by Anura Guruge
Benedict XVI (#266), in Madrid (Spain) for World Youth Day 2011 (amidst continuing protests even by some Catholic priests), set out to curry favor with the boisterous locals by announcing, today, in Madrid’s Cathedral, in front of 6,000 Mass celebrants that he will make Spain’s St. John of Ávila (1500 – 1569) the 34th Doctor of the Church. He will become the second person from Ávila (Spain) to receive this uncommon distinction — it also having been given to Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, (1515 – 1582) in 1970. She is the one immortalized in Bernini’s stunning ‘Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.‘
‘Doctor of the Church,’ per Catholicism, is a rare, select honor that can only be bestowed upon a Saint. [San Juan de Ávila, as he is known in Spain, was cannonized by Paul VI (#263) in 1970.] The title signifies that the Saints corpus of work showed exceptional scholarship and piety, was particularly pivotal to the Church’s understanding of the faith. St. Gregory the Great I (#64), the author of the Liber Regulæ Pastoralis (Pastoral Rules) among a large body of other work, was the first Doctor of the Church — designated as such in 1298, 694 years after his death by Boniface VIII (#194) — the same pope that summarily duped the saintly Celestine V (#193), the Godfather of today’s conclaves. St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and St. Jerome were also made Doctors of the Church in 1298 — by Boniface. Then there was a 270 year gap before the next one, the golden tongued St. John Chrysostom. The last to receive this honor, prior to today’s announcement, was St. Thérèse de Lisieux, Doctor Amoris (Doctor of Love) of France in 1997 — the only one given this honor by John Paul II (#265).
St. John Of Avila will Benedict XVI’s first Doctor of the Church.