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A Gospel according to Mt 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”


"Which of the two did his father’s will?"

St. John of the Cross was a simple yet complex man.

This statement seems like a contradiction. Just like the two sons in the Gospel. One says, No, but does his Father's will. The other says, Yes, but does not do his Father's will.

St. John of the Cross was born June 24, 1542 in Fontiveros, Spain and was named Juan de Yepes y Alvarez. John's father worked for a rich relative as their accountant, but the family soon disowned him because he married below his class. As a result the family struggled and was poor. John's father died when he was three years old and his older brother died two years later. This left John's mother to work as a weaver to support the family.

John was sent to a school for orphaned and poor children. There he was educated in the Catholic faith. He was drawn to the religious life at a young age. He served as an acolyte and then later went to a Jesuit school and worked in a hospital.

After school John joined the Carmelite Order and he received the name, "John of St. Matthias." In 1565 John took his final vows and he went to study in a university in Salamanca. There he studied philosophy and theology. He was considered an expert in the Bible.

In 1567 John was ordained a priest. He was drawn to cloistered monasteries and in his search for solitude and the simple life he met a Carmelite nun, Theresa of Avila. Sister Theresa wanted to reform the Carmelite Order to a more disciplined and prayerful life.

St. Theresa's sisters practiced a particular mortification which was to walk about barefooted. Therefore they became known as the discalced Carmelites. This attracted John to Theresa's ideas and later he became St. Theresa's confessor and spiritual director.

It was while he was in Avila that he had a vision of Christ looking down on him from the cross. He drew what he saw and named it "Christ from Above." This was when he changed his name to John of the Cross.

John continued to help Theresa reorganize the Carmelites and reinstated their original rule. This caused descension between discalced Carmelites and the original Carmelites. John was ordered to return to Spain by his house, but instead he stayed in Avila.

Angered by his disobedience and the feud within the order, John was kidnapped and brought back to his house. There they punished him by imprisoning him in a tiny cell with very little food. He was given an oil lamp and a prayer book. Weekly he was taken out of his cell to publicly flog him. During the nine months of solitary confinement, John wrote poetry "The Ascent of Mount Carmel." Later he wrote, "Dark Night" or "Dark Night of the Soul ," and "Spiritual Canticle," and many more poems expressing his trials and suffering which a soul must endure in order to unify itself with Christ. At the end of the nine months John broke out of his cell and managed to get back to Avila.

Pope Gregory in 1580 sanctioned the two separate orders of Carmelites. John and Theresa continued to establish new houses. John traveled back to Spain to continue to spread the discalced Carmelite Order. During that time he developed a skin infection which he died from in 1591 on December 14th. In 1726 Pope Benedict XIII canonized and declared St. John of the Cross a doctor of the Church.

St. John of the Cross' writings poetically paint dark to light and suffering to ecstasy.

This seems contradictory, but didn't Christ's life seem to be a contradiction; salvation by crucifixion?

"If you desire to be perfect, sell your will, give it to the poor in spirit, come to Christ in meekness and humility, and follow him to Calvary and the sepulcher."   St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross is the patron saint of mystics, poets, and Contemplatives. Let us pray for priests to bravely show us how to live like Christ.

Let us pray the PAPA Prayer for Priests.


PAPA Foundation
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