Monday, December 14, 1998
Monday December 14:
Feast of Saint John of the Cross, Carmelite priest and Doctor of the Church
First Reading: Numbers 24: 2-7, 15-17
Psalms: Psalm 25: 4-9
Gospel Reading: Matthew 21: 23-27
December 14: Feast of Saint John of the Cross, Carmelite priest and Doctor of the Church
Born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez in Fontiveros at Old Castile, Spain on June 24, 1542 of very poor parents, Saint John of the Cross was the youngest son of a silk weaver who died shortly after his birth. John's mother moved to Medina del Campo where he was educated in the catechism school under the Jesuits there and learned to love his faith greatly at an early age. Though he had developed the trade of male nurse, he opted for the Carmelites by entering the seminary in 1563. After ordination he returned to Medina del Campo where he first met Saint Teresa of Avila, a spiritual and philosophical bonding that would carry on through their lifetimes. Though he yearned to join the Carthusians because they offered a deeper comtemplative way of life, Teresa was able to convince him to stay and join her in reforming the Carmelite Order for both priests and nuns. Re-energized, he changed his name from John of Saint Matthias to John of the Cross dedicated to living Christ's words in Luke 9:23, "If anyone wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily." On November 28, 1568, aided by four others which included the former prior of the Carmelite Order in Medina Antonio de Heredia, he founded the first house of reform for Carmelite men at Durelo, Spain which marked the beginning of the Discalced Carmelites. Two years later he became rector of the Discalced house of studies at Alcala and in 1572 was reunited with St. Teresa when he was appointed spiritual director of her Convent of the Incarnation at Avila. During his five year stay here the Calced Carmelites, unhappy with the conservative bent of John and Teresa, mounted a campaign against the two saints. In 1577 they kidnapped John and held him prisoner in Toledo, subjecting him to great hardships behind bars as well as intense pressure to give up his crusade for reform and holiness. It was during this time he wrote his famous "The Dark Night of the Soul" where only his faith and goal of the cross kept him sane. After nine months of this intensive punishment that challenged John's inner faith, he escaped the clutches of the Calced and, through the tireless efforts and never-say-no attitude of Teresa the Discalced Carmelites were finally officially recognized in 1579. Immediately John was placed in charge of the Discalced Carmelite College at Baeza for two years before being elected prior at Granada in 1582. Three years later he was appointed provincial of Andalusia and in 1587 selected prior at Segovia, Spain. Through out a twelve year period he established several Discalced houses for men, but in early 1591 the Madrid general chapter dealt the Discalced Carmelites a terrible blow by stripping John of all his offices because of his support for the conservative cause and reduced him to a simple monk, sending him to La Penuela Monastery in Andalusia. His enemies had hoped he'd become so discouraged he'd leave the order or do something that would prompt him to be expelled. Shortly after arriving at the monastery, John, ever the humble one, contracted a fever from which he never recovered. Moved to the priory at Ubeda where he could get the proper medical attention, he died shortly after arriving there on December 14, 1591. He had prophecied the day, date, time and place of his death and true to his words he passed on to a Greater Glory just as the friars began the midnight office. This great mystic's writings which also include "The Ascent of Mount Carmel," "The Spiritual Canticle," and "The Living Flame of Love" have merited him the title of Doctor of the Church inferred on him by Pope Pius XI in 1926. He had been canonized in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII.