Warning: Missing argument 2 for wpdb::prepare(), called in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/25090/domains/catholic.nowealthbutlife.com/html/wp-content/themes/canvas/functions/admin-functions.php on line 692 and defined in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/25090/domains/catholic.nowealthbutlife.com/html/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 1210
Saint John of the Cross & Mean Christians | Catholic Life

Saint John of the Cross & Mean Christians

When I woke up this morning I ran into Josh’s office and after wishing him a blessed feast of John of the Cross began to wail “it is the feast of John of the Cross, and I could not even suffer enough to get up early enough to go to mass. I just had to stay sleeping longer on my cozy floor!”

Cross

Self-indulgent criticism of self aside, I am entirely thankful for this day to celebrate a Saint who turned all suffering to the glory of God. For those of you of a more traditional Christian persuasion I highly recommend the novena to Saint John of the Cross put into podcast form by the Carmelites of St. Louis. For those more skeptical of the value of suffering and its role in the Christian life, I suggest Teresa Benedicta’s thoughts on the Feast of John of the Cross.

In seeking to emulate Saint John of the Cross it is not as though Catholics just happen to like suffering or imagine that we must earn our salvation. Teresa Benedicta writes that

when someone desires to suffer, it is not merely a pious reminder of the suffering of the Lord. Voluntary expiatory suffering is what truly and really unites one to the Lord intimately. When it arises, it comes from an already existing relationship with Christ. For, by nature, a person flees from suffering.

And there is something particularly valuable about remembering the source of John’s suffering: it came from the Church itself. Due to religious infighting amongst the Carmelites, a group of monks broke into John’s room one night and kidnapped him. When John refused to abandon the Reform he was imprisoned in a 10′ x 6′ room for nine months. In The Science of the Cross, Teresa Benedicta describes John’s suffering:

At first every evening, later three times a week and finally, only sometimes on Fridays, the prisoner wsa brought to the refectory where, seated on the floor, he ate his meal–bread and water. He was also given the discipline in the refectory. He knelt, naked to the waist with bowed head; all the friars passed by him and struck him with the switch. And since he bore everything “with patience and love” he was dubbed “the coward.” Throughout, he was “immovable as a rock” when they commanded him to abandon the Reform, attempting to bribe him by offering to make him a prior. Then he would open his silent lips and assure them that eh refuse d to turn back “no mater if it cost him his life.”

The youthful novices who were witness to the humiliations and mistreatment wept out of compassion and said “this is a saint” when they saw his silent patience. His tunic was drenched with blood at the scourgings; he had to put it back on as it was and was not changed during the nine months he was a prisoner. One can imagine what suffering it caused him in the glowing heat of those summer months.

She continues to say that this was the least of John’s suffering as he was deprived of his ability to not only celebrate mass, but to receive the sacraments, and that this in turn was nothing compared to the spiritual darkness of God’s withdrawal.  John’s life is not only a shining example of embracing God through suffering, it is a stern warning about the way we treat other Christians.

I sometimes wonder what the difference is between the friars who tormented John and those of us who scream about how this group should not be allowed to receive Communion and that person should be excommunicated and this other person silenced. We do not have the power to do anything other than talk, but how much would we hurt others if we did have the power?

I am inclined to think that the bishops know better than a random twenty-something woman. And if at times the bishops are wrong? Then there is much more saintly precedence for writing a letter to correct the bishop rather than posting vitriol online.

Today I will start reading the Dark Night of the Soul in hopes of learning something from the spiritual depth of Saint John of the Cross. But even if I never get beyond the shallow details of his life, I am thankful for the grace of understanding that I have received from Saint John’s story in the most basic way: if you are nasty you risk beating a Saint.

And someday, maybe, I will be closer to the ideal of Christian life described by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:

To suffer and to be happy although suffering, to have one’s feet on the earth, to walk on the dirty and rough paths of this earth and yet to be enthroned with Christ at the Father’s right hand, to laugh and cry with the children of this world and ceaselessly to sing the praises of God with the choirs of angels, this is the life of the Christian until the morning of eternity breaks forth.

Tags: , , , ,

7 Responses to “Saint John of the Cross & Mean Christians”

  1. CM 14. Dec, 2009 at 3:21 pm #

    I love the idea that suffering is a way to unite more fully with Christ. A way to know the unknowable One on a deeper level.

  2. Sarah 14. Dec, 2009 at 7:21 pm #

    “I sometimes wonder what the difference is between the friars who tormented John and those of us who scream about how this group should not be allowed to receive Communion and that person should be excommunicated and this other person silenced. We do not have the power to do anything other than talk, but how much would we hurt others if we did have the power?

    I am inclined to think that the bishops know better than a random twenty-something woman. And if at times the bishops are wrong? Then there is much more saintly precedence for writing a letter to correct the bishop rather than posting vitriol online.”

    I couldn’t agree more, yet I do have to point out that posting vitriol is certainly not limited to “conservative” Catholics. There are plenty of “liberal” Catholics who say terrible hateful things because they don’t think the Church is liberal enough, just the way that “cons” do the same because they don’t think the Church is conservative enough.

    I really like what you’ve written about St. John of the Cross. I’ve been thinking on a post on suffering for a few days now. I just need to get around to it! :)

    • Rae 14. Dec, 2009 at 11:05 pm #

      You’re quite right that nastiness isn’t limited to conservatives. It just so happens that for some reason I am surrounded by more conservatives who are mean & trying to alienate others. The liberals of my acquaintance are happier to just dismiss anything/one they don’t like. I simply haven’t encountered liberals saying that conservatives should be denied communion for failing to care about the environment, or some such thing. I don’t doubt that such people exist, but since I don’t know them I did not think about it.

      I edited the title but left the references in the post since I think that there is something about this story which applies more to conservatives who are genuinely trying to save the Church from improper innovation, but may lose sight of love in the process.

      I look forward to your post!

  3. Christy 14. Dec, 2009 at 10:04 pm #

    Thank you. I’ll be honest – your insight and explanation of today gave me more than I got from the (very brief) homily this morning. I especially like your take on the difference between the friars and those screaming for excommunication.

    Thanks for always helping me with my new faith – I feel like I learn a lot through a 20-somethings takes on things!

    • Rae 14. Dec, 2009 at 11:06 pm #

      Thank you for your kind comments! I am glad that this was helpful.

  4. LCP 12. Dec, 2010 at 8:04 am #

    I was enjoying your post until I came across one thing that you say that smacks of pride: “Then there is much more saintly precedence for writing a letter to correct the bishop.” You may want to consider that it is unwise to write a bishop with the presumption that you are correct (which is what you would be doing were you to write with the intention and tone of “correction”). I think an approach by which you would enter into dialog with a bishop would be much more apropos and productive.

    • Rae 12. Dec, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

      Did you click through the linked words “writing a letter?”

Leave a Reply