Francisco de Zurbaran Date: 1656
Celebrated December 14
St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church
St. John’s family name was Yepes, and he was born of poor parents in Fontiveros, Spain, on June 24, 1542. He entered the Carmelite Order in 1563 and then studied at Salamanca and was ordained in 1567.
Soon after ordination, he met St. Teresa of Jesus, who told him that she and her religious sisters were restoring the primitive Carmelite Rule. Because John was then searching for a more austere form of religious life, he adopted St. Teresa’s reform and began a monastery of his own.
It was at this time that he changed his name to John of the Cross. Because he and his followers wore sandals, they became known as Discalced Carmelites. John’s reformed group soon grew in numbers, but because some of the other Carmelites wanted to put a stop to its expansion, they seized him and imprisoned him in Toledo.
After nine months of imprisonment, he escaped in August 1578 and made his way to his discalced monastery. For the remainder of his life, he guided his monasteries and wrote spiritual treatises.
He is especially renowned for his mystical poetry and his ascetical writings.
He died in Ubeda, Spain, on December 14, 1591, and was canonised by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. Recognising the influence that St. John of the Cross’s mystical writings have had in the Church, Pope Pius XI declared him a doctor of the Church in 1926.
John’s two most famous works, The Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Dark Night, are hinted at in today’s opening prayer when it says that God had led him to the mountain that is Christ, through the dark night of renunciation and burning love for the cross.
O God, who gave the Priest Saint John
an outstanding dedication to perfect self-denial
and love of the Cross,
grant that, by imitating him closely at all times,
we may come to contemplate eternally your glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.