St John of the Cross

14Dec11

St John of the Cross, 1542-1591. The Doctor of Mystical Theology

Saint John of the Cross is the mystical doctor. His writings on the soul united with God in prayer reveal the most profound mystical expressions, experiences and insights ever imagined. They are for those precise reasons often misunderstood or misinterpreted unless one has a wise spiritual director who is experienced in contemplative prayer and well versed in mystical and ascetical theology. This Carmelite saint writings are the most profound, literary masterpieces both in his gorgeous prose and poetry. “As a poet St. John of the Cross ranks with the greatest. Many literary critics consider him Spain’s greatest lyric poet. He was a supremely great artist, endowed with a full measure of natural skill.” (E. Allison Peers, The Tablet, July 4, 1942, p 6.
st john of the cross
Born in Spain in 1542, John learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver’s daughter and was disowned by his noble family. After his father died, his mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples ofsacrifice that John followed with his own great love — God.

When the family finally found work, John still went hungry in the middle of the wealthiest city in Spain. At fourteen, Johntook a job caring for hospital patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness. It was out of this povertyand suffering, that John learned to search for beauty andhappiness not in the world, but in God.

After John joined the Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila asked him to help her reform movement. John supported herbelief that the order should return to its life of prayer. But many Carmelites felt threatened by this reform, and some members of John’s own order kidnapped him. He was locked in a cell six feet by ten feet and beaten three times a week by the monks. There was only one tiny window high up near the ceiling. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolation, his love and faith were like fire and light. He had nothing left butGod — and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell.

After nine months, John escaped by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the mystical poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of stirps of blankets. With no ideawhere he was, he followed a dog to civilization. He hid from pursuers in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. From then on his life was devoted to sharing and explaining his experience of God’s love.

His life of poverty and persecution could have produced a bitter cynic. Instead it gave birth to a compassionate mystic, who lived by the beliefs that “Who has ever seen people persuaded to love God by harshness?” and “Where there is no love, put love — and you will find love.”

**Please pray for our Carmelite friends in Dumbarton and Kirkintilloch**



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