St. John of the Cross

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By Anne Louise Mahoney, Editor

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield recently published a book for children called The Darkest Dark. It turns out that this intrepid spaceman was once afraid of the dark! It’s only when he sees the moon landing on TV that he understands that space – the darkest dark of all – is amazing and beautiful, and he is able to face his fear.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John of the Cross – 16th-century Spanish mystic, reformer of the Carmelite order, theologian, spiritual teacher and poet. Imprisoned for his efforts at reforming his religious order, John experienced a time of great personal darkness. His own “darkest dark” was an echo of Christ dying on the cross.

But John’s story, like Christ’s, does not end there. Darkness gives way to light, and death leads to new life. Alone in his cell, John finds himself creating poems celebrating his oneness with God.

He died at age 49 over 400 years ago, and yet his words and example still speak to us today:

 

That light guided me

More surely than the noonday sun

To the place where He was waiting for me,

Whom I knew well,

A place where none but He appeared.

O, guiding night;

O, night more lovely than the dawn;

O, night that hast united

The Lover with His beloved,

And changed her into her Love.

 

(from “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” translated by David Lewis, 1864)

St. John of the Cross, pray for us… in our dark nights of the soul and in our moments of joy and light.

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