Saint John of the Cross
St. John of the Cross (1542–1591) – also known as San Juan de la Cruz – was born to a poor family in Old Castile, Spain. His father married below his rank and was disinherited as a result. After his father’s early death, John was raised in poverty by his mother. He studied and served at a local hospital while committing himself to severe penances. Uncertain of his life’s direction, he was told in prayer that he should enter religious life in order to bring reform. John joined the ancient Carmelite Order and received permission to observe their original rule of life, quickly earning a reputation for his humility, obedience, and religious fervor. He later met St. Teresa of Avila, a reforming Carmelite abbess who recognized the greatness of John’s virtue and requested his assistance to found a monastery of friars under the primitive Carmelite rule, as she had done for her nuns. Together they founded the Discalced Carmelites, a contemplative order of strict religious observance. His reforms began to spread, and as a result John was captured, imprisoned, and physically abused by his fellow friars. His sufferings helped him to write his most famous work, Dark Night of the Soul. After nine months he made a miraculous escape and he went on to found and govern several Carmelite monasteries. St. John of the Cross became an authority on the spiritual life, and his profound writings and poetry are considered among the greatest of all Spanish literature. Because of his invaluable writings he was named a Doctor of the Church and the patron saint of mystics, contemplatives, and Spanish poets. His feast day is December 14th.
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