Thursday, May 10, 2012

Saint John of Ávila, Apostle of Andalusia

Saint John of Ávila, Apostle of Andalusia (Spanish: San Juan de Ávila) (6 January 1500 – 10 May 1569) was a Roman Catholic priest, Spanish preacher, scholastic author, religious mystic and saint. At the conclusion of a special World Youth Day Mass for seminarians at the Cathedral Church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena, in Madrid, Spain on 20 August 2011, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would soon declare St. John the 34th Doctor of the Universal Church .

Saint John of Ávila was born in Almodóvar del Campo of a wealthy and pious family of Jewish converso descent. At the age of fourteen he was sent to the University of Salamanca to study law but returned after a year to his father's home, where he spent the next three years in the practice of austere piety. His sanctity impressed a Franciscan journeying through Almodóvar, on whose advice he took up the study of philosophy and theology at Alcalá de Henares, where he was fortunate to have as his teacher the famous Dominican Domingo de Soto. While he was a student his parents died and after his ordination he celebrated his first Mass in the church where they were buried, sold the family property and gave the proceeds to the poor.

He saw in the severing of natural ties a vocation to foreign missionary work and prepared to go to Mexico. In 1527, while he was in Seville looking for a favourable opportunity to set out for his new field of labour, his unusually great devotion in celebrating Mass attracted the attention of Hernando de Contreras, a priest of Seville, who mentioned him to the archbishop and Inquisitor General, Don Alonso Manrique de Lara. The archbishop saw in the young missionary a powerful instrument to stir up the faith in Andalusia, and after considerable persuasion Juan was induced to abandon his journey to America.

His first sermon was preached on 22 July 1529, and immediately established his reputation. During his nine years of missionary work in Andalusia, crowds packed the churches at all his sermons. However, his strong pleas for reform and the denunciation of the behaviour of the high society brought him before the inquisitor at Seville. He was charged with exaggerating the dangers of wealth and with closing the gates of heaven to the rich. The charges were quickly refuted and he was declared innocent in 1533. By special invitation of the court he was appointed to preach the sermon on the next great feast in the church of San Salvador, in Seville. Like other Spanish mystics of the period, including La Beata de Piedrahita, he was suspected several times during his career of belonging to the Alumbrados, deemed a heretical sect.

John of Avila is also remembered as a reformer of clerical life in Spain. He founded several colleges where his disciples dedicated themselves to the teaching of youths. Among the disciples attracted by his preaching and saintly reputation were Saint Teresa of Ávila, Saint John of God, Saint Francis Borgia and the Venerable Louis of Granada. Of special importance was the University of Baeza established in 1538 by a papal bull of Pope Paul III Its first rector was Saint John of Ávila and became a model for seminaries and for the schools of the Jesuits.

He is especially revered by the Jesuits. Their development in Spain is attributed to his friendship and support to the Society of Jesus.

May 10 Feast Days:
* St. Solange
* St. Alphius
* St. Aurelian of Limoges
* St. William of Pontoise
* St. Calepodius
* St. Cataldus
* St. Comgall
* St. Dioscorides
* St. Epimachus
* St. Gordian and Epimachus
* St. John of Avila
* St. Quaratus and Quintus
* St. Peter Van
* St. Catald
* St. Comgall
* Bl. Ivan Merz

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