December 14, 2023, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Holy Rosary (Luminous Mysteries) | Prayer for Peace

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Friends of the Rosary:

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), a 16th-century Spaniarch Carmelite mystic and priest best known for reforming his order together with Saint Teresa of Avila, and for writing the classic spiritual treatise “The Dark Night of the Soul.”

A great contemplative and spiritual writer, he also wrote “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” “The Spiritual Canticle”, and “The Living Flame of Love.” 

Honored as a Doctor of the Church since 1926, he is sometimes called the “Mystical Doctor,” as a tribute to the depth of his teaching on the soul’s union with God.

Born in 1542 in Fontiveros near the Spanish city of Avila, as young he spent several years working in a hospital for the poor. He had been practicing severe physical asceticism even before joining the Carmelites and got permission to live according to their original rule of life, which stressed solitude, silence, poverty, work, and contemplative prayer.

John received ordination as a priest in 1567. He was the spiritual director and confessor of the Carmelite nun Teresa of Avila. She persuaded him to remain in the order and help her in the reform of the Carmelites.

Their reforming movement of the “Discalced Carmelites” grew quickly, but also met with severe opposition from opponents of the strict observance, who seized John and imprisoned him in a tiny cell. His ordeal lasted nine months and included regular public floggings along with other harsh punishments. Yet it was during this very period that he composed the poetry that would serve as the basis for his spiritual writings.

John managed to escape from prison in August of 1578, after which he resumed the work of founding and directing Discalced Carmelite communities.

Suspicion, mistreatment, and humiliation had characterized much of his time in religious life, but these trials are understood as having brought him closer to God by breaking his dependence on the things of this world.

Only near the end of his life had St. John’s monastic superior recognized his wisdom and holiness. Though his reputation had suffered unjustly for years, this situation reversed soon after his death.

When Our Lord asked him what reward he would ask for his labors, John answered: “To suffer and to be despised for Thee.” He died of a very painful skin infection disease, erysipelas, in December 1591, while embracing the crucifix.

St. John of the Cross was beatified in 1675, canonized in 1726, and named a Doctor of the Church in the 20th century by Pope Pius XI.

In a letter marking the 400th anniversary of St. John’s death, Pope John Paul II – who had written a doctoral thesis on the saint’s writings – recommended the study of the Spanish mystic, whom he called a “master in the faith and witness to the living God.”

In Sayings of Light and Love, 26-27, St. John of the Cross wrote:

“Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine, and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart.”

Ave Maria!
Jesus, I Trust In You!
St. John of the Cross, Pray for Us!

To Jesus through Mary!

+ Mikel A. |, New York