General information

St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

St. John of the Cross was a Spanish Catholic priest, a mystic and a Carmelite friar. The 16th century was a period of time marked by significant challenges and formative events which helped shape history. Born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez (June 24, 1542), he was educated mainly in Christian doctrine and studied humanities at a Jesuit school. St. John was considered a mystic and poet, best known for his writings which explored the depths of the soul’s communion with the divine. 'The Spiritual Canticle' and 'The Living Flame of Love,' are described as doors to the sacred, which invite us to journey on our own transformative pilgrimage.

The Living Flame of Love

Flame, alive, compelling,
yet tender past all telling,
reaching the secret center of my soul!
Since now evasion’s over,
finish your work, my Lover,
break the last thread,
wound me and make me whole!

Burn that is for my healing!
Wound of delight past feeling!
Ah, gentle hand whose touch is a caress,
foretaste of heaven conveying
and every debt repaying:
slaying, you give me life for death’s distress.

O lamps of fire bright-burning
with splendid brilliance, turning
deep caverns of my soul to pools of light!
Once shadowed, dim, unknowing,
now their strange new-found glowing
gives warmth and radiance for my Love’s delight.

Ah, gentle and so loving
you wake within me, proving
that you are there in secret, all alone;
your fragrant breathing stills me
your grace, your glory fills me
so tenderly your love becomes my own.

Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Saint John of the Cross, through the sufferings you endured in your youth and as a friar, God purified you and called you deeper. You responded, and through you the Carmelites were reformed, and from you came a wealth of spiritual treasures in your teachings. Please pray for me, that I will never shy away from the sufferings of the Cross but will see those sufferings as the means of my deeper union with our loving God. Saint John of the Cross, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

His Death and Memory

In 1591 St. John became very ill after contracting a skin disease caused by a streptococcus bacteria. Having lived a very full, yet short life, he died at the age of 49 on December 14. His life and works are celebrated on this day.