John of Avila

John of Avila

: "For the co-founder of the Carmelites, see Saint John of the Cross"

Infobox Saint
name=Saint John of Avila
birth_date=6 January 1500
death_date=10 May 1569
feast_day=10 May
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church; the Anglican churches; Lutheran Church

birth_place=Almodovar del Campo, Spain
death_place=Montilla, Spain (aged 69)
beatified_date=12 November 1893
beatified_by=Pope Leo XIII
canonized_date=31 May 1970
canonized_by=Pope Paul VI
patronage=Andalusia, Spain, Spanish secular clergy

Saint John of Avila, Apostle of Andalusia (b. 6 January 1500, Almodóvar del Campo; d. 10 May 1569, Montilla, Spain) was a Spanish apostolic preacher, author, mystic and saint, canonized in 1970. Known in Spanish as San Juan de Ávila.

Saint John of Avila was of Jewish converso descent. [See Antonio Dominiguez Ortiz, "Los judeoconversos en España y América." Madrid, 1971] At the age of fourteen he was sent to the University of Salamanca to study law but returned after a year to his father's home, where he spent the next three years in the practice of austere piety. His sanctity impressed a Franciscan journeying through Almodóvar, on whose advice he took up the study of philosophy and theology at Alcalá, where he was fortunate to have as his teacher the famous Dominican Domingo de Soto. While he was a student his parents died and after his ordination he celebrated his first mass in the church where they were buried, sold the family property and gave the proceeds to the poor.

He saw in the severing of natural ties a vocation to foreign missionary work and prepared to go to Mexico. In 1527, while he was in Seville looking for a favorable opportunity to set out for his new field of labour, his unusually great devotion in celebrating mass attracted the attention of Hernando de Contreras, a priest of Seville, who mentioned him to the archbishop and general inquisitor, Don Alphonso Manrique. The archbishop saw in the young missionary a powerful instrument to stir up the faith in Andalusia, and after considerable persuasion Juan was induced to abandon his journey to America.

His first sermon was preached on 22 July 1529, and immediately established his reputation; crowds thereafter packed the churches at all his sermons.At Seville he was brought before the inquisitor and charged with exaggerating the dangers of wealth and closing the gates of heaven to the rich. His innocence of the charges was quickly proved, and by special invitation of the court he was appointed to preach the sermon on the next great feast in the church of San Salvador, in Seville. Like other Spanish mystics of the period, including La Beata de Piedrahita, he was suspected several times during his career of belonging to the Alumbrados, deemed a heretical sect. Fact|date=January 2008

He began his career as apostolic preacher of Andalusia, aged thirty. After nine years he returned to Seville, only to depart for the wider fields of Cordova, Granada, Bolza, Montilla and Zafra. For eighteen years before his death he was the victim of constant illness, the result of the hardships of his apostolate of forty years. He was declared Venerable by Pope Clement XIII on 8 February 1799 and beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 12 November 1893. In 1970 he was canonised by Pope Paul VI.

Among the disciples attracted by his preaching and saintly reputation were Saint Teresa of Ávila, Saint John of God, Saint Francis Borgia and the Venerable Louis of Granada.

Saint John of Avila's works were collected at Madrid in 1618,1757, 1792 and 1805; a French translation by d'Andilly was published at Paris in 1673; and a German translation by Schermer in six volumes was issued at Regensburg between 1856 and 1881. His best-known works are the "Audi Fili" (English translation, 1620), one of the best tracts on Christian perfection, and his "Spiritual Letters" (English translation, 1631, reprinted London 1904) to his disciples.



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