River of suffering – St. John of the Cross

River of Suffering

ZurbaranStJohnoftheCrossAnd I saw the river over which every soul must pass

to reach the kingdom of heaven

and the name of that river was suffering:

and I saw a boat which carries souls across the river

and the name of that boat was love.


PS: This poem is attributed to St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church, but I have not been able to find the source. If you know the source, please email me at RCSpiritualDirection@gmail.com and put “River of Suffering” in the subject line.  Thank you!

St. John of the Cross was born in 1542 in Fontiveros, Spain, and died in 1591. He was a religious priest who first joined the Carthusians and shortly thereafter became a Carmelite. He joined St. Teresa of Avila’s reform of the Carmelite order. He was imprisoned during this time and produced beautiful works from his experiences. He is known as the Mystical Doctor for his classic mystical works: Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, Living Flame of Love, Precautions (Cautions), Counsels to a Religious, Spiritual Canticle, Spiritual Maxims: Words of Light, Points of Love, and Other Counsels. He is one of the foremost poets in Spanish literature.


Art for this post on the river of suffering: John of the Cross, Zurbarán, Wikimedia Commons.

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