Meet John of Avila

Last year, on October 7, 2012, Benedict XVI declared St. John of Avila the 34th Doctor of the Church. This was based not only on the saint’s illustrious life of heroic virtue but also upon his writings and his letters, in which he used to give spiritual advice and direction to some of the greatest saints of the Counter-Reformation, including St. Francis Borgia, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. John of Avila’s feast day is celebrated on May 10.

John of Avila  (1500-1569) was declared Venerable by Pope Clement XIII on 8 February 1759 and beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 12 November 1893. On 31 May 1970 he was canonized by Pope Paul VI.

When Benedict XVI named him a Doctor of the Church, the proclamation was made before tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.

During his homily, Pope Benedict said that John of Avila was a “profound expert on the sacred Scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit. He knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity. A man of God, he united constant prayer to apostolic action. He dedicated himself to preaching and to the more frequent practice of the sacraments, concentrating his commitment on improving the formation of candidates for the priesthood, of religious and of lay people, with a view to a fruitful reform of the Church.”

There are few committed Catholics in the world today who are not aware of the disdain, derision and sometimes outright persecution that continues to be the lot of believers even now, during the ‘enlightened’ 21st Century. John of Avila endured the same persecution, from within the Church, by being jailed for about a year by the Inquisition. There is much encouragement in his advice for us today; here is just a snippet from a letter that he wrote to some of his friends:

“..My dear brothers, I commenced by begging you not to be distressed or surprised by the persecutions, or rather the shadow of them, raised against us as if they were strange or unusual for God’s servants.For this is nothing but the proof, or an examination of the lesson, that we have been learning for the last five or six years which is “to suffer for the love of Christ.” Now that it’s come upon us, do not let it frighten us like children…Jesus will defend you for love of you for, though he is but One, He is more mighty than all the rest put together..Care nothing for the menaces of your persecutors. For myself, they weigh nothing more than a hair for I am entirely in the hands of Christ. I pity deeply their blindness because, as St Paul tell the Corinthians, “The god of this world, which is the devil, has blinded the minds of unbelievers…”.  My hope is that the curses and insults they have heaped on us will be turned to God’s glory as indeed it has already because, in reality, the only true honor in this world is to be dishonored for Christ’s sake.”

Copyright © 2013, Glenna Bradshaw

Glenna Bradshaw

Glenna Bradshaw

Glenna Bradshaw is a happy Catholic who lives in Tennessee with her family and two spoiled greyhounds. She blogs at Celebrating the Year of Faith.

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