St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 3

If you desire that devotion be born in your spirit and that the love of God and the desire for divine things increase, cleanse your soul of every desire, attachment, and ambition in such a way that you have no concern about anything. Just as a sick person is immediately aware of good health once the bad humor has been thrown off and a desire to eat is felt, so will you recover your health, in God, if you cure yourself as was said. Without doing this, you will not advance no matter how much you do.

Sayings of Light and Love, 78



This is what we have heard from him, and the message that we are announcing to you: God is light; there is no darkness in him at all. If we say that we are in union with God while we are living in darkness, we are lying because we are not living the truth. But if we live our lives in the light, as he is in the light, we are in union with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth; but if we acknowledge our sins, then God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and purify us from everything that is wrong. To say that we have never sinned is to call God a liar and to show that his word is not in us.

I am writing this, my children, to stop you sinning; but if anyone should sin, we have our advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is just; he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away, and not only ours, but the whole world’s. We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, “I know him,” and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth. But when anyone does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him. We can be sure that we are in God only when the one who claims to be living in him is living the same kind of life as Christ lived.

1 John 1:5-2:6



“Cleanse your soul,” writes Our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross. This is the medicine, the remedy he prescribes to those who are sin-sick and desire health and wholeness in Christ. Cleansing the soul of all that is not God enables us to grow in devotion, the desire for the things of God, and to grow in the love of God.

What are we cleansing? Desire. Attachment. Ambition. St. John of the Cross leads us on an examination of conscience with these three points.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) provides a veritable smorgasbord of theological and catechetical delights upon which we may feast in its article on the Tenth Commandment. (CCC 2534-2557) “The tenth commandment concerns the intentions of the heart,” and that goes precisely to the heart of the teaching of St. John of the Cross. Although the teaching of the Catechism rightly focuses on “coveting the goods of another” (CCC 2534), St. John would caution us to examine our disordered desires for another’s spiritual goods, not simply temporal goods. Who among us has not desired or envied someone else’s contemplative spirit, prayerful attitude, or Christlike zeal?

The Catechism says that “the sensitive appetite leads us to desire pleasant things we do not have” (CCC 2535). But Our Holy Father John of the Cross explains how his teaching encompasses more than just the senses: “God gathers together all the strength, faculties, and appetites of the soul, spiritual and sensory alike, so the energy and power of this whole harmonious composite may be employed in this love” (Dark Night II, 11:4).

Love: that must be our true ambition. First, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; then, to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lk 10:27). St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus went one step further, praying: “You know, Lord, that my only ambition is to make you known and loved” (Pri 8). If we are willing to do some regular housekeeping, we will progress—step by step— toward the desired state of having “no concern about anything”, just like an infant in its mother’s arms (cf. Ps 131:2).

Saint Raphael Kalinowski, a Discalced Carmelite friar from Poland who learned about the Carmelite order by reading the lives of the saints during years of forced labor in the salt mines of Usole, Siberia, has some housekeeping suggestions for us. May the beauty and depth of his words bring us a message of hope and encouragement as we read and understand the teaching of Our Holy Father St. John of the Cross.

As the raging sea seems to feel displeasure at all that pollutes it, and desires to expel from itself anything foreign, so that the beauty of the mysteries it holds might appear to view in all clarity, so the soul does not tolerate anything within itself unless it is of God or leads to God; approaching confession from the abyss of her misery, she casts off everything, desiring to preserve in herself only the image of God according to which she was created, to look only at him and to rejoice only in him. In her love-filled tears she receives a shower of graces that descend from the wounds of her Savior. The misery of sin makes way for grace, the thorns become roses, and even the very poison of sin changes into an antidote for the soul. Here are the fruits of a good confession: it purifies, heals, fortifies, and beautifies the soul.

All that we have treated so far leads us back to what we discussed at the beginning: imitating our Holy Father by using the means the Savior left us to purify our soul, to preserve the heart ever pure in order to be able to transform it into an altar of the living God, and to become enamored of him in suffering and being despised: Altare Dei, cor nostrum! Humilis corde, cor Christi est [The altar of God is our heart; the humble heart is like the heart of Christ].

In the sketch of the Ascent of Mount Carmel drawn by Our Holy Father John of the Cross, we read: “Here there is no longer any way because for the just . . . there is no law.” This means that if all the prescriptions of the law have as their object the love of God, when this is fully attained, the prescriptions cease of themselves. True repentance, in crushing the heart of man, crushes everything opposed to the love of God and destroys all that does not lead to him…

And all this through Mary.

(Excerpts from On a Good Confession, 24 November 1902)



O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.


jan_od_krzyza_Carmel of Usole PL
Icon of St. John of the Cross venerated by the Discalced Carmelite friars of the Krakow Province at Holy Trinity House of Prayer in Piotrkowice | Credit: Discalced Carmelites


All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem Bible.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

Praskiewicz OCD, S 1998, Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality, Translated from the Italian by Coonan, T, Griffin OCD, M and Sullivan OCD, L, ICS Publications, Washington, D.C.

Quote of the day: 26 November

Saint Raphael Kalinowski’s last and longest stage of life is the thirty years (1877-1907) he lived in the Carmelite monastery. Consenting to the voice that called him to Carmel, Joseph Kalinowski entered formation, ready to work for God within the Church after decades of service as an engineer, military officer, prisoner of war in Siberia, professor and tutor.

On November 26, 1877, he went to Graz, Austria and was clothed in the habit of the Order, receiving at the same time his religious name: Raphael of Saint Joseph.

How did Kalinowski come to know Carmel? We turn to Father Szczepan T. Praskiewicz, OCD, for the details, referring in particular to his biography, “Raffaele Kalinowski: Tappe Fondamentali di una Vita ed Elementi di Spiritualità”, which was translated and edited as part of the book, Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality, published by the Discalced Carmelite friars’ Washington Province, ICS Publications. A scholar who has served on the faculty of the Discalced Carmelites’ International Theological College in Rome, the general curia of the order, as well as completing three terms as a consultant to the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints in Rome, Father Szczepan’s years of formation in the traces of Saint Raphael of St. Joseph add a unique perspective to his rigorous standards as a scholar. Fr. Praskiewicz’s 1990 biography of Kalinowski, which was translated from the Italian, edited, and published by the Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, provides a fascinating insight into the development of the Saint’s vocation.

Linz convent church
Karmelitenkonvent Linz | Credit: Discalced Carmelites

In his Memoirs Saint Raphael tells us that early on during his exile in Siberia he happened upon a copy of a book written by Piotr Skarga, The Lives of the Saints:

That opened up many horizons for me. There I discovered a note on the Order of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and its rapid diffusion in the West. It occured to me that precisely this Order should be able to bring the schismatics back to the Church of Rome. Guided in a marvelous way by Providence, I entered this Order ten years later.

As with every vocation story, there were many graced encounters that guided his steps along the way.

Saint Raphael Kalinowski had wanted to find a way to become a Carmelite friar, which is why he became a tutor to Gucio, the young son of the noble Czartoryski family residing in Paris. But in God’s providence and unbeknownst to Saint Raphael, one of his pupil’s aunts was a Discalced Carmelite nun in the Carmel of Krakow.

In true Teresian spirit, this aunt, Sr. Mary Xavier of Jesus was seeking young men to renew Carmelite life in Poland. When the Saint accompanied his young pupil on a trip from Paris to visit his aunt at the monastery in Krakow, Kalinowski made a profound impression upon the nun; but it was the Holy Spirit that spoke to her spirit, impressing upon her the fact that her nephew’s tutor was sent by Divine Providence.

Without saying a word, Sr. Mary Xavier of Jesus began a prayer crusade for the family tutor and his vocation to the Discalced Carmelites; further, she began to correspond with him.

Saint Raphael explained what had happened in a letter to his family back home in Vilnius, Lithuania:

I have a sign of the mercy and goodness of the Lord, which brought me hope and consolation through people consecrated to him. Gucio’s aunt, the Reverend Sister Mary Xavier of Jesus… whom I met only once at the grilles and who hardly knows me, only a few days ago—exactly when I least expected it—sent me the following poem of the seraphic Saint Teresa: Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you…

Nada te turbe in the current Polish translation

Fr. Praskiewicz tells us that St. Teresa’s famous Nada te turbe became Kalinowski’s motto. Soon after he received Sr. Mary Xavier’s letter, he wrote to his parents:

Each day I take strength from Saint Teresa’s words about which I wrote to you, my dear parents, in my last letter.

In the end, these very words were the source of divine inspiration that induced him to join the sons of St. Teresa, the Discalced Carmelite friars. He wrote to his parents on 4 November 1876:

A year ago there came to me, like an echo, a voice from the grilles of Carmel. This voice was clearly addressed to me and I have accepted it; it was a salvific voice from the infinite mercy of God commanding me. I can only exclaim, ‘I will sing the mercies of the Lord forever.’ The only thing that now remains for me to do is to ask your parental blessing.”

Kalinowski attended to the details, the housekeeping of his life as anyone aspiring to enter religious life would do: prepare to leave a job, a home, to travel and pray. On 5 July 1877, he left the Czartoryski family in Paris and traveled to Linz, Austria to meet the Discalced Carmelite provincial superior.

God rewarded Kalinowski for the steadfast pursuit of his vocation at such a mature age—Raphael of St. Joseph was 42 years old when he received the holy habit of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

A statue of Saint Joseph in the Maria Schnee convent of the Discalced Carmelite friars in Graz, where St. Raphael Kalinowski entered the novitiate | Eigenes Werk / Wikimedia Commons



Praskiewicz OCD, S 1998, Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality, Translated from the Italian by Coonan, T, Griffin OCD, M and Sullivan OCD, L, ICS Publications, Washington, D.C.

Quote of the day: 19 November

Jesus, hope of suffering humanity, our refuge and our strength, whose light pierces the black clouds that hang over our stormy sea, enlighten our eyes so that we can direct ourselves toward you who are our harbor. Guide our bark with the rudder of the nails of your cross, lest we drown in the storm. With the arms of this cross rescue us from the turbulent waters and draw us to yourself, our only repose, Morning Star, Sun of Justice, for with our eyes obscured by tears, we can catch a glimpse of you there, on the shores of our heavenly homeland. Redeemed by you, we pray: Salvos nos fac propter nomen tuum—“save us for the sake of your holy name” (St. Augustine).

And all this through Mary.

Saint Raphael Kalinowski

Conference, “On a Good Confession”
Carmel of Leopoli, 24 November 1902


Cruising Glacier Bay Kevin Harber Flickr 3606935413_83cb59dc7f_o
Glacier Bay, Alaska | Kevin Harber / Flickr



Praskiewicz OCD, S 2016, Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 17 November

“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord”. Carmelite life [for Raphael Kalinowski] began when he had already turned 42 years old. In the silence of recollection and contemplation another “movement” is hidden. The movement of which St. Paul speaks: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

This “movement” of the human spirit, the movement that leads upwards, has its own particular intensity. The intensity of renunciation which is the source of singular creativity in the Holy Spirit. “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him. . . I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings. . . Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”(Phil 3, 8.10.12).

Ordained a priest, Raphael Kalinowski set to work in the vineyard of Christ. He was appreciated as a confessor and spiritual director. He instructed souls in the sublime science of love for God, for Christ, for Our Lady, for the Church, and for others. He devoted many hours to this humble apostolate. Always recollected, always united with God, a man of prayer, obedient, always ready for renunciation, fasting, and mortification.

Saint John Paul II

Homily, Rite of Canonization (excerpts)
St. Raphael Kalinowski
Sunday, 17 November 1991


Rafael-Kalinowski_1897 (2)
Saint Raphael of St. Joseph Kalinowski, photo taken 30 March 1897 | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites


Quote of the day: 15 November

Tomorrow is November 2, the day of the faithful departed. When I was still a boy, I dreamed I would die on All Souls Day. Whether I die on that day or not, no matter what happens, I still confess it is always good. Then I salute you cordially, and I ask you, come what may, to say a De Profundis for my soul.

Saint Raphael Kalinowski

Letter to Father Nowakowski, OFM Cap.


Although Saint Raphael Kalinowski’s dream of dying on November 2 did not come true, he did die on All Soul’s day—the 15th of November 1907, the Commemoration of All Carmelite Souls.


Rafael-Kalinowski_1897 (2)
Saint Raphael of St. Joseph Kalinowski, photo taken 30 March 1897 | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites


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Praskiewicz OCD, S 1998, Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 27 October

Mary, with her Maternity, is like a book in which the world can read the Eternal Word, Jesus, the Lord.

Saint Raphael Kalinowski


Dyce, William, 1806-1864; Virgin and Child
Virgin and Child
William Dyce (Scottish, 1806–1864)
Oil on plaster
Nottingham City Museums
A study of the Virgin Mary facing right, holding Jesus in her right arm, and reading a small red book in her right hand. She wears her light brown hair braided at the back, and has on a red round-necked dress with large sleeves edged in green, with a blue cloak that has slipped to waist level. The child is naked except for a band of white material slung over his left shoulder. The background is a rocky landscape.

Quote of the day: 28 May

We have the duty to assist the pope


In the Church, the Holy Father is infallible in matters of faith and morals. The Holy Father appoints bishops who ordain priests, and approves and establishes religious congregations. Through the pastors of the Church, all of us receive the truth of the faith, and thus there is created a unity between us here present and the Holy Father. And if we obey the pope, we obey the Lord Jesus, according to his own words addressed to Peter and the other apostles: “Whoever hears you, hears me” [Lk 10:16].

Therefore, we have the duty to assist the pope, and if we are unable to do it in other ways, let us help with prayers and good works.

Saint Raphael Kalinowski
The Church is Our Home
Conference to the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Wadowice
Wednesday, 29 March 1893


Chalice and paten of Konrad of Masovia | Maksymilian Fajans / Wikimedia Commons


Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality (p. 41)
Szczepan T. Praskiewicz: translated by Thomas Coonan, Michael Griffin, and Lawrence Sullivan.
ICS Publications © Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc. 1998, 2016

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