Pope Benedict XVI announced Saturday that he will name Saint John of Avila as the 34th Doctor of the Church. I try not to hold it against John that he gave up the career in law to study philosophy and theology with the Dominicans. He was preparing for a mission to the Americas when the Archbishop of Seville prevailed upon him to remain in Andalusia in order to preach to a Spanish population newly liberated from Islamic occupation.
The Doctors of the Church are ecclesiastical authors by whose doctrinal writings the whole Church derives great advantage. They are distinguished by great learning, great sanctity and proclamation by the Church. Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome and Pope Gregory I are the original Great Doctors of the Western Church. To this list, names have been added very sparingly - until today, only 33 in two milenia. The Apostle of Andalusia is now counted among a litany of the most profound thinkers in history.
I'm not readily conversant in the works of John of Avila, but it will be interesting to learn whether a particular aspect or theme of his writings commended his inclusion to Pope Benedict. The announcement was fittingly made in Spain during World Youth Day. The last saint to be honored with the title of Doctor was St. Theresa of Lisieux, also on World Youth Day, in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.