St. John of The Cross – 14th December. Juan de Yepes y Alvarez was born in old Castille. As a young man he studied at the Jesuit college in Medina. In 1563 he enrolled with a Carmelite order and went to study theology at the university of Salamanca. In 1567 he was ordained as a priest and was seriously considering joining the stricter Carthusian order when he encountered Saint Teresa of Avila who persuaded him to join her in reforming the Carmelites who had become extremely lax in their way of living. Between them they established many communities of discalced Carmelite friars and nuns who lived ascetic lives in contemplative prayer and solitude. in 1571 John became spiritual director and confessor to Teresa and her 130 religious sisters at the Monastery of Visitation. John and Teresa had broken away from the mainstream, due to the severity of their discalced orders they faced much opposition. Johns extreme views had already landed him a stint in prison. Eventually after a disagreement he was sent by the Vicar General of the main Carmelite order in to isolation to a monastery in Andulucia where he fell ill, he travelled to Ubeda for treatment where he eventually died aged 49. Johns and Teresa reform work had a strong impact on the Carmelite order which still continues today. John was a mystical poet and wrote many spiritual works, his most famous probably being “Dark night of the soul”.
St. Adelaide – 16th December. Adelaide was the daughter of Rudolf 11, King of upper Burgundy. At the age of 15 she was married to her fathers adversary Prince Lothair of Italy. However Lothair was murdered by his successor Berengar of Ivrea who tried to force Adelaide to marry his son. Adelaide bluntly refused this proposal and was imprisoned in the tower for her obstinacy . Fate was on her side and she was rescued by Otto the great of Germany who took her back to Pavia and wedded her in 951. Poor Adelaide faced much enmity from her new husbands family who were adverse to her generosity and kindness towards the poor and needy. Adelaide threw herself in to her charity work constantly seeking religious guidance from spiritual advisors. Having encountered much opposition and exile, after the death of her husband and his son Otto 11 she was eventually invested with the power of Regent in Pavia. Under her rule she established and restored many monasteries throughout her realm. Eventually she died in Seltz in Alsace in a convent which she was responsible for founding. Adelaide is patron saint of all those suffering abuse, she was canonized by Pope Urban in 1097.
St. Dominic of Silos – 20th December. (1000-1073). Dominic was born in Canas in Rioja Spain, to a family of peasants and laboured as a shepherd before becoming a Benedictine monk at the monasteries of San Millan de la Cogolla. Here he was ordained in to the priesthood and became Master of Novices and eventually Prior. However he was expelled from the monastery with 2 fellow monks by King Garcia Sanchez 111 of Navarre for opposing his plan to annex the monastery´s land. In 1041 under the protection of King Ferdinand 1 of Leon he found refuge in the town of Silos at the abbey of St Sabastian, after his death in 1073 the monastery was renamed after him. Dominic was appointed Abbot of the community and proceeded to build up St Sabastian´s monastery spiritually and physically turning it in to a centre of scholarship and charity, he also raised funds to ransom Christian prisoners form the clutches of the Moors.