Monday, December 12, 2011

Love your enemies
He was also concerned about what was happening to the Order under Doria's authority, and the unhappiness it was causing to the nuns. He wrote to Sr Leonor advising her not to dwell on things, 'because what should be occupied in God be occupied in this....Let the garden be closed, then, without pain or worry, for he who entered bodily for his disciples, when the doors were closed, and gave them peace, without them knowing or imagining that this could be, nor how, will enter in spirit into the soul....and he will fill her with peace.'
He had need of that peace for himself, because a new definitor, Fr Diego Evangelista, elected at the Madrid Chapter, was given the task of investigating Fr Gracian, with a view to carrying out his expulsion from the Order that Doria had proposed. The nuns at Granada were so worried at the interrogation to which they had been subjected and the way what they said was being twisted and misinterpreted, that they burned a whole sack of John's letters and other writings. Hearing of this activity, John was deeply hurt, but refused to say anything against Fr Diego. This campaign continued for the rest of John's life, and hearing of his death, Diego expressed regret that he had not managed to expel him from the Order before he died. The hapless Gracian was not so 'fortunate'. He was expelled, captured and tortured by Barbary pirates, escaped, and, not able to re-enter the Discalced, died as a Calced friar.

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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.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

God is always good.
What John had foreseen came to pass. Doria saw his prestige and the reverence in which so many held him for his spiritual stature as a threat to his own authority and he left the Chapter a simple friar, stripped of any post. There were even plans to send him to Mexico, although this never materialised. Instead, he was sent to a remote friary at La Penuela. For John, it was a relief no longer to have all his administrative tasks, and to pursue the life of prayer for which he always yearned, whatever his outward activity over the previous years. As he remarked of those years, when he spent his journeys praying, singing psalms, 'I am well, but my soul lags far behind'. The letter he wrote to Mother Anne of Jesus shortly after the Chapter shows his state of mind: '[God] has arranged this that we may show it by our actions...this is not evil or harmful, neither for me nor for anyone. It is in my favour since, being freed and relieved from the care of souls, I can, if I want and with God's help, enjoy peace, solitude, and the delightful fruit of forgetfulness of self and of all things.' He made the most of the nature he so loved a Penuela, going for hours into the countryside to pray and be alone with his Beloved. Even so, he was not out of contact with the many people whom he had directed, and continued to guide them by letter. Even so, he would not have been human if he had not felt hurt by the antagonism and even hatred of which he had been the butt at the Chapter. As he wrote to Anne of Penalosa, he liked Penuela very much: 'The vastness of the desert is a great help to the soul and the body, although the soul fares very poorly. The Lord must desire that it have its spiritual desert.' He described his simple life to her, which suited him so much: 'This morning we have already returned from gathering our chick-peas, and so the mornings go by. On another day we shall thresh them. It is nice to handle these mute creatures, better than being badly handled by living ones.'

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