Wednesday 17th April 2024

Today marked the beginning of our retreat pilgrimage with St. John of the Cross – “To Love is to be transformed into what we love”

Our group of 19 pilgrims, including Fr Kelvin, Fr Matt and the esteemed Dr. Susan Muto embarked on this spiritual adventure together. About half of us came across the pond from America, in order to participate in this retreat and delve into the depths of St. John of the Cross’ teachings.

Our journey kicked off in London, where most of us traveled together into Madrid,
while others joined the group directly at the airport. From there, we boarded a
spacious coach for a comfortable two-hour ride to Avila, soaking in the picturesque
views of the countryside along the way. The atmosphere on the bus was peaceful and
quiet, with many of us taking the opportunity to catch up on rest, and mentally
prepare for the experiences awaiting us.

Upon arriving in Avila at the Carmelite University of Mysticism (Centro Internacional Teresiano et Sanjuanista (CITeS), we received our welcome package and itineraries, and checking into our rooms, signaled the official start of our retreat pilgrimaage.

With a two-hour window before our next activity, some of us were adventurous and ventured into the city, where we unexpectedly ran into Fr Matt Blake, a serendipitous encounter!

In founding her monasteries, St. Teresa adopted a principle that signals a “new formed community of friends of Christ” the celebration of the Eucharist. True to the Teresian Spirit, the pilgrimage officially began with the contemplative Eucharist in the Chapel of the Dwelling Places (The Chapel of the Interior Castle).

The contemplative Eucharist followed a period of silence and a gentle meditation on selected Sayings of Light and Love by Dr. Susan. Her insights prompted deep introspection and contemplation.

Fr Matt Blake’s introductory reflection on the experience of John as a man always on a journey – an interior journey towards God – drawing from John’s experience of the “dark night of the soul,” weaving together history, theology, and personal reflection in a way that left us spellbound.

Following a short rest, we enjoyed our dinner and fellowship at the center’s dining room sharing our bond of friendship.

As the day came to a close, many of us are looking forward to the spiritual transformation that would take root within us as a result of these few days. We eagerly await what tomorrow has in store for us!


Thursday 18th April 2024

The second day of our retreat pilgrimage with St. John of the Cross was filled with profound moments of reflection, discovery, and unexpected blessings.

We all arrived the Chapel in the presence of the Divine in the Blessed sacrament accompanied by a meditation by Dr. Susan Muto from the Sayings summarized in these words: “All for you and nothing for me” We concluded with the morning praise from the Psalms of David. Following an hour of praise was a hearty breakfast to set the tone for what was to come.

Our first destination was Medina del Campo, where we embarked on an hour long journey to visit the monastery of St. Joseph, the second convent founded by St. Teresa of Avila and the meeting place of John and Teresa that changed the course of history.

On route there, Fr. Matt Blake elaborated on the importance of Medina Del Campo to St John, emphasizing his poverty, experiences as a nurse and educator. Once we arrived, we visited the museum there and saw the simple rooms that the sister stayed in, all in their original state. It was profoundly moving to be in the same spot that St Teresa first met St John of the Cross and sit on the same chair that she would have sat on to speak with St John through the cloistered windows. One of the pilgrims beautifully played the Salve Regina on the Organ of the Carmelite nuns that brought all into the prayer of praise of God’s glory.

After the Mass, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the small town, soaking in its charm and history before indulging in a satisfying lunch. In the afternoon, our travels took us to Fontiveros, the birthplace of St. John of the Cross. Although our attempt to visit the chapel
erected on his birthplace was initially thwarted by its closure, the Holy Spirit intervened through the pilgrims and the priest of the Church opened the church doors, granting us access to this sacred space.

The day culminated in a delicious dinner, where laughter and camaraderie filled the air, further strengthening the bonds forged on this journey of spiritual growth and exploration. We eagerly anticipate what tomorrow will bring as we continue our pilgrimage of love and the heart.

The Eucharistic celebration held in the chapel there was a poignant reminder of the sacredness of our journey, and Fr. Matt’s homily resonated deeply as he spoke of finding God in the most obscure and challenging aspects of our lives.

As evening approached, we gathered in the chapel to offer thanks – for a day filled with blessings – in our Evening Praise


Thursday 18th April 2024

Day 3 of our retreat pilgrimage with St. John of the Cross was filled with enriching experiences and moments of deep reflection as we continued our journey of spiritual discovery.
Beginning the day in the Divine presence and meditation on selected sayings with an invitation to let ourselves be loved by God as he invites us for a treat. With a lovely breakfast, we prepared ourselves for another day of exploration and

Our destination of the day was the bustling city of Valladolid, a nearly two-hour ride away. During the journey, Fr. Matt enlightened us on the significance of Valladolid to St. John of the Cross, and offered insights into the importance of community, work, and recreation in St. Teresa’s vision of her convents. His words resonated deeply as we contemplated the role of these
elements in our own spiritual lives.

Upon arrival in Valladolid, we visited the IV convent founded by St. Teresa, where we were privileged to have a delightful impromptu meeting with four of the cloistered nuns who expressed a profound joy and delight. Their devotion and serenity left a profound impression on us as we immersed ourselves in the peaceful atmosphere of their sacred space. We also had the opportunity to view an original copy of St. Teresa’s “Way of Perfection” and other of this great Saint’s relics, connecting us even more intimately with her legacy.

Gathering in the beautiful church of the convent we shared at the Table of the Lord, his Word and His body. It was a powerful moment of communion and reflection, with Fr Kelvin’s homily focusing on the transformative journey of Saul to Paul, a poignant reminder of the boundless love and grace of God.

After the Mass, the group had a pleasant exploration of the beautiful city of Valladolid, visiting the imposing structure of St Paul’s Church served by the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and the magnificent Cathedral, amongst other sights.

Dispatched in groups of two and three like the biblical commissioning to go and spread the Good News, all went in search for the special delicacies of the city and deepen the bond of

As the day drew to a close, we embarked on another long drive back to Avila with a beautiful reflection highlighting the particular role of John of the Cross in transmitting this unique, yet embedded spirituality of Carmel given to St Teresa. The coach went silent as there appears to be a deep reflection of the experiences and insights gained throughout the day.

Gathering again, we offered our Evening sacrifice of praise offering gratitude for the unique gift of each of person. The day concluded with yet another delicious meal, shared in fellowship and camaraderie, reminding us once again of the beauty and richness of our shared journey of faith.


Friday 19th April 2024

Day 4 of our pilgrimage was a day of spiritual immersion and profound encounters. Beginning the day with adoration and morning praise, we found solace and inspiration in the quiet moments of prayer and meditation on selected Sayings with the theme: Rejoice.

The group gathered in the dinning to enjoy our customary breakfast, fueling us for the adventures ahead.

Our pilgrimage took us by foot or cab to the city of Avila, where we gathered to celebrate Mass at the sacred place of the seed ground of St Teresa’s reform – St. Joseph’s Monastery. Fr. Matt’s homily touched our hearts as he invoked the spirit of St. Teresa, reminding us of her visionary zeal and the profound impact of her work at this very monastery. Fr Matt speaks of how important the custom of ringing the bell before a Mass is celebrated. Two reasons seem to be the foundation of this practice: to inform the local people that this place has been consecrated to God and that it has become a place where God is honoured. It’s also an invitation to the people to become part of this blessings.

La Santa et La Fonte

Following this, the group visited La Santa, the house of Teresa’s birth and the beautiful basilica raised in her honour. The church where she was baptized was also open to us. In the afternoon, our journey led us to the Monastery of the Incarnation, where St. Teresa had spent many formative years. Fr. Matt treated us to readings from St. Teresa’s own accounts of her mystical experiences in this holy place, including the profound moments of the transverberation and mystical marriage. We were also privileged to behold the original drawing of the cross by St. John of the Cross, a tangible symbol of divine love and sacrifice, as well as a profound work of art.

The Star of Avila

As evening descended, we had a captivating tour of the University of Mysticism CITeS. The vision of the institute and the different courses been offered. The day concluded with an evening of praise, where we offered gratitude for the blessings of the day and preparing to leave Avila for the unfolding of God’s blessings as we head towards Toledo.

Rejoice in the Lord,
again I say rejoice.

Phil 4:4-7

The evening followed a sumptuous dinner shared in fellowship and camaraderie. As the day ended, we carried with us the indelible memories and profound insights gained from our day of spiritual exploration and encounter with God, the saints and each other.


As our pilgrimage continued into its 5th day, we were filled with
anticipation of the sacred experiences that awaited us!

After our visit to the tomb, we had some free time for lunch and to explore the charming city of Segovia. Many of us had a chance to marvel at its historic landmarks including the imposing Cathedral, and we all soaked in the richness of the city and its history.

In the afternoon, we departed for Toledo. Enroute, Fr Matt explained to us the complexity and politics surrounding St John’s imprisonment….but also reminded us all that in the darkness lay the birth of creativity since this dark and painful time was where we got St John’s most illuminating and beautiful writings.

The day began with a contemplative Eucharist, reflecting on the prophetic call of each person called to the ministry of service as shepherds for the Lord.

Following the breaking of Bread, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast, then packed our belongings and promptly checked out of our accommodations, ready to embark on the next leg of our journey to Segovia.

Our first stop in Segovia was the tomb of St. John of the Cross, where we paid homage to the revered saint and sought his intercession for our own spiritual journey. Enroute, Fr. Matt explained to us the significance of Segovia to both St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila. It was a moving experience for many of us and on-site, Dr. Susan graced us with her wisdom as she shared poignant quotes from St. John of the Cross’s “Sayings of Light and Love,” focusing on the theme of rekindling the flame of divine love within our hearts. These insights resonated deeply with each of us, inspiring us to deepen our connection with the divine

We were excited when the coach neared Toledo and after a short walk from the drop off point, happily checked into our lovely rooms. As evening fell, we gathered for a delicious dinner at the hotel restaurant, sharing stories and laughter as we reflected on the day’s experiences.

With our hearts full and spirits uplifted, we retired to our rooms, while some shared moments of “Teresian joy” in recreation with glasses of wine. We were grateful for the blessings of another day on this sacred pilgrimage, and eager for the adventures that tomorrow would bring.



Beauty and Love…

Day 6 of our pilgrimage dawned with a sense of anticipation as we prepared to delve deeper into the heart of St John of the Cross’s spiritual legacy. After enjoying a nourishing breakfast, we embarked on a leisurely walk to Toledo, immersing ourselves in the beauty of the city’s ancient streets and breathtaking vistas.

Our journey led us to the Church of St. Teresa’s Fifth Foundation, where we gathered for Mass. Fr Matt’s talk afterwards touched our souls as he reflected on the intertwining themes of beauty and love, twin attributes of God, emerging from the darkness of St. John’s experience in the prison of Toledo. His words resonated deeply, reminding us of the transformative power of faith and the enduring presence of divine grace in even the darkest of moments.

Following Mass, we had the opportunity to explore the enchanting city of Toledo at our own pace. Some of us visited the majestic cathedral, while others wandered through the narrow streets, discovering hidden gems such as the Santa Maria Jewish Synagogue, the Franciscan’s San Juan monastery and the beautiful painting of the famous El Greco at the Church of St Thomas.

What does anyone know who doesn’t know how to suffer for Christ

Journey to freedom…

In the afternoon, we gathered once more at Plaza Zocodover to retrace St. John of the Cross’s escape path in reverse order, culminating at the window of his miraculous escape. Walking in his footsteps filled us with a sense of awe and reverence, as we reflected on the courage and faith that guided him to freedom, and the darkness that gave birth to his magnificent poems.

As the day drew to a close, we returned to our accommodations for a meditation led by Dr. Susan. Focusing on the word “Renounce,” she shared poignant quotes from St. John of the Cross’s “Sayings of Light and Love,” inviting us to contemplate the importance of letting go and surrendering to divine will.

A time of questions and answers with Fr Matt provided further insights and reflections, deepening our understanding of the spiritual journey we had embarked upon. The day concluded with a closing prayer and then dinner. As we retired to our rooms to pack up for the journey ahead, we carried with us the memories and lessons of our pilgrimage, ready to return home with hearts full and spirits renewed.



As our pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. John of the Cross draws to a close, with heavy hearts, we packed up our belongings in the morning, saddened by the thought of leaving behind these sacred sites and precious memories that have enriched our souls over the past days.

Gathering one last time, we joined together for Mass at the hotel, and then indulged in a hearty buffet breakfast. During our bus ride to the airport, Susan shared
with us a profound reflection on the theme of “return,” drawing inspiration from the timeless wisdom of St. John of the Cross’s “Sayings of Light and Love.” As we journeyed homeward, Susan guided us in contemplating the significance of returning to our daily lives with a renewed sense of purpose and clarity.

Just as St. John of the Cross sought divine illumination amidst the challenges of his own journey, so too are we called to return to our ordinary lives with hearts ablaze with the fire of divine love. Through Susan’s words, we were reminded that our pilgrimage does not end with our physically returning home, but rather, it marks the beginning of a new chapter in our spiritual journey, where the lessons learned, and insights gained will continue to shape and inspire us in the days and weeks to come.

Some of us departed from Madrid Airport and thus had to bid farewell to the beloved companions who have become like family to us. As we exchanged hugs and heartfelt goodbyes, we carried with us the bonds of friendship and the shared experiences that will forever bind us together in spirit.

Though our journey may be coming to an end, we know that the spirit of St. John of the Cross will continue to inspire and guide us in our daily lives, reminding us to seek the divine light amidst the darkness, and to journey ever closer to the heart of God.