Graduate Papers/Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Graduate Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Spirituality


School of Theology and Seminary

First Advisor

Helen Rolfson OSF


John of the Cross' strict asceticism was in large measure the fruit of the circumstances of his life. The starch poverty of his childhood, his close association with the urban underclass, and his Jewish ancestry shaped his sanctity and his spiritual genius. Rather than rebel against his circumstances, John chose to embrace its nakedness, emptiness and poverty for the love of God. Since John lived in a society that denied honorable status to the poor and those tainted by Jewish or Moorish ancestry, he understood his spiritual development in terms of spiritual purity and honor accessible to all sincere seekers of God. John's contemplative spirituality also served to marginalize him. Fear of heresy and the general climate of suspicion in Counter Reformation Spain gave John's enemies reason to try to eliminate his influence. Although John did hold important offices in the Discalced Carmelite order which he helped Teresa de Jesus to found, he was the victim of a smear campaign in the last months of his life. After his death his teaching was conspicuously absent from the early treatises on prayer written by Discalced Carmelites.



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