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St. John of the Cross, Priest, Doctor of the Church

St. John of the Cross, Priest, Doctor of the Church

December 14, 2023

John of the Cross led a life marked by both hardship and spiritual richness. Born into a converso family in Fontiveros, Spain, in 1542, he faced early tragedy with the loss of his father and brother due to poverty. His mother worked tirelessly to support the family, moving from place to place.

John received a basic education among poor children and later studied humanities at a Jesuit school. He entered the Carmelite Order in 1563 and took the name John of St. Matthias. His encounter with Teresa of Ávila redirected his path, leading him to embrace her reformation projects for the Carmelite Order, emphasizing a return to its original rules.

Embracing a life of contemplation, John embarked on founding new monasteries that followed Teresa's principles. He became a spiritual director for Teresa and other nuns and laypeople, contributing significantly to the Discalced Carmelites' formation.

John's death in Úbeda in 1591 marked the beginning of a veneration that saw his remains moved multiple times between monasteries, reflecting the desire to honor and preserve his legacy. His beatification and canonization followed, recognizing his significant spiritual contributions.

His literary works, especially the Spiritual Canticle and the Dark Night of the Soul, showcase his mastery in poetic expression and mystical depth. These works, along with his commentaries, deeply influenced subsequent spiritual writers, theologians, philosophers, and artists across the globe.

John's intellectual influences remain a subject of debate, with discussions ranging from biblical and mystical sources to potential secular literary and Islamic influences. His impact on Spanish literature and mysticism is profound, marking him as a key figure in spiritual and literary history.

Canonized by Pope Benedict XIII on December 27, 1726, John was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pius XI on August 24, 1926, solidifying his status as a revered spiritual and theological figure.

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