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Feast of St. John of the Cross

Jack Shockley was named after his patron saint, John of the Cross, whose feast day is December 14.  Jack grew up hearing about, studying, and eventually reading the writings of this Carmelite saint known as the Doctor of Love. That is how I referred to him to make him as accessible as possible to Jack from an early age.  As a secular Carmelite, I studied St. John’s writings, including the Spiritual Canticle, Ascent of Mount Carmel, Living Flame of Love, and yes, The Dark Night.  I took the Collected Works with me when I took toddler Jack to the swimming pool, where eventually the book fell apart from water damage caused by Jack’s splashing around. John of the Cross was very much a part of his life from the moment he was born.

Jack especially loved to hear about St. John’s life, the early struggles of his family.  His father (from a family of nobility) fell in love with a poor woman, and when he married her, he was cast out to live in poverty alongside her. He chose love over all, at great sacrifice. John became a Discalced Carmelite priest and was later imprisoned when he pushed for reforms. He spent months in a dark closet alone and nearly starving.  It was there that he composed some of his most beautiful poetry celebrating the triumph of God’s light and love over suffering. As apparent from St. John’s famous sketch of Christ’s Passion, he saw things from a different perspective—one that highlighted human suffering and pain—and his works encouraged the world to do the same.  

Jack Shockley learned from John of the Cross and shared his great love for the poor. Jack saw how love of this world and “things” corrupted. He identified with those who struggled, rich or poor.  He loved with a wide open heart without counting the cost personally. He pursued what mattered mostlove of God. He made the world a more loving place and we are grateful for his life. Steve and I shake our heads at the way Jack’s death gave us a Cross to bear, not unlike the one carried by his namesake and patron saint.  We now have not one John of the Cross, but two, to help us carry this Cross not of our choosing.  And we have all of you to pick us up when we stumble—to show up for us where we fail. And you do—you walk alongside us. You carry our Cross and we pray that we can help carry yours. With God all things are possible. Happy Feast Day, John of the Cross—both of you—who I love. Warriors, time to get out those medals!

“In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” St. John of the Cross


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