St John of the Cross
Born in 1542 in central Spain, John grew up in love and great poverty. As a youngster he served the sick and studied. At 21 he entered the Carmelite Order, and after ordination joined St Teresa of Avila's Discalced reform. Prayer, community, penance and ministry were the focus of his life, in which God communicated himself to John with increasing intensity.
John gave expression to this relationship with his Beloved in his poetry, shared later in prose: Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night, Spiritual Canticle, Living Flame. The suffering which shaped him came to a head in his imprisonment in Toledo in 1577/8. There too he matured as a poet. After escape John worked in Andalusia: solitude, spiritual direction, community life, travel and administration.
In 1588, after Teresa's death, he returned to Castille, but with changes in administration he began to be victimised and maligned. His response: "Where there is no love, put love, and you will draw love out." John died in 1591, emanating a spirit of forgiveness and his own longing to meet Christ.