EWTN News

Saint John of the Cross
December 06, 2018
by staff
St John of the Cross

 

Saint John of the Cross (1542 – 1591) was born in Fontiveros, near Avila, in Spain, into a family of conversos (converts from Judaism). His father died while still young leaving his mother destitute and alone with three small children. Even though the family was very poor, Saint John was able to receive a good education. In 1563, he entered the Carmelite order and eventually was sent to study at the University of Salamanca, one of the best universities of the time. After being ordained a priest, in 1567, Saint John joined Saint Teresa of Avila in the mission of reforming the Carmelite Order which had grown lax in the observance of its rules. He suffered many trials while undertaking this task, most of them caused by his own Carmelite brothers who did not want to change their way of life. At one point, the provincial of Castile had him imprisoned. Saint John was confined to a small cell that had practically no light, and was regularly, publicly beaten in the chapter of the monastery. After nine months of this suffering, Our Lady appeared to him and showed him the window through which he would escape. Fortified and guided by this vision, Saint John escaped his imprisonment soon thereafter and made his way to a reformed friary. After his incarceration, Saint John still underwent many trials at the hands of the religious authorities. In addition to this, he suffered from poor health. But he accepted all these trials and tribulations with patience and even joy. These evils made him grow ever more detached from the world and ever closer to God. He died on December 14, 1591, in Ubeda, after three months of acute suffering from an illness. He is a Doctor of the Church, famous for his mystical writings: Spiritual Canticle, Dark Night of the Soul and Ascent of Mount Carmel.