St. John of the Cross also called the Doctor of Mystical Theology, is a powerhouse of a saint. His feast day is December 14. As a priest he reformed his own religious order, the Discalced Carmelite Friars. Considered a threat to the Carmlelite order superiors, he was imprisoned in a dark cell for months on end and routinely tortured. A prolific writer and poet he is considered one the greatest religious poets know to mankind, although it took three hundred years before this recognition was achieved. In a cramped prison he wrote, “Faith and love will lead you along a path unknown to you, to the place where God is hidden.”
The Carmelite Monastery of Discalced Nuns is a testament to John of the Cross and Teresa of Ávila, the prayers and worship make this cloistered Order a spiritual stronghold in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Carmelite Monastery of Discalced Nuns, Philadelphia, PA
From the authors of Collected Works of John The Cross, “In his oral teaching John used to point out that the more you love God, the more you desire that all people love and honor him and as the desire grows you work harder to that end, both in prayer and all spiritual works. His preferred work was spiritual direction, whereby you could help to free individuals from their moral and spiritual illnesses.
St. John of the Cross favorite feasts were the feasts of the Blessed Virgin.
With the bible, he was able to enter into intimacy with the three persons of the blessed trinity.
Saints at the Altar
His lyric poetry was actually meant to be sung instead of recited. Singing is popular in Carmelite monasteries especially on feast day Mass celebrations. St. John was know to frequently sing on journeys through the countryside. Nuns enjoyed putting his poems to music.
1902 Hook & Hastings Organ
One of the best know poems is The Spiritual Canticle. A free version of the poems is below:
Three prose books are The Dark Night, Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Living Flame of Love. A free version of Dark Night and Ascent of Mount Carmal are below:
Ascent of Mount Carmel
The “discalced” references the practice of wearing sandals or going bearfoot instead of shoes. St. John of the Cross was the spiritual director (confessor) of St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) who was 27 years his junior.
The Carmelite order has three Doctors of the Church: Teresa of Ávila, Thérèse of Lisieux and John of the Cross. Other Carmelites include Edith Stein, Brother Lawrence and Sister Lúcia of Fátima.
Sayings of Light and Love are maxims attributed to St. John of the Cross. Selected from this book are:
29. A soul enkindled with love is a gentle, meek, humble, and patient soul.
30. A soul that is hard because of self-love grows harder.
39. My spirit has become dry because it forgets to feed on you.
59. Think not that pleasing God lies so much in doing a great deal as in doing it with good will, without possessiveness and human respect.
60. When evening comes, you will be examined in love. Learn to love as God desires to be loved and abandon your own ways of acting.
61. See that you do not interfere in the affairs of others, nor even allow them to pass through your memory; for perhaps you will be unable to accomplish your own task.
108. All the goodness we possess is lent to us, and God considers it his own work. God and his work is God.
126. The devil fears a soul united to God as he does God himself.
In 1571 Teresa wrote to her sister about John, “The people take him for a saint; in my opinion he is one, and has been all his life.”