Though many find St. John of the Cross and his writings somewhat foreboding and severe, his prudent, gentle personality won the hearts of those of good will. Many are the stories of his tender-hearted generosity, charitable discretion, prudent direction. He understood the human heart and mind and guided souls with compassion – and with practical counsels.
God used this “great little man” to accomplish great things for His Church, and the testimony of St. Teresa cannot be contradicted: “Though he is small in stature, I believe that he is great in God’s eyes.” She called him “a divine, heavenly man,” and felt lonely in his absence. She wrote to the nuns who then had him as their spiritual director, “You should reflect that you have a great treasure in that holy man, and all those in the monastery should see him and open their souls to him;then they will see what great good they get and will find themselves to have made great progress in spirituality and perfection, for our Lord has given him a special grace for this.”
St. John’s finest works of poetry outline the steps of mystical ascent, also known as the soul's journey to Christ. Many of his poems, including "Noche obscura del alma" ("The Dark Night of the Soul") and "Llama de amor viva" ("The Living Flame of Love"), are considered the pinnacle of mystical Spanish literature. His expositions of these poems have become the spiritual theological masterpieces that have guided souls to perfection for centuries. The Church’s further ascetical and mystical studies have depended heavily upon these important works of the Saint.
Born on June 24, 1542, in Fontiveros, Spain, St. John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic and poet. He became a Carmelite monk in 1563 and an ordained priest in 1567. A year later, he was summoned by St. Teresa of Avila to reform the Carmelite Order. However, due to resulting friction, he was imprisoned in 1576 and again in 1577. He became a guiding light to the reform, acting as confessor and spiritual director to St. Teresa and her nuns, as well as many fortunate lay people. He himself established numerous monasteries of the Carmelite friars, holding the offices of Master of Novices and Prior in most of them, as well as various Provincial offices for the Discalced Order. He died December 14, 1591 and was glorified as a saint in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. In 1926, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.
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– A Catholic Church, New York, USA
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