Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Homily for December 14th, 2016: St. John of the Cross.

          The Church celebrates today one of the great men of the 1500s, a century which brought both the disaster of the Reformation, but also great saints. The previous century witnessed repeated demands for Church reform in head and members. No one imagined, however, that reform, when it came, would result in the departure from Catholic unity of whole nations, and the setting up of altar against altar. The fruits of these divisions remain with us today in the form of literally thousands of Christian denominations which greatly weaken Christian witness to the world.

          At the very time however, when this disaster was unfolding, God raised up men and women of heroic faith: Ignatius of Loyola, the founder the Society of Jesus; his fellow Jesuit and missioner to the Far East, Francis Xavier; Philip Neri, the apostle of Rome; Charles Borromeo, born to wealth and privilege and made a cardinal at age 22 by his uncle by Pope Pius IV, but a champion of Church reform nonetheless.

In Spain the century witnessed the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, whom we celebrated on October 15th, and her fellow Carmelite whom we commemorate today, St John of the Cross. Both dedicated their lives to deep prayer, and to reform of the Carmelite order, encountering for their efforts bitter enmity from their fellow Sisters and Friars. For St. John this included imprisonment and torture.

          Though 17 years younger than Teresa, John of the Cross was her confessor and spiritual director. The writings of both on prayer are spiritual classics. A frequent theme in the writings of John of the Cross was the importance of silence. Here are three quotations from his writings which give an indication of his spirituality:

-- “A soul enkindled with love is a gentle, meek, humble, and patient soul.”        

-- “What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this    

     great God with our appetite and with our tongue; for the language he hears best

     is silent love.” And finally, my personal favorite:

--  “In the evening of life, we will be judged by love alone.