Posted August 8, 2011
Book: Fire of Love: A Historical Novel about Saint John of the Cross
Author: Jose Luis Olaizola
Ignatius Press. San Francisco, CA. 2011. Pp. 217
An Excerpt from the Jacket:
Born into an upper class family in Castile, Spain, Gonzalo de Yepes had good prospects, that is, until his father was ruined in a speculative venture. After his father died a pauper, Gonzalo was welcomed into the home of a rich uncle, who intended him to marry one of his younger daughters. The young man would have been set up for life, but he fell in love with Catalina Alvarez, the ward of a poor weaver, and insisted on marrying her despite his uncle’s threats to cut him off from the family fortune.
Thus, Gonzalo and Catalina were wed in simplicity, and their union produced three sons, the youngest of whom came to be known as St. John of the Cross.
Stories of saints do not often begin with their parents’ courtship. But in this historical novel, love is at the very center of the drama, for St. John of the Cross became one of the Church’s foremost experts on intimacy with God. His mystical poems on divine love are considered some of the greatest verses ever written in the Spanish language.
. . .This moving historical novel on the great Spanish saint combines beautiful lyrical writing with drama, conflict, love and spiritual depth, revealing his deeply human characteristics as well as the mystical and poetic gifts for which he is famous.
An Excerpt from the Book:
The first thing [John of the Cross] read to me, though not the first thing he wrote, began thus:
One dark night,
Fired with love’s urgent longings
— Ah, the sheer grace! ---
I went out unseen,
My house being all stilled.
Though I did not understand them at the time, the word had a startling effect upon me. It was as though I had been run through by a hot blade. And though the words themselves conveyed much, how much more did the way he spoke them. Later he explained it to me. The dark night is when the soul, which is dying of mortification by all the things of this world, succeeds in shaking off this burden and comes to a life of sweet, nurturing love in God. To reach this point, the soul must undergo many labors and traials.
Table of Contents:
1. From silk to swine
2. The splendor of the Yepeses
3. Love in Fontiveros
4. The joyous workshop
5. Catalina Alvarez, widow of a Yepes
6. The conversion of Francisco de Yepes
7. The orphanage in Medina del Campo
8. The vocation of Fray Juan de Santo Matia
9. John of the Cross
10. From the poverty of Duruelo to the turmoil of the Convent of the Incarnation
11. The devil and Fray Juan de la Cruz
12. A captive poet
13. Like a thief in the night
14. In southern parts
15. Where there is a want of love