"What more do you want, o soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction and kingdom -- your beloved whom you desire and seek? Desire him there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and you won't find him, or enjoy him more than by seeking him within you."
Today, December 14, we celebrate the feast day of Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591), Doctor of Mystical Theology, and Doctor of the Church. Saint John exemplifies the Christian philosophy of self-sacrificing love, penance, and the finding of joy in suffering alongside the crucified Christ.
No,” said John, the child, “You are too beautiful; my hand will dirty Yours.” After voicing his concern, an elderly gentleman appeared on the shore and extended his staff to the child to bring him to shore. These figures, looking out for the child, were the Mary, Our Blessed Mother, and Saint Joseph. Similarly, at another point in his childhood, John fell into a well, and his family grieved, certain that he would be found dead upon retrieving him. However, they found him at the bottom of the well, seated, comfortable, and waiting peacefully for rescue. He stated, “A beautiful lady took me into Her cloak and sheltered me.” From this, his mother grew certain that her son was destined for great things.
“You will enter a religious Order, whose primitive fervor you will restore.” Soon thereafter, John entered the Carmelite Order, at age 21. Out of humility, John attempted to conceal his mind and works, but was quickly professed the following year and was sent to the University of Salamanca, one of the four leading universities of Europe at that time. It was there he studied theology and arts, and was ordained a priest.
To suffer and to be scorned for You.” The General of the Order approved the reform, but it was rejected by the older friars, who condemned the Saint as a fugitive and an apostate and cast him into prison. There, in a tiny cell that measured only 6 feet by ten feet, and had little light, John was confined for nine months. Beaten three times a week, and left to suffer, the brothers expected John to give up. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolation, his love and faith were like fire and light. He had nothing left but God -- and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell. From his cell, Saint John wrote many books of practical advice on spiritual growth and prayer that still speak to the faithful today, including: “Ascent of Mount Carmel,” “Dark Night of the Soul,” and “A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ.”
John's drawing of Christ, crucified (below, top), still preserved by the Carmelites, inspired Salvador Dali's painting (below, bottom):
John’s suffering did not end there. Twice more, before his death, he was shamefully persecuted by his brethren, and publicly disgraced. Asked by his beloved Master what reward he would like for all he had done for the order, John replied, “Lord, what I wish you to give me are sufferings to be borne for your sake, and that I may be despised and counted as nothing.” Eventually, due to the harsh treatment he had suffered, John fell ill and was given a choice of monasteries to retire to. He chose a monastery where he was sure to be ill-treated, and this was the case. As he became progressively sicker, he was left untended most of the time, to suffer in isolation. But at his death, the room was filled with a marvelous light, and his unhappy Prior recognized his error, and that he had mistreated a Saint.
Saint John’s life was one filled with hardship, persecution, and misery. Yet, he found nothing by the love of God in each of his experiences. Rather than giving up, becoming bitter or jaded, John’s compassion and love increased with every insult. He truly lived his words: "Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love." The life of Saint John of the Cross reminds us that despite our worldly experiences, true happiness and joy can come only from the Lord. When we look to Him, we will find our comfort.
If you do not learn to deny yourself, you can make no progress in perfection.
In detachment, the spirit finds quiet and repose for coveting nothing. Nothing wearies it by elation, and nothing oppresses it by dejection, because it stands in the center of its own humility.
The Lord measures our perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.
I wish I could persuade spiritual persons that the way of perfection does not consist in many devices, nor in much cogitation, but in denying themselves completely and yielding themselves to suffer everything for the love of Christ. And if there is failure in this exercise, all other methods of walking in the spiritual way are merely a beating about the bush, and profitless trifling, although a person should have very high contemplation and communication with God.
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.
O you souls who wish to go on with so much safety and consolation, if you knew how pleasing to God is suffering, and how much it helps in acquiring other good things, you would never seek consolation in anything; but you would rather look upon it as a great happiness to bear the Cross of the Lord.
In giving us His Son, His only Word, He spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word - and He has no more to say…because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son.
If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.
In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.
It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others.
Beloved, all that is harsh and difficult I want for myself, and all that is gentle and sweet for thee.
In tribulation immediately draw near to God with confidence, and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.
If you purify your soul of attachment to and desire for things, you will understand them spiritually. If you deny your appetite for them, you will enjoy their truth, understanding what is certain in them.
The soul that is attached to anything however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly.
Anyone who complains or grumbles is not perfect, nor is he even a good Christian.
Anyone who trusts in himself is worse than the devil.
Anyone who does not love his neighbor abhors God.
Whoever flees prayer flees all that is good.
Conquering the tongue is better than fasting on bread and water.
Suffering for God is better than working miracles.
Let us pray today that those called to seek God in Carmel
may remain, like Saint John of the Cross,
faithful to the meditation of the Word and to prayer
by day and by night,
until their consummation in the Living Flame of Love.
who endowed your priest, Saint John,
with a spirit of utter self-denial
and a surpassing love of the Cross;
grant that, by ever holding fast to his example,
we may attain to the contemplation of your everlasting glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.
who by Thy living flame of love,
didst sustain Saint John of the Cross even in the darkness:
shed Thou Thy light, we beseech Thee,
on all who love Thee though it be night
and give them to drink their fill of that deathless spring
that in the living Bread lies hidden.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Day 348 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Willingness to suffer for the Lord; Humility; Joy in Christ.
Requested Intentions: Health and spirituality of family members (R); For a return to health for a friend (C); Healing from cancer of a brother-in-law (C); Healthy relationship; Joy in everyday life (J); Successful employment and financial assistance for education (M); For the return home of father and husband suffering from mental illness (C); Successful passing of examination; Employment for Son (J); Healing of a family and son (S); Successful marriage (G); End to husband’s addictions; Son’s employment (M); Freedom from financial burdens (M); Healing after a miscarriage (E); For healing of friend; successful resolution of legal matter (A); Complete healing of a friend with pancreatic cancer (J); Healing of a father following stroke (S).
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."