St. John of the Cross was born on June 24, 1542 in Spain. St. John was well acquainted with self-sacrifice as his family moved from one village to another trying to make a meager living. He worked in a hospital, spending years aiding poor people with incurable diseases while receiving schooling with the Society of Jesus.
St. John believed he was told in prayer that his life was to be dedicated to God. He studied at the University of Salamanca, was ordained a priest in 1567 and joined the Carmelite Order. St. John of the Cross met Saint Teresa of Avila, the famous Carmelite nun, who convinced him to join him in establishing a monastery of friars dedicated to a more primitive rule, requiring solidarity and silent contemplation. Many of his fellow friars thought this form was too strict and completely disagreed with returning to that reform. St John thoroughly believed that a holy life of prayer and sacrifice was required in order to experience a complete union with God and refused to go back.
He was severely criticized, berated and imprisoned by his superiors. He was isolated in a narrow dark cell and publicly beaten. He suffered separation and
desolation, but God did not forsake St. John. He showered him with blessings and favors. A kind guard had slipped some paper into the cell and John used hissuffering to write the most profound literary masterpieces of Spanish literature and some of the best poems ever written in the
St. John escaped from his prison and continued to help Saint Teresa build monasteries across Spain. St John. was declared one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1926. St. John of the Cross is the patron saint of contemplative life, mystic theology and Spanish poets.