St John of the Cross

Juan de Yepes y Álvarez was born in 1542 in Fontiveros, Spain. He became a Carmelite friar aged 21, taking the name John of St. Matthias but considered leaving the Order to pursue a more contemplative way of life. He was thinking of joining the Carthusians when he met St Teresa of Avila in 1567. She persuaded John instead to become one of the first friars of her reform. He was one of her closest and most loyal collaborators in her work of reforming the Carmelite Order. They met much opposition and John was even imprisoned by friars opposed to reform. After Teresa’s death, John’s loyalty to her vision for the Discalced friars and nuns brought him into disagreement with the new leaders of the reform, who sent him into exile. He died in 1591.

John was a mystic and is known for his teaching on contemplative prayer, and especially for his poetry which expresses the union of the soul with God. It is considered some of the most beautiful lyric poetry in the Spanish language. He also wrote four major theological commentaries: The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night, The Spiritual Canticle and The Living Flame of Love.

We celebrate his feast day on 14th December.

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