Juan de Yepes y Alvarez, later to be know as Juan de la Cruz (John of the Cross) was born to an impoverished, but love-rich couple in the small town of Fontiveros, Spain on June 24, 1542. Juan became an attendant at a smallpox hospital, whose director, impressed by the boy’s compassion, offered to pay for his religious education. Juan studied with the Jesuits and then entered the Carmelite order. He was ordained at twenty-five.
Soon after his ordination, he met with Teresa of Avila, a great mystic who took a liking to the young priest and enlisted him in her attempts to reform the Carmelite order. They formed the Discalced sect of the Carmelite order.
In 1575, the traditional Carmelites outlawed the Discalced sect and two years later seized Juan. He was imprisoned and tortured. His persecution ended in 1578. However, after the death of Teresa (1582) he was stripped of his offices, which allowed him to return to a contemplative life.
He died on December 14th, 1591 in Spain, was beautified in 1675, canonized in 1726, and named a doctor of the church in 1926.
Given the spiritual and non-party-line nature of his writing, I am surprised he has official church sanction. However, like any organization there appears to be substantial diversity in beliefs within the Catholic Church.
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This biographical excerpt is based on the front notes of The Dark Night of the Soul, Dover Thrift Edition© 2003 page v. It has been edited.
Photo from Wikipedia – public domain