Sunday, February 20, 2011

Link to Full Text: Holy Father discusses St. John of the Cross

In his general audience this past Wednesday, the Holy Father spoke on St. John of the Cross.  Many of these audiences are found only partially translated (see example here) at the Vatican's website.  Zenit offers us a full translation. 

Follow the link below to continue reading at Zenit.

On St. John of the Cross

"If a Man Has a Great Love Within … He Endures Life’s Problems More Easily"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall. In his Italian-language address, the Pope centered his meditation on the figure of St. John of the Cross, priest of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and doctor of the Church (1542-1591).

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Two weeks ago I presented the figure of the great Spanish mystic Teresa of Jesus. Today I would like to speak about another important saint of that land, a spiritual friend of St. Teresa, a reformer, and like St. Teresa, a member of the Carmelite religious family: St John of the Cross, proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1926, and who is traditionally referred to as Doctor Mysticus, "Mystical Doctor."

John of the Cross was born in 1542 in small village of Fontiveros, near Avila, in Castilla la Vieja, son of Gonzalo de Yepes and Catalina Álvarez. The family was very poor because the father, of noble birth from Toledo, was expelled from his home and disinherited for having married Catalina, a humble silk weaver. John's father died when the youth was very young, and at nine years old, John went with his mother and brother Francisco to Medina del Campo, near Valladolid, a commercial and cultural center. Here he attended the "Colegio de los Doctrinos," also carrying out humble works for the nuns of the church-convent of Magdalen.

Subsequently, given his human qualities and the results of his studies, he was admitted first as nurse in the Hospital of the Conception and later in the College of the Jesuits, just founded in Medina del Campo. John entered it at 18 and studied social sciences, rhetoric and classical languages for three years. At the end of his formation, his vocation was very clear to him: the religious life and, among the many orders present in Medina, he felt called to the Carmel.

In the summer of 1563 he began his novitiate among the Carmelites of the city, taking the religious name of Matthew. The following year he was sent to the prestigious University of Salamanca, where he studied Philosophy and Arts for three years. In 1567, he was ordained priest and returned to Medina del Campo to celebrate his first Mass surrounded by the affection of his family.

It was precisely here that the first meeting took place between John and Teresa of Jesus. The meeting was decisive for both: Teresa set forth her plan for the reform of Carmel also in the masculine branch, and suggested that John adhere to it "for the greater glory of God." The young priest was fascinated by Teresa's ideas, to the point of becoming a great supporter of the project. They both worked together for some months, sharing ideals and proposals to open as soon as possible the first house of Discalced Carmelites. The opening took place on Dec. 28, 1568, in Duruelo, a solitary place in the province of Avila.

With John, the first masculine community was formed with three other companions. On renewing their religious profession according to the Primitive Rule, the four adopted new names: John then called himself "of the Cross," the name with which he would later be known universally. At the end of 1572, at the request of St. Teresa, he became confessor and vicar of the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila, where the saint was prioress. They were years of close collaboration and spiritual friendship, which enriched them both. During that period were written the most important Teresian works and John's first writings.

Adherence to the Carmelite reform was not easy, and it even resulted in grave suffering for John. The most dramatic incident was his seizure and imprisonment in 1577 in the convent of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance of Toledo, which was the result of an unjust accusation. The saint remained in prison for six months, subjected to privations and physical and moral constraints. Here he composed, along with other poems, the famous "Spiritual Canticle." Finally, on the night of Aug. 16-17, 1578, he was able to escape in a hazardous way, taking refuge in the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites of the city. St. Teresa and his companions celebrated his liberation with great joy and, after a brief time to regain his strength, John was sent to Andalucia, where he spent 10 years in several convents, especially in Granada. He took on increasingly important posts in the order, eventually becoming provincial vicar, and completed the writing of his spiritual treatises.

Then he returned to the land of his birth, as a member of the general government of the Teresian religious family, which now enjoyed full juridical autonomy. He lived in the Carmel of Segovia, carrying out the office of superior of that community. In 1591, he was relieved of all responsibility and destined to the new religious Province of Mexico. While preparing for the long journey with 10 companions, he retired to a solitary convent near Jaen, where he became seriously ill.

John faced with exemplary serenity and patience enormous sufferings. He died on the night of Dec. 13-14, 1591, while his brothers recited the Morning Office. He took leave of them saying: "Today I am going to sing the Office in Heaven." His mortal remains were taken to Segovia. He was beatified by Clement X in 1675, and canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726.
Now, if you know the Holy Father's style, he is just getting warmed up and providing background.  Continue reading the rest of the address at Zenit.

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