The Feast of St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross died in Ubeda at midnight on December 14th 1591. He was just 49 years old and had given himself to the reform for 23 years. I remember the first time my wife and I visited the monastery of the Discalced Carmelite friars in Ubeda. The monastery was closed for the day but the Prior knew we were coming and had kindly instructed one of the brothers that we were to be given complete freedom to visit and spend as much time as we wished. We entered the monastery and museum of the life and times of John through the same door through which John of the Cross was brought on September 28 1591, suffering from fever and inflamation of his leg. John suffered much in those days in Ubeda, and died peacefully on December 14th. The museum contains the room where John died, the table on which his body was prepared for burial, the chapel where his funeral took place and where he was briefly buried from his death in 1591 to May 1593, when his body was transferred to Segovia. Elsewhere the museum shows episodes from John’s life, using actual items associated with John wherever possible, such as a table where he sat to give direction.

The Tomb of John of the Cross in Segovia

The Tomb of John of the Cross in Segovia

On the feast of St. John of the Cross, we are reminded that if we center our lives on love, all else will fall into place. John stated this in one of his sayings: “O Lord, my God, who will seek you with simple and pure love, and not find that you are all one can desire, for you show yourself first and go out to those who seek you” (S. 2). Then again, John summed up his own convictions on the centrality of love in another saying that became quite famous: “When evening comes, you will be examined in love” (S. 60). What we strive for is to say with the bride in the story of the Spiritual Canticle: “nor have I any other work now that my every act is love” (C. stanza 28). As a prophet of God, John above all told us how to see God’s love everywhere, in nature, in people, and even in oppressors. John appreciated his own enduring purpose in life, his own destiny. May this day remind us of his challenges for our own lives.

I have brought together much of John’s teachings for our contemporary lives in a new series of reflections on his major works. I hope they will be helpful to you in your spiritual journey. You can see the books on my web-page and all books are available for purchase on These books would make a wonderful Christmas gift for a friend interested in John of the Cross.

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