Memorial of St. John of the Cross

Scripture Readings: Is 45:6b-8, 18, 21c-25; Lk 7:19-23

Saint John of the Cross is called the Mystical Doctor of the Church because of his teaching on prayer and asceticism. Here are a few words of wisdom from John that are challenging and inspiring.

For those living in a religious community he writes: “Carefully guard yourself against thinking about what happens in the community, and even more against speaking about it, of anything in the past or the present concerning a particular religious; say nothing about his character or his conduct or his deeds no matter how serious any of this seems. Do not say anything under the color of zeal or of correcting a wrong, unless at the proper time to him whom by right you ought to tell. Never be scandalized or astonished at anything you happen to see or learn, endeavoring to preserve your soul in forgetfulness of all that. For should you desire to pay heed to things, many will seem wrong, even though you live among angels.” 1

In another place he writes, “The holier one is, the gentler one is, and the less scandalized by the faults of others, knowing how weak we are.” 2

And St. Therese of Lisieux quotes this word of wisdom from St. John in one of her letters: “A little of pure love is more precious to God and the soul and more beneficial to the Church even though it seems one is doing nothing, than all the other works put together. … Let those who are active know that they would please God and profit the Church much more if they would spend at least half of this time with God in prayer.” 3

1. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, ICS Publications, Washington DC, 1973, The Precautions #13, p. 660
2. Gerard Brenan, St. John of the Cross, His Life and Poetry, Cambridge U. Press, 1973, p. 24 fn.
3. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, ICS Publications, Washington DC, 1973, Spiritual Canticle, stanza 29.