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Saint John of Avila

Patron Saint of Diocesan Priests


Public Domain

Priest and Doctor of the Church (1500-1569)

His life

+ Juan was born in Almodóvar del Camp in the province of Ciudad Real, Spain to wealthy parents of Jewish ancestry. He studied law at the University of Salamanca before deciding to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1525.

+ Following his ordination, he gave away his inheritance, hoping to become a missionary in Mexico. The archbishop of Seville asked him to remain in Spain to serve the Church there.

+ For nine years, John ministered in Andalusia, successfully bringing many to the Christian Faith. His success, however, brought him to the attention of the Inquisition, in large part because of suspicion of his Jewish ancestry. He was cleared of all charges against him expanded his mission to other parts of Spain.

+ He played a significant part in the conversion experiences of Saint Francis Borgia and Saint John of God and was a strong supporter of Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, and was a close friend and advisor of Saint Teresa of Avila in her work to reform the Carmelite Order. Although he strongly supported religious life, John remained a diocesan priest.

+ Saint John of Avila died on May 10, 1569, and was canonized in 1970. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named him a Doctor of the Church and the patron saint of diocesan priests.

Spiritual Bonus

John’s accessible and common-sense theology and spirituality have been captured in his book Audi filia (“Listen, O Daughter”) and in his spiritual letters.

For reflection

Christ tells us that if we wish to join him, we shall travel the way he took.”—Saint John of Avila


Almighty and eternal God,
who gave your holy Church blessed John of Avila as Doctor,
grant that what he taught when moved by the divine Spirit
may always stay firm in our hearts;
and, as by your gift we embrace him as our patron,
may we also have him as our defender to entreat your mercy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal: Common of Doctors of the Church)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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