Lagura: Little man, big and brave heart

Fr. Flor Lagura SVD
·1 min read

TO THE curious who ask why "Juan de la Cruz" is our "national figure," this write-up helps.

On June 24, 1549 in Fontiveros, Avila, Spain was born to Gonzalo and Catalina Ypes, a child whom they had baptized as Juan Ypes de Alvarez.

Little was expected of the child; his parents were poor, his health too. And he was visibly short.

But he surprised many with his bubbly spirit, love for singing-like many Spaniards -- and keen intellect. Providentially, scholarships were offered, including from the prestigious Universidad de Salamanca. There he excelled in philosophy and theology.

Later, he entered the Carmelite Order. Sadly, he saw that his Order itself needed reform. Reform was difficult, but he found an ally in a Carmelite nun: Sor Teresa de Jesus. She was tall and stately. So, in his consultation with Sor Teresa in her convent in Avila, the short monk had to stand on a wooden crate so he could see her across the grill.

The reform met strong opposition; opponents kidnapped Juan or John of the Cross and imprisoned him, giving him only bread and water in his solitary confinement in a cell where he could hardly lie down. So, he mostly stood up, dressed in shirt and trousers, even during winter time.

In those dark moments, John of the Cross never harbored ill will against his Carmelite brothers. Instead, he prayed and meditated, the fruits of which were mystical writings beautifully done in Spanish poetry, namely: "The Ascent to Mt. Carmel," "The Dark Night of the Soul," "The Spiritual Canticle" and "The Living Flame of Love."

Having achieved the needed Carmelite reform, this brave soul -- chosen symbol of the long-suffering Filipino -- went to the heavenly home at the young age of 47.