Doctor of the Church
Feast Day December 14th
Saint John of the Cross was the companion of Saint Teresa in the formulation of the Discalced Carmelite Order. He inspires the Secular Carmelite to be vigilant in the practice of faith, hope and charity. He guides the Secular Carmelite thzrough the dark night to union with God. In this union with God, the Secular Carmelite finds the true freedom of the children of God.

AWOC Order of Carmelites

John of the Cross: Saint, Mystic, and Doctor of the Church

Introduction: Saint John of the Cross, known as San Juan de la Cruz in Spanish, is a remarkable figure in Christian history, distinguished by his dual titles as a saint and a Doctor of the Church. His life and teachings have had a profound and lasting impact on Christian mysticism and spirituality. This biography will explore the reasons behind this unique dual designation and underscore the significance of his contributions to Carmelite Spirituality.

Biographical Background: Born on June 24, 1542, in Fontiveros, Spain, John of the Cross emerged from a humble background characterized by adversity. Despite these challenges, his early inclination towards spirituality and his fervent desire to serve God led him to join the Carmelite Order in Medina del Campo at the age of 21.

Carmelite Spirituality: Saint John of the Cross made substantial contributions to Carmelite Spirituality, a tradition deeply rooted in contemplative prayer and the pursuit of union with God. His teachings within this tradition encompass several fundamental concepts:

  1. The Dark Night of the Soul: His renowned work, “The Dark Night of the Soul,” illuminates the spiritual journey as a path marked by purification and darkness. He describes these phases as necessary for the soul to shed worldly attachments and desires, ultimately paving the way for a closer union with God.
  2. Contemplative Prayer: John emphasized the significance of contemplative prayer as the means to experience God’s profound presence. He described the pinnacle of prayer as a loving, unitive relationship with God, where the soul seeks God alone.
  3. Detachment: Saint John of the Cross underscored the importance of detachment from worldly possessions and desires as a prerequisite for spiritual growth. This detachment allows the soul to become more fully receptive to God’s transformative grace.
  4. Divine Love: His writings poetically convey the intensity of the soul’s relationship with God, replete with expressions of profound divine love and the soul’s unwavering yearning for God.


Saint and Doctor of the Church: John of the Cross holds the dual titles of “saint” and “Doctor of the Church” due to the following reasons:

  1. Sanctity: His life of profound holiness and unwavering dedication to God earned him the title of “saint.” His exemplary commitment to a life of poverty, humility, and prayer serves as an inspiration to all who seek spiritual growth.
  2. Theological Contributions: John’s writings, such as “The Dark Night of the Soul” and his poetic works, are not only spiritually enriching but also theologically profound. His deep insights and spiritual wisdom significantly contribute to the Church’s understanding of the mystical and contemplative aspects of the Christian faith.
  3. Influence on Christian Doctrine: His teachings have left an indelible mark on Christian mysticism, influencing theologians, scholars, and spiritual seekers for centuries. His work continues to be studied and revered for its depth and authenticity.


Conclusion: Saint John of the Cross’s life and teachings, deeply rooted in Carmelite Spirituality, have earned him the extraordinary status of being both a saint and a Doctor of the Church. His unwavering dedication to holiness, profound theological contributions, and enduring influence on Christian doctrine make him a revered and timeless figure in the Christian tradition. His feast day on December 14th serves as a poignant reminder of his enduring impact on Christian mysticism and spirituality.


  1. “The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross” – Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez.
  2. “John of the Cross: Doctor of Light and Love” by Kieran Kavanaugh.
  3. “The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism” edited by Bernard McGinn.
  4. “John of the Cross: Mystic of the Absolute” by Antonio Moreno.