Thursday, December 12, 2013
December 14th, Feast of St. John of the Cross, is fast approaching.
My first impression of Saint John was a a man who never laughed, who was always gazing up to heaven and beating his chest. A man who talked about raining in your parade, with his insistence on denial of this thing and that. Only after I read his letters and read comments by witnesses to his life that I began to change my opinion of him. He was gentle, he was joyful and he was kind to his confreres. He loved to dance and played the tambourines as he carried the Infant Jesus around. He was a wonderful spiritual director who had the knack of making people see the the changes they needed without being judgmental or pushy. After reading his works,most especially his letters, you come out with a resolution to be more serious about the spiritual life and to ask God for the grace to do it. He sets you out on a journey which is personal, solid and authentic. You feel encouraged reading him and motivated to be better because he almost seems to be able to read your mind and answer your unspoken questions about the spiritual life. He can be intimidating because he does not water down the demands of the Gospel. He offers the strong spiritual meat of the spirit. He is a good shepherd and spiritual director because he points out the hidden crevices one can fall into in the arduous climb to the mount of perfection. In a way, one who is self-assured and comfortable with their spiritual status, may not like him because he pulls the red carpet off one's feet and shatters illusions by showing that the thought of virtues were after all imperfections. John of the Cross can open the eyes of so many people who think of themselves "religious." It takes prudence and common sense to read St. John. We have to know when we are ready to receive his message. He said it himself that not all would take to what he was writing because "we are not talking about sensible things but achieving a nakedness of spirit necessary to union with God." If you find at initial take that your soul does not profit from his counsels, put the book down, and go back another time. You will find that somewhere in his writings is the experience you are going through. I am continually sustained by his writings. I owe him a great deal and I am proud to call him "my holy father" since he is truly the father of my soul. I believe that sooner or later, the works of St. John of the Cross must be studied by anyone who is serious about growth in the spiritual life.