Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Two New Doctors of the Church

At the Mass held on October 7, 2012 for the opening of the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed two new Doctors of the Church.

St. John of Avila

"At this point, let us pause for a moment to appreciate the two saints who today have been added to the elect number of Doctors of the Church. Saint John of Avila lived in the sixteenth century. A profound expert on the sacred Scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit. He knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity. A man of God, he 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."
--Pope Benedict XVI

St. Hildegard of Bingen
"Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the twelfth century, offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time, employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times. Hildegard nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music. Above all, she maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and his Church."
--Pope Benedict XVI

In the Church's wisdom, the Pope has named two new "Doctors of the Church."  Men, and women, proclaimed "Doctor of the Church" must meet the following three criteria:  eminent learning, a high degree of sanctity, and proclamation by the Church.  This third condition must be by declaration of the Supreme Pontiff or by a general council (Benedict XVI).   "The decree is issued by the Congregation of Sacred Rites and approved by the pope, after a careful examination, if necessary, of the saint's writings. It is not in any way an ex cathedra decision, nor does it even amount to a declaration that no error is to be found in the teaching of the Doctor. It is, indeed, well known that the very greatest of them are not wholly immune from error." --Catholic Encyclopedia

For a bit of history...
The first "Doctors", called the "Four Doctors", proclaimed were:  St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome.

Three Eastern Church (later called Orthodox) Doctors were given the title at the time of Leo VI, the wise:   St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, and St. Gregory Nazianzen.  They were also called the "Three Hierarchs" in the East.  A fourth Eastern Doctor was added later to make the Eastern and Western Doctors even in number:  St. Athanasius.

The Four Doctors (each of the Western and Eastern Catholic Church) were not added to until the 16th century:  St. Thomas Aquinas and then later St. Bonaventure.

Then the following were added in the 18th century:  St. Anselm, St. Isidore, St. Peter Chrysologus, and St. Leo I.

Then, added in the 19th century were:  St. Peter Damian, St. BernardSt. Hilary, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Francis de Sales, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Cyril of JerusalemSt. John Damascene, and the Venerable Bede.

The 20th century gave us these:  St. Ephraem, St. Peter Canisius, St. John of the Cross, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Albertus MagnusSt. Anthony of Padua, St. Lawrence of BrindisiSt. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

As of October 7, 2012, there are thirty-five "Doctors of the Church," of which four are women.

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