, 1957, and Angeles Galino wrote two articles. We focus on the one titled: “Ante la verdad y la vida” (Facing truth and life) which we publish in these autumn days that invite us to focus on readings and taste them. As Dolores Gomez Molleda wrote some time ago: “Reading is to live slowly."

The intent of Josefa Segovia is clear from the beginning for it is part of an important purpose of the Teresian Association: seek a dialogue between knowledge and faith; knowing what we should expect from knowledge and what we should expect from faith, two large hinges of true humanism.

In the first place, in all her things (of Josefa Segovia), “there is a healthy realism, an unmistakable flavor of humanity,” writes Galino. Nothing is more realistic than the lack of money. In 1933 Pedro Poveda, encouraged by the Bishop of Alicante, Javier Irastorza, went back to an old project to open a free High School for prospective college students that would attend a future, free university supported by leftists. Segovia is terrified, given the empty coffers, and writes in the Diario de la Institución (Diary of the Association) in a natural manner "we may have gone mad!" On other occasions were the mess made by a person, too fiery and impulsive, which made ​​her cry, "the river has flooded again." Or the calculations that do not add up when asked for new foundations by the Association (approximately 25 cases of non- acceptance).

"She guided reflection and established criteria on a number of basic issues." None of this is done without information, study, advice and courage and, above all, action with a cascade effect on the lower-level responsibilities of which she spoke frankly: "The Director that is empty can only give emptiness," "we have to know how to wait for people, expecting [seeking] less lyricism and more truth and sincerity," "when entering a foreign country, we must put aside nationalist prejudices."

"She accepted the world as it is" without dismissing the dangerous or ambivalent. Researchers, teachers and students received "guidance and encouragement" from her, especially at the time of writing and publishing.

Guidance in the ascetic dimension of study, which implies "attention, focus ... order, perseverance, austerity," a work which, like no other, demands order and honesty in its procedures. Don’t we find in these criteria certain statements found in Simone Weil and Timothy Radcliffe ?

And, along with truth, life. In a moment of philosophical existentialism that bears an anguished pessimism, "she endeavored to teach young girls the esteem of life and she became an apostle of Christian hope.”

On her desk were the last book, the hot item, the best magazine to devote to them the necessary time in the midst of her occupations. These are reflected in her personal diary as a "movie day" where in an instant replay it shows desires, personal conversations (sometimes more than 25 a day), visits, readings, phone calls …

Reading again the article by A. Galino is a good anniversary gift for Josefa Segovia. Pedro Poveda told her once on her birthday: "the teachers will work harder for the students to read your writings." In our time the digital revolution puts the world in our hand and, in return, demands reading, study, attention, or in other words, to "live slowly" so that we may not end up stunned like butterflies.

Francisca Rosique, Director of the Pedro Poveda Chair on the History of the Teresian Association.  

FACING TRUTH AND LIFE

By Angeles Galino

Maria Josefa Segovia had a privileged intelligence with the quality of making easy that, which to most, seemed difficult before she would deal with it. This was at the level of both theory and practice. Her gift of clairvoyance that enabled her to intuit concrete realities was particularly noteworthy.

In all of her things there is a healthy realism, an unmistakable flavor of humanity. She had a sense of reality, not only to act on it with the power that identifies people of action, but also to perceive it, to feel it, and, if necessary, to bear it. When it came to suffering, she was a real woman. The reality she experienced first and foremost is undoubtedly that of grace, with the immense values ​​of the supernatural world that was the climate of her personality.

Next to this, a few words need to be said regarding her special manner of life and conduct with respect to the natural, human and historical values.

On the one hand she guided reflection and established criteria on a number of basic issues on which the Teresian Association had to take a stand. On the other, since she was the prototype of this kind of life, she did not avoid responsibilities or evade the vicissitudes of the world in which he lived.

Perhaps everything may be said with a statement: God was present in all the various and wide dimensions of her humanity. Her naturalness was imbued by the supernatural.

She accepted the world as it is. She did not dismiss the dangerous or ambivalent realities. She accepted them, valued them positively in their being, took possession of them, cultivated them, elevated them, completed them, and offered them to God.

Let us consider first her opinion on knowledge, which she viewed "as specific to the Teresian vocation.” As far as this area is concerned, the Association always found guidance and encouragement in its President.

Of course, guidance was received because Maria Josefa Segovia could appreciate truth, the truth that is present in humble things – she calibrated small details and gestures-, and the truths found in all areas of knowledge. In principle, the Teresian Association cannot isolate itself from any of the big questions stirring in the field of knowledge. She promoted study, research and thought. To do this, she organized trips abroad, courses and study visits for information and exchange. The full range of the world of higher education was important. A friend of truth and letters, as St. Teresa was, she would value and support any specialization.

But we can still speak more properly about her guidance and orientation, considering that Maria Josefa Segovia has focused the synthesis of natural knowledge on revealed knowledge, pointing at the launch of the magazine ‘Eidos' degrees and ways of adherence to Church doctrine.

When referring to the writings of believing authors she assumes, in every situation, the non-violation of doctrine established by the ecclesiastical authority. However, she invites us to grow in knowledge, emphasizing those aspects that develop a positive attitude of compliance with authorized Catholic positions, and those that unravel revealed truth to illuminate, with its brightness, other areas of human speculation.

Her guiding mission has not been less fruitful when highlighting the ascetic dimension of study, alerting that if intellectual life "imposes austere obligations, how much more if we are to function in an authentic Christian atmosphere!” She notes with pleasure the virtues associated with study, which may serve "as a ladder of perfection and a means of sanctification." She refers to Saint Isidro when she writes, "sin is more prevalent because of ignorance" and "we avoid guilt through wisdom."

Josefa Segovia thinks that the one who studies has a great means to be humble because "by knowing greatness we will have more evidence of our smallness."   Study disciplines the spirit because "it involves attention, focus, order, perseverance, austerity, education of the senses, a channel for the imagination, and the development of memory." This work, like no other, demands order and honesty in its procedures.

Finally, all her life has been serving "that necessary harmony between moral perfection and intellectual perfection," which she explains delightfully in her letter on Study, convinced that achieving this in the bosom of the Church is as possible today as it was in the days of the Patristic Fathers and in the Counter Reformation.

The encouragement along these lines has been relentless. She founded three Houses of Study and promoted several groups of scholars at church and public universities. She is responsible for the new style of the publication "Revista de la Institución Teresiana," which is always seriously interested in cultural issues, but it has been renewed to be more open to current issues, both in its format and in the internal structure of its sections.

On a higher plane, the appearance of the new magazine "Eidos, Cuadernos de la Institución Teresiana" marks a time of maturity in the intellectual production of the Work, while offering the world an investigative body and cultural information, published by a group of women. Josefa Segovia wanted this magazine to see the light in the Marian year of 1954, in honor of the Blessed Virgin. Its first issue was entirely devoted to Mariology.

If, from the level of thought, we move to other levels, perhaps more vital, she will still accept and elevate them.

She loved life and taught others to value it.

When she had to point out the great evils of our time, she took care to put first the disgust of life: "Everything tastes bad. Everything is sadness and grief. People seek wellbeing where it is impossible to be found and people drag life without ideals, without enjoying the legitimate pleasures and joys."

Against the anguished pessimism that has invaded the world in recent years, she has endeavored to teach young girls the esteem of life and she became an apostle of Christian hope. She meditated on the emptiness and loneliness of modern man; approached humanity with a genuine desire to understand and help the boredom of mankind in distress, and reported the causes of their illness and the ruin of their spiritualism. She suffered especially for pilgrims journeying in the dark, “lost in a road full of weeds, aimless and without guidance." She aspired to light the star of hope, which is Mary, in each of these hearts. At her side everything was pleasant. She gladdened and embellished things and environments. She taught to discover beauty and perfection in the course of small chores as in large enterprises.

A woman of her time, she wanted and accepted all the advances of science and modern technology to place them at the service of God. While she recommended us to study to be current "in keeping with the demands of these new times," she herself was a living example of that conscious awareness of the times. On her desk there were always the latest book, the best magazine, the article with burning issues, the news of the day. She would glance at all of these at the right moment she would find time within the schedule of oppressive occupations related to the government of the Work.

All the means people employ in their ordinary business should be used more and with an intense commitment in the service of God. There is no one like her to convey this shrewdness to the "children of light" to encourage effective developments:

"Rejoice in being "innovative" and" bold, " counting, as you do, on what you call moorings. With these ropes you stay a little tied up, and with your "audacity,“ others are a little propelled."

These innovations could translate into a modest driving license, a movie camera, a tape recorder, an apostolic project outside the box, or a doctoral dissertation on the latest discoveries of science. For everything she had a word of guidance, an accurate criticism. Her position was very deliberate:

"... I would like to be with you when you investigate truth, … I want to be there ... -she said with humility- as the poor man whose efforts cannot lift the burden that others push with difficulty and he delivers encouraging shouts: Go ahead, almost there! I wait for you up there! ...Move forward! Move forward!”

 

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