Pope Benedict XVI has named two new Doctors of the Church: the 16th century Spanish priest St. John of Avila and the 12th century German nun St. Hildegard of Bingen.
St. John of Avila was “a profound expert on the sacred scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit,” said the Pope Oct. 7, “he knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity.”
St. John of Avila was a priest, mystic, preacher and scholar. Pope Benedict announced his intention to name him a Doctor of the Church at World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid last August, much to the delight of Spanish Catholics. Today’s declaration took place in a brief ceremony prior to Mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
The Pope said St. John was “a man of God” who “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.”
Turning to St. Hildegard of Bingen, Pope Benedict called her “an important female figure of the 12th century” who “offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time” by “employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority.”
Among her vast array of talents, St. Hildegard was a writer, composer, philosopher and mystic, as well as an abbess and founder of several monasteries. In May 2012 Pope Benedict formally added her to the Church’s roster of saints, extending her liturgical feast throughout the world.
“The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times,” explained the Pope to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. St. Hildegard, he said, “nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music” but “above all” she “maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and the Church.”
The title of Doctor of the Church is bestowed upon a saint whose writings are deemed to be of universal importance to the Church. The Pope must also declare the individual to be of “eminent learning” and “great sanctity.” Other Doctors of the Church include St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Catherine of Siena.