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John of the CrossSelected Writings
By Kieran Kavanaugh
Paulist PressCopyright ©1988 Kieran Kavanaugh
All right reserved.
Canciones entre el alma y el Esposo
Esposa1. ¿Adónde te escondiste,
Amado, y me dejaste con gemido?
Como el ciervo huiste,
salí tras ti clamando, y eras ido.2. Pastores los que fuerdes
allá por las majadas al otero,
si por ventura vierdes
aquel que yo más quiero,
decilde que adolezco, peno y muero.3. Buscando mis amores,
iré por esos montes y riberas;
ni cogeré las flores,
ni temeré las fieras,
y pasaré los fuertes y fronteras.4. ¡Oh bosques y espesuras,
plantadas por la mano del Amado!
¡Oh prado de verduras,
de flores esmaltado,
decid si por vosotros ha pasado!5. Mil gracias derramando
pasó por estos sotos con presura,
y, yéndolos mirando,
con sola su figura,
vestidos los dejó de hermosura.6. ¡Ay, quién podrá sanarme!
¡Acaba deentregarte ya de vero;
no quieras enviarme
de hoy más ya mensajero
que no saben decirme lo que quiero!7. Y todos cuantos vagan
de ti me van mil gracias refiriendo,
y todos más me llagan,
y déjeme muriendo
un no sé qué que quedan balbuciendo.8. Mas ¿como perseveras,
¡oh vida!, no viviendo donde vives,
y haciendo porque mueras
las flechas que recibes
de lo que del Amado en ti concibes?9. ¿Por qué, pues has llagado
aqueste corazón, no le sanaste?
Y, pues me le has robado,
¿por qué así le dejaste,
y no tomas el robo que robaste?10. ¡Apaga mis enojos,
pues que ninguno basta a deshacellos,
y véante mis ojos,
pues eres lumbre dellos,
y só1o para ti quiero tenellos!11. Descubre tu presencia
y máteme tu vista y hermosura
mira que la dolencia
de amor, que no se cura
sino con la presencia y la figura.12. ¡Oh cristalina fuente,
si en esos tus semblantes plateados
formases de repente
los ojos deseados
que tengo en mis entrañas dibujados!13. ¡Apártalos, Amado,
que voy de vuelo!
que el ciervo vulnerado
por el otero asoma
al aire de tu vuelo, y fresco toma!
Esposa14. Mi Amado, las montañas,
los valles solitarios nemorosos,
las ínsulas extrañas,
los rios sonorosos,
el silbo de los aires amorosos,15. la noche sosegada
en par de los levantes aurora,
la música callada,
la soledad sonora,
la cena que recrea y enamora.16. Cazadnos las raposas,
que está ya florecida nuestra viña,
en tanto que de rosas
hacemos una piña,
y no parezca nadie en la montiña.17. Detente, cierzo muerto;
ven, austro, que recuerdas los amores,
aspira por mi huerto,
y corran sus olores,
y pacerá el Amado entre las flores.18. ¡Oh ninfas de Judea!
en tanto que en las flores y rosales
el ámbar perfumea,
morá en los arrabales,
y no queráis tocar nuestros umbrales.19. Escóndete, Carillo,
y mira con tu haz a las montañas,
y no quieras decillo;
mas mira las compañas
de la que va por ínsulas extrañas.
Esposo20. A las aves ligeras,
leones, ciervos, gamos saltadores,
montes, valles, riberas,
aguas, aires, ardores,
y miedos de las noches veladores:21. por las amenas liras
y canto de serenas os conjuro
que cesen vuestras iras,
y no toquéis al muro,
porque la esposa duerma más seguro.22. Entrado se ha la esposa
en el ameno huerto deseado,
y a su sabor reposa,
el cuello reclinado
sobre los dulces brazos del Amado.23. Debajo del manzano,
allí conmigo fuiste desposada;
allí te di la mano
y fuiste reparada
donde tu madre fuera violada.
Esposa24. Nuestro lecho florido,
de cuevas de leones enlazado,
en púrpura tendido,
de paz edificado,
de mil escudos de oro coronado.25. A zaga de tu huella
las jóvenes discurren al camino,
al toque de centella,
al adobado vino,
emisiones de bálsamo divino.26. En la interior bodega
de mi Amado bebí, y cuando salía
por toda aquesta vega,
ya cosa no sabía;
y el ganado perdí que antes seguía.27. Allí me dio su pecho,
allí me enseñó ciencia muy sabrosa;
y yo le di de hecho
a mí, sin dejar cosa;
allí le prometí de ser su esposa.
28. Mi alma se ha empleado,
y todo mi caudal en su servicio;
ya no guardo ganado,
ni ya tengo otro oficio,
que ya sólo en amar es mi ejercicio.29. Pues ya si en el ejido
de hoy más no fuere vista ni hallada,
diréis que me he perdido;
que, andando enamorada,
me hice perdidiza y fui ganada.30. De flores y esmeraldas,
en las frescas mañanas escogidas,
haremos las guirnaldas
en tu amor florecidas
y en un cabello mío entretejidas.31. En solo aquel cabello
que en mi cuello volar consideraste,
mirástele en mi cuello,
y en él preso quedaste,
y en uno de mis ojos te llagaste.32. Cuando tú me mirabas
su gracia en mí tus ojos imprimían;
por eso me adamabas,
y en eso merecían
los míos adorar lo que en ti vían.33. No quieras despreciarme,
que, si color moreno en mí hallaste,
ya bien puedes mirarme
después que me miraste,
que gracia y hermosura en mí dejaste.
Esposo34. La blanca palomica
al arca con el ramo se ha tornado;
y ya la tortolica
al socio deseado
en las riberas verdes ha hallado.35. En soledad vivía,
y en soldedad ha puesto ya su nido,
y en soledad la guía
a solas su querido,
también en soledad de amor herido.
Esposa36. Gocémonos, Amado,
y vámonos a ver en tu hermosura
al monte y al collado
do mana el agua pura;
entremos más adentro en la espesura,37. Y luego a las subidas
cavernas de la piedra nos iremos,
que están bien escondidas,
y allí nos entraremos,
y el mosto de granadas gustaremos.38. Allí me mostrarías
aquello que mi alma pretendía,
y luego me darías
allí, tú, ¡vida mía!
aquello que me diste el otro día:39. El aspirar del aire,
el canto de la dulce filomena,
el soto y su donaire,
en la noche serena,
con llama que consume y no da pena.40. Que nadie lo miraba;
Aminadab tampoco parecía
y el cerco sosegaba
y la caballería
a vista de las aguas descendía.
The Spiritual Canticle
Songs between the soul and the Bridegroom
Bride1. Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.2. Shepherds, you that go
up through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see
him I love most,
tell him that I am sick, I suffer, and I die.3. Seeking my love
I will head for the mountains and for watersides;
I will not gather flowers,
nor fear wild beasts;
I will go beyond strong men and frontiers.4. O woods and thickets
planted by the hand of my Beloved!
O green meadow,
coated, bright, with flowers,
tell me, has he passed by you?5. Pouring out a thousand graces,
he passed these groves in haste;
and having looked at them,
with his image alone,
clothed them in beauty.6. Ah, who has the power to heal me?
Now wholly surrender yourself!
Do not send me
any more messengers;
they cannot tell me what I must hear.7. All who are free
tell me a thousand graceful things of you;
all wound me more
and leave me dying
of, ah, I-don't-know-what behind their stammering.8. How do you endure
O life, not living where you live,
and being brought near death
by the arrows you receive
from that which you conceive of your Beloved?9. Why, since you wounded
this heart, don't you heal it?
And why, since you stole it from me,
do you leave it so,
and fail to carry off what you have stolen?10. Extinguish these miseries,
since no one else can stamp them out;
and may my eyes behold you,
because you are their light,
and I would open them to you alone.11. Reveal your presence,
and may the vision of your beauty be my death;
for the sickness of love
is not cured
except by your very presence and image.12. O spring like crystal!
If only, on your silvered-over faces,
you would suddenly form
the eyes I have desired,
which I bear sketched deep within my heart.13. Withdraw them, Beloved,
I am taking flight!
the wounded stag
is in sight on the hill,
cooled by the breeze of your flight.
The Bride14. My Beloved, the mountains,
and lonely wooded valleys,
and resounding rivers,
the whistling of love-stirring breezes,15. the tranquil night
at the time of the rising dawn,
the supper that refreshes, and deepens love.16. Catch us the foxes,
for our vineyard is now in flower,
while we fashion a cone of roses
intricate as the pine's;
and let no one appear on the hill.17. Be still, deadening north wind; south wind
come, you that waken love,
breathe through my garden,
let its fragrance flow,
and the Beloved will feed amid the flowers.18. You girls of Judea,
while among flowers and roses
the amber spreads its perfume,
stay away, there on the outskirts:
do not so much as seek to touch our thresholds.19. Hide yourself, my love;
turn your face toward the mountains,
and do not speak;
but look at those companions
going with her through strange islands.
Bridegroom20. Swift-winged birds,
lions, stags, and leaping roes,
mountains, lowlands, and river banks,
waters, winds, and ardors,
watching fears of night:21. By the pleasant lyres
and the siren's song, I conjure you
to cease your anger
and not touch the wall,
that the bride may sleep in deeper peace.22. The bride has entered
the sweet garden of her desire,
and she rests in delight,
laying her neck
on the gentle arms of her Beloved.23. Beneath the apple tree:
there I took you for my own,
there I offered you my hand,
and restored you,
where your mother was corrupted.
Bride24. Our bed is in flower,
bound round with linking dens of lions,
hung with purple,
built up in peace,
and crowned with a thousand shields of gold.25. Following your footprints,
maidens run along the way;
the touch of a spark,
the spiced wine,
cause flowings in them from the balsam of God.26. In the inner wine cellar
I drank of my Beloved, and, when I went abroad
through all this valley,
I no longer knew anything,
and lost the herd that I was following.27. There he gave me his breast;
there he taught me a sweet and living knowledge;
and I gave myself to him,
keeping nothing back;
there I promised to be his bride.28. Now I occupy my soul
and all my energy in his service;
I no longer tend the herd,
nor have I any other work
now that my every act is love.29. If, then, I am no longer
seen or found on the common,
you will say that I am lost;
that, stricken by love,
I lost myself, and was found.30. With flowers and emeralds
chosen on cool mornings
we shall weave garlands
flowering in your love,
and bound with one hair of mine.31. You considered
that one hair fluttering at my neck;
you gazed at it upon my neck
and it captivated you;
and one of my eyes wounded you.32. When you looked at me
your eyes imprinted your grace in me;
for this you loved me ardently;
and thus my eyes deserved
to adore what they beheld in you.33. Do not despise me;
for if, before, you found me dark,
now truly you can look at me
since you have looked
and left in me grace and beauty.
Bridegroom34. The small white dove
has returned to the ark with an olive branch;
and now the turtledove
has found its longed-for mate
by the green river banks.35. She lived in solitude,
and now in solitude has built her nest;
and in solitude he guides her,
he alone, who also bears
in solitude the wound of love.
Bride36. Let us rejoice, Beloved,
and let us go forth to behold ourselves in your beauty,
to the mountain and to the hill,
to where the pure water flows,
and further, deep into the thicket.37. And then we will go on
to the high caverns in the rock
which are so well concealed;
there we shall enter
and taste the fresh juice of the pomegranates.38. There you will show me
what my soul has been seeking,
and then you will give me,
you, my life, will give me there
what you gave me on that other day:39. the breathing of the air,
the song of the sweet nightingale;
the grove and its living beauty
in the serene night,
with a flame that is consuming and painless.40. No one looked at her,
nor did Aminadab appear;
the siege was still;
and the cavalry,
at the sight of the waters, descended.
A Troubadour of Divine Love
On the evening of 13 December 1591 in the little town of Ubeda in the south of Spain, Fray John of the Cross lay dying in his monastery while the community gathered at his bedside. His prior, after fumbling through a book of prayers, began the melancholy recitation for the commendation of a soul. The small friar interrupted and asked the prior to read instead from the Song of Songs. Then, listening to its poetry, to its exotic lines of love, he exclaimed: "Oh, what precious pearls!" The words spoke to Fray John like no others of the love he had come to know within the trinitarian mystery where he now found his rest, sharing in the communion of Persons in God. Who would have thought of asking for something like this? But who could have written so sublimely of love as John of the Cross?
Once the soul is placed at the peak of perfection and freedom of spirit in God, and all the repugnances and contradictions of sensuality have ceased, she no longer has any other activity to engage her than surrender to the delights and joys of intimate love of her Bridegroom .... Let us rejoice in the communication of the sweetness of love, not only in that sweetness we already possess in our habitual union but in that which overflows into the effective and actual practice of love, either interiorly with the will in the affective act or exteriorly in works directed to the service of the Beloved .... [W]hen love takes root it has this characteristic: It makes one always desire to taste the joys and sweetnesses of love in the inward and outward exercise of love. All this the lover does in order to resemble the Beloved more. (C 36.1.3)
For all their beauty and power John's words were not what mainly interested his earliest biographers. It was later that history came to recognize this saint as a troubadour of divine love. Biographers of persons who were renowned for holiness exalted the venerable in their subjects and were judged successful if beatification soon followed publication of their accounts. A saint had to be presented as heroic in a way that would meet the baroque mold of the time. The demands were for the marvelous, the miraculous, the spectacular--and the more reportable incidents of this type the better. Tales of the ordinary, of all that the saints might have in common with the rest of humanity, were not worth paper or ink. Through the centuries, then, history's portrait makers have interpreted John in changing light. First he was drawn darkly, an ascetic, an austere and emaciated man, laudably surrounded by miracles, with a rather forbidding doctrine. To this sketch was later added a wash of mysticism. His books could not be recommended or even intelligible except to those rare persons walking the path of penance, sufferers of that dismal affliction called the "dark night of the soul." The picture of John as ascetic and mystic persisted for centuries, and perhaps, here and there, an image like this still lingers.
Not until the twentieth century did John of the Cross, in a new stroke of the brush, receive recognition for something further. He was pronounced a Doctor of the Church and so was acknowledged as a theologian, a master especially in spirituality. Next, literary critics began to admit that the verses of his poetry, saturated with a prodigality of symbols, amounted to more than mere devotional rhymes. Menendez y Pelayo, among others, commented:
Here we are faced with an evangelical poetry, both heavenly and divine, so much so that one gets the feeling that it does not belong to this earth .... I confess that these verses fill me with a religious awe when I handle them. Here the Spirit of God has passed, embellishing and sanctifying everything.
From the new image of John as Mystical Doctor, theologian, and poet, the interest then shifted to the material, economic, and moral responsibilities he carried.
But in all of these images John of the Cross remains the great lover of God. In his apostolic letter Master of Faith, written to commemorate the fourth centenary of John's death, Pope John Paul II states:
St. John of the Cross had fallen deeply in love with God. He had great familiarity with God and always spoke to him and of him. God was in his heart and on his lips, because God was his true treasure, his true world. Before proclaiming and singing the mystery of God, he was a witness of God; he used to speak of God with a fervor and conviction which were remarkably exceptional.
John lived in Spain during the sixteenth century, now called its golden age, a period of broad European expansion. Spain, and Portugal as well, was discovering the new world with its "strange islands," which inspired John's phrase. E1 Greco in Toledo was painting his mystical figures. Garcilaso de la Vega, Luis de Le6n, and Cervantes were dominating the world of Spanish literature. It was a time also when the Italian Renaissance had reached exalted heights exemplified in the masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. In England, William Shakespeare like no one else entered the domain of drama, channeling the English language into whirls and eddies of poetic beauty. The Copernican revolution was in process. And within Christianity the movement of reform was mounting, with serious ruptures and conflicts under way initiated by Luther, Calvin, the Huguenots, the Council of Trent, and St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.
Juan de Yepes Alvarez (the future John of the Cross) was born in a little town some thirty miles north of Avila in 1542. His father, Gonzalo de Yepes, belonging to a family of silk merchants, of Jewish background it seems now, was disinherited for having entered a marriage of love with a poor woman. She was Catalina Alvarez, perhaps of Arab origins, an orphan who subsisted as a silk weaver. Compelled to live in poverty, the couple experienced hardships so severe that Gonzalo died before their three sons, Francisco, Luis, and Juan, were old enough to care for themselves.
Little Juan de Yepes, along with the many other poor of Spain, from the very beginning suffered in the shadow of the cross. In contrast with the sprawling, outward glitter of the political leadership, the conditions of life for Castilians were markedly different. Life was fragile. The median age at time of death was twenty-seven years, and plagues, epidemics, and hunger preyed unmercifully on children, those of the poor especially. Juan's brother Luis died as a child.
Struggling to provide the basics of life for the family, Catalina moved first to Arévalo and then to Medina del Campo, known for its large trade and busy marketplaces. Juan de Yepes lived thirteen years in Medina, from age nine to twenty-two. He was one of those saints, like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who from childhood center their lives on God. His mother said that as a child he was like an angel. And St. Teresa wrote of him, "he is a saint and always was one." Fortunately Catalina was able to enroll him in a school for children of the poor, where he could receive an elementary education and learn a trade. But Juan was more interested in books than in trades.
One of his tasks at this time was to assist dutifully for several hours each day at the church of La Magdalena attached to a monastery of nuns. There he was noticed by Don Alonso de Toledo, administrator of a charity hospital for those suffering from venereal disease. Juan was recruited by him to help care for the sick and also to go about begging alms for the hospital. Here Catalina's son came into direct contact with human misery and much of its stench, and in his work as a beggar learned to withstand scorn and rejection. Observing the young lad's talent, his love of books, and his dedication to the disagreeable tasks meted out to him in the hospital, the administrator allowed Juan to attend classes at the Jesuit "school of grammar," where the principal subject of Latin was rounded out by other courses such as rhetoric, theology, mathematics, history, geography. There were also competitive exercises and theatrical productions of the classics. Don Alonso was so pleased with Juan's assiduousness in all these duties that he wanted him to continue studies preparatory to ordination and become chaplain at the hospital.
A Carmelite Call
Juan surprised both the administrator and the Jesuits by deciding in the end to enter the Carmelite monastery of friars in Medina. The history of this order goes back to the early thirteenth century, when hermits lived and prayed on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land and dedicated their church to Mary. As a Carmelite, Juan was given the name Fray Juan de Santo Matía. During his one- year novitiate he learned about the traditions and spirituality of Carmel. After making his profession of vows, he was sent to Salamanca to study at the university there, a school on a par with others in the great medieval tradition--Bologna, Oxford, Paris. Juan spent four intense years studying in this flourishing intellectual center, immersed in its art and culture, and in the swirling debates set off by stimulating new ideas. So successful was he in his studies that in his monastery he was appointed prefect of studies. This entailed teaching some classes, defending public theses, and collaborating with his teacher in answering objections to these theses.
Despite his success, Fray Juan de Santo Matía experienced dissatisfaction with his situation. The academic life did not attract him; it focused too exclusively on the purposeless splendor of a grand display of titles, promotions, offices, and professorships. He was drawn instead to contemplation in solitude before the Blessed Sacrament.
A Change of Direction
At this time an extraordinary Carmelite nun from Avila, Teresa of Jesus, was struggling to bring to a successful conclusion her second monastery of discalced nuns in Medina del Campo. Having heard about the twenty-five-year-old friar, who at the time was just newly ordained, she arranged to speak with him. It didn't take her long to discern who it was who sat on the other side of the grille conversing with her in that self-effacing way that came so naturally to him. She understood his vocation crisis and at once began pressing him to assist her in founding a monastery of discalced friars.
Teresa had lived for over twenty years at the Incarnation, a large monastery of Carmelite nuns in Avila, in which there resided at times as many as 180 nuns. They came from different rungs on the social ladder, and those on the upper rungs insisted on bringing their special privileges with them into the monastery. This great number of nuns with their class distinctions caused many obstacles to the common life of solitude, recollection, and prayer. It was difficult to discover any resemblance to the early community of hermits on Mount Carmel.
Having experienced the transforming powers of prayer, Teresa's convictions about the interior life grew so strong that she attracted others to spiritual conversation and friendship with her. Her cell at the Incarnation became a meeting place for those beginning to long for a way of life closer to the early hermits. Soon her reform took shape. Her communities would be small, resembling the twelve disciples gathered as friends around Christ. Within the framework of Carmelite cenobitical life she restored its eremitical thrust. In addition she illuminated this Carmelite ideal with fresh insight, underscoring the apostolic and ecclesial dimensions of prayer. At a time when the wars of religion in France between the Huguenots and the Catholics erupted and so many Christians were taking up arms, she reasoned that the way to restore unity to the Body of Christ was through the arms of prayer, a contemplative life lived in the service of Christ and his church. She wanted the members of her communities to be devout explorers of the mysteries of Christ, in love with him, athirst for union with him. Their days and months would be further sanctified by celebration together of the Liturgy of the Hours. They were to follow the urgings of the rule toward a love for solitude, simplicity of life, and contemplation. But in the spirit of sisterhood, they would take recreation together. With gentleness, moderation, and joy, they were to live in a poor house, consider it to be the Blessed Virgin Mary's house, whose habit they were wearing under the rule of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Now with authorization from the general of the Carmelite order she was searching for suitable candidates to undertake and promote her ideal among the friars. The general, however, insisted that her friars also serve their neighbor through the ministry of the word. And Teresa included spiritual direction within the sphere of this apostolic action. The followers of Teresa's way were soon called discalced Carmelites to distinguish them from other Carmelites, who were often by contrast spoken of as "calced." The popular term "discalced" eventually became a part of the official title of the Teresian reform; the term "calced" was never used officially.
These facts are grasped better if seen within their historical context, the climate of vital reform present within European Christianity. During the crisis of the black death in the fourteenth century, many adaptations and mitigations in religious life became necessary. The result was almost a complete desertion of monastic practices. The subsequent need was for reform. As a result, important persons within religious orders promoted reform. But the church hierarchy and the politically powerful monarchs and members of the nobility promoted it as well. Neither was it unusual for the laity themselves to enthusiastically back the reformers.
From the end of the fifteenth century, Castile was a hotbed of reform movements. They began during the period of the Catholic monarchs and Cardinal Cisneros and continued up to the close of the Council of Trent and the time of Philip II. Philip II thought that much of the breakup of Christian unity could be blamed on the laxity of religious orders. For him the unity of Spain depended on religious unity, and so the reform of religious orders constituted an essential part of his plans to hold Spain together and expand its fortunes.
The model of reform that most influenced Teresa was the Franciscan reform. Already in the fifteenth century the Franciscans sought to restore the observance of the vows and community life to those who had laid them aside. Those who embraced the observance were called the "observants." Those who did not were called "conventuals." A still more radical reform, however, was introduced by those called discalced Franciscans.
The orders that then chose to become discalced had common characteristics. First, there was a return to the genuine sources that were lost by mitigations of the primitive rule. The return was built on austerity. Austerities were the means in which these reforms found their identifying signs. The signs included first of all poor buildings, small in size, without the furnishings of the nobility, and located in rural settings. The members went about completely barefoot or in hemp sandals, like the poor, and were therefore called discalced. The habit was close-fitting and of poor material. They slept on hard beds and observed prolonged fasts and abstinence from meat. They frowned on studies and academic degrees, which they considered responsible for laxity and incompatible with contemplation.
St. Teresa incorporated many of these elements for her nuns and friars. But as time went on she lost some of her enthusiasm for several of these external signs. Above all, she wanted contemplative friars who would also be learned spiritual directors and preachers. For this reason, the discalced Carmelite friars began to establish themselves especially in cities having universities.
Teresa convinced Fray Juan that he would be able to find just what he was looking for by living the primitive Carmelite rule according to her ideal. After he agreed to follow her, she invited him to accompany her to found a new community of her nuns in Valladolid. There he received firsthand instructions about her ideal. Except for strict enclosure, the friars would reincarnate the lifestyle already begun by Teresa's nuns at St. Joseph's in Avila and codified in The Way of Perfection. The friars, however, in addition chose to follow the monastic practice of breaking their sleep and sanctifying the night by reciting Matins at midnight. Teresa had elected to do this shortly after nine. While Fray Juan was in Valladolid, she designed and made for him the first habit of the discalced Carmelite friars.
The ramshackle house Teresa managed to acquire for her first foundation of friars was located in a remote and solitary place called Duruelo, not many miles from Fontiveros. The life of the discalced Carmelite friars was inaugurated on 27 November 1568. Fray Juan de Santo Matía changed his name at this time to Fray Juan de la Cruz and has been known ever since by that namein English, John of the Cross. Because of crowded conditions in the small house, the community soon had to move to the nearby town of Mancera de Abajo. Meanwhile Teresa founded another monastery for friars in Pastrana and called on Fray John to go there and teach them her way of life as he had learned it from her.
As the number of friars attracted to the reform movement grew, so did the need for a house of studies. A house was established in Alcala de Henares close to the acclaimed university there, and John was appointed rector in April 1571. These events coincided with the decision of the apostolic visitator Pedro Fernández to order Teresa of Jesus, over her strong protests, to return as prioress to her original monastery of the Incarnation, where her leadership and spirituality were much needed as remedy to the problems that resulted from years of inept administration. Convinced that she needed expert help for the challenges that lay ahead, she persuaded Pedro Fernández to appoint John of the Cross as confessor and vicar of the monastery. Teresa explained the change to the nuns simply: "I am bringing as your confessor a father who is a saint."
Conflicts of Jurisdiction
How did Pedro Fernández, a Dominican friar, acquire such authority? To understand this we need to understand King Philip II's distrust of the methods for reform of religious orders set up in Rome. He wanted to take over in Spain and refused to hear of reforms of Spanish monasteries carried on by those he considered outsiders, the orders' generals coming from Rome. His vehement desire was to force all religious "conventual" communities into "observants."
From Pius V he received authority in 1566 to instruct the Spanish bishops to carry out visitations of religious orders. These visitations were to be done through delegates who in turn were to be accompanied by serious religious appointed by the provincial of the respective religious order. But as for Carmelites, Trinitarians, and Mercedarians (orders that were considered to be lacking the number of observants who would be able to assist the bishops in carrying out the reform of the conventuals), he obtained another brief in 1567 instructing that two Dominicans were to accompany the bishop's delegate.
This action of the king coldly ignored the privilege of religious exemption held by these orders and also the decree of the Council of Trent that entrusted their reform to the religious superiors. Moreover, the Carmelites in the general chapter of 1564 had pronounced themselves to be observants and renounced conventualism.
Perhaps because of the complaints of the superiors general, Pius V decided to remove the visitation from the hands of the bishops. He turned to another solution and put the work of reform in Spain into the hands of the generals, each being responsible for his own order. But he made a careful exception, and entrusted the reform of the Carmelites, Trinitarians, and Mercedarians to Dominican friars.
Pedro Fernández and Francisco Vargas, two Dominican friars, were named visitators for the Carmelites, the former of the communities in Castile, the latter, of the communities in Andalusia. They received powers to move religious from house to house and province to province, to assist superiors in their offices, and to depute other superiors from among either the Dominicans or Carmelites. They were entitled to perform all acts necessary for the visitation, correction, and reform of both head and members of all houses of friars and nuns.
Excerpted from John of the Cross by Kieran Kavanaugh Copyright ©1988 by Kieran Kavanaugh. Excerpted by permission.
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