Thursday, August 25, 2011

Saint John of Avila: Next Doctor of the Church?

It appears that Saint John of Avila will possibly be the 34th Doctor of the Church. I do not know much about him aside from what I have read about him on the net. I have a book coming in from Amazon so I can do a bit more research. He seems to have been a huge reformer of the corrupt priesthood of his time. Is this possibly one of the Holy Father's means of instituting a reform in today's Church?

"St. John of Avila was a parish priest and theologian in 16th century Spain who exercised some influence over ideas concerning the reform of priestly reformation at the Council of Trent. Avila linked the priesthood closely to the Eucharist and regarded holiness as the preeminent quality of a priest, who must serve as a mediator between God and man. To this end, he recommended painstaking selection of candidates followed by rigorous spiritual and intellectual formation within a community. For Avila, renewal of the priesthood demanded the priest's conformity to Christ as both Good Shepherd and High Priest...
To bring about reform of the clergy, Avila wanted the bishops to remedy the two root causes he saw for the ruin of the priesthood: the acceptance of men unsuited for the priestly vocation and the poor formation given to candidates.

The cause of the ruin of the clergy has been the entrance of worldly people who have no knowledge of the grandeur of the state they are undertaking and whose hearts are on fire with earthly ambitions. Once they enter, they are formed in an atmosphere of false liberty without discipline of study or virtue.

The first step that Father Avila recommended to the bishops was that they take great care in the choice and acceptance of men to be prepared for ordination. He stressed that no unsuitable candidate should be accepted for the priesthood under any condition, no matter who supported his entrance. In fact, entrance into the ecclesiastical life should be made difficult so that those unsuited for such a lofty vocation would not want to enter. Avila compares the situation in his own day to that at the time of Jeroboam in the Northern Kingdom of Israel when anyone who wanted could become a priest (1 Kgs. 13:33). In the same way, many bishops and superiors accepted and ordained men who had no sound understanding of the priestly state or who desired it for worldly reasons. Avila complains that some candidates conceive of the priestly life as compatible with the concupiscence of the flesh and the eyes and the pride of life. "Because of this, we are as we are," he says. And because of this, reform requires that the entrance to the ecclesiastical state be guarded and that only those qualified to live it well be accepted into it. To take any other is to cause great harm to the Church. The Body of the Lord in the Eucharist will be unworthily treated by such priests and the holy Mystical Body will be greatly harmed as "those who were supposed to be shepherds turn themselves into wolves and make carnage in the souls of those they were supposed to bring to life."

The most important qualification for candidates is the intellectual and spiritual capacity required to profit from the formation and education for which the Council was to provide. If bishops are going to accept men without this capacity, then Avila comments that they should change the topic of their discussion from formation to that of "the cultivation of fields in barren lands." He is not saying that all candidates must be capable of the highest academic achievement, but that all should see the importance of study and be willing to engage in it according to their capacity. The lack of spiritual capacity is a far greater hindrance. At all costs, men who enter "to have something to eat without having to work for it," must be refused. The Christian people pay dearly when such men enter in response not to God's call, but to "the call of money and an easy life...
He insisted that, before ordination, candidates undergo a rigorous program of spiritual and intellectual formation in accord with the Gospel and the Church's teaching, and that they continue to grow in these areas after ordination. Any review of the formation and education of priests today can only profit from being so strongly reminded of the nature of the priesthood and the indispensable role of the priest in the sanctification and salvation of the members of the Church. "

From Sr. Joan Gormley's article in the Homiletic & Pastoral Review April 2004

There are also other candidates which may be considered in the future. So far thankfully no mention of Newman.

No comments: