In Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), he enjoins us to embark on our Christian journey of holiness by embracing the ordinariness of everyday. Throughout his exhortation, Pope Francis calls out more than 40 saints who can assist us on our mission of Christian faith, and to teach us how to rejoice and be glad in all of life’s challenges, mysteries, and joys.
During the 34 weeks of Ordinary Time, we will introduce you to some of the saints mentioned in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation. #OrdinarySaints for #OrdinaryTime #HolyOrdinary
Saint John of the Cross
We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness. Indeed, when the great mystic, Saint John of the Cross, wrote his Spiritual Canticle, he preferred to avoid hard and fast rules for all. He explained that his verses were composed so that everyone could benefit from them “in his or her own way.” For God’s life is communicated “to some in one way and others in another.” #11 Rejoice and Be Glad
It is not good when we look down on others like heartless judges, lording it over them and always trying to teach them lessons. That is itself a subtle form of violence. Saint John of the Cross proposed a different path: “Always prefer to be taught by all, rather than desire teaching even the least of all.” And he added advice on how to keep the devil at bay: “Rejoice in the good of others as if it were your own, and desire that they be given precedence over you in all things; this you should do wholeheartedly. You will thereby overcome evil with good, banish the devil, and possess a happy heart. Try to practice this all the more with those who least attract you. Realize that if you do not train yourself in this way, you will not attain real charity or make any progress in it.” #117 Rejoice and Be Glad
Living or working alongside others is surely a path of spiritual growth. Saint John of the Cross told one of his followers: You are living with others in order to be fashioned and tried.” #141 Rejoice and Be Glad
Saint John of the Cross tells us: “Endeavour to remain always in the presence of God. either real, imaginative, or unitive, insofar as is permitted by your works.” In the end, our desire for God will surely find expression in our daily lives: “Try to be continuous in prayer, and in the midst of bodily exercises do not leave it. Whether you eat, drink, talk with others, or do anything, always go to God and attach your heart to him.” #148 Rejoice and Be Glad
John de Yepes was born in 1542 in Fontiveros, Spain. His childhood was marked by extreme poverty and loss. His father died when John was still very young, leaving the family struggling for income. John’s brother died just two year later.
He received a full education at a boarding school for poor and orphaned children. Even as a child, John knew he wanted to pursue a religious life. Over time he studied at a Jesuit college, considered joining the Carthusians, worked at a hospital for the poor, and eventually entered the Carmelite Order in 1563 after meeting Teresa of Avila.
Along with Teresa, John worked to reform the Carmelites back to its strict observance of their original way of life – they even became known as Discalced Carmelites because they often went barefoot of wore sandals as an outward sign of their poverty.
This reform was met with great resistance. When John was thrown in jail and beaten regularly, he composed poetry that would become the basis of his spiritual writing. “Suspicion, mistreatment, and humiliation had characterized much of his time in religious life, but these trials are understood as having brought him closer to God by breaking his dependence on the things of this world. Accordingly, his writings stress the need to love God above all things – being held back by nothing, and likewise holding nothing back.” (From CNA)
St. John of the Cross was canonized in 1726 and named a Doctor of the Church in the 20th century by Pope Pius XI. We celebrate his feast day every December 14.