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Sayings of Light and Love 14 – St John of the Cross

February 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Aridity or Dryness, Dan Burke, John of the Cross, Suffering

Sayings of Light and Love 14

Sayings of Light and Love 14:

God values in you the inclination to dryness and suffering for love of him more than all the consolations, spiritual visions, and meditations you could possibly have.

Saint John of the Cross

More “Sayings of Light and Love”


Saint John of the Cross, O.C.D. (1542-1591), a priest and Doctor of the Church, is considered to be the Doctor of Mystical Theology, and was a reformer of the Carmelite Order, along with Saint Teresa of Avila (Saint Teresa of Jesus), who founded the Discalced Carmelites … and who talked him into remaining a Carmelite instead of becoming a Carthusian. He was very familiar with both Holy Scripture and with Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. Known as the Doctor of Mystical Theology, he is also known for his writings (especially his poetry), including: The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Counsels to a Religious, Dark Night of the Soul, Living Flame of Love, Precautions (Cautions), Spiritual Canticle, Spiritual Maxims: Words of Light, Points of Love and Other Counsels.  He was canonized in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII and was named a Doctor of the Church in 1926 by Pope Pope Pius XI based on his eminent sanctity, eminent doctrine and the solemn declaration of the Roman Pontiff himself.


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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • $1650412

    What does this mean? I am not sure I understand this quote. Is he saying that we are more loveable to the Lord if we prefer dryness and suffering to consolations and visions etc.? 

    • Plraymond

      In our quest for holiness and union with God, we all at one time or another experience dryness. It feels as though God is far away, although through faith we know he is very close to us. We please God so much when we live through pure faith because this is real love. We love Him and trust him through the hard times. This is hard and requires much grace. When consolations or even visions or signs come that is great and we thank Him for them. He is the Divine Teacher and knows what we need to grow.

    • Becky Ward

      My take……… not so much that we are more lovable, but that in our desire to love God simply because He is God, and not because of all the good things He does for us…………we come to an almost intuitive preference for spiritual suffering vs. the consolations and favors. The value is in the suffering….. accepted for Him……especially when nobody knows about it.

      • faithful123

        There is value in suffering but we shouldn’t search it out. That’s being
        masochistic (I read that somewhere) But if we experience a difficulty as
        trivial as someone at a red light not stepping on the gas immediately,
        be patient ‘one minute longer’ for God. No need to lean on the horn.

        Little ‘annoyances’ (enduring a co worker for as long as possible,
        not responding to what amounts to baiting us to respond so this
        one can ZAP us) Silence is the best; rather than speaking (even
        if the words we speak are truth)

        But we shouldn’t put ourselves ‘in sufferiing’ … Serenity prayer:
        Accept what we can accept and change what can be changed
        wisdom to know the difference.

  • faithful123

    This was confusing to me also Jo. I ‘think’ it means that it’s when we have ‘nothing’ ‘or little’ to bring to Him; but come and worship anyway or do good ‘for Him’ anyway…when we have a weak faith – that He is most pleased with; even more than the one who has GREAT faith; does GREAT things in His name for the sake of Him. Logically, the one with GREAT FAITH… can do GREAT things.(and God would expect such) But… the human being who OBEYS HIS WILL even if it’s hard to pray, has suffering time… is struggling in Faith matters;
    is the one GROWING in Him.

    I would say this verse is comparable to the widow’s mite; the WEALTHY
    gave from their abundance but the widow put in all she had.
    So; opposite of how human nature views things; who gave MORE?

    or the verse man looks at appearance God looks at the heart.

    God needs NOTHING from us; HE LOVES ALL no matter where we
    are at unconditionally. (doesn’t value the one with the great spiritual
    vision MORE than the suffering soul of weak faith) The word that is
    important is VALUE. He values the soul who comes to Him; for
    Love of Him… even when that soul doesn’t fully understand or when
    that soul is feeling grouchy, or when that soul is sad or dry…when
    life is beating him up… such soul doesn’t leave GOD.

    as an analogy:what parent isn’t more happy to display the hand made
    artwork of their 3 year old to any framed masterpiece of a Renoir,
    Rembrandt, Picasso, or Michelangelo in their home? Reason: the
    ‘masterpiece’ of the 3 year old – came more from the heart, done
    for the parent; however HARD it was. The 3 year old DID for LOVE;
    without ‘the understanding’ yet – learned of art ‘principles’

    If wrong, in my assessment, let me know.

  • ThirstforTruth

    @fd45953d96fbf7e40e16493341c472b9:disqus a
     123…Beautiful comments and so helpful….to those suffering from whatever cause and not feeling God’s consoling Spirit can take heart from these words
    of St John of the Cross. Some have said Christ’s agony in the garden was when he took on such sufferings of the spirit that many struggle with on this journey and find no consolation. Did not Teresa of Calcutta struggle thus and find little in this world of comfort? Perhaps that is why she was so drawn to help the most wretched in this existence? Having experienced the depths of such dispair? Giving it all to God? Who in turn is so pleased that one would in spite of such affliction ask not to have it taken away but struggles on in His Name?
    Even when asking and seemingly not receiving His consolations?

  • Jeanette

    I think God is very pleased when we are in periods of desolation, dryness and times of suffering if we use our will to continue in prayer resolutely and good deeds in order to love Him and sacrifice for our neighbours’ eternal souls. This is His way of testing our love for Him and others. In such times, we need to stay in His peace and to bring our memory to work for us so that we recall all the favours and graces He has showered upon us in the past and to remember that He never leaves us, even though He seems hidden, and that He loves us now and forever. In His good time, God will show Himself to us again.  It is so much easier to love God and others with the abundant graces He gives us in times of consolation making spiritual visions and meditations possible.

  • Ronald King

    This is a reminder that I need. Since being diagnosed with and treated for esophageal cancer last year I have been in a very dry state of heart and soul even though I have offered whatever distress I have as a prayer for others who suffer. I haven’t felt close to God although this cancer has been a blessing for me and for others.

    • $1650412

      Oh Ronald! I do hope you will be consoled!!! And that you will experience great faith and very deep love for God! 
      Your post,for some crazy reason, reminds me of the part in the Silver Chair by CS Lewis when the Marshwiggle puts his hands in the fire to douse the fog dulling their senses to the truth, but also because the paradox of the path of pain for propelling us toward the ultimate Comfort is more relentless than that numbness that also deprives us of real joy.

      • Becky Ward

        Whoa!! I’ve not read the Silver Chair ~ this is beautiful Jo, thanks for sharing!

      • Ronald King

        Thanks Jo for your encouragement. I think what dulls me is that my life has changed drastically since then. I worked 30 years as a psychotherapist and when I returned to our beautiful faith Easter of 2005 after a 40 year absence I had the greatest joy and new insights into my work that totally changed my view of mental illness and human suffering in general. I haven’t been able to do that work for over a year. I am literally in the “dark night” knowing that I still have something to do for God. Until then I wait and pray, sometimes with words, but more with yearnings that have no words. God Bless.

        • $1650412

          I just listened to a reflection that moved me alot that might apply here. The priest spoke about loving as Christ did in His hidden life- loving others in those ways that are imperceptible maybe- it goes unseen and is all so very interior or cloistered, but it is as if these acts of sacrifice and love change the universe on the molecular level.

           In your comments here as I read this, I KNOW with one of those crazy supernatural certainties- (if you will indulge my zeal to encourage you and allow me to speak into your life), that when we find ourselves in this kind of situation it is clearly a mandate to give ourselves over to prayer, to intercede for those we love intensely in detail, and for those for whom no one prays whose situations might be most on our hearts- and to pour ourselves out in a mission that is primarily directed toward Jesus, in that intense personal accompanying Him in His suffering, uniting ours to His in prayer, and in spiritual combat for the sake of souls.Oh and if ever people needed someone who understands mental illness and the moral suffering people endure in this context and could intercede for them- they need it now!!! 

          • Ronald King

            Jo, You have hit on something that has been forming in my brain for about six years now. I will try to keep it brief. John Paul II wrote about the “Communion of Saints, thanks to which it has been possible to say that every soul that rises above itself, raises up the world. To this law of ascent there unfortunately corresponds the law of descent. Consequently one can speak of a communion of sin, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the Church and, in some way, the whole world.” Now this fits in with what I have learned from my work with those who have been labelled mentally ill and from quantum physics.  Computer is too slow. More later

          • faithful123

            Yes Ronald; sin pulls ALL down and God ways ‘builds the kingdom of God up.’ Encourage the good (authentic good and not mere subjective ‘do your own thing’ philosophies that were espoused in the 60’s)

            Real LOVE says a loud NO. Real LOVE corrects, Real LOVE leads as
            well as encouraging one who believes they have a ‘talent’ for….

            It’s not all about wealth attaining. Wealth will come; so I was taught if we follow our heart and not just ‘the money trail.’ How many who became
            stockbrokers had to leave the profession ‘burnt out’ and now are happily
            doing a 9 – 3:30 teaching job or even just as happy driving a cab (productive even if not making oodles of cash)

            We’ve had the wrong idea of how to attain wealth. More for me is best
            some believe..then I’m wealthy. As you noted, we are all connected.
            God is impartial…he made the human flesh; but ONE SPIRIT in that
            flesh. Therefore, simply put – if we attain only our own good the good
            GOES NO WHERE…and ‘neighbor’ is left out…eventually it does
            flow back to the ‘moi’ … One needs only look around at all the
            crises going on out in our nation. debt, housing, lack of job growth,
            unemployment, union demands business needs to make profit,

            What one does will effect an innocent person sometime somewhere
            even if it takes 40 years. God’s JUSTICE perhaps?

            Union members demand large salaries, business raises price of
            product…the raise given to union workers means? NOT A THING.

            Work 24/7 – family living suffers…kids feel ‘bored and neglected’
            they look for their own ‘fun’ … have not the maturity of spirit yet to
            always choose wisely, get in trouble; WIND UP in ‘counseling’
            (the kid didn’t need counseling; the kid needed a parental role model
            to guide after school.)

            ONE-NESS that’s what Jesus wanted us to see. Whatsoever you
            do …you do unto ME… God’s ONLY beloved SON.

          • Becky Ward

            Amen!! God places both individuals and/ or ’causes’ (mentally ill, addicts, those drawn to the occult, etc…) in our hearts and provides us with the necessary inspiration to pray for them when, and how He wishes.

            Quiet, unknown, intercessory prayer is more powerful than we can know in this life.

            Blessing to you Ronald.

          • Ronald King

            What I was wanting to add earlier before my computer stopped was that these people who are labelled mentally ill are highly sensitive to the sins and suffering that is constantly intruding into their awareness everyday. The problem is that they and others do not realize it is not their illness that causes suffering, rather, it is their openness that causes their suffering. They have the sensitivity of saints. They feel the weight and pain of all the sin in the world.

          • Becky Ward

            wow……… what a beautiful insight!

            I once worked in a group home for the mentally disabled. I was only there a few short months but it was more rewarding than most of the years spent with other jobs…..there were many times I saw Jesus’ eyes looking out at me from their faces………and I still carry each of my residents in my heart.

            Are these the souls you speak of? They do seem to have a very good grasp of what’s right and wrong………….what you say makes a lot of sense.

  • faithful123

    Appearances look the same but God knows our hearts.An introverted personality type goes to a holiday party and mingles; the extroverted type
    also goes. All people crowd around ‘the talker’ and they gush over how
    friendly this person is and how they ‘made the party’ / the introvert sits down
    at table next to someone else looking ‘ill at ease’ / maybe someone who is
    new to the company and REALLY TALKS and LISTENS to this one person
    in the company they both work for. Which employee made the party successful? Well… truthfully the not so introverted not so extroverted want
    to crowd around the area where ‘the laughs’ and ‘frivolity’ are coming from.
    They usually say nothing … they just ‘go along’ with the funny one…who is
    LEADER and leader gets the commendation from management on next
    business day for helping others feel comfortable. Management says nothing
    to the introvert who took the time and stretched himself to really listen and
    come to REALLY know one person. The extrovert did good, they are nice to have around. But.. IT WAS HARDER and more ‘self sacrificing’ for the introvert
    to NOT crowd around the talker and instead sit with someone who looked
    like they needed a friendly face and listening ear.

    The introvert had to rely more on God love to overcome his own hesitations,
    for the sake of another.

    Sad it would be if ‘the office’ be-rated him the next day for sitting alone at
    table ‘just’ talking. Sometimes, it happens. Man looks at appearance,
    God looks at heart. This also falls in line with the ‘cool’ thing. Man loves
    those who are ‘cool’ (the right fashions, the right car, the right ‘talk’ – fast
    talk, never without a cool answer, never flustered) Beautiful wife, 2 or 3 kids, career oriented all the way, got the degree and higher degrees, they drive a
    car that says SUCCESS and they might even volunteer at soup kitchens and hospices and give generously to whomever asks… ALL VERY VERY GOOD.
    God is pleased.

    But let’s not judge ourselves according to what others can do. This is the
    God thing: all we need to do – is our best; and do not compare our best
    to the other’s best. If someone is boastful, ‘endure them’ and ‘don’t take
    it to heart’ – thinking less of self. (that would be insecurity or lack of
    wholeness – in we who feel insecure) Be happy for those who speak
    of their good and the good they do. If we have a car; don’t worry if it’s
    not new like neighbor. If we pay rent; be thankful we can pay rent. If
    we live with a family member who owns the home, be thankful we are
    wanted. Go to work, do one’s best, earn a living justly and honestly.
    If we go to work, and someone we must work with will not communicate
    and not cooperatively allow us to do our work; ‘bully’s’ us… quietly
    either ‘offer it up’ for the best good to come of it and/or quietly find any
    other type of employ. Anything. Wait tables, clean tables, work retail.
    Do not stick around and ‘worry’ why ‘they are as they are’ / The
    world is adolescent, and that means they must always speak of themselves
    or have someone else speak of them. (we probably were all there, but
    as we age; if we haven’t risen in the ranks…though we grew; we stay
    with this type. Maybe this is our cross – for not having more faith.

    Don’t worry about it. Just love them as is, as God loved us as is, and
    if they are really ‘nasty’… feel no guilt to speak up to one with authority,
    which in this work culture of pandering to some persons; will get us
    terminated. But, know we did our best; and GOD will lead us TO A
    BETTER PLACE …when we are ready and He is ready.

  • Thank you so much for this post.

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