October 8, 2012
To open the Synod on Evangelization yesterday, Pope Benedict formally declared St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard von Bingen Doctors of the Church. The Pope announced at World Youth Day in Spain this year that St. John of Avila would be numbered among the Doctors so I learned a bit about him.
John of Avila (1499-1569) was a major figure in the ecclesial reform and spiritual renewal that finally came to pass in 16th-century Spain. He joined other greats of the time, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Borgia, and St. John of God in contributing to a renewal of faith in Spain and Europe.
What many don’t realize is that St. John of Avila was of Jewish descent and endured discrimination in the Church because of it. That didn’t stop him from being educated at the great universities of Salamanca and Alcala, centers of Christian studies in Spain. After he was ordained a priest, he served as a diocesan priest in Andalusia, being a preacher, confessor, spiritual director, catechist, evangelist, educator, mystic, and theologian. He was called “The Apostle of Andalusia”.
St. John focused a great deal of effort on establishing colleges and universities for the education of laity and priests, and on reforming the priesthood. He was a spiritual director for many religious and laity. We can learn a lot from him today by reading and meditating on his great work, Audi Filia: John of Avila: Audi, Filia (The Classics of Western Spirituality).
This spiritual masterpiece helps the reader focus on hearing the word of God in Scripture and contemplating the face of Christ, especially in His passion. Doing so with a sincere heart helps one along in a spiritual transformation in communion with the Father and the Son. Although this book was written in a specific time to deal with specific problems of the age, the parallels between the Church circumstances of today and that of the Protestant upheaval and unscrupulous clerics in the sixteenth century make it of particular value, especially to today’s laity. Thus, like all writings of the Doctors of the Church, it is timeless.
St. Hildegard von Bingen
I wrote about St. Hildegard’s life here if you are interested. I am a big fan of her music which is unlike any composer before or since, something which I mention in the post. Some of my favorite albums of her music are: Canticles of Ecstasy; Symphoniae: Spiritual Songs; Ordo Virtutem (probably her most famous work; and 11,000 Virgins – Chants for the Feast of St. Ursula. Click on the image to learn more about each album.
You can get some of this via MP3 download, but I’m old-fashioned and own the albums instead.
May the intercession of these two new Doctors of the Church assist us during the hardships of living the Faith in these times!
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