Tuesday, August 02, 2011

John of Avila

Very interesting: Apparently there's a rumor going around that the Pope will name St. Juan de Avila a Doctor of the Church at the next World Youth Day. I have mentioned John of Avila as a likely candidate, perhaps the most likely candidate, for being made Doctor of the Church at some point (here and here).

'Doctor of the Church' is a purely liturgical title given to universal teachers. The word 'Doctor' here means 'teacher'. Because it is a liturgical title, it is not given to martyrs (whose status as martyrs or confessors would typically override their status as doctors for liturgical purposes). It has become increasingly important as a sign that the person in question is an excellent source for understanding the Catholic faith, because to have the title is exclusive to (1) saints in the universal calendar who (2) were doctors (i.e., theological teachers) and who (3) have left theological writings that (4) are of high quality and broad application. Currently there are thirty-three individuals with the title. John of Avila, if he really is named, would make the the fourth person from Spain on the list; World Youth Day 2011, of course, is in Madrid in a couple of weeks. If he is named, I'll have to update my Doctors of the Church post.

There's a lot to like about John of Avila in particular; his correspondence is excellent, and filled with good practical advice.


  1. Michael Sullivan10:30 PM

    I was going to say that I'd most like to see Scotus and Newman as Doctors of the Church; then I went to your linked post and saw 

    "<span>Some notable and influential theologians who will likely at some point be given the designation if their canonization process is ever completed: John Duns Scotus, John Henry Newman."</span>

    So - you have it covered. Never mind.


  2. Michael Sullivan10:32 PM

    It's too bad, in my opinion, that there are no English-speaking Doctors for us Anglophone intellectuals. Bede might make another worthy candidate, though not as good as the first two.

  3. branemrys11:01 PM

    I agree. There really is a need for it. Given the pervasiveness of English as an academic and trade language, it would benefit more than just the Anglophone, too. The problem, of course, is that you need saints writing profound theology in English for that, and the English-speaking sectors of the Church really haven't done much that supports that. Even Newman was, so to speak, pulled from Anglicanism, and from a very unusual portion of it, at that.

    I'm not sure I understand your second sentence -- I may be missing something; Bede already is a Doctor of the Church. Leo XIII made him one -- definitely one of Leo XIII's many, many, many good deeds. Of course, he's Anglo-Saxon writing in Latin, which puts him at some distance.

  4. branemrys11:09 PM

    Once they get beyond beatified stage, I think there's no controversy about those. For my part, of saints on the universal calendar now, I like both John of Avila and Jeanne Frances de Chantal as candidates, but the one I'd most prefer to have the designation is Gregory of Nyssa. I find it very perplexing that he isn't. Surely, surely, someone has thought of doing it before, especially given that both Nazianzen and Basil are on the list? But who knows when he'll ever get it.

  5. Michael Sullivan4:54 PM

    Pff - it totally slipped my mind that Bede was already on the list. My mistake.

  6. branemrys5:41 PM

    I was wondering. Of course, the list is getting long enough that it's easy to forget one. I always get Peter Chrysologus and Peter Canisius mixed up.

  7. Henry Karlson11:33 AM

    While I am a great fan of St Gregory of Nysaa, for so many reasons, I think I know why he has not been declared a Doctor of the Church: too many people have found him too "Origenist" to get such a designation. I don't think it is valid, but I know that this stigma follows him and probably prevents him from being considered.


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