Blessed John Ruysbroeck

Author: Rev. Clifford Stevens


John Ruysbroeck was a Flemish mystical writer who greatly influenced mystical teaching in the late Middle Ages and whose name is associated with the religious renewal in the Lowlands that also produced <The Imitation of Christ>. He was born near Brussels in 1293 and was raised by a devout mother who trained him in a life of holiness.

At the age of eleven, he went to Brussels to live with an uncle, John Hinckaert, a priest and canon of St. Gudule's. John Ruysbroeck studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1317. Under his uncle's roof he continued to live a life of retirement and study and began the writings that were to be the basis of his spiritual teaching: <The Spiritual Espousals>, <The Kingdom of Lovers>, and <The Tabernacle>.

Together with his uncle and another canon, Francis van Coudenberg, Blessed John Ruysbroeck withdrew to a hermitage near Soignes for a life of greater solitude, and a number of disciples joined them. They decided to inaugurate a formal religious institute and adopted the rule of the canons of St. Victor. John was made the prior of the new institute.

Excellent writings continued to come forth from his pen: <The Book of the Sparkling Stone, The Little Book of Enlightenment>, and <The Book of the Twelve Beguines>.

John Ruysbroeck's writings are considered classics of spirituality, anticipating the writings of St. John of the Cross in their clarity and doctrine. He strongly opposed the quietist tendencies of many of his contemporaries. His solid theological background and his ability to make clear the sure path of spiritual progress gave him a wide reading, and his books are lucid commentaries on the Augustinian doctrine of the life of grace.

For several years before his death, John lived in a small cell, just outside the cloister of his monastery. In his eighty-eighth year, he asked to be taken to the community infirmary, where he prepared himself for death. He died on December 2,1381. He was beatified by Pope Pius X in 1908.

Thought for the Day: The contemplative life has always been treasured by the Church, and those living a life of seclusion are looked upon as "Treasures of the Church." We all need a little solitude once in a while, to put our life and our thoughts together, and dwell for a little while with the things of God.

From 'The Catholic One Year Bible': See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children-and we really <are>! . . . And we can't even imagine what it is going to be like later on.—1 John 3:1-2

Taken from "The One Year Book of Saints" by Rev. Clifford Stevens published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN 46750.