St. John of the Cross


By Mel Mantanona

Juan de Yepes, who we now know as St. John of the Cross, was born in 1542 in Spain. His father was of noble birth yet disowned for having married a woman who was considered less than him in status and spent the remainder of his life as a poor silk weaver. He died shortly after John’s birth and John grew up in extreme poverty.

Often going underfed, John remained short in stature with the toll of poverty evident on his features. He spent his youth in the hospital serving the sick as a result of being unable to learn a trade and used his free time in sacred studies.

At 21, he went to the Carmelite Friars and offered himself as a lay brother but was instead ordained a priest due to his talents. He initially planned to enter into the Carthusian Order, but his friend St. Teresa of Avila, under the intuition of a saint, convinced him to stay and help reform the order he was already in.

He then became the head of the Discalced, or “barefoot,” Carmelites. His reforming actions did not please the elder friars and John was thrown into prison having been accused of being fugitive and apostate. He escaped after nine months of suffering.

He was publicly disgraced and persecuted twice more by his fellow friars but persevered in holiness, upholding a strong faith due to his interior peace and a great longing for heaven. He spent the rest of his life writing contemplative and spiritual works.

He died of infection in Spain at the age of 49. He is the patron saint of contemplative life, contemplatives, mystical theology, mystics, and Spanish poets. His notable writings on mystical theology earned him the title of Doctor of the Church, given by Pope Pius XI in 1926.

His writings on the “dark night of the soul,” or the feeling of spiritual emptiness or being abandoned by God, remains unparalleled in its teachings and guidance. St. John of the Cross teaches us that God loves us and is with us even when we least feel it. Let us ask, through the intercession of St. John of the Cross, for endurance in times of spiritual drought or darkness.

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