The Life of Saint John of the Cross

The Life of Saint John of the Cross

Imprimaturr, 1873 by Bishop Henricus Eduardus

The great holiness of St. John of the Cross, hitherto hidden and known to few, began now to be spoken of outside the order; the nuns of the Incarnation gave him their confidence without any reservation, and changed their lives. St. Teresa had put an end to the great distractions which were the results of too many visits to the monastery on the part of seculars, and St. John of the Cross made the work perfect, by stopping directly and indirectly the confessions which the nuns made to priests who, if they were not lax themselves, were without the courage and the will to correct the laxity of the nuns, by forbidding the frequent resort to the parlours. He dealt with the nuns gently and tenderly, but with unfailing firmness, and by degrees the community under the government of St. Teresa, though not keeping the rule which the prioress and the two confessors observed, became a most edifying and recollected house; and the saint herself, in a letter written September 27, 1572, to her sister Dona Juana, says: ‘The barefooted friar who is confessor here is doing great things; he is Fra John of the Cross.’

Not long after St. John came to the Incarnation one of the nuns, Dona Maria de Yera, was seized with sickness, and, before the greatness of her danger was suspected by the nuns, became insensible. They then recognised the danger, and sent for St. John of the Cross to administer the last Sacraments. But before he entered the monastery the nun was dead, to the extreme grief of her sisters, one of whom, as he was entering the infirmary, reproached him in the bitterness of her sorrow as if he had been to blame. ‘Is this the way,’ she said to him, ‘you take care of your children? This one has died unconfessed.’ The holy man made no answer, but turned back and went straight to the church, where before the Most Holy he made known his distress, and begged humbly for help.

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