Isaiah 41.13-20; Psalm 144; Matthew 11.11-15
Juan de Yepes y Álvarez (1542-91) was born at Fontiveros, Old Castile, of a converso family (descendants of Jewish converts to Catholicism). In 1563 he entered the Carmelite order. He was ordained a priest in 1567. Later in that year he met Teresa of Ávila who explained her plans for the reform of the Carmelites and persuaded him to join her. They established a reformed monastery at Duruelo in November 1568. In 1572 they came to Ávila, where Teresa became Prioress and John became spiritual director and confessor to the nuns.
In December of 1577 a group of Carmelite friars opposed to Teresa’s reforms kidnapped John and took him to Toledo, where he was jailed in the friary and kept under a brutal regime that included weekly public beatings. He escaped in August of 1578. Over the following years the reformed Carmelites formally separated and were constituted as a new monastic order.
The privations and brutality John suffered eventuated in a profound mystical vision of God and his love and in the sublimest of Spanish poetry. Dark Night of the Soul narrates the journey of the soul from earthly life to union with God. This and other writings of John of the Cross have profoundly influenced Catholic mystical thought. Pope St John Paul II wrote his doctoral thesis on the mystical theology of John of the Cross.