St John of Avila was a priest, writer, and preacher in Spain.
He was born on January 6 1499 in Almodóvar del Campo, Toledo in the Castile Region of Spain and died on May 10 1569 at the age of 70 in Montilla, Córdoba, Spain.
We celebrate his feast day on May 10 every year in the Catholic Church.
St John of Avila is the Patron Saint of
- Andalusia, Spain
- Spanish secular clergy
|St John of Avila, Priest Biography
|Date of Birth
|January 6 1499
|Place of Birth
|Almodóvar del Campo, Toledo, Spain
|Saints who were Priests
|Priest, Writer, and Preacher
|Place of Work
|Date of Death
|May 10 1569
|Place of Death
|Montilla, Córdoba, Spain
|Beatified on November 12 1893 by Pope Leo XIII
|Canonized by Pope Paul VI on May 31 1970
|Patron Saint of
St John of Avila’s Biography
St John of Ávila was a religious figure from Spain who worked as a priest, writer, and preacher, and was known for his spiritual teachings and experiences.
The Catholic Church has recognized him as a saint and given him the title of Doctor of the Church. He is also referred to as the “Apostle of Andalusia” due to his extensive work in the area.
St John of Ávila came from a rich and religious family, born in Almodóvar del Campo in the present-day Province of Ciudad Real.
His parents were Alfonso de Ávila, who was Jewish, and Catalina Xixón (or Gijón). He was sent to the University of Salamanca at the age of fourteen in 1513 to study law but left without obtaining a degree in 1517.
After coming back home, Ávila dedicated the following three years to practicing strict piety. A Franciscan friar who was traveling through Almodóvar was impressed by his holiness and advised him to continue his studies.
Following this advice, Ávila enrolled at the University of Alcalá de Henares, which was later renamed the Complutense University of Madrid.
St John of Avila enrolled in the study of philosophy and theology, and had the privilege of being taught by the renowned Dominican friar Domingo de Soto.
While at Alcalá, it seems that Ávila completed his bachelor’s degree but did not finish the requirements for the masters degree.
While still a student, St John of Avila lost both his parents. After he was ordained in the spring of 1526, he celebrated his first Mass in the church where they were buried. He then sold the family property and donated the money to the poor.
St John of Avila initially planned to become a foreign missionary and was preparing to travel to Mexico.
He went to Seville to wait for departure with the Dominican friar, Julián Garcés, who was appointed the first Bishop of Tlaxcala.
While waiting in Seville, he caught the attention of Hernando de Contreras, a local priest, due to his remarkable devotion in celebrating Mass, his preaching skills, and his catechetical abilities.
Contreras mentioned him to the Archbishop of Seville and Inquisitor General, Alonso Manrique de Lara, who saw potential in the young cleric to strengthen the faith in Andalusia.
After much persuasion, John of Avila decided to abandon his plans to go to America and stayed in Andalusia.
After 1526, St John of Avila resided in Seville with a fellow priest and a group of followers. They lived together in a loosely organized fraternal manner in a small house.
One of his disciples requested him to write the “Listen, Daughter” in 1527, and he continued to work on it, expanding and revising it until his death.
For the nine years that St John of Avila conducted missionary work in Andalusia, his sermons were extremely popular, attracting large crowds to the churches.
However, his outspoken calls for reform and criticism of the behavior of the aristocracy led to him being reported to the Inquisition office in Seville in 1531, and he was subsequently imprisoned during the summer of 1532.
The charges against him included accusations of overemphasizing the dangers of wealth and denying the rich entry into heaven. He was eventually cleared of all charges and released in July 1533.
In late 1534 or early 1535, John of Ávila became a part of the Diocese of Córdoba and was given a small stipend.
He made Córdoba his home and used it as a base to lead his followers and travel around Andalusia, preaching and setting up schools and colleges in cities like Granada, Baeza, Montilla and Zafra.
It is believed that he was granted the title of Master of Sacred Theology, most likely in Granada in 1538.
In 1538, the papal bull of Pope Paul III founded the University of Baeza, which was later used as a model for seminaries and schools of the Jesuits. St. John of Ávila served as the university’s first rector.
Between 1538 and 1539, St John of Avila resided in Granada, where a community was forming. Then, from 1546 to 1555, he lived in Córdoba with around 20 disciples, seemingly intending to establish a formal foundation of apostolic priests.
However, the rapid growth of the Jesuits prevented him from realizing these plans. By early 1551, when St John of Avila’s health began to decline, he actively encouraged his disciples to join the Jesuits instead. Around 30 of them seem to have done so.
He collaborated extensively with the Society of Jesus, playing a significant role in their growth in Spain and its colonies. Additionally, his mystical writings have been translated into multiple languages.
St John of Avila’s health began to deteriorate in the early part of 1551, and for the remainder of his life, he lived a semi-retired existence in Montilla, located in the Province of Córdoba.
He died on May 10, 1569, and was laid to rest in accordance with his wishes in the Jesuit Church of the Incarnation (Basílica de San Juan de Ávila) in Montilla. This church now serves as a place of remembrance for him.
Pope Clement XIII recognized St John of Avila as Venerable on February 8 1759. Pope Leo XIII beatified him on November 15 1893.
Later, on May 31 1970, Pope Paul VI canonized him as a saint. Finally, on October 7 2012, Pope Benedict XVI conferred on him the title of Doctor of the Church.
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