Biography of St. John of Ruysbroeck
St. John of Ruysbroeck - Flemish mystic
Ruysbroeck 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.