Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Veterans' Day with St. John of the Cross

Happy Veterans' Day! Before I post my weekly book review on Monday, I would like to say thank you to all our Veterans and military for their faithful service to our country. I personally have no desire to ever be part of the military, but I applaud those who willing choose to be. It takes a special person to live that life, and I am not it.

As you can probably guess from the title of this blog post, I am going to be reviewing a book about St. John of the Cross. The Institute of Carmelite Studies agreed to send me the book The Contemporary Challenge of John of the Cross: An Introduction to his Life and Teaching in exchange for an honest review. This is a great little publishing house that specializes in works by and about St. Teresa of Avila, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Edith Stein, St. John of the Cross, and several other prominent Carmelite figures.

This book starts off with a brief biography of St. John of the Cross. I have always known implicitly that St. John of the Cross had a hard life. You don't write Dark Night of the Soul without experiencing anguish in your life. However, the amount of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish he suffered was mind-boggling to me. I think one of the greatest tragedies he suffered was people in the Church turning against him and his leadership and instruction. The book then moves on to listing the works that St. John wrote and providing background and excerpts from some of them.

Chapters Three and Four are my favorite chapters. In these chapters we see St. John's Sketch of Mount Carmel, which shows the three paths to climb the Mount and "find the Lord we seek." We also are presented with the different stages of this journey we are making towards God including periods of lows, highs, and even plateaus. These two chapters shed a lot of light on the Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Dark Night of the Soul, and prove a very useful source to read them alongside these two great works.

This is an excellent starter book for anyone who wants to read St. John of the Cross but is intimidated, or someone like me, who tried to read St. John but got overwhelmed and lost in his brilliance of words. I give it five out of five stars. It got me excited to try and re-read St. John's works again and left me feeling a bit better equipped to tackle his writings. I'm also glad to have discovered this gem of a publisher in The Institute of Carmelite Studies. Thank you for taking the time to read this review. I'll see y'all on Wednesday!