Born poor at Medina del Campo, Spain in 1542, St. John of the Cross became a Carmelite lay brother in 1563. He lived more austerely than required of the Order. He was ordained in 1567. Inspired by St. Teresa of Avila, he set out to reform the Carmelites causing a bitter reaction. He was a primary participant in the Counter-Reformation, friar, priest, poet, and mystic.

Refusing orders to return to Medina del Campo, John of the Cross was imprisoned and tortured in Toledo. He escaped after nine months of captivity by hanging a rope made of blankets from his cell window and climbing down. He hid in a convent and devoted the rest of his life to sharing God’s word and founding monasteries.

Pope Benedict XIII canonized John of God in 1726. Pope Pius XI proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1926. His feast day is Dec. 14.