Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain invited Catholics to learn about the life of St. John of Avila – soon to be proclaimed doctor of the Church – as a way to renew zeal for evangelism.
In a letter sent to EWTN News on May 3, Bishop Fernandez explained that when the Church declares a saint to be a doctor, it is because that person stands out for his holiness and ability to “explain and propose the Christian mystery with wisdom and that he has influenced the universal Church with his teaching.”
He said the testimony of St. John of Avila “encourages us today especially to confront the new evangelization, so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will reach all men.”
“With his apostolic zeal he encourages us to overcome barriers, seek out new methods and renew the missionary fervor with which he preached in these lands and that earned him the title of Apostle of Andalusia.”
For this reason, the Bishops' Conference of Spain is encouraging the faithful to prepare as much as possible for his upcoming proclamation as doctor of the Church by learning about his life, reading his writings, imitating his example, imploring his intercession and spreading devotion to him.
“May 10 is his feast day, and we will celebrate it with great solemnity at Montilla,” where the saint died, the bishop said.
St. John of Avila was born in Almodovar del Campo in 1500 and died in Montilla in 1569. After studying in Salamanca and Alcala, he wanted to go to Mexico as a missionary, but he was stopped by the Archbishop of Seville. He remained in Spain to carry out his work as a priest.
He then spent thirty five years in Cordoba and then began traveling to Granada, Zafra, Baez and other cities where he became known for his preaching, catechesis, confessions, spiritual direction and writings.
The saint spent the last seventeen years of his life in Montilla, where he wrote his most important works and letters. He counseled numerous saints, including St. Francis of Borgia, St. John of God, and others.
He died on May 10, 1569, in Montilla, which has become a popular pilgrimage site in Spain.
Bishop Fernandez said the Shrine of St. John of Avila, where he is buried, will soon be declared a pontifical Basilica. Inside is the chapel “from which such flames came out one day that the neighbors were alarmed and thought it was on fire, but it was actually the fire of St. John of Avila’s love for Christ in the Eucharist.”