Retreat Pilgrimage with St John of the Cross

April 17th – 23rd 2024

Led by Fr. Matt Blake, OCD & Dr. Susan Muto

To Love is to be transformed into what we Love

Come wander with us through Spain in the company of John of the Cross, the great mystic and poet. We will travel to many of the places where he lived out his life, but what we are most looking for is a glimpse of the divine union that burned in his heart and about which he sang in his Spiritual Canticle.

Visiting these holy places will awaken in you anew the realisation that John lives on well beyond his earthly departure. This is evident in the living example of his disciples striving to keep alive the flame of fidelity, the inspiration of his words, and the vibration of his very presence.

Day 1: Love’s transforming fire

London – Madrid – Avila

Meet your group Leader at Heathrow airport and fly to Madrid. On arrival you will be conveyed in an air condition bus to the accommodation centre in Avila.

Evening: Dinner at the accommodation centre.

Day 2: Where have you hidden Beloved

Avila – Fontiveros – Medina del Campo – Avila

“Where have you hidden Beloved”

“Where have you hidden, my Beloved,
leaving me groaning?
Having wounded me you fled like a deer.
I went out after you calling, but you had gone.”

St. John of the Cross was born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez, in Fontiveres, near Avila.  After the death of his Father, his mother took him and his surviving brother Francisco moved to Arevalo, and then Medina del Campo, where she was able to find work weaving.  

In Medina, He worked at a hospital growing up and studied the humanities at a Jesuit school from 1559 – 1563.  In 1563, he entered the Carmelite Order, and took the name of John of St. Matthias.  In 1564, he professed his religious vows as a Carmelite and traveled to Salamanca, where he studied theology and philosophy at the university.  

John was ordained a Priest in 1567.  In Medina, he met the charismatic Carmelite Nun, Teresa of Jesus.  She was in Medina to found the second of her convents for women.  They immediately talked about her reformation project for the Order. 

Evening: Dinner at the accommodation centre

Day 3: My Beloved, the Mountains

Avila – Valladolid – Avila

My Beloved, the Mountains

My beloved, the mountains
the solitary wooded valleys
the strange islands
the murmuring rivers
the sighs of loving breezes
the still night
in the moments before the dawn
the silent music
the sounding solitude
the meal that recreates and enamors.

John accompanied Teresa to Valladolid in order to gain practical experience of the manner of life led by the reformed nuns. A small house having been offered, St. John resolved to try at once the new form of life, although St. Teresa did not think that anyone, however great his spirituality, could bear the discomforts of that hovel. He was joined by another friar, with whom he inaugurated the reform among friars, November 28, 1568. St. Teresa has left a classical description of the sort of life led by these first Discalced Carmelites, in chaps. xiii and xiv of her “Book of Foundations”. John of the Cross, as he now called himself, became the first master of novices, and laid the foundation of the spiritual edifice which soon was to assume majestic proportions. He filled various posts in different places until St. Teresa called him to Avila as Spiritual director and confessor to the convent of the Incarnation, of which she had been named prioress

Evening: Dinner at the accommodation centre.

Day 4: Let us rejoice, Beloved


Let us rejoice, Beloved”

“Let us rejoice, Beloved,
And see ourselves in your beauty.
To the mountain and the hillside
where the pure water bursts forth.
Deeper into the thicket let us go.

The breathing of the air,
the sweet song of the nightingale,
the grace-filled grove in the serene night,
the flame that consumes and gives no pain.
No one saw, nor did Aminadab appear.

The siege gave way to calm
and the calvary dismounted
at the sight of the waters.”

The close relationship between the John of the Cross and Teresa of Jesus led him to spend long periods in Ávila, some of which lasted for five years in the Convent of La Encarnación.

Although his position as Confessor at the monastery may appear to be of little importance, the reports of his pious work revealed his holiness. Furthermore, one of the fundamental principles applied to her foundations by Teresa was that the nuns were to focus on prayer and on strengthening their spirit. Therefore, it was fundamental for the confessor to guide them in the right direction and advise them on all their worries. This was why John’s work was so important and, according to certain texts, it spread to other convents in the town as a result of the aura of holiness he was starting to show.

The other important area in which the saint is recognised is literature, which has made him universally famous and for which he is considered as one of the great mystic writers of Catholicism. He always maintained his retreat in Ávila, which brought him peace and significantly influenced his writing. In Avila we find the original drawing of his cross.

Evening: Dinner at the accommodation centre.

Image: Luidger, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Day 5: O Living Flame of Love

Segovia – Toledo

“O Living Flame of Love”

“Oh, living flame of love
That tenderly wounds me in the deepest
Center of my soul
Since you are no longer elusive
Finish your work, if you will
And break the web of this encounter.”

In 1588 John returned to Segovia. The setting of the monastery of Segovia had a special charm for him. He loved to take his place among the workmen and toil among the stones, and build his cloisters. And he delighted in hiding himself in the caves on the hillside where the crows soared and glided. It was there he would lose himself in prayer and gaze out on the beauty of the countryside, and the Alcazár. It was in Segovia that John had another vision of Christ crucified in which Jesus asked him what he desired. John replied, “Lord, give me trials to suffer for You that I may be despised and held in no account.”

Evening: Dinner at the accommodation centre.

Day 6: One Dark Night


“One Dark Night”

“One dark night
with all my yearnings aflame with love
Oh, wonderful adventure
I went out unnoticed
My house now being at rest.

Secure in darkness
by a secret stairway
I crept concealed
Oh, wonderful adventure
in darkness and disguise
My house now being at rest.

In that wonderful night
in secret without a soul to see me
not stopping to look at a single thing
without any other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

Oh, night that guided me
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn
Oh, night that joined the lover with the beloved
beloved into the lover transformed.

John’s experience of imprisonment and eventual escape was a turning point in his life and understanding the depth of human suffering. It is possible today to trace the route that he took through the city. The convent of the Conceptionist nuns next to the monastery, whose garden he landed in. Some time before dawn he took refuge he made his way down Nuñez de Arce Street to the convent of St. Teresa’s sisters, who hid him up and then took him to the hospital of Santa Cruz, where he was later to take refuge. But all this took place at night, a night that was to fuse with the darkness he had suffered, and the dawn of a new life of union with God in his spirit.

Evening: Dinner at the accommodation centre.

Day 7: Love in return for Love


Prepare to Journey to Madrid after gathering the fruits of the retreat pilgrimage in a prayerful space.

What is Included

  • Flights
  • Accommodation – 6 Nights
  • Breakfast and dinner daily,
  • Pilgrim Kit,
  • Entrance fees & guiding,
  • Gratuities

Not included

  • Lunches and inflight meals
  • Travel Insurance
  • VISA if required
  • Single Room supplement
  • Personal Travel Expenses

Pilgrimage information

You will be accompanied by friars leading the pilgrimage and travelling is done by air-conditioned private coach. Days usually begin at 8am, and generally returning between 7pm, with dinner served afterwards. Each day features morning and afternoon sessions with prayer times, with an organised lunch stop to break up the day.


Iberia flights from London Heathrow to Madrid. When we book Iberia flights, we include a 23 kgs baggage allowance and allocated seat. For Flight times please contact the administrator (

Flights Inclusive

This option offers the opportunity to join others on the booked flight from London Heathrow to Madrid. Each person is advised to arrive at the airport 3 hours prior to departure time. As stated above, baggage allowance is 23kg.

Flights Exclusive

The option of excluding flights offers the opportunity for those joining the Pilgrimage from different countries so arrange their flights and other logistics from the airport to the accommodation centre. However, should anyone wish to join the coach from the airport to the accommodation centre, prior arrangement is to be made and flights arranged to align with the “official” pilgrimage time of arrival as the coach leaves immediately.


As the Retreat Pilgrimage entails a substantial time in Toledo, we will be staying at different accommodation centres in Toledo and Avila.

Single Occupancy

Single Occupancy offers an accommodation for one person in a room.

Double Occupancy

Double occupancy is open to couples, family and friends who desire to share a room with twin beds. However, individuals who wish to share a room with someone else who may want that option should contact the administrator to check availability. (

Dates and How to book

Our programmeLeadersDatesAvailability
A retreat-Pilgrimage
7 Days of Prayer encounter with St John of the Cross
Fr Matt Blake17th – 23rd April 2024Download poster:
St John of the Cross Poster
Fr Kelvin EkhoegbeBOOK NOW – See options below
Make an enquiry

How to book

1. Click on the “Purchase Now” button and pay £150 non-refundable deposit to secure your participation.
2. Flexible payment available, however, final balance to be paid by February 1st 2024. Contact us for details.
3. You can choose to pay the full payment.

Retreat Pilgrimage with St John of the Cross
Excluding Flights

£150(non-refundable deposit) (part of the total amount)
£998 (double occupancy full payment)
£1030 (single occupancy full payment)

Retreat Pilgrimage with St John of the Cross
Including Flights

£150 (non-refundable deposit) (part of the total amount)
£1191 (double occupancy full payment)
£1223 (single occupancy full payment)