Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

John of the Cross

Spanish Catholic priest, friar, mystic, and saint.

How did St John of the Cross become a Doctor of the Church?

Beatified in 1675, he was canonized in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII (r. 1724-1730) and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1926 by Pope Pius XI (r. 1922-1939)

St. John the Evangelist is known to be a patron saint of a prolific nature, but he is mainly identified as the patron saint of love, loyalty, friendships, and authors.

John was ordained a priest for the Carmelites in 1567. He loved solitude and contemplation and so considered entering the strictest of Orders, the Carthusians.

Quotes from John of the Cross

The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.” “The soul that is quick to turn to speaking and conversing is slow to turn to God.” “It is best to learn to silence the faculties and to cause them to be still so that God may speak.” “Who teaches the soul if not God?”

He was a Spanish mystic and saint.

Doctor of the Church (Latin: doctor \”teacher\”), also referred to as Doctor of the Universal Church (Latin: Doctor Ecclesiae Universalis), is a title given by the Catholic Church to saints recognized as having made a significant contribution to theology or doctrine through their research, study, or writing

Catholic Mystic?


Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.

The attributes and means by which Christian mysticism is studied and practiced are varied and range from ecstatic visions of the soul’s mystical union with God to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture (i.e., Lectio Divina).

Christian Mystics and Movements in the Early Church

  1. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35-c.107)
  2. St. Polycarp (c.69-c.155)
  3. Justin Martyr (c.105-c.165)
  4. Irenaeus(c.125-c.202)
  5. Tertullian(c.155-c.222)
  6. St. Antony (c.251-356)
  7. Basil the Great (c.330-379)
  8. Augustine(354-430)
  9. St. Gregory I the Great (b. at Rome, c. 540; d. there, 604)

Catholic Mystics in the Mediaeval Church:

  1. William of St.-Thierry (c.1085-1148)
  2. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153)
  3. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
  4. Hugh of St. Victor, canon regular at Paris (b. in Saxony, 1096; d. at Paris, 1141)
  5. Richard of St. Victor, canon regular at Paris (d. at Paris, 1173)
  6. Francis of Assisi (John Bernardone) (1182-1226)
  7. Albertus Magnus (1206-1280)
  8. Beatrice of Nazareth (1200-1268)
  9. Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207-1282)
  10. Bonaventure (John Fidanza) (1217-1274)
  11. St. Bonaventure, Minister General of the Friars Minor (b. at Bagnorea, 1221; d. at Lyons, 1274)
  12. St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1275)
  13. Angela of Foligno (c.1248-1309)
  14. St. Gertrude, a Benedictine (b. at Eisleben, 1256; d. at Helfta, Saxony, 1302)
  15. Jan van Ruysbroeck (1293-1381)
  16. Henry Suso (1295-1366)
  17. Johannes Tauler (1300-1361)
  18. Richard Rolle (1300-1349)
  19. Birgitta (Brigida) Suecica of Sweden (1302-1373)
  20. Walter Hilton (d. 1395)
  21. Julian of Norwich (1342-1413?)
  22. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

Famous Catholic Mystics 15th to 19th Century

  1. St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510)
  2. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
  3. St. John of the Cross (Juan de Yepes) (1542-1591)
  4. Venerable Luis de Lapuente (b. at Valladolid, 1554; d. there, 1624)
  5. St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
  6. Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824)
  7. Saint Catherine Labouré  b.1806 d. 1876

Twentieth Century Mystics

  1. Saint Faustina 1905 – 1938
  2. Saint Pio – Padre Pio b.1887

Founder of the contemplative “Order of Poor Ladies” with the help of Francis of Assisi, Clare spent the majority of her life in imitation of Francis and his order, seeking above all else a life of poverty and charity in the Christian mystic tradition. Canonized in 1255, Clare’s devotion to asceticism for herself and her order saw her in conflict with the Catholic Church on more than one occasion; however, she was ultimately praised by the church for her unwavering Catholic spirituality.

In recognizing her mystic qualities, the Catholic Church deemed Clare the patron saint of television in 1958, a title which celebrates her connection to the Holy Spirit, which was said to project a vision of the daily mass on the wall of her room when she was too sick to psychically attend.
In a manner similar to her future mystic mentor, Claire of Assisi grew up a child of a wealthy family in Assisi. However, unlike Francis of Assisi, her ardent commitment to Catholic spirituality and contemplative living was evident at an early age. Perhaps taking after her mother, who was said to be a pious and god-fearing woman, Clare was seen as a young girl to be uninterested in the practices of the world at large, preferring mystic endeavors, such as mortification.
This early desire to imitate the passion of Jesus can be seen as a starting point for her Catholic spirituality and a precursor to her eventual commitment to the life of a mystic.
Soon after these early signs of devotion, Claire’s desire to pursue a contemplative life and achieve a mystic union with God took hold. When she was 18 years old, Clare heard Francis of Assisi preach at a local church. As he spoke, Clare felt the presence of the Holy Spirit burn inside of her. Being greatly inspired by his message, Clare requested that Francis help her grow stronger in her Catholic spirituality. In recognizing the sincerity that accompanied her words, Francis agreed to assist her.
In what was another display of her devotion to the mystic and contemplative lifestyle that lay before her, Clare left her father’s house in secret in order to provisionally join an order of Benedictine nuns. When her father heard of this, he went to the covenant and attempted to physically remove her from the premises. However, Clare resisted, and with seemingly no other options, her father left her in peace. This courageous act further displayed Clare’s commitment to her Catholic spirituality, as she would soon enter into a welcomed life of contemplative living and austerity on her path to achieving a mystic union with God.
As more people began to follow Clare’s example of shunning the world at large in order achieve a mystic union with God, Francis decided that Clare and those who followed her should take on an order of their own. With their stationing by Francis at an adjoining building of the Chapel at San Domino, the contemplative “Order of Poor Ladies” was born. Early on, it was the intention of Clare and her covenant to live in imitation of the mystic order of the Franciscans, which meant a life of poverty and charity.
However, the church at this time felt this was not suitable for women, and as such attempted to deny the right of the order to live a life of poverty. Finding this incompatible with her Catholic spirituality and mystic endeavors, Clare, in a meeting with Pope Gregory XI, remarked that in living in poverty, she was fulfilling her obligation to Jesus Christ. This desire to follow in the mystic and contemplative tradition of the Franciscans inspired the pontiff, and led to the granting of her request.
Towards the end of her life, Clare experienced perhaps her most famous mystic endeavor, as she is said to have thwarted the advance of rival forces intent on terrorizing the chapel simply by lifting a ciborium over her head. This final mystic experience grew Clare’s reputation as a woman of great Catholic spirituality. The heroism displayed in this action solidified Clare as a woman of great and love and devotion, which may be said to be her greatest imitation of the life of Jesus.

Other Catholic Doctors of The Church

Hildegard von Bingen an eleventh-century Doctor of the Church, depicted by Marshall with a book, the common iconographical attribute for a doctor
Hildegard von Bingen an eleventh-century Doctor of the Church, depicted by Marshall with a book, the common iconographical attribute for a doctor

As of 2022, the Catholic Church has named 37 Doctors of the Church. Of these, the 18 who died before the Great Schism of 1054 are also held in high esteem by the Eastern Orthodox Church, although it does not use the formal title \”Doctor of the Church\”.

Among the 37 recognised Doctors, 28 are from the West and nine from the East; four are women and thirty-three are men; one abbess, three nuns, one tertiary associated with a religious order; 19 bishops, twelve priests, one deacon; 27 from Europe, three from Africa, and seven from Asia. More Doctors (twelve) lived in the fourth century than any other; eminent Christian writers of the first, second, and third centuries are usually referred to as the Ante-Nicene Fathers. The shortest period between death and nomination was that of Alphonsus Liguori, who died in 1787 and was named a Doctor in 1871 – a period of 84 years; the longest was that of Irenaeus, which took more than eighteen centuries.
Some other churches have similar categories with various names.
Before the 16th century
In the Western church four outstanding \”Fathers of the Church\” attained this honour in the early Middle Ages: Gregory the Great, Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, and Jerome. The \”four Doctors\” became a commonplace notion among scholastic theologians, and a decree of Boniface VIII (1298) ordering their feasts to be kept as doubles throughout the Latin Church is contained in his sixth book of Decretals (cap. \”Gloriosus\”, de relique. et vener. sanctorum, in Sexto, III, 22).
In the Byzantine Church, three Doctors were pre-eminent: John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus. The feasts of these three saints were made obligatory throughout the Eastern Empire by Leo VI the Wise. A common feast was later instituted in their honour on 30 January, called \”the feast of the three Hierarchs\”. In the Menaea for that day it is related that the three Doctors appeared in a dream to John Mauropous, Bishop of Euchaita, and commanded him to institute a festival in their honour, in order to put a stop to the rivalries of their votaries and panegyrists. This was under Alexius Comnenus (1081–1118; see \”Acta SS.\”, 14 June, under St. Basil, c. xxxviii). But sermons for the feast are attributed in manuscripts to Cosmas Vestitor, who flourished in the tenth century. The three are as common in Eastern art as the four are in Western. Durandus (i, 3) remarks that Doctors should be represented with books in their hands. In the West analogy led to the veneration of four Eastern Doctors, Athanasius of Alexandria being added to the three hierarchs