St. John of the Cross, a 16th century saint, is most well-known for working with St. Teresa of Avila at reforming the Carmelite orders of priests and nuns. John of the Cross received his Carmelite habit in 1563. Upon obtaining his habit, he immediately asked to live a more austere life than his fellow Carmelites of the day. John sought to live a life more in line with the original meaning of being a Carmelite. In John’s day, the Carmelites had grown accustomed to the amenities of the 16th century. By living a more austere life, John of the Cross believed he lived a life more like the life of Christ.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1567, he met St. Teresa of Avila shortly thereafter in 1568. Together they worked tirelessly to reform the Carmelite orders of priest and nuns, bringing back the austerity of what it meant to walk with Christ.
In 1577, the Carmelite Order ordered St. John of the Cross to return to Medina. He refused, noting that he believed he reported to the Apostolic delegate and not to the Order itself. Well, that didn’t sit well with the Carmelite Order, who placed Saint john of the Cross in prison of Dec 3, 1577. Somehow though, in August, 1578, he escaped prison. Over the next few years, he founded and governed more than four monasteries. Never one to get along well with officials within the Carmelite Order, he suffered greatly from Church politics. Because of his unwillingness to be subservient to Carmelite authorities, he ultimately was relegated to one of the poorest monasteries. There, he fell seriously ill. Through his illness, which ultimately resulted in his death, he dedicated his sufferings to Christ. In the end, even his adversaries acknowledged John of the Cross’ sanctity (newadvent.org).
Saint John of the Cross – Spiritual Author
St. John of the Cross left us some literary gems to cherish over the centuries, as he is the author of Ascent to Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul (book reviews on both books to follow in due time). These books provide John of the Cross’ perceptions of Carmelite spirituality, and deep thinking, for building a closer relationship with Christ.
Happy Feast Day, St. John of the Cross! Please pray for us!