On Saturday, August 20, 2011, at a Mass with seminarians in the Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena in Madrid, Spain, Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to name Saint John of Avila the 34th Doctor of the Church. In Madrid for World Youth Day 2011, the Holy Father declared that he "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."
Saint John of Avila (1500-69) is often called the Apostle of Andalusia. Shortly after his ordination to the priesthood, Saint John gave his family's wealth to the poor and prepared to do missionary work in the New World. But the archbishop of Seville intervened. In the wake of the release of the southernmost region of Spain from almost eight centuries (711-1492) of Islamic rule, the archbishop was eager to revive and strengthen the Catholic Faith in Andalusia, and he convinced Saint John, already known for his preaching, to take on the task. After nine years in Andalusia, Saint John continued his missionary activities throughout Spain and is to this day one of the most beloved of Spanish saints. Beatified by Pope Leo XIII on November 12, 1893, Saint John was canonized on May 31, 1970, by Pope Paul VI.
This latest honor—the naming of Saint John of Avila as a Doctor of the Church—will be bestowed "shortly," according to Pope Benedict. In the meantime, the Holy Father told the young seminarians in Madrid,
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.
Saint John of Avila, pray for us!
(A 1746 portrait of Saint John of Avila by Pierre Subleyras. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain.)