Saint John of the Cross

Doctor of the Church
1542 – 1591 

Memorial: December 14 

Also known as: Doctor of Mystical Theology

Saint John of the Cross was born in poverty as Juan de Yepes y Alvarez on June 24, 1542 at Fontiveros, Spain. John learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver's daughter and was disowned by his noble family.

John's father died when the boy was quite young, leaving his mother, a member of a lower social class, to raise him alone. After gaining employment in a plague hospital, John, at age 18, began to study with the Jesuits. He entered the Carmelite Order, being clothed with the habit on February 24, 1563, and taking the name Juan de Santo Matia (John of Saint Matthias).

After he was ordained a Priest, he learned much from St Teresa of Avila who persuaded him to begin the Discalced or barefoot reform within the Carmelite Order, he then took the name John of the Cross. In 1577 he was imprisoned in Toledo and was subjected to physical and mental tortures.

In 1578 John escaped to southern Spain to join the southern Carmelites. There he held leadership positions and wrote reflections on his experiences which show his deep spirit of prayer. In September, 1591, he become ill and had to move to another place. He chose to go to Ubeda where no one knew him. It was there that he died December 14, 1591, repeating the words of the psalmist: "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit". He was leaving behind a number of remarkable works of Christian mysticism: Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, and the Spiritual Canticle of the Soul.

He was buried in a vault beneath the flooring of the church of Ubeda. His relics were found intact when the tomb was opened 2 years after his death. In May 1593 his remains were transferred to Segovia. He was beatified January 25, 1675 by Pope Clement X and canonized 27 December 27, 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII.

Patronage: contemplative life; contemplatives; mystical theology; mystics; Spanish poets

Prayer Saint John of the Cross

you endowed Saint John of the Cross
with a spirit of self‑denial and love of the cross.
By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.