Sunday 17 July 2022

John of the Cross - Jennifer Moorcroft - CTS Great Saints

John of the Cross
CTS Great Saints
Jennifer Moorcroft
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860825040
eISBN 9781784693626
CTS Booklet B702

A few years back I stumbled upon the books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I instantly fell in love with the clear and concise writing; the wonderful lives of Saints and Blesseds, amazing histories and the church teaching. I have read over 300 books from the CTS, and I have been blessed and benefited from almost all of them. There are many wonderful series. This is the first volume I have read from the pen of Jennifer Moorcroft, but I will be tracking down others soon. I loved the books in the CTS Great Saints Series. I have already read 14 books in this series and yet had not read any of the 7 from Moorcroft. I have also read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series. And have enjoyed all of them. This volume is an fantastic read, in a wonderful series! As a father of daughters I love learning about female saints and sharing their stories with my girls.

The description of this book is:

“Together with Teresa of Avila, John de Yepez Alvarez was instrumental in the reform of the Carmelite order in 16th-century Spain. Familiar with tragedy from an early age, John of the Cross became a towering spiritual figure in his own time, only to be despised and rejected by many. Diminutive in stature and humble in spirit, he penned some of the greatest spiritual works from the darkness of his prison cell. He died loving his enemies and in the embrace of his beloved Lord.”

And the chapters in this little volume are:

Early Years
The Reform
Chaplain at the Incarnation
Toledo Prison
Ascent of Mount Carmel
Prior and Traveller
Last Days
Prayers and Writings of John of the Cross
Maxims of John of the Cross

This was the first book about Saint John of the Cross that I have read. I have read some of his writings for school, as part of spiritual direction and just for personal reading. I am surprised I had not read a biography yet, since I have read a few series of biographies for young readers. 

This volume opens with these words:

“The period in which John of the Cross lived (1542-1592) was a time of immense change and challenge for the Catholic Church. Protestantism was spreading all through Europe. In response the Church had convened the Council of Trent (1545-1563) to state its teaching clearly in response to the doctrines being spread by Luther and Calvin, and to renew the life of the Church, as well as the religious orders.

External changes alone could not renew the Church but internal renewal had already begun some years previously. It was an era when great saints arose. In Italy there were Philip Neri and Mary Magdalene de Pazzi; in France, Francis de Sales and Jeanne de Chantal; in England, Thomas More and John Fisher; in Spain, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross and Teresa of Jesus, to name just a few. It was a reminder of the Church’s single mission - to make saints of ordinary men and women and make them outstanding in their love for God.

In response, new orders were springing up, attracting men and women eager to advance in the spiritual life and to spread the faith. The most notable of these were the Jesuits, founded by Ignatius of Loyola. The existing religious orders were also beginning to reform, although as John and Teresa were to find out, not all their members were happy to have their comfortable lifestyle disrupted.

John and Teresa were Carmelites, an Order that originated on Mount Carmel, and which came to Europe when the Muslims eventually regained control of the Holy Land. Sadly, John and Teresa’s efforts to reform their Order resulted in splitting the Carmelites into two branches: the Calced (or shod) Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, and the Discalced (or unshod), (founded by John of the Cross for men, and Teresa of Avila for women), who - at least in the beginning - went barefoot.

Even more than the reform of their Order, John and Teresa, both Doctors of the Church, wrote spiritual classics on prayer and the spiritual life that have nourished men and women ever since, and are no less relevant in our own times.”

Reading this biography was deeply moving and inspiring. It makes me want to go back and reread Moorcroft’s book on Teresa of Avila from this same series. It is also prompting me to go deeper on the works from these two Doctors of the Church. I really enjoyed the last two chapters on Prayers and Writings of John of the Cross and Maxims of John of the Cross, I just wish the individual quotes were attributed.

This is an excellent little volume. This book was published in 2008 and the eBook edition released in 2017. It seems every time I read a book from the Catholic Truth Society I find 2 or three others I want to read. I have an ever growing wish list of eBooks, books in print, and books out of print I want to track down. I greatly enjoyed this volume. I learned, was challenged, and was encouraged. This is another excellent read, in a great series. It is well written, and leaves me wanting to find the others from this author from the CTS. It is a great volume in an exceptional series. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Jennifer Moorcroft:
A Catholic Response to the Jehovah's Witnesses
Saint Therese of Lisieux and Her Sisters 
When Silence Speaks. The Life and Spirituality of Elisabeth Leseur
The Hidden Light: A Life of Saint Dominic
He is My Heaven: The Life of Elizabeth of the Trinity
God Is All Joy: The Life of St. Teresa of the Andes

In the CTS Great Saints Series:

Books in the CTS Great Saints Series:
Antonio Rosmini - J.B. Midgley
Bernard of Clairvaux - J.B. Midgley
Benedict Patron of Europe - J.B. Midgley
Charles Borromeo - J.B. Midgley
Dominic - J.B. Midgley
Elizabeth of the Trinity The Great Carmelite Saint - Jennifer Moorcroft
Francis de Sales - J.B. Midgley
Gemma Galgani Gem of Christ John Paul Kirkham
George: Patron of England - J.B. Midgley
John Baptist de La Salle - J.B. Midgley
John of the Cross - Jennifer Moorcroft
John Vianney - J.B. Midgley
Louis Marie de Montfort His Life, Message and Teaching - Paul Allerton SMM
Martin de Porres - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Patrick Missionary to the Irish - Thomas O’Loughlin 

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