Juan de Yepes was born in Spain in 1542. After a number of years as a Carmelite friar (where he took the name John of the Cross), he was persuaded by Saint Teresa of Avila to help her lead a reform movement to restore the Carmelite order to a simpler and more deeply spiritual standard.
John paid the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding and petty rivalries, and persecution and imprisonment-cruelties inflicted by his brothers in Christ. He was kidnapped and confined to a cell in an unreformed Carmelite monastery, where he endured abuse for nine months before making his escape. Alone with his God, he came to know the Cross and experience the dying of Jesus.
His greatest work, Dark Night of the Soul, is based on a poem he wrote while a prisoner, in which he describes a soul, like a lover, slipping out in the night to keep a rendezvous with its Beloved.
John’s suffering and spirituality go hand-in-hand; his mystical theology outlines a love affair with God, a relationship marked by periods of desolation as well as joy. In his mystical treatises, he wrote of how times of dryness and seeming abandonment may lead the soul into union with God.
After a long illness, John died in 1591 at the age of 49. A genius of mystical theology, he has been proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.
The Church has set aside December 14th to celebrate the holy life of St. John of the Cross.