An unlikely doctor of the church

St. John of Avila, a Spanish priest, died on May 10, 1569. He was not a member of a religious order, but was friends with St. Ignatius Loyola (founder of the Jesuits), adviser of St. Teresa of Avila (reformer of the Carmelites), and aided the conversions of St. Francis Borgia (a Jesuit) and St. John of God (the inspiration for the Brothers of St. John of God who work with the sick). He wanted to go to Mexico to spread the faith but his bishop persuaded him to be a missionary to the people of Andalusia.

He got into trouble with the Inquisition for several reasons. His mysticism led them to think he was a member of the Alumbrados, the Illumined, who were considered heretics since they emphasized personal illumination from God (and looked too much like Protestants, I’d suggest.)

He was also accused of being too hard on the rich, denying them access to heaven. He was charged with unduly favoring the poor.

I also wonder if the Inquisition was suspicious of St. John because of his Jewish ancestry – as they were of St. Teresa of Avila.

Recently, Pope Benedict XVI said that he would be declared a doctor of the church. Again, someone who was thought suspicious in his lifetime by the church is recognized not only as a saint, but as a doctor –  a major teacher – of the faith.

Ah – God’s ways are marvelous.

The New Concise Edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints includes this quote of St. John:

Christ tells us that if we wish to join him, we shall travel the way he took. It is surely not right that the Son of God should go his way on the path of shame while the sons of men walk the way of worldly honor.

Would that we all take this to heart.

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