Quote of the day, 13 December: St. John of the Cross

Now, in 1591, death did intervene. While his body was succumbing to erysipelas, his heart and reputation were still being battered.

The prior of the community of Ubeda where he had gone for treatment had a grudge against him and made his dying quite difficult. Medicines were regarded as a financial drain, putrid bandages were not to be washed, visits were curtailed . . .

John’s nurse, Bernardo, captures it with a modern phrase: “It was just incredible what was taking place!”

Finally, Bernardo himself was forbidden to nurse John. Whatever about the sick man’s patience, Bernardo had had enough: he wrote in complaint, higher authorities intervened, and matters improved in time for John to die in a community at peace.

Through all this—the sidelining, the libel, the dying—John seems to have been drawing on a different source of energy. A letter written from Ubeda puts it this way:

Love greatly those who speak against you and do not love you, because in this way love will come to birth in a heart that has none. That is what God does with us: he loves us, that we might love him, through the love he has for us.

Letter 33 to a Carmelite nun
Late 1591

That is the God to whom John bears witness: a God loving first, with a love which creates good in us; a God pressing in to release new capacities in us.

Iain Matthew, O.C.D.

Chapter 12, Healing Darkness (excerpt)

Note: Saint Edith Stein gives an account of the dying hours of Saint John of the Cross on 13 December 1591. He predicted, “at midnight I shall stand before God to recite Matins.” When at last he heard the bells in the tower strike twelve midnight, he said, with the crucifix in his hand “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum” [Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit]. Edith concludes her account: “A parting glance at all those present, a final kiss for the Crucified One—then he stood before the throne of God to pray Matins with the heavenly choirs.”

Matthew, I 1995, The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross, Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd, London.

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Book 6, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington D.C.

3 thoughts on “Quote of the day, 13 December: St. John of the Cross

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  1. Fr Matt said he refused the prayers for the dying usually prescribed, and asked the Song to be read instead.

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