Today in Carmel we celebrate the Feast Day of St John of the Cross. I personally am hugely indebted to him for the spiritual help he has given me over many years. In younger days before I became a Catholic, I had a very superficial approach to the problem of suffering. I thought that if you gave your heart to the Lord and made it your business to follow Him, the suffering would somehow go away. Love, peace, and joy together with an increase in understanding would be your lot in life. But I picked up a copy of The Ascent of Mount Carmel by John of the Cross one day on a second-hand bookstall and it made me realise even before I was received into the Church that discipleship was much more complex and demanding than that. Commitment to Him could actually lead into all kinds of suffering, including spiritual darkness. One of my friends whose life experience included both an early profoundly traumatic bereavement and a hugely abusive marital relationship once said to me "I had to give up trying to understand". For myself, instead of the gradual growth in understanding I had anticipated and thought hugely important, I learned - in part from St John of the Cross - that ultimately what matters far more is to grow in love.
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