Spirituality for Today – Winter 2019/2020 – Volume 24, Issue 2

Saint for December
St. John the Cross – December 14

Born in 1542, John knew poverty and hardship early in life. His father, who had been disowned by his family for marrying beneath him, died soon after John's birth, leaving his family with little means for support.

John was educated in a school for poor children and worked in a hospital for patients with venereal diseases. His empathy for the poor and compassion for the sick moved him to become a Catholic.

In 1567, John was ordained a priest and met Teresa of Avila, who asked John to help reform the Carmelite Order. He took the name of John of the Cross and moved with another friar into a house near Avila. The Order was known as the Discalced (shoeless) Carmelites, because the men walked about barefoot to symbolize their dedication to poverty.

Many Carmelite brothers felt threatened by the reform, however, and took drastic measures to stop it. John was arrested and removed to another monastery, where he was locked in a narrow cell without windows. Although he was beaten regularly, John refused to renounce his new Order. Instead, he passed the long hours writing mystical poetry. After nine months, John miraculously escaped.

John is now famous for his poems and other writings. The Dark Night of the Soul is one of his most well-known works. In it, he explains how a person must let go of temporal attachments to make room for God's presence. John confesses that even he struggled through a time of "dark" temptation to be united with God.

John continued to suffer injustice from others. But always, until his death at the age of 49, John believed his suffering brought him closer to God.

Lord, you endowed our Father Saint John of the Cross
with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross.
By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives