St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Numbers 24:2-7,15-17 + Matthew 21:23-27
December 14, 2015
“ ‘Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.’ ”
Today is the feast day of St. John of the Cross. He died on this date in 1591. It’s common for the church to celebrate the feast of a saint on the date of his or her death, inasmuch as the Church considers that date the saint’s “birthday into Heaven” (in Latin, the “dies natalis”). Still, in the middle of the Season of Advent we could hardly have a more fitting modern saint to show us what it means to wait for the coming of the Lord with patience.
In the midst of turmoil throughout Church in the sixteenth century caused by unfaithful Catholics and by unfaithful reformers, St. John of the Cross worked with St. Teresa of Avila to reform the Church from within. In Spain these two saints would have had little contact with Protestants opposed to Church unity, but they unfortunately faced a great deal of direct opposition from unfaithful Catholics who were opposed to the reformation of the Church from within. St. John and St. Teresa were members of the Carmelite order, and the reform that God brought to the Church through their sacrifices grew from their reform of the Carmelite order. Unsurprisingly, their reform efforts met with great opposition. St. John of the Cross, for example, was unlawfully imprisoned by his fellow Carmelites for nine months in a cell only six feet by ten feet in size. This imprisonment ended only because of his escape.
Reform always encounters opposition. Authentic reform within the Church, such as St. John’s, meets with opposition from those content with laxity. False reform within the Church meets with opposition from those concerned with the Church’s authentic unity. Authentic reform within the life of a member of the Church (such as yourself during Advent) meets with opposition from within oneself, where one encounters the stubbornness of one’s own vices and desire for comfort. Check out from a library, download from the Internet, or purchase one of the writings of St. John of the Cross, and allow this great Doctor of the Church to teach you during Advent of the Dark Night through which we can see the Light of Christ.