Monday, October 27, 2008

St John of the Cross

There are many Saints who proved their love of God through examples of heroic virtue. St John of the Cross is one of them.

He wrote the most beautiful poems describing soul search for His beloved. It is good to think of him during the month of the Sacred Heart, the beautiful symbol of God's love for us. We will focus today on the period of St John's life that began when he was elected the prior of Discalced friars in Baez. It happened just after Discalced were finally set up as a separate Province. He was the Prior there for two years and after that he was appointed Prior to the Granada foundation of Los Martires. He was far away from his beloved Castile and he felt his isolation deeply. This feeling of isolation was increased after Saint Teresa died the same year. He had reached however, that state of inner freedom when he could truly be himself and not to be forced into a mould of other's making. As Prior and an official in his Order now, he himself had a status that afforded him some dignity, but he refused to be judged by such standards. A high ranking official would be brought to him and be greeted by John just as he was. As he said to one visitor who expressed his surprise, 'After all, I am the son of a weaver'. Later on, his brother Francisco was often with him. Francisco remained what he always was, a poor workman, and John would introduce him with great pride as the greatest treasure he had on earth. To John, earthly rank or attainment did not matter. What did matter was that they were all children of God, and as such, deserving of his respect and love, whatever their rank or lack of it. The Order met for their second Chapter in 1583 and John was reaching the peak of his religious leadership. He was elected 2nd definitor and Vicar Provincial. He completed at that time his major writings, The Spiritual Canticle and the Dark Night of the Soul. From 1585, for the next three years he was almost constantly on the road in his role as Vicar Apostolic, attending chapters, visiting the various foundations, founding new convents and friaries. At one such foundation, that of Cordoba, he nearly lost his life. A stone wall that was being built fell on the cell in which he was working, and the workmen scrabbled frantically to dig him out, fearing he was dead. However, they found him crouched in a corner under a statue of Our Lady that had fallen above him, laughing and saying that it was she who had saved him. To his delight, in 1588 he was appointed prior of the Segovia friary, which meant that he was back in his beloved Castile. A new friary was still being built away from the dampness of the nearby river, so John joined in with the building work. These were to be the last happy moments in his life. He was back in Castile and nearer to his beloved brother who was able to visit him more often. To his brother he revealed an experience he had. Praying before a picture of Christ carrying his cross one day, he heard an inner voice calling his name, and responded inwardly, 'Here I am'. The voice asked him then what reward he would like for all he had done and all he had have suffered. John's response was, 'To suffer and to be looked down upon.' He told this to his brother so that when Francis saw him having trials he would not be distressed, knowing that it was what he desired and that they God's will for him. The time of serious trials was coming for John to prove his love of God and neighbour. God was willing to give him a chance to become a great saint.