Quote of the day, 6 July: St. John of the Cross

6 July 1591 in Madrid

At this point in his life, St. John of the Cross is taken up with spiritual direction and governance of the Order. Translator and editor Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. notes that “John continued his ministry of spiritual direction; the business matters of the order’s government were always claiming attention as well. In fact, these latter sparked another conflict, this time among the discalced themselves.”

Let’s listen to Father Kavanaugh explain further:

The clash began when Nicolás Doria called an extraordinary chapter in June 1590 for the purpose of undertaking two controversial moves. First, he wanted to abandon jurisdiction over the nuns, a reprisal against Madre Ana de Jesús who opposed his plans; Doria had hoped both to make changes in Teresa’s constitutions and to govern the nuns through a body of councillors rather than through one friar appointed to the task. Second, he proposed the expulsion of Teresa’s close collaborator, Father Jerónimo Gracián, from the discalced Carmelites. Fray John spoke in opposition to both moves.

The situation changed, though, with the election of a new council in the chapter of 1591. Father Kavanaugh provides the details:

In the chapter the following year, different councillors were elected to assist Doria, and John remained without an office, a fact that was more a problem for others than for himself. When the news got about, some began raising strong protests.

Among those who were disturbed by the news were two nuns in Segovia: Madre Ana de Jesús (Jimena), a widow, who made her profession in Segovia in 1575, and her daughter, María de la Encarnación, who was the prioress. St. Teresa speaks of them in her Foundations, chapter 21, no. 3:

There was a lady there who had been the wife of the owner of an entailed estate. Her name was Doña Ana de Jimena. She had once come to see me in Avila. She was a good servant of God, and her calling had always been to be a nun. Thus after the founding of the monastery, she and one of her daughters, who was living a devout life, entered it. And the Lord took away the unhappiness she had experienced both while married and as a widow and gave her a double measure of happiness in the religious life. Both mother and daughter had always been very recollected and faithful servants of God.

On the same day that Saint John of the Cross wrote to Madre Ana de Jesús (Jimena) in Segovia, he also wrote to her daughter in the same monastery, Madre María de la Encarnación. Both were disturbed by the news coming to them through Carmelite sources.

But as Father Kavanaugh indicates, “John looked at things differently, as he so often did, and expressed his mind in a letter to the prioress in Segovia,” as we read here in his letter to the daughter, María de la Encarnación:


Do not let what is happening to me, daughter, cause you any grief, for it does not cause me any. What greatly grieves me is that the one who is not at fault is blamed. Men do not do these things, but God, who knows what is suitable for us and arranges things for our good.

Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love.

Letter 26 to Madre María de la Encarnación in Segovia (excerpt)
Written from Madrid 6 July 1591

And, Saint John was just as unflappable in this letter written the same day to her mother, Madre Ana:

But whether leaving or staying, wherever or however things may come to pass, I will neither forget nor neglect you, as you say, because truly I desire your good forever.

Now, until God gives us this good in heaven, pass the time in the virtues of mortification and patience, desiring to resemble somewhat in suffering this great God of ours, humbled and crucified. This life is not good if it is not an imitation of his life.

Saint John of the Cross

Letter 25 to Madre Ana de Jesús in Segovia (excerpt)
Written from Madrid 6 July 1591

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.

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