The Institute for Christian Formation
Saint John of the Cross
Feast Day (Memorial): December 14
On December 14 the Church celebrates the feast day (an obligatory Memorial) of Saint John of the Cross. Juan de Ypes was born in a poor family at Fontiveros in Spain in 1542. His father died when he was very young, and his mother had little support. John eventually joined the Carmelite religious order. Originally, the Carmelite order had been very strict, but at the time John joined, things were much more relaxed. John, however, wanted to follow the older, stricter Carmelite rule.
John met a woman religious of the Carmelite order who also felt called to live the original, strict Carmelite rule. This woman also is a Saint, Saint Teresa of Jesus (or Teresa of Avila), whose feast day we celebrate on October 15. Teresa founded the reformed, or
Discalced Carmelites. John was a strong supporter and ally of Teresa’s, and was a reformer in his own right, as well.
As you might imagine, those Carmelites who lived the more relaxed lifestyle did not appreciate John’s efforts at reform. John suffered greatly because of this, and was even imprisoned because of his efforts and beliefs.
John died on December 14, 1591. He is a Doctor of the Church, and is known as the “Mystical Doctor.” Take some time today to listen to an audio of some of the writings of Saint John of the Cross. You can access this audio here. You can also access “Maxims from St. John of the Cross” here. Choose one of these maxims that speaks to you, jot it down in your journal, and make it your Advent meditation for today. You can visit The Virtual Carmelite Museum here, for Carmelite art. And if you are interested in praying a Novena to St. John of the Cross, here is a link.
The months of his imprisonment were very harsh, and yet through prayer and perseverance, uniting himself to the Paschal Mystery (the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus), he endured his fate and wrote poetry. He was a mystic and a poet. In fact he is perhaps the greatest poet in Spanish history. His spiritual works are still read by millions today. He wrote “The Ascent of Mount Carmel”; “The Dark Night of the Soul”; “The Spiritual Canticle,” and, “The Living Flame of Love.”
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