Sunday, August 21, 2011

New Doctor of the Church: San Juan de Ávila

Announcement of the Holy Father

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great joy, here in this Cathedral Church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena, I announce to the People of God that, having acceded to the desire expressed by Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, together with the members of the Spanish episcopate and other Archbishops and Bishops from throughout the world, as well as many of the lay faithful, I will shortly declare Saint John of Avila a Doctor of the universal Church.

In making this announcement here, I would hope that the word and the example of this outstanding pastor will enlighten all priests and those who look forward to the day of their priestly ordination.

I invite everyone to look to Saint John of Avila and I commend to his intercession the Bishops of Spain and those of the whole world, as well as all priests and seminarians. As they persevere in the same faith which he taught, may they model their hearts on that of Jesus Christ the good Shepherd, to whom be glory and honour for ever. Amen.

John was born in Almodovar del Campo, Ciudad Real, in 1500, in the heart of a well-off family, which educated him in the Christian faith. When still a youth, he went to Salamanca to study law. An encounter with Jesus Christ changed his life radically, and he left Salamanca and a promising future to dedicate himself to prayer for three years.

Well guided by his spiritual directors, he became determined to be a priest and to consecrate his life to Christ and to evangelization. Twelve poor men accompanied him on the day of his priestly ordination, as his parents were already dead. There were no banquets or extravagances.

Burning with the love of Christ, John of Avila was only interested in dedicating himself to preaching. In 1527, he offered to go to New Spain-Mexico as a missionary.

However, the archbishop of Seville asked him to dedicate himself to the evangelization of his diocese and then to other dioceses in the surroundings, a work which brought him the title "Apostle of Andalusia."

He was tried by the Inquisition, spending more than a year in prison, which only brought his spiritual life to deepen.

He went on to preach and evangelize until his death in 1569.

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