The feast day of St. John of the Cross is celebrated on December 14. Because of his mystical writing, he is called the Mystical Doctor. He is one of the 35 Doctors of the Church. He is the patron of mystics.
Juan de Yepes Alvarez was born in Spain in 1542. His father was disowned by the family when he married a weavers’ daughter. His father died soon after his birth. Most of Juan’s childhood was spent in poverty. As a teenager, Juan worked in a hospital caring for the terminally ill and mental patients.
At the age of 21, Juan became a brother in the Carmelite Order. He went for higher studies in Slamanca and was ordained a priest, taking the name of John of the Cross at age 25. He soon met St. Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun, who convinced him to help her in the work of reforming the Carmelite Order. There was great resistance to the reforming of the order to a more prayerful life. Those against the reform actually kidnapped him. They held him prisoner for over nine months in a small cell, six by ten feet wide. He was beaten often. During this time of trial, St. John of the Cross became very close to God, spending his time writing his mystical poetry. He eventually escaped using a rope made of strips of blankets to climb out the window. The only thing he took with him was his writings. John hid in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. From this period on he shared his experience of God’s love.
St. John of the Cross wrote many books including:
- Ascent of Mount Carmel,
- Dark Night of the Soul
- A Spiritual Canticle
- Living Flame of Love
In 1579, he became Rector of Colegio de San Basilio, continuing his writing ministry. He is known for a spirituality which believes in the prayer of detachment. His spirituality also focused on joining our suffering to the Paschal Mystery (the death and suffering of Jesus Christ). He taught that the Cross leads to resurrection, agony to ecstasy, darkness to light, abandonment to possession, denial of self to union with God.
St. John of the Cross died of fever caused by cellulitus. He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. His feast day is Dec. 14, the day of his death and entry into heaven
“Live in the world as if only God
and your soul were in it;
then your heart will never be made
captive by any earthly thing.”
Quote of St. John of the Cross
December is the Month of the Divine Infancy