St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) was born John de Yepes, the youngest child of a poor family from Toledo, Spain in 1542. He entered the Carmelite monastery in 1563, went on to study theology at the famous University of Salamanca in 1564, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1567. Dissatisfied with the laxity of his order, he considered becoming a hermit but was persuaded by St. Teresa of Avila to remain a Carmelite and work for the reform of the order. Not all Carmelites were pleased with his reforming activities, and he was actually imprisoned on order of a superior and subjected to great hardship for 9 months before escaping. His efforts led to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites, a reformed branch of the Carmelite order. The writings of St. John of the Cross on the spiritual life combine the depth of a Thomist theologian with the sensitivity of a poet. His Spiritual Canticle was composed in prison in 1578. The Ascent of Mount Carmel was written soon afterword as well as the Living Flame of Love. Perhaps his best known work is The Dark Night of the Soul. St. John of the Cross died after a severe illness in 1591. He was canonized in 1726 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1926. His feast (liturgical memorial) in the Roman calendar occurs on December 14.