Category Archives: St John of the Cross

Purifying motives


-by Circle of Giovanni Bellini (circa 1430–1516), “Christ Carrying the Cross”,1505-1510, oil on panel, 49.5 × 38.5 cm (19.5 × 15.2 in)Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA


-by Br Norbert Kelliher, OP

“We carry our cross. We do it to be disciples of Christ, to do His will in our life and not our own. But surrendering our own willfulness means more than a determination to obey. The paradox of discipleship is not that we do the will of another and receive a reward, but that in leaving behind our own will we discover it again in Christ. In the end, we will discover that we desire the same thing that Christ does.

St. John of the Cross, a disciple of Christ known for his asceticism, expresses this paradox in one of his Sayings of Light and Love:

“Deny your desires and you will find what your heart longs for. For how do you know if any desire of yours is according to God?” (Sayings 15)

Desire is our will’s attraction to the good. When we are willful in a disordered way, we seize on something that is good but in a way contrary to God’s will and to our nature. We can also have desires that follow reason and are virtuous. Real virtue includes adapting to our circumstances and purifying our motives, which often have been distorted by past sin. As our desires are educated in discipleship, we should question them and see whether they are good here and now.

This saying of St. John of the Cross can help us in our daily discipleship by making us skeptical about some of our desires. It is always necessary to deny innately disordered desires, as well as selfish ways of satisfying innately good ones. At other times we have to let go of good desires by force of circumstance, even though in another case they would be virtuous.

To deny ourselves out of a desire to please God is a way of taking up our daily cross, as Christ says His disciples must do. Just as the man who wishes to save his life ends up losing it, so the man who does not deny his own disordered desires ends up suffering what he does not desire. Rom 6:23 But if we learn the habit of denying our inappropriate desires, we can find our satisfaction in desiring Christ above all things.

By denying ourselves out of humility, we create more room for the One desire that matters. If we doubt whether we will find what we’re looking for along this road, we can imagine querying the saint:

“Was it worth it, St. John of the Cross, to leave behind so many of your own desires for Christ?”

His unequivocal answer would be, “Yes! Now I possess Christ and have all I ever could have wanted.” The willfulness of a saint is greater than that of a sinner, because he clings tenaciously to Goodness itself.

For those of us who are not saints, we can take comfort that perfect self-denial does not come immediately. We may get there some day, but for now, fulfilling our basic duties in life and our Lenten practices is enough. By taking these up faithfully, with a longing for Christ, we are surrendering our own will little by little. This process is painful, but we know that one day it will lead to our greatest joy.”

[Ed. you will know you are doing this correctly if greater and greater peace comes with an ever more intimate relationship w/Him, resting ever more in His sweet, sweet love.]

Love, joy, and intimacy with Him, His growing peace to you,
Matthew

Dec 14 – St John of the Cross, OCD, “En Una Noche Oscura…”

zurbaran_john_cross
-St. John of the Cross by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656 [Archdiocesan Museum of Katowice, Poland]

michael-pakaluk-portrait-boston-pilot
-by Michael Pakaluk

“En una noche oscura”, “On a dark night.” So begins his most famous poem. What is described, and what the great mystic wants to evoke, does not take place during the day, but at night. And not during any night we might know, but a night from the 16th century.

Yes, people have stopped working and are at rest, sleeping. No one is about. And there is no light from the sun, of course. But there are no human lights either. What few candles and lamps people might own have been extinguished. Since the night is dark, we can presume that not even the moon is shining.

But note this difference between our “dark” and the Spanish oscura, literally “obscured.” Darkness is superficial, a kind of color, but being obscured is a deep condition: the Spanish word makes clear that the darkness of the night comes from the covering-over or obscurity of the sun.

Understood spiritually, this could be someone manically surfing on his phone, plopped in front of the TV, or fervently preoccupied with Christmas shopping. Human light, as Pope Benedict said, is often darkened reality. Mary is out of sight; God is obscured; and his soul is in a state of extreme privation.

Con ansias, en amores inflamada – “With disquietude, though inflamed with love.” Some translators give “yearning” for ansias. But that is too positive. It makes things easy. After all, the word is cognate with our “anxiety.” So consider instead the common core of anxiety and yearning: namely, unsettledness, dread, or restlessness. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” The genius of the line, and the genius of him who wrote it, St. Augustine, is to see that, metaphysically, restlessness must be linked with love.

If you are paying attention you see that inflamada is feminine, and thus the author is asking us to consider a woman, alone on this dark night, troubled and yet deeply and romantically stirred by love. And, as she is a woman, she loves for having first been loved. Thus, although all is dark, we still can “see” something, namely, we can see her lover “in” the response of this woman, the beloved.

Spiritually, the woman is the human soul, perhaps the soul of that smart-phone addicted man, who sleeps lightly and wakes at 3 AM with that all too-familiar dread. Yet St. John of the Cross wishes to give him a key to interpreting his soul’s condition then. He can see the action of God in his own restlessness.¡Oh dichosa ventura! – “Oh blessed chance!” This may seem a strange line, an unusual interjection, but, as if to assure us that the meaning is well considered, the author repeats it again, in the very same place of the second stanza (as you can see if you read the whole poem).

To get the flavor, consider our expressions, “What a great stroke of luck!” “To my good fortune!” “By a happy fate!” If you frown upon the Saint for invoking luck, consider: the main English word for what all of us desire most of all is “happiness,” which means, literally, the state of enjoying “hap” or luck. (What “happens” is what accidentally turns out so.)

You can call it grace, if you look at the big picture, of God above looking down at the restless man below, and bestowing gifts according to His Eternal Will. Then there is nothing “lucky” about it, no aspect of “hap.” But from the point of view of the restless man, what comes next seems like the sheerest good luck. It is entirely incidental to his own powers, ideas, and limits. He would not in a million years have blundered upon it himself. Spiritually, the soul is always “surprised by joy,” as another great spiritual guide once put it.

Salí sin ser notada – “I went forth without being noticed.” The sheerest luck is that the soul goes forth. In the dark night, when all is dead, it rises and leaves. But then notice that immediately a task is presented to the soul: it is unnoticed and must want to remain unnoticed. Vanity, preening, recognition, human praise – consolation – it must give all of this up. “The Father who sees in secret will reward in secret.”

Spiritually, it is a miracle, on par with the resurrection, if the media-addicted man turns to God in prayer. Yet not if, for a Christian, but when. And when he does pray, he immediately has his work cut out for him, as in prayer he lives life in a different way, which implies no recognition. No one will click on you or “like” you for your prayer.

But yes, the Saint wants us to consider the boldness and adventure of a woman setting out secretly at night to meet her lover, because the mystery on which the soul embarks in prayer is even greater.

Estando ya mi casa sosegada – “while my house most assuredly was at rest.” This line too gets repeated. It therefore goes with the other line, and if the other line refers to God’s grace, seen from a human point of view, this line must refer to the human contribution, from the point of view of God’s grace.

Spanish casa can mean either the dwelling or the household. Spiritually, to say the dwelling is at rest is to say that the human body plays no part. To say that the household is at rest is to say that the human soul itself is not the origin. Christians and their prayers are born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn 1:13, KJV)

At the end of the poem the soul is “lost in oblivion,” and leaves its cares “forgotten among the lilies.” St. John of the Cross, lead us there.”

“Clothe me, O God, with the green garment of hope. A living hope in You gives the soul such ardor, so much courage and longing for the things of eternal life that, by comparison with what it hopes for, all things of the world seem to it to be, as in truth they are, dry, faded, dead, and without value. Give me then, a strong hope, O my God, so that it may strip me of all the vanities of the world, that I may not set my heart upon anything that is in the world, nor hope for anything, but live clad only in the hope of eternal life. Let hope be the helmet of salvation which will protect my head from the wounds of the enemy, and will direct my gaze to heaven allowing me to fix my eyes on You alone, my God. As the eyes of the handmaid are set upon the hands of her mistress, even so are my eyes set upon You, until You take pity on me because of my hope. Grant that I may set my eyes on naught but You, nor be pleased with aught but You alone. Then You will be pleased with me, and I shall be able to say in all truth that I receive from You as much as I hope for” (cf. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, II, 21,6-8).

Love,
Matthew

Psychiatry & Catholicism: Part 2, Dark Nights & St John of the Cross

depression

“Many Catholics and other Christians who are familiar with the Church’s tradition of prayer and mysticism have heard of the spiritual state known as the “dark night,” described by the Carmelite mystic St. John of the Cross. Actually, John of the Cross divides the “dark night” into two stages, the dark night of the senses and the dark night of the spirit, and assigns them to different stages of progress in the spiritual life. Speaking somewhat loosely and without awareness of these more technical meanings of the term, Christians will sometimes refer to any spiritual trial — dryness in prayer, doubts or difficulties with faith, or strong temptations — as “dark nights of the soul.”

I have evaluated some devout Christian patients who interpret their depressive symptoms as a “dark night.” Believing that they are enduring a spiritual trial rather than a medical or mental illness, they are often reluctant to seek treatment with medications or psychotherapy. When they fail to find relief from their suffering from spiritual direction or prayer, they can be tempted to despair or may feel as though God has abandoned them.

What St. John of the Cross describes when writing about the dark nights of the senses and of the spirit is not, in fact, the same thing as clinical depression. It is necessary to distinguish between these two states.29   Distinguishing them properly will help in identifying the right treatment modality, so that a person will not continue to suffer needlessly if he is depressed.

Let’s begin with a brief sketch of the two dark nights as St. John describes them. The dark night of the senses is characterized by dryness in prayer, an inability to apply imagination to the mysteries of Christ, a lack of emotional satisfaction from the spiritual life, and a lack of felt enthusiasm in prayer. Nonetheless, the person in this state retains a deep commitment to seeking union with God and following Christ and does not consider abandoning the spiritual life. This feature helps to distinguish the dark night of the senses from other spiritual or moral problems, such as acedia or lukewarmness. The dark night of the senses is a positive and normal development indicating progress in the spiritual life. The previous spiritual or affective consolations that God granted are withdrawn, in order to advance one’s faith, hope, and love by purifying one’s sensory attachment to pleasure and self-will. This helps the soul to become more selfless and attuned to God and to practice loving abandonment to Him.

The dark night of the spirit occurs in more advanced stages of the spiritual life and is characterized by profound interior pain and a sense of emptiness. In this state, God allows the person to perceive his own interior disorder and depravity, the infinite gap between the sinful creature and the all-holy God. The person in this state has no awareness of God other than pure faith, and even his faith seems to him to be inadequate. As a result, the person may wonder if God can accept and forgive him. St. John of the Cross maintains that the cause of this pain is, as the theologian Kevin Culligan describes it, “the light of God’s self-communication to the person, the contemplative knowledge that allows persons to see both God and themselves as they actually are, not as they had formerly imagined God or themselves to be.” Culligan continues, “[T]he loss of these images [of self and God] is for the person an experience of death, with all the consequent feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, and grief.”30

St. John teaches that both dark nights are the result of God’s increasing self-communication to the person, which purifies the soul first of sensory and then of spiritual attachments. Such a state may feel like darkness to the person, but objectively it is an intensification of divine light in the soul. The individual is actually moving closer to God, not farther away. Like a person who emerges from a cave into the bright sun, the initial experience is blinding and disorienting.

The description of the two dark nights implies at least one intermediate stage. To further clarify these movements in the spiritual life and how they might relate to depression, it can be helpful to view the dark nights within the larger context of what Christian spiritual writers call the three “ways,” or stages, of the spiritual life: the purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way.31 The first stage, the purgative way, follows upon the initial conversion (sacramentally accomplished in Baptism) that launches the life of Christian discipleship. Every baptized Christian embarks upon a spiritual life whose goal, on this side of death, is nothing less than infused contemplation of the mysteries of the faith. To enjoy such fullness of intimate union with the Trinity re-quires a purging, a burning away, of unreasonable attachments to the goods of this world, so that one might be free enough to enjoy the infinite good that is God Himself. If one allows this healing work, the Lord, in His goodness and mercy, purifies the soul of selfishness and sinful attachments, helping the person to grow in the virtues of faith, hope, and love.

A decisive moment comes with the first dark night, that of the senses, which leads on to the second stage of the spiritual life, the illuminative way. The illuminative way is a time when the soul feels consoled and uplifted by God. In this stage, one often has an enthusiasm to pray, to do spiritual reading, to receive the sacraments, and to serve others; the soul experiences a certain ease in following God’s will, desiring holy things, and turning away from sin and worldly attachments.

From this period of illumination, the soul is led, by way of the dark night of the spirit, into a third phase, the unitive way. The unitive way is the consummate stage of Christian life on earth. Spiritual growth continues at this point, but it occurs within a stable life of perfect unity with the Trinitarian life of love. Infused contemplation of the mysteries of the faith gives rise to a love without deficiency — perfect unitive life with God. This is a life of holiness, of sanctity. Every Christian is called to attain this perfection of love, even before death. Entry into this unitive way is made possible by successfully undergoing the dark night of the spirit. In this transition, the soul may experience a sense of desolation, but a “desolation” that is actually uniting the soul to God. It is imperative for properly understanding the dark nights to attend to the period of consolation — the illuminative way — in between the two dark nights. The point for our purposes is that one is not led directly from the beginning stages of the spiritual life into the dark night of the spirit. Before being led into this type of purification, the soul enjoys deep and abiding consolation in God and the things of God.

In the dark night of the spirit, it is true that the soul senses the loss of God’s presence, and this causes great pain. Between the dark night of the senses and that of the spirit, however, there is spiritual consolation. (More will be said about this in the following section.) This period of spiritual consolation is key for differentiating depression from the dark night of the spirit. A depressed person is not likely experiencing the abiding consolation of the illuminative way. In this way, the basic pattern of progress in the spiritual life can help us distinguish depression from the dark nights. Both dark nights belong to the dynamism of grace, by which God brings about perfect union of the soul with Himself. Love burns through the whole process, and that marks even the darkness of the senses and the darkness of the spirit that occur as God draws the Christian to the fullness of life.

Although a sense of loss is common to both depression and the dark nights, it is manifested differently. Depression involves the loss of ordinary abilities to function mentally and physically, and it can also be triggered by interpersonal loss, loss of a job, and so forth. The interior dryness of the dark night of the senses involves a loss of pleasure in the things of God and in some created things. However, it does not involve disturbed mood, loss of energy (with cognitive or motor slowing), or diminished sexual appetite — all of which are seen commonly in depression. Those in the dark night of the senses have trouble applying their mental faculties to the practice of prayer and meditation, but do not typically have difficulty concentrating or making decisions in other areas of life.32

With the dark night of the spirit, as described above, there is an acute awareness of one’s own unworthiness before God, of one’s personal defects and moral imperfections, and of the great abyss between oneself and God. However, a person in this state does not experience morbid thoughts of excessive guilt, self-loathing, feelings of utter worthlessness, or suicidal thoughts — all of which are commonly experienced during a depressive episode. Furthermore, neither of the two darks nights involves changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, weight changes, or other physical symptoms (e.g., gastrointestinal problems, chronic pain) that sometimes accompany depression.

In his helpful article on the subject of distinguishing depression from the dark nights, Kevin Culligan writes from his own experience as a spiritual director: “I can usually tell whether persons are depressed or in the dark night by attending closely to my own interior reactions as these persons describe their inner experience. As a disorder of mood or affect, depression communicates across personal relationships. Depressed persons typically look depressed, sound depressed, and make you depressed. After listening to depressed persons describe their suffering, I myself begin to feel helpless and hopeless, as though the dejected mood of persons with depression is contagious. I also frequently feel deep pity for the “profound rejection and hatred of the self” that characterize persons who are truly depressed. By contrast, I seldom feel down when I listen to persons describe the dryness of the dark nights of sense and spirit. Instead, I frequently feel compassion for what persons suffer as they are spiritually purified, together with admiration for their commitment to do all that God asks. In fact, at these times I feel my own self being energized. It seems that the strengthening of spirit that God brings to persons through darkness is also communicated to me.33

What we have noted so far has to do with the dark nights of the soul occurring in the transitions between the purgative and illuminative and between the illuminative and unitive ways. But we must recognize another kind of dark night, one that is not transitional to higher stages of the spiritual life; instead, it belongs to the highest stage of spiritual life. In the perfect unitive life, one of the modes of union with God would include union with Jesus in the darkness of the Cross. This is where one must locate the dark night experienced by our Lady in her mystical, co-redemptive sorrow at the foot of the Cross — a sorrow born of an incomparably profound participation in the sorrow of Jesus. Since it is an expression of Christ’s divine love, this sorrow forges a deeper union between the Mother of God and her divine Son.

An excellent contemporary example of such a dark night ex-perienced by a saint (as opposed to the dark nights necessary to attain to sainthood) is that of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Let us examine how this differs from depression. It came as a surprise to most people to learn after her death that Mother Teresa was in profound spiritual darkness for nearly forty years. Why were so many people shocked? Because she was so joyful. She was full of vitality and had incredible energy and charisma to draw others into her prayer and work for the poorest of the poor. Her personal writings make clear that she spent years in a kind of profound dark night; but she was far from depressed. Anyone who met her could testify that she exuded a joy that was contagious — a joy that communicated the presence of God to those around her. We could say that the sorrow she experienced in the felt lack of God’s presence in her soul is that mystical, uniquely Christian sorrow that is born from the Cross. It is a participation in Christ’s own sorrow, where joy and sorrow are not opposed because both are expressive of the divine love revealed in the Cross.”

29 I am indebted in this section to an excellent theological and psychological study by Kevin Culligan, “The Dark Night and Depression,” Carmelite Prayer: A Tradition for the 21st Century, ed. Keith J. Egan (New York: Paulist Press, 2003), 119-139.
30 Ibid., 125.
31 For a general introduction to the three stages of the spiritual life, see Benedict Groeschel, Spiritual Passages: the Psychology of Spiritual Development (New York: Crossroads, 1984). See also Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Conversions of the Spiritual Life (Rockford, Illinois: TAN, 2002).
32 Culligan, “The Dark Night and Depression,” Carmelite Prayer, 130.
33 Ibid., 135.

-Kheriaty, Aaron; Cihak, Fr. John (2012-10-23). Catholic Guide to Depression (p. 62-69). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

Dec 14 – St John of the Cross, “The Darkness of Unknowing”

st-john-cross


-by Br Brent Bowen, OP

In darkness and secure
By the secret ladder, disguised,
– Ah, the sheer grace! –
In darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled;

We know a lot about God, both through the natural faculty of reason that God gifts to humanity, and through Divine Revelation. However there is a vast difference between knowing about God, and knowing God. The content of theology allows us to know more about God, but all of this knowledge is pointless unless it leads us into deeper intimate communion with the One Who Himself is knowledge.
Saint John of the Cross, vis-à-vis Aristotle, offers us advice in this endeavor:

Let it be recalled that according to a philosophical axiom all means must be proportionate to their end. That is, they must manifest a certain accord with and likeness to the end so that through them the desired end may be attained. For example: those who want to reach a city must necessarily take the road, the means, that leads to the city (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Bk 2, #2).

How can I come to know a God who, in many ways, is so unlike me? Is there a means through which I can truly know God? Saint John seems to answer these questions:

It is noteworthy that among all creatures both superior and inferior, none bears a likeness to God’s being or unites proximately with Him […] Consequently, intellectual comprehension of God through heavenly or earthly creatures is impossible; there is no proportion of likeness (Ascent, Bk 2, #3).

Thus, we can know a lot about God through our study of theology, but we will never exhaust the fullness of God’s being through our study of God. Likewise in the spiritual life we eventually come to the realization that our yearning for God’s presence is never going to be satisfied through any natural means. When we reach this point we certainly should not abandon our quest for union with God, but we need to change tactics. Instead of trying to use our intellectual faculties as the primary means toward union, we must humbly submit to God’s action in prayer.  The mystical tradition often refers to this submission as “darkness.” By entering into the darkness of unknowing, we dispose ourselves to freely receiving God’s presence:

In order to draw nearer the divine ray the intellect must advance by unknowing rather than by the desire to know, and by blinding itself and remaining in darkness rather than by opening its eyes (Ascent, Bk 2, #5).

Although it can be scary, and one can feel downright alone in the darkness, we must cling to our faith and allow ourselves to be purified by the One Who is Light Itself. Occasionally we may see brief glimpses of this light, and these give us the strength and hope to continue trudging along the dark way. The good news is: the darkness does not last forever – it is only a preparation for something infinitely greater! Enter into the darkness! You will not regret it!”

With Saint Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross was called to the exceedingly difficult task to reform a decadent, declining and worldly state of affairs in the Religious life—specifically the Carmelite Order. Neither the men nor the women took a liking to someone rocking their comfortable boat of complacency! God chose these two saints to disrupt their comfortable status quo!

The anger which led to fury leveled against Saint John of the Cross was so intense that violent persecutions descended upon the saint like an unending tempest! John was kidnapped, locked in a small cell in a Carmelite convent. He was scourged, deprived of saying Holy Mass, barely given enough food to eat so as to survive, nor even a bath to take for hygiene purposes. Through Our Lady’s intercession St John escaped.

After all of this unjust abuse both verbal, physical, mental and spiritual, the great mystical doctor of the Church Saint John of the Cross, never uttered an unkind word against any of those who plotted and carried out against his person such unjust and uncharitable actions!

At the end of his life he was asked where he would like to end his days— in a convent where he would be loved and appreciated to end his days or in the convent of a Superior that detested him. St John of the Cross preferred the latter so as to conform his life more and more to the passion, suffering and humiliations of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

In conclusion Principle and Foundation teaches us who God is, where we come from, where we are heading and how to get there. An essential component of Principle and Foundation is “Ignatian Holy Indifference”. A key means to attaining Holy Indifference is a constant and dynamic prayer life, which leads to a total confidence in God, which is translated and manifested in a total willingness to give one’s whole self to God as a sacrifice, offering and oblation.

Love,
Matthew

Dec 14 – St John of the Cross, OCD (1541-1591) – Doctor of the Church, Doctor of Mystical Theology

El_Greco_-_View_of_Toledo_-_Google_Art_Project

-El Greco’s landscape of Toledo, Spain (ca 1596) depicts the priory in which John was held captive, just below the old Muslim alcázar and perched on the banks of the Tajo on high cliffs

One of the Great Catholic Reformers, Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) (b: 24 June 1542 — d: 14 December 1591), born Juan de Yepes Alvarez of a Jewish converso family, was a major figure of the Catholic Reformation, a Spanish mystic, and Carmelite friar and priest, born at Hontoveros, Old Castile.

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. After his father died, his mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples of sacrifice that John followed with his own great love of God.

John was a reformer and re-vitalizer of the Carmelite Order and is considered, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, as a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. He is also known for his writings. Both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature.

Ordained a Carmelite priest at 25 (1567), John met Teresa of Jesus (Avila–October 15) and like her vowed himself to the primitive Rule of the Carmelites. As partner with Teresa and in his own right, John engaged in the work of reform, and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment.

Yet, the paradox! In this dying of imprisonment, John came to life, uttering poetry. In the darkness of the dungeon, John’s spirit came into The Light, paper he used to write on passed to him by one of his guards.

There are many mystics, many poets; John is unique as mystic-poet, expressing in his prison-cross the ecstasy of mystical union with God in the “Spiritual Canticle”.

But as agony leads to ecstasy, so John had his “Ascent to Mt. Carmel”, as he named it in his prose masterpiece.  Thomas Merton said of John: “Just as we can never separate asceticism from mysticism, so in St. John of the Cross we find darkness and light, suffering and joy, sacrifice and love united together so closely that they seem at times to be identified together and inseparable.”

El_Monte_Carmelo

-“The Ascent of Mount Carmel”, as depicted in the first edition of 1618 by Diego de Astor

The Church of England commemorates him, too, as a “Teacher of the Faith” on this same day.

StJohnoftheCross3

-In the iconography of St John of the Cross, you can see the words written in the book, which was St John of the Cross’ motto:  “Domine, pati et contemni pro te!”  “Lord, to suffer and be despised for You!”

“Live in the world as if only God and your soul were in it; then your heart will never be made captive by any earthly thing.” -St. John of the Cross

“The Lord measures out perfection neither by the multitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.” -St. John of the Cross

“To saints, their very slumber is a prayer.” -St. John of the Cross

“In the first place it should be known that if a person is seeking God, his Beloved is seeking him much more.” -St. John of the Cross

Prayer of Peace

“O Blessed Jesus, grant me stillness of soul in Thee. Let Thy mighty calmness reign in me. Rule me, O thou King of gentleness, King of peace. Give me control, control over my words, thoughts and actions. From all irritability, want of meekness, want of gentleness, O dear Lord, deliver me. By thine own deep patience give me patience, stillness of soul in Thee. Make me in this, and in all, more and more like Thee. Amen.”-St John of the Cross

“Let Your divinity shine on my intellect by giving it divine knowledge, and on my will by imparting to it the divine love and on my memory with the divine possession of glory.

Let us so act that by means of this loving activity we may attain to the vision of ourselves in Your beauty in eternal life. That is: That I be so transformed in Your beauty that we may be alike in beauty, and both behold ourselves in Your beauty, possessing now Your very beauty; this, in such a way that each looking at the other may see in the other his own beauty, since both are Your beauty alone, I being absorbed in Your beauty; hence, I shall see You in Your beauty, and You shall see me in Your beauty, and I shall see myself in You in Your beauty, and You will see Yourself in me in Your beauty; that I may resemble You in Your beauty, and You resemble me in Your beauty, and my beauty will be Your beauty and Your beauty my beauty; wherefore I shall be You in Your beauty, and You will be me in Your beauty, because Your very beauty will be my beauty; and therefore we shall behold each other in Your beauty.

O abyss of delights! You are so much the more abundant the more Your riches are concentrated in the infinite unity and simplicity of Your unique being, where one attribute is so known and enjoyed as not to hinder the perfect knowledge and enjoyment of the other; rather, each grace and virtue within You is a light for each of Your other grandeurs. By Your purity, O divine Wisdom, many things are behold in You through one. For You are the deposit of the Father’s treasures, the splendor of the eternal light, the unspotted mirror and image of His goodness.

Awaken and enlighten us, my Lord, that we might know and love the blessings which You ever propose to us, and that we might understand that You have moved to bestow favors on us and have remembered us.

O Lord, my God, who will seek You with simple and pure love and not find You are all he desires, for You show Yourself first and go out to meet those who desire You?

My spirit has become dry because it forgets to feed on You.”

Prayer of a Soul Taken with Love

“Lord God, my Beloved, if You remember still my sins in suchwise that You do not do what I beg of You, do Your will concerning them, my God, which is what I most desire, and exercise Your goodness and mercy, and You will be known through them. And if it is that You are waiting for my good works so as to hear my prayer through their means, grant them to me, and work them for me, and the sufferings You desire to accept, and let it be done. But if You are not waiting for my works, what is it that makes You wait, my most clement Lord? Why do You delay? For if, after all, I am to receive the grace and mercy which I entreat of You in Your Son, take my mite, since You desire it, and grant me this blessing, since You also desire that. Who can free himself from the lowly manners and limitations if You do not lift him to Yourself, my God, in purity of love? How will a man begotten and nurtured in lowliness rise up to You, Lord, if You do not raise him with Your hand which made him? You will not take from me, my God, what You once gave me in Your only Son, Jesus Christ in Whom You gave me all I desire. Hence I rejoice that if I wait for You, You will not delay. With what procrastinations do You wait, since from this very moment you can love God in your heart? Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God Himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me.What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less, nor pay heed to the crumbs which fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in It and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart.

Oh, how sweet Your presence will be to me, You Who are the supreme good! I must draw near You in silence pleased to unite me to You in … I rejoice in Your arms. Now I ask You, Lord, do not abandon me at any time in my recollection, for I know not the value of my soul.”

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-reliquary of St John of the Cross, Convent of Carmelite Friars, Segovia, Spain

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-reliquary of St John of the Cross, Ubeda, Spain

“Never give up prayer, and should you find dryness and difficulty, persevere in it for this very reason. God often desires to see what love your soul has, and love is not tried by ease and satisfaction.” – St. John of the Cross, “Special Counsels: Degrees of Perfection #9”

“The Dark Night of the Soul”
-by St John Of the Cross

1. One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
— ah, the sheer grace! —
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
— ah, the sheer grace! —
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
— him I knew so well —
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

From the Proper for the Feast of St John of the Cross

Lord,
you endowed our Father Saint John of the Cross
with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross.
By following his example
may we come to the eternal vision of Your glory.

Love,
Matthew