St. John of the Cross (1542–1591) was born to a poor family in Old Castile, Spain. His father married below his rank and was disinherited as a result. After his father’s early death, John was raised in poverty by his mother. He studied and served at a local hospital while committing himself to severe penances. Uncertain of his life’s direction, he was told in prayer that he should enter religious life in order to bring reform. John joined the ancient Carmelite Order and received permission to observe their original rule of life, quickly earning a reputation for his humility, obedience, and religious fervor. He later met St. Teresa of Avila, a reforming Carmelite abbess who recognised the greatness of John’s virtue and requested his assistance to found a monastery of friars under the primitive Carmelite rule, as she had done for her nuns. Together they founded the Discalced Carmelites, a contemplative order of strict religious observance. His reforms began to spread, and as a result John was captured, imprisoned, and physically abused by his fellow friars. His sufferings helped him to write his most famous work, Dark Night of the Soul. After nine months he made a miraculous escape and he went on to found and govern several Carmelite monasteries. St. John of the Cross became an authority on the spiritual life, and his profound writings and poetry are considered among the greatest of all Spanish literature. Because of his invaluable writings he was named a Doctor of the Church and the patron saint of mystics, contemplatives, and Spanish poets. His feast day is December 14th.
Some quotes from St John of the Cross:
“It is well for those who find themselves in this condition to take comfort, to persevere in patience and to be in no wise afflicted. Let them trust in God, Who abandons not those that seek Him with a simple and right heart, and will not fail to give them what is needful for the road, until He bring them into the clear and pure light of love.”
“Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.”
Walking with Christ
“Take God for your spouse and friend and walk with him continually, and you will not sin and will learn to love, and the things you must do will work out prosperously for you….
Desire to imitate Christ – and study His life. Do the most difficult, the harshest, the less pleasant, the unconsoling, the lowest and most despised, want nothing, look for the worst.”
“Moral good consists in the control of the passions and the restruction of the inordinate appetites. The result for the soul is tranquility, peace, repose, and moral virtue. The soul cannot control the passion without forgetting and withdrawing from the sources of these emotions. Disturbances never arise in a soul unless through the apprehensions of the memory. The soul must go to God by not comprehending rather than by comprehending and it must exchange the mutable and comprehensible for the Immutable and Incomprehensible.”
“In the twilight of our lives, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human success, but rather on how much we have loved.”