Sunday, December 11, 2011

Last Days
John of the Cross had said to Mother Anne that his health was good, but that was to change in September of that year, 1591. Bearing in mind his austere life, the sufferings his body undergone in Toledo, the incessant travels over Spain without benefit of modern roads, his health had borne up very well. He had a bout of fever a little earlier, and now he went down with another bout, and his right leg became inflamed. He needed medical attention, but Penuela was so remote that there was no medicines available. He had make a decision whether to go to Baeza, where he would be welcomed, but would be surrended by visitors wanting to see him, or to the recently founded house at Ubeda. He chose Ubeda. It was a twenty mile journey by mule in the torrid heat, and he was almost dead with pain and exhaustion by the time he arrived. It was discovered that he had untreated erysipelas in his foot, a disease of the nerve ending which would break our into painful sores. The doctor had to scrape away the diseased flesh without anesthetic - with no understanding of sterilisation, that would probably have made the condition worse.


He was pleased to see Fr Alonzo, who had been one od the novices at Granada, but his welcome from the Prior, Francis Chrysostom, was much less welcome. He resented the drain on his time and resources that a sick friar would mean to the community. In addition, as his Provincial some time before, John had had to reprimand him, and Francis had born him a grudge ever since. Now he would have his revenge. He gave John a tiny cell that only John, being so small, could enter without stooping. In the encroaching winter, it was bitterly cold, with the wind coming in through cracks in the wall. Sick as John was, the Prior ordered him to attend all the community functions, and publicly reprimanded him when he had to stay in bed. He accused John of using his illness to seek sympathy, what a bad example he was giving, how lax he was in observing the Rule. He refused to allow any of the brothers or any visitors to see him. Wherever John had been Prior, his attention to the sick was peerless. However poor the community might be, all that the sick might need was given them. Now, Fr Francis refused to provide hism with the medicines and food that John needed. His treatment was scandalising the community, however, and when Fr Francis forbade Fr Bernard, his infirmarian, to look after John any more, this was the last straw for Bernard. He wrote to the Provincial, Fr Anthony of Jesus, John's old companion from the Duruelo days, who immediately came to Ubeda, saw the conditions that John was suffering, reprimanded the Prior severely, and made that he was given a better treatment.