At the conclusion of their annual meeting on April 27, the bishops of Spain issued a statement lauding Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming official proclamation of St. John of Avila as a Doctor of the Church.
The “originality” of St. John of Avila is found in his “consistent and ever-current theological knowledge, in the soundness of his teaching and in his vast knowledge of the Fathers, saints and great theologians,” the bishops said.
St. John of Avila will be the fourth Spaniard to be made a doctor, after St. Isidore of Seville, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avilia, and the thirty-fourth person ever to be given the honor. Pope Benedict is expected to officially name him Doctor of the Church in Rome this year although a date for the ceremony has not yet been scheduled.
In their statement, the Spanish bishops noted that St. John of Avila ranks among the Church’s doctors because of his study and contemplation of the mysteries of the faith “with unique clairvoyance” and for his ability to explain them and help the faithful live their lives in accord with Church teaching.
John of Avila was born in 1499 or 1500 in the town of Almodovar del Campo, where he grew up and learned his faith. He studied law at the University of Salamanca and Liberal Arts and Theology at the University of Alcala. He was ordained a priest in 1526.
In 1946 he was declared patron saint of the secular clergy in Spain by Pope Pius XII, and in 1970 he was canonized by Pope Paul VI.
He was known for his work promoting vocations at every level in the Church, whether to the priesthood or religious life, or to building of the vocation of the laity.
The saint was also considered a man who was “generous and in love with God and lived detached from material possessions,” they added.
The bishops recalled that after he was ordained a priest in 1526, he celebrated his first Mass in his home town and celebrated the occasion “by inviting the poor to his table and distributing his abundant inheritance to them.”
It was said of him at the time that “if the Church were to lose the Bible, he could restore it on his own because he knew it by heart.”
He was also known for his important writings, including a treatise on the spiritual life entitled, “Audi, Filia,” which he began writing while being held in prison by the Inquisition in Seville. He was eventually absolved of the false accusations against him.