Jesus be in your soul, my daughter Catalina.
Although I don’t know where you are, I want to write these lines trusting that our Madre [Teresa] will send them on to you if you are not with her. And if it is so—that you are not with her—be consoled with the thought that you are not as abandoned and alone as I am down here.
For after that whale swallowed me up and vomited me out on this alien port [Cf. Jonah 2:1-2], I have never merited to see her again or the saints up there. God has done well, for, after all, abandonment is a steel file and the endurance of darkness leads to great light. May it please God that we do not walk in darkness!
Oh, how many things I should like to say! But I am writing this very much in the dark as to whether you will receive it or not. So, I’ll stop here without finishing.
Commend me to God. I do not want to say any more about matters down here, for I have no desire to do so.
From Baeza, July 6, 1581.
Your servant in Christ,
Fray John of the Cross
Address: for Sister Catalina de Jesús, discalced Carmelite, wherever she may be.
Saint John of the Cross
Letter 1 to Sr. Catalina de Jesús
Translator and editor Father Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. explains that “Catalina de Jesús made her religious profession in Valladolid (1572). In 1580 she was transferred to the foundation in Palencia and in 1582, accompanied St. Teresa on the new foundation in Burgos. She later transferred to Soria, where she died in 1599. John helped her when she suffered from interior trials.” John also alludes to “our Madre”; Kavanaugh explains that St. John of the Cross also wrote to St. Teresa, including this letter along with hers. Sadly, his letter to Teresa must have been destroyed. The reference to Jonah in the belly of the whale and “being vomited out” on an alien port is a not-so-subtle remark about his imprisonment in Toledo (December 1577 – August 1578) and subsequent transfer to Andalusia, where he founded a university college at Baeza and became its rector in June 1579.
John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.