St. John of the Cross


 John was born in Fontiveros (Avila, Spain) in 1542, and died in Ubeda (Jaén, Spain) in 1591. This makes him 27 years younger than Teresa of Avila, to whom he was a great help in the Reform of the Carmelite Order.

He was a small man, but ‘great in the eyes of God’, St Teresa said of him. He was reserved and humble : he had a gift for going unnoticed and even for being scorned. Yet according to those who knew him he was blessed with an artistic sensitivity, an intelligence and an ability to love that were out of the ordinary. And it was through love that he transcended all the suffering in his life.

He came from a poor family and was to stay poor all his life, both materially and spiritually. On the other hand, the intrepid and persistent nature that he shared with his contemporaries would launch him not into the conquest of the New World, but into an exploration of the depths of the mystery of God. He was an ‘explorer of the Infinite’. He had a few means at his disposal to enable him to do this : an excellent knowledge of Scripture, partly acquired at the University of Salamanca ; his mystical experience, which he could contrast with that of St Teresa ; and his experience of guiding souls, through his work as a spiritual director.

That’s how he can guide us into the ‘pathless regions’ of our personal response to the love of God, and give us a glimpse of what awaits us at the end of the adventure : the perfect union with God in the ‘living flame of love’.

Such is the meaning and the aim of our lives, he tells us. The way to get there is difficult ; but God, by his grace, supplies us with infallible means of getting through : faith, hope and love.

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