Life of John of the Cross - Part 4

After the Chapter of Alcala – After the Chapter of Alcala which lasted from 3rd to the 16th of March John of the Cross returns to Baeza, where continues to have an intense apostolate, spiritual direction and the governance of his community. John’s last encounter with St. Teresa was toward the end of the year November 1581.  They have not seen each other since December 1577 when he was kidnapped to the «Torrecilla» the small house where they lived when he was confessor to the nuns at the Encarnación.  Teresa had promised John that when «God would give would give us a Province, I will make sure to come to see you».  However, the new Provincial cut short the visit because he was needed drastically in Andalucía, not in Baeza where he was superior for two years, rather in Granada. A foundation of Discalced Carmelite nuns was being founded in Granada.  The idea was that St. Teresa was to make the foundation in Granada, however, she was now preoccupied with the foundation in Burgos that was to coincide with that of Granada.  John of the Cross accompanied Ana de Jesús for the foundation in Granada instead.  Shortly after the foundation of the monastery in January 1582, John assumes his role as prior of the monastery of Los Santos Mártires of Granada.

Community in Granada (1582-1588) -   

His assignment in Granada was the longest period of in which he had remained in a single place, six years from 1582-1588.  He spent four years a prior then was elected by the community in 1582 for the Provincial Chapters in 1583 and 1587 and was elected twice as Vicar Provincial of Andalucía from 1585 to 1857.  Biographers and specialists say that the six years spent in Granada were among the most productive years of John of the Cross.  In his first year in the city John planned and began work in the renovation of the rooms of the friars and the building of an aquaduct from the Alhambra as well as a building project building the cloister walls with stones.  He made many trips all around Andalucía, Castile, Portugal the founding of three monasteries, spiritual direction to nuns and laity especially a dear friend Ana de Peñalosa a benefactoress.  The Saint helped her cope with faith and hope the pain she suffered by the loss of her husband and only child.  It was also a time of literary growth.  John was able to revisit some of his spiritual writings.  He reviewed all his work both the Ascent to Mount Carmel and the Dark Night editing to its final form and which has come to our hands today.  He also finished the second redaction of the Spiritual Canticle (CB).  Regarding the first Canticle  [A], John was not satisfied with the slight edit made, but rather reconfigured the work, poem and commentary [he added a new strophe n. 11] making the poem a total of 40 strophes.  He changed the order of the 18 central strophes [ from 16 to 33]  He annoted various strophes and reworked the whole commentary. In fact, many scholars of Spiritual Canticle CB consider it as the “Long Version”  Cantico alargado”
            One thing is certain the second redaction of Spiritual Canticle CB comes after the poem Llama de amor viva (Flame of living love).  John himself affirms this by citing it in strophe 31 n. 7 of Canticle CB when he begins with «O flame of living love.  This detail is important not only for the date [some say 1586-1587] but it give an orientation or a view of his life his struggles the living of his faith, etc.
John of the Cross assists in the Provincial Chapter in Lisbon, Portugal May 11, 1585 and was elected as second Definitor [the Chapter is moved and concludes in Pastrana] He is appointed as Vicar Provincial of Andalucía until april 1587. 

Intermediate Chapter Valladolid (18-25 april 1587) -   

Nicolas Doria opened the Intermediate Chapter which was celebrated in Valladolid between April 18-25 in 1587 John of the Cross was again elected as Prior of Granada but was no longer Vicar Provincial of Andalucía.

Chapter of Madrid June 18, 1588 -  

Pope Sixtus V decrees with the breve Cum de statu the first General Chapter of the Discalced Carmelites commending the present Provincial Nicolas Doria in convoking the Chapter to put in practice the prescription of the decrees.  The decree of the pope foresaw the celebration of the General Chapters every three years. The term of the Superior General would last for six years and the definitors and local superiors for three.   Jerónimo Gracián did not attend this historic Chapter due to the marginalization by the «Junta».  Elected as the four difinitors were Augustín de los Reyes, Antonio de Jesús, Elías de San Martín and John of the Cross.  For General Nicolas Doria received 32 votes of 58 voters (55%).  The monastery of Segovia was designated as the house or convent of the Definitory.  This decision obviously affected John´s residence in Granada which he had to abandon.

John of the Cross in Segovia (1588-1591) – 

John ministry in his triennium extended over various circles of friends and people.  Again the nuns, ecclesiastics, and the laity at all social levels from the very rich and powerful to the poor.  And of course his dear friend Doña Ana del Mercado y Peñalosa which had moved with her niece Inés de Mercado from Granada to Segovia in a house near by the monastery.  Recall that at the petition of Doña Ana del Mercado, John had written in Granada (between 1585 and 1586) the commentary of his poem the «Living Flame of Love».  He had worked on the first redaction and was working on another «Llama B».  Some scholars today speculate that during his busy work in Segovia he might have very worked on it just before his ailments began around 1591 when he was transferred to Ubeda. [Traditionally scholars attribute the second redaction of the Living Flame of Love to have been worked on during his brief stay at La Pañuela, however, it is now most probable that his three years in Segovia proved to be stable long enough to revise the entire text (Domingo Mend.). 

Segovia -  

The monastery of Segovia was heavily financed by Doña Ana del Mercado y Peñalosa during the time of its foundation in 1586 and afterwards for the expansion of the monastery.  It was natural that this monastery was considered very dear to her.   [In fact,  at the death of John of the Cross, Doña Ana asks the Doria to have John brought back from Ubeda and buried in Segovia.]

Extraordinary Chapter of Madrid (June to july 1590) The execution of the juridical laws of the Consulta.-    

Doria convoked this extraordinary Chapter with the minimum number of members. It was 17 compared to the 50 plus in an ordinary Chapter.  Those convoked needless to say were not at all representative of the Order, especially in making important juridical decisions that would result in the enactment of a new insertions to the constitutions. The Government of the Order was being orientated to an Order strictly based on religious observance and equity among the members living in community. Apostolic activity or ministry was conditioned by the laws of religious the observance.  The norms were made clear « we command that no religious, nor prelate of our Order, conducting business,  or in matters that are most pious or preaching within or outside the Order, be occupied in such a manner that he is not able to observe religious life, for we are bound by our profession…»  On July 2, 1590 the new Constitution was promulgated and the Chapter presented it to the rest of the Order on July 13.
Reaction of the new Constitutions of Madrid -   

The new Constitutions were not at all favourable as one can imagine and Doria expected this. The Constitutions were imposed without a second moment for reflection or study.  The new Norms impinged the Generalate in every aspect of the life and mission of the discalced.  John of the Cross opposed to the whole extreme approach by Doria returns to Segovia. During the time of  John served in office there was so many question regarding where he stood ground during Doria’s government.  What was John attitude and responsibility when Doria sent his mandate on Maria de San Jose, the prioress of San Alberto in Lisbon Portugal, to neither speak or write to Gracián nor to receive his letter.  What about the question regarding the doctrinal orientation in which religious life of the Discalced Carmel was turning toward more juridical – observant Order structured and planned largely by Doria and drifting from the beginning ideals of Gracián and to a greater part St. Teresa?  Well questions such as these have not been resolved because there is no documentation left as a testimony.  Certainly, John of the Cross had been confronted with such a delicate matter in which he himself had to feel divided.  Important documents regarding the Order and the administration of the nuns, John´s  signature by 1591 of for that matter other members of the definitory did not appear.  This is probably because Doria no longer counted with their council and advice.

Intermediate Chapter of Madrid (June 1591) – 

Convoked for this official intermediate Chapter were all five provincials, definitors and councillors.  The first superior of Mexico, Fr. Juan de la Madre de Dios had return to Spain permanently and in his place elected as Vicar Provincial in Mexico Pedro de los Angeles, who was prior in Puebla.  Fr. Juan de la Madre de Dios should have given an account of the condition in New Spain urging the Chapter to send more friars overseas. This perhaps impelled John of the Cross to make himself available under obedience and according the necessities of the Order to go to Mexico, since in 1591 was the end of the triennium and he was free from office as definite, councillor and vicar in Segovia.  Departure of the friars to Mexico as we know was not attained.  Possibly because it was too late to submit the paper work and organize the logistics for the Transatlantic voyage by mid-July of the same year of 1591.  The trip to Mexico was eventually suspended and John remained free and without any office.  In this occasion we have two letters from John dated July 6 1591 where he responds to the prioress of Segovia, Maria de la Encarnacion and Ana de Jesus who lamented that things did not turn out the way they should have.  John in a remarkable spirit of faith writes: « you should not be worried, for I do feel that way. Rather what bears heavy for me is that others might be blamed when they have no fault, for these things are not made by men but by God, who knows what is best for us and wants the best for us.  Do not think otherwise but only all the things God wants for us, and where there is no love put love and you will draw love».  The second letter addressed to Ana de Jesus, again John of the Cross tells her: « one should be consoled and give thanks to God»  because it was the most appropriate thing to do,  he continues «regarding my release from the care of souls, yes I want it, through the Divine favour, to enjoy peace, solitude and to enjoy the delicious fruit of forgetfulness of self and all things».  John had remain free from any office in Segovia because the Provincial Chapter according to the Constitutions of 1590 prohibit the re-election of the same office for the same house. John could not be re-elected as definitor, nor councillor and so he was completely out of the realm of the Central Government of the Order and Province.

Visitations and Corrections 1591-1593 – 

Visitators were immediately dispatched throughout the provinces without waiting for approval of the Holy See.  In Andalucía, Fr. Diego Evangelista was appointed.  The visit made by this definitor turned out be a type of witch hunt as he went out for John of the Cross.  Lasting for more than two months Fr. Diego Evangelista not only made inquiries about the state of the communities but inquiries over persons associated with in past with Gracián and John of the Cross, especially his dealings with the nuns.  Many religious in Andalucía suffered the «Regular Corrections» which was excessively rigorous, these communities complaint to the Consulta against the imprudent Visitaror.  This type of behaviour caused John and for that matter the community of nuns in Andalucía to burn letters or anything that might even give a hint of suspicion  to the Visitator in order as not to cause harm to anyone.
            It must be said that there is no official document in existence today that whether John of the Cross  ever was under any suspicion by the Superiors of the Province or the Order nor that he was ever persecuted or endangered of being deprived of his Carmelite habit.  Witnesses for his canonization processes attest that even with the shameful way the Visitator had acted no one ever had doubted the sanctity of John.