Summary: The sixteenth century saw so much heretical scriptural writing that we usually write it off. But good Catholic scholarship was going on in that century, and John of Avila was one of the brightest lights.
Thursday of the 13th Week in Course 2018
The vocation to be a prophet is not for the faint-hearted. We see in this reading from the Book of Amos that the poor fellow was a migrant shepherd and tree-dresser, but he heard the voice of God and responded “yes.” And then God told him to prophesy to the king, Jeroboam II. Lots of people prophesied to the king, and they prophesied great things. After all, J had brought great prosperity to the kingdom of Israel, prosperity for the rich who leached off the hard work of the poor. What was he to prophesy? “Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.” Now that would have gone well, wouldn’t it? The head prophet, who was also priest of the false shrine Jeroboam supported, tried to have Amos deported. So then Amos prophesied against him! No, being called to prophecy is not a vocation for the timid.
Jesus was a prophet, and much more. We see in the Gospel that Jesus was not afraid to confront the biases of His day. Jesus was known as a healer, and so when He came back to Capernaum, where He spent so much time that people thought it was his home town, this group brought their crippled friend to Him. The scribes were on Jesus’s case, so He put them to the test. “What’s easier, to say your sins are forgiven or rise and walk?” The obvious answer is that it’s easy to say your sins are forgiven, because then you don’t know if they are or not. But if you are a fraud, say “rise and walk” and nothing happens just proves the fraud. So Jesus says both, and the healing of the body validates the curing of the sin. Incidents like this eventually got Jesus killed.
John of Avila was a prophet, born at the turn of the sixteenth century. He lived to a ripe old age of seventy, but it was not an easy life, even though he came from a wealthy converso family.”At the age of fourteen, in 1513, he was sent to the University of Salamanca to study law; he withdrew in 1517, however, without receiving a degree. . .[he] spent the next three years in the practice of austere piety. His sanctity impressed a Franciscan friar journeying through Almodóvar, on whose advice he resumed his studies. . .” He studied philosophy and theology, and was ordained, during which time his parents died. “spent the next three years in the practice of austere piety. His sanctity impressed a Franciscan friar journeying through Almodóvar, on whose advice he resumed his studies. He became known for his skills in teaching and preaching the faith.
“John's first sermon was preached on 22 July 1529, and immediately established his reputation. During his nine years of missionary work in Andalusia, crowds packed the churches at all his sermons. However, his strong pleas for reform and his denunciation of the behaviour of the aristocracy meant that he was denounced to the office of the Inquisition in Seville in 1531, and put in prison in the summer of 1532. He was charged with exaggerating the dangers of wealth and with closing the gates of heaven to the rich. The charges were refuted and he was declared innocent and released in July 1533.”
He proved his authentic scriptural scholarship and piety with his master work called Audi, Filia. Ultimately, this is what caused Pope Benedict XVI to declare him a doctor of the Church, just a few years ago. The sixteenth century saw so much heretical scriptural writing that we usually write it off. But good Catholic scholarship was going on in that century, and John was one of the brightest lights.
Working from Cordova, John “preached and established schools and colleges in various neighboring cities such as Granada, Baeza, Montilla and Zafra. Of special importance was the University of Baeza, established in 1538 by a papal bull of Pope Paul III. Ávila served as its first rector, and it became a model for seminaries and for the schools of the Jesuits.”
St. John of Avila, be our ally in combating ignorance of the faith and Scriptures. John of Avila, pray for us.