"O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn!"I decided that this year's Lent would be a good time to upgrade my prayer life. (February 15, 2015)
(Translated from "Dark Night of the Soul," St. John of the Cross)
That could have been a topic for this post: except that I couldn't think of anything to say about it. Not that 'clicked.'
When I start working on Friday's or Sunday's post, I check out the news, look at what the Scripture readings are going to be, or look at what I've written recently. Something generally 'clicks:' I realize that some topic is a good idea, and I start working at it.
That didn't happen for this week's Sunday post.
I was talking with my wife about my writer's block, when she noted that I was having — I don't remember her exact words, by the time I was sitting down what I remembered was 'dim day of the soul.'
And I still didn't know what I was going to write about. Then I read about the troublemaker who wrote "Dark Night of the Soul," and that's when I started writing this:
Juan de Yepes y Álvarez was born in 1542, and joined the Carmelite Order in 1564.
The Carmelite specialty was contemplation: which they saw as involving prayer, community, and service.
There were Carmlite Friars, nuns, and laypeople: not sharing the same quarters: and that's another topic. Young Juan ran into a Carmelite nun, and I'll get back to that.
Juan became a priest in 1567. That's when he said he wanted to join the Carthusian Order: because they were really hardcore.
Putting it more conventionally, the Carthusian Order "appealed to him because of its encouragement of solitary and silent contemplation." (Wikipedia)
Then a Carmelite nun talked to him about her plans to reform the Carmlite Order. Her idea was restoring rules from the early 1200s. The Carmelites had gone through proper channels, getting official approval when they eased up on the rules.
Pope Eugene IV, for example, okayed rule changes about eating meat and being silent. ("The Carmelites," resource for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California; St. John's Seminary (1990))
The nun asked Juan to put off joining the Carthusians, and join her reform. in 1568, Friar Juan and Friar Antonio de Jesús de Heredia set up the first monastery for men following the nun's principles.
Juan was such a troublemaker that some of his superiors in the Carmelite Order ordered him to stop following the reformed rules. Juan said he had approval from the Spanish nuncio, who outranked them.
That's when Carmelites who didn't like the stricter rules kidnapped (or arrested, from their viewpoint) and imprisoned Juan.
Eventually he wound up in what we'd call solitary confinement: punctuated by public lashings. Around this time, one of the friars had given him paper — and presumably something to write with. I'll get back to that.
Juan escaped August 15, 1578; Pope Gregory XIII signed off on a separation between the Calced and Discalced Carmelites; Juan came down with erysipelas, and died in 1591.
Today, Juan is known as Saint John of the Cross in my language.
While he was imprisoned, in the late 1570s, St. John of the Cross wrote a poem: "La noche oscura del alma." In my language it's called "Dark Night of the Soul." A few years later, in 1584 and 1585, he wrote a treatise explaining the poem, one stanza at a time.
I gather that "Dark Night of the Soul" is about the dry patches I can expect. Sometimes — quite often, actually — I don't feel much like praying. Apparently it's not just me. (Catechism, 2728, 2731)
I'm not going to try writing about that. Not today. Maybe not this month.
- St. John of the Cross
Catholic Encyclopedia (1910)
- Dark Night of the Soul
- "Dark Night of the Soul"
St. John of the Cross, English translation by E. Allison Peers, Christian Classics Ethereal Library (text in several formats)
- "Joy and Standing Orders"
(October 5, 2014)
- "Trusting Emotions: Within Reason"
(December 8, 2013)
- "Gray Afternoon of the Soul"
(April 29, 2012)
- "Really 'Spiritual' Experiences: Those are Okay"
(April 22, 2010)
- "Mother Teresa of Calcutta: She's No Princess Di"
(May 8, 2009)