Sunday, November 25, 2007

Feast of St. John of the Cross

Oops, this is one day late, I'm afraid. I actually wrote this post accidentally a week ago, after getting up and looking at the calendar wrong. Truly, in the midst of the packing, I didn't know what day it was! But, it was a calm island in the storm to read and write about St. John. So, anyway, his feastday was yesterday, but here are a few reflections today...
"The eternal tide flows hid in Living Bread.

That with its Heavenly Life too be fed...

~ St. John of the Cross
Just a quick thought on the saint of the day, St. John of the Cross, the reformer of the Carmelite order, friend and mentor of St. Teresa of Avila.

While we know St. Therese the Little Flower as the saint of the Little Way, it seems we could think of St. John as the saint of the Hard Way. And I don't mean to be trite or disparaging here at all. Pretty much all saints fall into this category, including our dear St. Therese, whose little way was sure not an easy way.

The world, in general has a very bad habit of getting lazy and sloppy in its spiritual life. It's our fallen nature. We're always looking to simplify our path. Which of course, always gets us off track. But, Our Heavenly Father, being a patient Father, over and over again sends us holy people to inspire us, re-invigorate us, and steer us straight. Makes me think of the line in The Incredibles, where Mr. Incredible says: I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can't you just keep it clean for ten minutes!

But, He never gives up on us, our good God. He loves us, and keeps sending us helpers, saints to pray the world straight and reform us through their quiet example, like St. Therese. Saints who praise God's glory and omnipotence by wonders and miracles, like St. Martin dePorres. And He sends saints who are movers, shakers and trouble makers, like St. John of the Cross.

It's not an easy thing to reform a religious order, like St. John was called to do. You get accused of a lot of things. You are considered pretentious, self righteous, arrogant. Your humility is called stupidity. Your zeal is called insanity. Your direction from God is misconstrued as self love or demonic intervention. Members of religious orders can be amazingly catty, just like the rest of us. The devil works hard within the walls of cloisters! Even there, people can be cruel.

St. John was imprisoned for nine miserable months for his attempts to reform the Carmelite order, which, in the 16th century had become worldly and flawed. He met resistance at every turn. But, it was a difficult road he embraced with joy. He knew that God wanted his religious to understand that the road to Heaven is necessarily steep and difficult and that He expects much of those He calls to the religious life. The Carmelites needed a shaking up.

And St. John was given the job. A hard job because he had to tell those nice people that they were getting lazy and sloppy and needed to straighten up their act. He was not a popular fellow. But St. John carried this heavy cross up Calvary with Christ, who was also not a popular fellow. It was a hard way. All the saints take this hard way.

They blaze quite a path for us, don't they?

This is Dali's painting, Christ of St. John of the Cross, based upon a sketch of St. John's.

You can order a DVD featuring St. John of the Cross's journeys throughout Spain. I'd like to get this to watch next year on his feast day. We're movie watchers, and love to commemorate feasts this way!

St. John also left us many Poems and works , one of which follows:


“What is grace” I asked God.

And He said,

“All that happens.”

Then He added, when I looked perplexed,

“Could not lovers

say that every moment in their Beloved’s arms

was grace?

Existence is my arms,

though I well understand how one can turn

away from me

until the heart has wisdom.”

1 comment:

GrandmaK said...

It seems I have been destined to be guided by the Spirit today to read about St. John of the Cross or read his writings. Often when I try to read his works they are difficult for me to grasp. Today I have been blessed by his words and the words have been broken open for me. Thank you...