St. John of the Cross
Doctor of the Church and Founder of Discalced Carmelite Friars
Feast Day: 14 December
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Who was John?
A brief biography
(taken from "A Little book of St John of the Cross by Don Mullen")
John of the Cross, Juan de Yepes, was born at Fontiveros, near Avila,
Spain, in 1542. He was the youngest of three sons. His paternal
grandparents were successful merchants who rejected his father,
Gonzalo, for marrying his mother, Catherine Alvarez, whom they
considered below their rank. For love of Catherine, Gonzalo forfeited a
rich heritage. Their decision to love each other, with its resulting
poverty, left an indelible mark on the young saint. Thus, love and
poverty became two inexhaustible sources of strength and inspiration in
the religious life of John of the Cross.
Reflections of St John of the Cross
His parents worked as weavers but shortly after John's birth, Catherine
was left a widow. With her young children Catherine, a devout woman,
moved to Medina del Campo where they endured continuing hardship and
poverty. While there John attended school and later helped in a
hospital, where he demonstrated the stirrings of a lifelong kindness
He joined the Carmelite Order in 1563, taking the name John of St
Matthias and the following year began his studies at the prestigious
University of Salamanca. In 1567, the year of his ordination, he met St
Teresa of Avila. Teresa was on a mission of reforming the Carmelite
Order of nuns and encouraged John to do likewise among the friars. This
he began in 1568, symbolically changing his religious name to John of
the Cross. His mission of reform encountered support and forceful
opposition. He was twice kidnapped and imprisoned, on the second
occasion for nine months in the monastery of Toledo.
He escaped to the south of Spain where, for several years, he founded
reformed communities. The new reformed Order experienced many
difficulties which John, as elected assistant General, tried to resolve
with tact and discretion. He kept his legendary peace of heart even in
June 1591, when he was completely discharged, following rivalries and
calumnies. He fell seriously ill and died on 14 December 1591 at Ubeda.
John of the Cross was canonised on 27 December 1726 and made a Doctor of the Church in 1926.
Seeking the Beloved
should be known that the Word, the Son of God, together with the Father
and the Holy Spirit, is hidden by His essence and presence in the
innermost being of the soul. A person who wants to find Him should
leave all things through affection and will, and enter within himself
in deepest recollection. The kingdom of God is within you (Lk17:21).
You are the temple of God (2 Cor 6:16).
whom my soul loves is within me, why don't I find Him or experience
Him? Anyone who is to find a hidden treasure must enter the hiding
place secretly, and once he has discovered it, he will also be hidden
as the treasure is hidden. Remaining hidden with Him you will
experience Him in hiding, that is in a way transcending all language
and feeling. Seek Him in faith and love... They will lead you along a
path unknown to you, to the place where God is hidden.
Singleness of Heart
is in love is said to have his heart stolen or seized by the object of
his love, for his heart will go out of self and become fixed on the
loved object. Thus his heart or love is not for himself, but for what
he loves. Accordingly, the soul can know clearly whether or not she
loves God purely. If she loves Him, her heart or love will not be set
on herself or her own satisfaction or gain, but upon pleasing God
and giving Him honour and glory. In the measure she loves herself that
much less she loves God. When God is loved He very readily answers the
requests of His lover. Nothing is obtained from God except by love.
The Exaltation of the Soul
interior union, God communicates Himself to the soul with such genuine
love that no mother's affection, in which she tenderly caresses her
child, no brother's love, nor friendship is comparable to it. The
tenderness and truth of love by which the immense Father favours and
exalts this humble and loving soul reaches such a degree... that the
Father Himself becomes subject to her for her exaltation, as though
He were a slave and she His god. So profound is the humility and
sweetness of God! In this communication of love, He exercises in some
way that very service that He says in the Gospel - He will render to
His elect in heaven, that is: girding Himself and passing from one to
another, He will minister to them (Lk 12:37).
Quotes of St John of the Cross
Love consists not in feeling great things but in having great detachment and in suffering for the Beloved.
Trials will never be lacking in religious life, nor does God want them
to be. Since he brings souls there to be proved and purified, like
gold, with hammer and the fire, it is fitting that they encounter
trials and temptations... and the fire of anguish and affliction.
|The Presence of God
Endeavour to remain always in the presence of God.
It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others.
We think others are like ourselves and we judge others according to
what we ourselves are, since our judgment arises from within us and not
Hence it is that when we are careless and asleep in God's presence, it seems to us it is God who is asleep and neglectful of us!
God dwells secretly in all souls and is hidden in their substance, for otherwise they would not last.
Do not omit mental prayer from any occupation, for it is the sustenance of your soul.
give up prayer, and should you find dryness and difficulty, persevere
in it for this very reason. God often desires to see what love your
soul has, and love is not tried by ease and satisfaction.
Strive for the greater honour and glory of God in all things.
St John of the Cross' message for the 21st Century
Hymn to St John of the Cross
written by Sr Mary Kevin, Kilmacud Carmel
|Hail Carmel's Doctor, great Saint John,
Raising your standard of the Cross,
Leading our spirits daily on
To Heavenly gain from earthly loss!
Lit by a living flame of love,
Guide of our Mother's founding zeal,
E'en though the ascent at times be steep,
Dark night will fade on Carmel's peak.
Your burning Canticles of Praise
Tell how the Father-God above
Spoke his eternal saving Word,
Spoke through the Spirit of their Love.
Light of Therese's Little Way,
Aid us along our pilgrim road,
Seeking that great and endless day
Which heart of man cannot fore-know.
you endowed our Father
St John of the Cross
with a spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
By following his example
may we come to the
eternal vision of your glory.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
St John of the Cross,
pray for us.
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