St. John of the Cross – Priest/Doctor of the Church
Feast Day – December 14th
Born Juan de Yepes Alvarez on June 24, 1542 in Fontiveros in Old Castile Spain, twenty-four miles north of Avila. He was youngest of three sons of Catherine Alvarez and Gonzalo de Yepes. When John was young, his father died and the family moved to Medina del Campo and John assisted the family with finances by working as a carpenter, tailor and finally at a hospital where he worked for seven years. At the age of 17 he endrolled at the Jesuit College taking humanities courses. In 1563, he entered the Carmelite Order at Medina and received the name of John-of-St-Matthias (Juan de Santo Matia). He was professed the next year in 1564.
He was ordained to the priesthood in 1567 and had been thinking of entering the Carthusians for a deeper prayer life and more solitude. At this same time, Teresa of Avila was establishing her reformation and, having heard of Brother John, she came to Medina del Campo to discuss with him starting the Reform among the friars. He began the following summer and several monasteries were established.
In 1577 the provincial of Castile ordered John to return to his original friary at Medina. John refused and was arrested and imprisoned in a small, 6’x10’ dark cell in Toledo where he was scourged regularly by each of the friars. After six months, he was given a pen and paper by one of his captors, and in that cell, he composed some of his well-known poems. Finally after nine months, he managed to escape.
He continued spreading the Reform founding monasteries along with Teresa of Avila. When John became ill will leg ulcers and fever, he was sent to the house of Ubeda, where the Prior, who was jealous of John’s holiness, gave his the poorest cell and refused him any visitors. John died on December 14, 1591. He was beatified in 1675 by Pope Clement X, canonized in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII, and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1926 by Pope Pius XI.
Works by St. John of the Cross
- Sayings of Light and Love –
- The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more.
- O Lord, my God, who will seek you with simple and pure love, and not find that you are all one can desire, for you show yourself first and go out to meet those who seek you?
- Though the path is plain and smooth for people of good will, those who walk it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty if they do not have good feet, courage, and tenacity of spirit.