John of the Cross was another poet in the church that made sainthood. He was born into a poor family in 1542 and his father died while he was very young. He ended up in an orphanage and was raised in the church. He entered a Jesuit college at 17, and at 21 became a Carmelite Friar. He was ordained a priest in 1567 and met Teresa of Avila soon thereafter. They became known as reformers of the Carmelite Order who sought to restore the discipline of earlier years.
This did not bode well for him among his fellow brothers in the order. He took a moderate stand for reform and extremists of his own order persecuted him. Much of his great writing was done while he was imprisoned by them. Near the end of his life he was kidnapped and sent to a remote friary where he took ill and died on December 14, 1591.
In his 49 years, he became an influential spiritual leader in the church. Here are some examples of his writing:
- The Dark Night of the Soul (about the experience of spiritual desolation, of feeling abandoned and rejected by God, and why this is for some Christians a means by which God increases our faith in Him; about the Christian walk, the life of prayer and contemplation, and growing in love and grace.)
- The Ascent of Mount Carmel (same poem as the preceding, but with a different commentary attached.)
- The Spiritual Canticle (about the love between the Christian and Christ as symbolized by the love between bride and groom; draws heavily upon the imagery of the Song of Solomon.)
O God, by whose grace your servant John of the Cross, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.