Wednesday, December 14, 2011

St. John of the Cross: 14 December 2011

St. John of the Cross was born 24 June 1542 as Juan de Yepes Alvarez. His parents were Spanish Jews who had converted to the Roman Catholic faith. Because of his father’s death when he was young, the family struggled. He studied at a Jesuit school while working at a hospital in Medina del Campo. He entered the Carmelite Order in 1563. He professed the following year, and studied theology at the University of Salamanca, and at the college of San Andres. He was ordained a presbyter in 1567 and was intending to join the Carthusians because of their strict rule of silence and isolation. Before this could happen, he met St. Theresa of Avila, who convinced him instead to work on the reformation of the Carmelites.

This he started in November of 1568 in Duruelo, which became a religious centre. John continued to help Theresa until 1577. These reforms were regarded by many as being too strict, and there was much resistance to the reformers(called discalced, or barefoot). In December of 1577 for refusing to obey his superior’s orders to relocate (and allegedly for working for reform), John was imprisoned and whipped weekly. He managed to escape in August. During this imprisonment he composed much of his first poem, “Spiritual Canticle.” After returning to normal life, he and St. Theresa formally founded the Order of Reformed Carmelites (discalced). He died in 1591.

While being known for being St. Theresa’s confessor and helping her with founding the Reformed Carmelites, St. John is best known for his poems which are considered classics in Spanish. Spiritual Canticle and Dark Night of the Soul are considered two of the greatest poems ever written in Spanish. Other works by John were: “Ascent of Mt. Carmel” and sayings of light and love. John expresses the true joys and sufferings of spiritual union in Christ, St. Johns’ works have influenced many Christians through today (Edith Stein, Thomas Merton among others) and are still important today.

From John we learn about the yearning to truly be with God, to follow him and to be willing to sacrifice all for Christ.

Psalm 121
Song of Solomon 3:1-4
Colossians 4:2-6
John 16:12-15, 25-28

Collect: El Shadai, you gave your servant John of the Cross wonderful gifts of spiritual direction, understanding, and the ability to translate the Christian struggle into marvelous poetry. Give us all great love for you and reforming zeal, that we may reform the church so that all are seeking the giver, and not the gift. This we ask through Yeshua haMoshiach who lives and reigns with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in Shekina glory everlasting. Amen. (white)

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