Doctor of the church

Athanasius (C. 296 Alexandria – Alexandria 373)

Born to Christian parents in Alexandria and educated in theology there,
Athanasius was ordained as a deacon and became secretary to Bishop
Alexander in the city in c. 318. At the Council of Nicaea in 325,
Athanasius was present with his master when the heresy of Arianism was
condemned and Arius himself excommunicated; Athanasius was to commit the
rest of his life to defending the doctrine of the full divinity of
Christ and the eternal authority of the Scriptures against this heresy.

When Alexander died in c. 328 Athanasius succeeded him and soon found
himself battling against the Arian movement which was strong throughout
the Mediterranean world, and especially in the imperial court. Emperor
Constantine I was persuaded in 330 by Eusebius of Nicodemia to require
Athanasius to readmit Arius to communion; the intractable bishop refused
and a campaign was launched to discredit him. He was brought to trial in
Constantinople for various alleged offences, and although cleared of
them all he was then accused of murdering Arsenius, an Arian bishop. The
charge was so ridiculous that Athanasius refused even to answer it, but
he was called to a council in Tyre by the emperor himself in 335. He was
found guilty before a hostile court, and although the emperor reversed
the decision after speaking with Athanasius, he was later persuaded to
uphold the conviction and the bishop was exiled in 336 to Trier in

After Constnatine’s death Athanasius was recalled, only to be deposed
when Eusebius again denounced him to Constantius, the son of Constantine
ruling Alexandria. He spent seven years in exile in Rome, and was
vindicated by a synod there before Pope Julian I. He returned to
Alexandria in 345, after the death of the bishop who had replaced him,
to be grudgingly reinstated then almost immediately exiled again by
Constantius, who coerced Pope Liberius into acquiescence. Still firmly
anti-Arian, Athanasius lived in the countryside around Alexandria until
soldiers attacked his church one night and murdered many of his
congregation. Athanasius fled to the protection of the desert monks and
lived with them for six years, writing many of his most famous
theological works.

Finally, in 361, Constantius’ successor Julian the Apostate revoked all
orders of banishment, Athanasius returned to Alexandria, but had to flee
to the desert again when he came into conflict with Julian, who
propagated paganism. Julian was killed in 363 and Athanasius was
reinstated by his successor Jovian, but Jovian died after a tragically
short reign of eight months and Athanasius was once again forced to flee
when Emperor Valens exiled all orthodox bishops in 365. At last, four
months later, the order was revoked and Athanasius returned to spend the
rest of his life overseeing his church, preserving orthodoxy and
enjoying the relative tranquility after 17 years of fear and five
separate periods of exile. He died on 2 May 373.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V in 1568.

 ^ Doctor of the church

Ephraem (306- d. 373)

Ephraem left us
hundreds of hymns and poems on the faith that inflamed and inspired the
whole Church. Most historians think that Ephraem was born in the early
fourth century in Mesopotamia, possibly Nisibis where he spent most of
his adult life. He was born into a Christian family, although not
baptized until an adult age.

Ephraem served as teacher, and possibly deacon, under four bishops of Nisibis: Jacob,
Babu, Vologeses, and Abraham. According to tradition, Ephraem began to
write hymns in order to counteract the heresies that were rampant at
that time.

Sometime in 364 he settled as solitary ascetic on Mount Edessa, at Edessa (what is now
Urfa). Ephraem died in 373.He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

 ^ Doctor of the church

Hilary of Poitiers (c. 315 Poitiers – Poitiers c. 368)

Coming from a
background of wealthy, pagan parentage, Hilary’s early career followed a
non-spiritual bent. He trained as an orator and married as a young man,
producing a daughter named Afra. In his studying however, he found
himself led irresistibly to acknowledge the existence and providence of
God, and in 350 he converted to Christianity and was baptized. About
three years later, while his wife was still alive, he was appointed
bishop of Poitiers. He fearlessly championed Catholic orthodoxy against
the prevalent heresy of Arianism, refusing to attend the council
convened by emperor Constantius in 355 at which those present were
required to sign a condemnation of Athanasius. But Arian opposition was
influential; Hilary was condemned at the largely Arian synod of Béziers
in 356 and exiled to Phyrgia by Constantius in the same year.

Exile, however, did not silence the bishop. At the eastern council of Seleucia in 359
Hilary’s arguments against Arianism were so effective that the Arians
appealed to the emperor to end his exile and allow this troublemaker to
go back to Gaul. There was general rejoicing on his return to Poitiers
in 360, which was accompanied by reform and renewed stability.
Constantius’ death in 361 ended the political ascendancy of the Arians
and in 364 Hilary argued publicly and powerfully against the usurping
Arian bishop of Milan, Auxentius, although since his opponent had the
backing of emperor Valentinian, Hilary was unable to secure his

Most of his writings are directed to the end of refuting Ariansim by demonstrating
the divine nature of Christ, especially De Trinitate.

He was proclaimed
Doctor of the Church in 1851 by Pope Pius IX.

 ^ Doctor of the church

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315 Jerusalem – Jerusalem 386)

Born and brought up in Jerusalem, of well-to-do Christian parents, Cyril was ordained by
St. Maximus and placed in charge of catechumens, whom he taught for
several years. In Lent of 347 he delivered his 23 famous Catechesis,
succinct and memorable instruction for those about to receive baptism
or, after Easter, having just received it.

He was appointed bishop of Jerusalem in c. 351 after the death of Maximus and almost
immediately was obliged to defend his authority when Acacius, Arian
metropolitan of Caesarea, claimed precedence over him. The furious
Acacius called a council of bishops sympathetic to Arianism which
condemned Cyril for selling church property in order to provide for the
poor during a famine, and in c. 358, on the authority of the emperor,
Cyril was banished from Jerusalem and went to live in Tarsus. Cyril
spent 16 years of his 35-year episcopate in exile.

When Cyril returned to Jerusalem, he dedicated the rest of his episcopate to its
restoration. At the General Council of Constantinople in 381, Cyril
happily accepted the term Homoousios in the revised Nicene

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1882 by Pope Leo XIII.

^ Doctor of the church

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 330 Nazianzus – Nazianzus c. 389)

Son of two sainted parents, Bishop Gregory of Nazianzus and St. Nanna, Gregory was
born in Cappadocia and began his education there in Caesarea when he
first met St. Basil. He went on to the school of rhetoric in Caesarea,
Palestine, and then to study law at the University of Athens in the
company of Basil and Julian. His studies completed, Gregory abandoned
his legal career to become a monk. He joined Basil at his retreat on the
river Iris in Pontus, but in c. 361 he returned to Nazianzus to help his
father with the administration of his see. Despite his objections, he
was ordained as a priest by the old bishop.

In 380 Gregory was called to the bishopric of Constantinople after the death of Emperor
Valens. Persecution had left the Church vulnerable to Arian heresy, but
Gregory’s articulate preaching in the church restored sound doctrine. He
brought himself slander and vitriol from the Arians, but his preached
doctrine was confirmed as authentic at the Council of Constantinople in
381. He became archbishop of Constantinople but the hostility towards
him resurfaced and to preserve the peace Gregory resigned his post.

Back in Nazianzus, the see was again vacant and Gregory administered while a
successor was chosen. He spent the rest of his life in great austerity,
writing his famous poems and an autobiography. His impressive
theological writings, promoting Nicene orthodoxy especially in teaching
on the Trinity, won him the name “Theologian” during his life and
a place among the four great Eastern Doctors after his death.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1568 by Pius V.

 ^ Doctor of the church

Basil the great (c. 329 Caesarea – Caesarea 379)

Basil’s family was a wealthy, respected and an extraordinarily pious one: in addition
to Basil himself, his grandmother, parents and three siblings are all
venerated as saints. Basil was educated in the schools of Caesarea,
Constantinople and Athens, where he studied alongside Gregory of
Nazianzus and Julian, later the apostate Emperor. He taught rhetoric in
Caesarea for a while but soon followed his family in the religious life,
visiting monasteries in Spain, Egypt and Palestine, settling as a hermit
on the shores of the river Iris at Annesi, Pontus, in 358. He quickly
attracted a number of companions, including his friend Gregory, and
became the founder of the first monastery in Asia Minor, laying down the
principles on which orthodox monasticism has operated ever since.

Neither his ordination in 363 nor the invitation of Julian the Apostate to join him
at court tempted Basil to leave his community in Pontus, but when
Gregory appealed for help in his fight against Arianism in 365, he
responded promptly and took administrative responsibility in Caesarea
under Archbishop Eusebius whom he succeeded in 370, receiving authority
over 50 bishops in Pontus. Basil’s main conflict now was with Emperor
Valens in Byzantium, a notorious Arian much given to the persecution of
orthodox Christians.

Basil’s concerns did not end with the preservation of sound doctrine and the assertion of
spiritual temporal authority: he was much involved in work with the poor
and sick, active in the rehabilitation of thieves and prostitutes. He
emphasized the importance of preaching, drawing enormous crowds to his
own powerful sermons.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1568 by Pope Pius V.

Ambrose (c.339 Trier – Milan 397)

Ambrose senior was praetorian prefect of Gaul, and on his death his young son was taken
back to Rome to be educated. After distinguishing himself at his studies
in rhetoric and poetry, he became a lawyer renowned for his oratory
skills, and his success paved the way in c. 369 to a commission from the
emperor: governorship of Liguria and Aemilia. Based at the capital of
his province, Milan, he proved an industrious and popular ruler.

When the Arian bishop of Milan, Auxentius died in 374, turmoil broke out in the city as
Arians and Catholics vied to have their candidates elected his
successor. The confusion at the assembly in the cathedral was so great
that eventually Ambrose was obliged to step forward and try to pacify
the people. A voice from the crowd, traditionally that of a child, cried
out “Ambrose for bishop”, and the crowd unanimously took up the call.
Ambrose was horrified and protested vigorously; although a Christian
believer he had not even been officially baptized. But the people were
insistent, and Ambrose was forced to capitulate when the emperor
confirmed his appointment. A week later he had been baptized and
consecrated, and feeling strongly the lack of a formal, in-depth
religious education he launched into an intensive program of studying
the Bible and ancient Christian writers.

Ambrose lived simply, having given away most of his possessions, and he quickly became
known as a great preacher and defender of Orthodox Catholicism against

The politics and religion of the Roman Empire were both fundamentally affected when
Maximus ignored Ambrose’s advice and invaded Italy. Valentinian II fled
for protection and aid to Theodosius I, Emperor in the east, who took
the opportunity to defeat Maximus in battle, thereby restoring the young
emperor but becoming an effective ruler in the west himself. It was
Theodosius who finally convinced Valerian to renounce Arianism and to
recognize the authority of Ambrose, but he himself was to bow under
Ambrose’s reproof by doing public penance after his troops led a
horrific and indiscriminate massacre at Thessalonica in revenge for the
killing of a governor there in 390.

Ambrose and Theodosius came into conflict on numerous occasions, but both were noble
enough to recognize the greatness of the other. Theodosius complimented
the integrity and courage of his sparring partner by saying that Ambrose
was the only bishop known to him who was worthy of the name. When
Valentinian was murdered by Arbogastes in 393, Ambrose refused to
countenance this adventurer who was bent on overthrowing Christianity in
the empire; Theodosius’ victory over Arbogastes at Aquileia was
effectively the death blow for paganism. The victory came only a few
months before he died in the arms of Ambrose. At his funeral, it was Ambrose
who preached the oration over the Emperor who, despite his
faults, had rendered such service to the Christian faith.

Ambrose himself died only two years later, aged about 57, and his relics were translated
in 835 into his basilica in Milan where popular acclamation soon had him
venerated as a saint.

One of the best-loved bishops of the Church, Ambrose has also had an enormous
influence on the history of western Christianity, not least for his part
in the conversion of Augustine whom he baptized in 387. His emphasis on
the use of hymns for worship and doctrine has become a central precept
of the western Church. The present forms of the Ambrosian rite and the
Ambrosian chant, although traditionally ascribed to him, cannot be
proved with certainty to be his. He has a collection of sermons in
praise of virginity.

He was proclaimed
Doctor of the Church in 1295 by Pope Boniface VIII.

^ Doctor of the church

John Chrysostom (c. 347 antioch – pontus 407)

Fatherless as a baby, John was brought up as a Christian by his mother. He studied
oratory under the famous pagan rhetorician Libanius and theology under
Diodorus of Tarsus, was baptized as a young man and then abandoned a
promising legal career in c. 373 to live as an ascetic in a mountain
community near Antioch. The austere life ruined his health, and in 381
he returned to Antioch to be made deacon. Five years later he was
ordained as a priest by Bishop Flavian of Antioch, whom he served for
the next 12 years. His powerful sermons soon gained him the nickname
Chrysostom “the Golden-mouthed”
. His method was that of the
Antiochene School: he interpreted Scripture literally and sought to show
how it applied practically to contemporary life. In 398 he was appointed
patriarch of Constantinople, despite his objections, began
wholeheartedly to reform the Church of his day.

John’s primary concern was the misuse of wealth by the rich: in his reforms he made
huge personal donations to the poor, cutting back on clerical pomp and
extravagance, and funding missions to the East. He was outspoken too in
his condemnation of secular extravagance, and although beloved by many
he made many influential enemies.

He travelled to Armenia, where he wrote many extant letters describing his sufferings,
and was then moved on to Pontus where he died of exhaustion, treated
harshly by his captors. His body was returned to Constantinople 31 years
later, to be buried in the church of the Apostles there.

John’s sermons are remarkable for their ageless, practical tone. He is venerated as one
of the Greek Doctors of the Church in the West, and in the East as one
of the three Holy Hierarchs and Universal Teachers, and gave his name to
the revision of the Greek liturgy accomplished by the influence of
Constantinople. In art his emblem is a beehive, symbol of eloquence.

He was proclaimed
Doctor of the Church in 1568 by Pope Pius V.

^ Doctor of the church

Jerome (c. 341 Strido – Bethlehem 420)

Eusebios Hieronymus Sophronius was born in Dalmatia, and in his early years was
educated at home by his father and brought up as a Christian. Later he
went on to study under the famous pagan grammarian Donatus in Rome, and
became learned in rhetoric and classical literature. It was in Rome too
that he was baptized by Pope Liberius in c. 360. By now Jerome was in
the habit of making regular visits to the churches and catacombs of
Rome, and after some travelling through Italy and Gaul, in 370 he
decided to join a religious community at Aquileia, along with some
friends. This was a scholarly group led by Bishop Valerian. A few years
later there was a quarrel within the community: Jerome travelled east
and in 374 arrived in Antioch. He lived for five years as a hermit in
the Syrian Desert, prompted to this new austerity by a vision in which
he was judged by God as more Ciceronian than Christian. Accordingly he
learned Hebrew rather than his beloved classics, and also wrote a life
of Paul of Thebes, celebrating monasticism.

On his return to Antioch and against his wishes Jerome was ordained by Paulinus, but in
fact he never said a Mass. Further study, under Gregory of Nazianzus,
followed; he then translated Eusebius’s Chronicle into Latin from the
Greek and wrote a treatise on Isaiah’s vision, his first Scriptural

In 382 Jerome went to Rome to serve as interpreter to Paulinus who was aspiring to the
see of Antioch. He remained there as secretary to Pope Damascus I and
began the major task of revising the Latin version of the Bible to
create a standard text. Beginning with the Gospels and Psalms, Jerome
revised virtually the whole Bible to produce what became known by the 13th
century as the Vulgate version. Using his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek
to establish the meaning of the original text, Jerome drew on his
rhetorical and grammatical training to produce a Latin translation of
clarity and great readability based on the text of existing
translations. In addition he wrote several important commentaries on
Scripture, most notably that on Matthew’s Gospel.

Jerome died in Bethlehem and his body was buried at the Church of the Nativity. It was
later translated to the basilica of Saint Maria Maggiore in Rome.

He was proclaimed
Doctor of the Church in 1295 by Pope Boniface VIII.

^ Doctor of the church

Augustine (354 Tagaste – Hippo 430)

A native Roman of North Africa, Aurelius Augustinus was brought up as a Christian by his
mother, St Monica, although his father Patricius was a pagan Roman
officer. At the age of 16 he left for Carthage to study rhetoric, hoping
to become a lawyer, but then abandoned law to devote himself to
literature. It was at this time that he abandoned his Christianity and
took a mistress. They lived together for 15 years and in 372 she bore
him a son, Adeonatus.

Meanwhile Augustine’s intellectual interests were developing as, inspired by
reading Cicero’s Hortensius (now lost), he became interested in
philosophical thought; he studied Plato and soon moved on to
Manichaeism, the  doctrine that everything springs from the opposing
principles of light and darkness. Much of his energy throughout his life
was spent grappling with the problem of the existence of evil. He taught
for some time in Carthage and Tagaste, and in 383 he moved to Rome to
teach rhetoric. The next year he was appointed to the chair of rhetoric
in Milan, but by now the appeal of secular philosophy was beginning to
pall; after an unsatisfactory interview with a celebrated Manichaean
bishop called Faustus, Augustine was becoming disillusioned with the
theories of life which he had studied so hard.

In Milan Augustine met Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, who introduced him to
Christian Neoplatonism and whose preaching forced him to reconsider his
lost faith. For a while he battled between the desire for worldly
happiness and success and the call to a holy life. The spiritual
conflict is revealed in all its anguish in his Confessions,
finally however, after reading a Bible passage from Romans in his garden
one evening, he experienced a firm spiritual certainty and turned back
to God. He was baptized on the day before Easter in 387, along with a
friend Alipius and his son Adeonatus.

Later that year, he returned to Africa where he founded a community, organized along
semi-monastic lines, based on prayer and study, while allowing for
lively discussion. His reputation spread beyond the community, and in
391 on a visit to hear Bishop Valerius speak in Hippo he was seized by
the people and forcibly offered up for ordination. Valerius ordained him
as priest and encouraged him to preach in the cathedral, an unusual
privilege, but allowed him to keep the monastic lifestyle he loved. He
succeeded bishop Valerius to the full bishopric, which he held for the
rest of his life.

Augustine wrote a vast number of letters, sermons, treaties and devotional works, many of
which still survive. Augustine died at Hippo. His cult quickly gained
popularity; his relics were taken to Sardinia and later enshrined at
Pavia, and his feast was celebrated universally.

He was proclaimed
Doctor of the Church in 1295 by Pope Boniface VIII.

^ Doctor of the church

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376 Alexandria – Alexandria 444)

Little is known of Cyril’s early life beyond the fact that he was nephew of Theophilus of Alexandria, took part in the deposition
of St John Chrysostom as a young priest, and on his uncle’s death in 412 succeeded him as archbishop of Alexandria.

Although he used his authority to battle for Orthodoxy, he appears to have acted insensitively and over-hastily on some occasions.
He closed down the churches of the Novatians, attacked the Neoplatonists and in 415 expelled all Jews from the city.

Cyril’s claim to sanctity rests in his spirited and uncompromising defense of the unity of Christ’s person, against the heresy of
Nestorius who claimed that Christ contained within himself two distinct natures, human and divine. The Council of Ephesus was convened (431).
Cyril presided and denounced Nestorius, whose doctrine was condemned by all those present, influenced no doubt by the theological and rhetorical skill of Cyril himself.

From then until his death Cyril applied himself to theological and doctrinal writings, clarifying issues such as the
Incarnation and the Trinity, which were to prove invaluable in the Church as a means of resisting heresy. He wrote
also commentaries on the Pentateuch, Mark and Luke, several sermons and letters.
He was declared Doctor of the Church in 1882 by Pope Leo XIII.

^ Doctor of the church

Peter Chrysologous (400 – 450)

Peter Chrysologous was born at Imola, Italy in 406. Peter merited being called “Chrysologous”
(golden-worded) from his exceptional oratorical eloquence. In 433, Pope Sixtus III consecrated
him bishop of Ravenna. He ruled his flock with utmost diligence and care. He extirpated the last
vestiges of paganism and other abuses that had sprouted among his people, cautioning them especially
against indecent dancing. He died at Imola in 450 and was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1729 by
Benedict XIII largely as a result of his simple, practical, and clear sermons.

^ Doctor of the church

Leo the great (c. 390 Rome – Rome 461)

Nothing is known of Leo’s early years, although it is thought that he was born in Tuscany
or of Tuscan parents in Rome. We first hear of him as a deacon under Popes Celestine I and Sixtus III.
He was called to act as peacemaker between Aetius and Albinus, quarrelling generals whose enmity was
laying Gaul open to barbarian attacks, and it was while he was still in Gaul that Leo learnt that he had
been appointed Pope. After his consecration on 29 September 440, he began his Pontificate by giving a
series of 76 sermons which still survive, dealing with faith and charity and opposing various prevalent

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, convened to settle a doctrinal issue on the nature of Christ,
Leo produced his Tome, a concise statement of the Incarnation which was well received at the time and
which has served to clarify the doctrine for the Church ever since. However, the council also ruled that
the see of Constantinople be elevated above those of Alexandria and Antioch, a move which threatened the
supremacy of Rome, and one which Leo strongly opposed.

The next year Rome was attacked by the Huns under Attila, and it seemed that defenseless Rome would
inevitably fall, but Leo secured a personal interview with Attila and persuaded him to accept tribute
rather than plunder the city. He had less luck three years later with Genseric, leader of the Vandals:
despite Leo’s intercession Rome was sacked and looted for a fortnight. In a time of political upheaval,
with as many failures as successes, Leo’s insistence on the centrality of Rome, combined with an exemplary
personal holiness and fortitude, provided model for the papacy throughout the coming centuries.

Leo died in Rome on 10 November, and was buried at St. Peter’s where his relics were enshrined on 28 June 688.
He was declared Doctor of the Church in 1754 by Pope Benedict XIV.

^ Doctor of the church

Gregory the great (c. 540 Rome – Rome 604)

Son of the Senator Gordianus, Gregory was a model Roman citizen who became prefect of the city in his youth.
In 573 however he sold his extensive assets of property to enable him to find a monastery in Rome and several others in Sicily, with enough remaining to make generous alms to the poor, and the following year he resigned from service of the state to enroll at St Andrew’s, the monastery he had founded on Rome’s Celian hill. He lived several years in the monastery before being appointed one of Rome’s seven deacons by Pope Benedict I, and the next Pope Pelagius II, summoned him to the Byzantine court to act as papal nuncio. After six years, in which he impressed many by the quality of his service, he returned to St
Andrew’s in 586, becoming abbot there.

Gregory was consecrated Pope on September 3, 590, the first monk ever to become a Pope. His pontificate was to be a troubled but remarkable one. As well as the famine devastation wreaked in Rome by the plague, he had to face floods, famine, an invasion by the Lombards and massive corruption and incompetence within the Church. He recognized the need for the Church to be independent from the interference and domination of the Byzantine court which he mistrusted in ecclesiastical affairs. He was the first to use the title

In addition to his English letters, Gregory wrote widely and authoritatively on many other subjects. He committed himself to teaching the wisdom of the ancient fathers to new converts and to establishing sound doctrine and proper pastoral care among the clergy. His two Dialogues, collections of miraculous occurrences, were hugely influential in the formation of popular medieval religious thought. His many letters reveal him to be a thoughtful and untiring leader, who concerned himself with every aspect of both Church and state. His authorship of the Gregorian Sacramentary is disputed, but it seems likely that he wrote at least some of its prayers, and he was influential too in the development of plainsong, developing several old forms and giving his name to Gregorian chant. The legend that he once freed the soul of a monk from Purgatory by saying 30 consecutive masses gave rise to the Gregorian trental, still in use today. He is frequently shown with a dove at his ear or speaking into his mouth, recalling his belief that the Holy Spirit would often make theological points clear to him while he was actually speaking. Often shown alongside the other Doctors of the Church, Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome, he is differentiated from them by his papal tiara.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1295 by Pope Boniface VIII.

^ Doctor of the church

Isidore of Seville (c. 560 Seville – Seville 636)

Isidore’s noble Cartagenian family was blessed with an extraordinary number of saints: his siblings Leander, Fulgentius and Florentian are all venerated. It was under his elder brother Leander that the young Isidore mainly acquired his education, developing a monastic and learned turn of thought that would serve him well in later clerical life.

In c. 600 Isidore succeeded Leander as bishop of Seville, and he ruled the see for the next 36 years. Among his priorities was the completion of his brother’s work of converting the Arian Visigoths, also the more effective organization of the Spanish Church by means of synods and councils. The most famous of these, presided over by Isidore himself, were those of Seville in 619 and Toledo in 633, at which the canons which were to form the basis of Spain’s constitutional law were laid down. One major result of these councils was the decree which ordered the foundation of a school in every diocese, connected to the Cathedral.
Isidore also encouraged the development of monasticism in Spain, and was renowned for his austerity and his charity to the poor. He died at Seville on 4 April 636.

Isidore is best known for his writings, in particular the Etymologiae, an encyclopedia of knowledge drawn from many fields. He also wrote several biographies, treaties of theology and astronomy, monastic rules and a summary of orthodox doctrine. He performed an invaluable service to the Church and to history by compiling a list of earlier church laws and decrees previously passed by ecclesiastical councils.
Isidore completed also the Mozarabic liturgy begun by his brother.

Isidore was canonized in 1598, and he was declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1722.

^ Doctor of the church

John of damascus (676 – 787)

The only extant life of the Saint is that by John, Patriarch of Jerusalem, which dates from the 10th century. He seems to have enjoyed the esteem of his Saracene countrymen, and discharged the duties of chief financial officer of the Caliph, Abdul Malek.

On the death of his father, John damascene was made protosymbulus, or chief councilor, of Damascus. It was during his incumbency of this office that the Church in the East began to be agitated by the first mutterings of the Iconoclast heresy. In 726, despite the protests of Germanus, Patriarch of Constaninople, Leo the Isaurian issued his first edict against the veneration of images. John Damascene immediately entered the lists against him, in defence of this ancient usage of the Christians. Not only did he himself oppose the Byzantine monarch, but he also stirred the people to resistance. In 730 the Isaurian issued a second edict, in which he not only forbade the veneration of images, but even inhibited their exhibition in public places. To this royal decree the Damascene replied with even greater vigor than before.

In 754 the pseudo-Synod of Constantinople, convened at the command of Constantine Copronymus, the successor of Leo, confirmed the principles of the Iconoclasts and anathematised by name those who had conspicuously opposed them. John Damascene was called “Wronger of Jesus Christ”,
“Bad interpreter of Scriptures”…But the 7th Council of Nicea (787) made ample amends for the
insults of his enemies.

John Damascene was the last of the Greek Fathers. The most important and best known of
all his works is that to which the author himself gave the name of “Fountain of Wisdom”.
He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1890 by Pope Leo XIII.

^ Doctor of the church

Bede the venerable (673 Northumberland – Jarrow 735)

Our information about Bede comes almost entirely from a short autobiographical entry at the end of the Historia Ecclesiastica and from the account of his death by the monk Cuthbert. He was sent as a young child to be educated at the monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow, where he studied under St Benedict Biscop and St Cleolfrith. He enrolled as a monk at Jarrow in 682 and was to spend the rest of his life there, travelling very little and little concerned with affairs of state or indeed any affairs beyond the churches and monasteries of Northumbria. He was a model brother, whose self-discipline, devotion and application were as notable as his scholarly achievements.

He was ordained in c. 703 by St John of Beverly: “Venerable” was a title commonly given to priests in the day and since monks were seldom ordained it became attached to Bede’s name as a distinguishing feature. It was a tribute to the saint’s great learning, and was formally approved in 853 at the Council of Aachen.

Within the confines of his monastery, Bede’s love of study and writing flourished and brought forth a remarkable literary harvest. He completed 25 works of biblical commentary, which he regarded as his most important work, several lives of the saints, scientific and theological treaties including a theory of music and several hymns, and works of orthography and chronology. It is as a historian however that he is best remembered; his Historia Ecclesiastica,
finished in 731, gives an account of the development of Christianity in England until Bede’s day and is the single most valuable source for the history of the period, written in a highly readable style. In it Bede demonstrates a remarkably responsible historical approach, citing authorities and presenting, comparing and evaluating evidence, although it is inevitably limited as a historical document in some ways. Bede was also the first to use the convention “AD”, signifying anno Domini.
He was declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1899.

^ Doctor of the church

Anselm (c. 1033 Aosta – Canterbury 1109)

Anselm’s first attempt to join a monastery at the age of 13 was foiled by his father, a nobleman of Lombardy. He left home in 1056 to study in Burgundy, living with his mother’s family there. Hearing of the reputation of the monastery at Bec and of its friar Lanfranc, Anselm moved to Normandy and befriended the famous teacher, enrolling in his monastery in 1060. Here he studied Augustine and wrote many philosophical and theological works, including his famous ontological proof for the existence of God, becoming prior three years later when Lanfranc left for Caen. In 1093 he was elected archbishop of Canterbury to succeed Lanfranc. Anselm’s insistence on the pre-eminence of spiritual authority soon brought him into conflict with the more worldly rule of William II, and in 1097 Anselm was exiled to Rome where he sought and obtained the full support of Pope Urban II. In exile he wrote his famous treatise on the Incarnation, Cur Deus Homo, and spoke convincingly at the Council of Bari on the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son (Filioque), a contemporary theological contention.

When William died in 1100 Anselm returned to England, but soon conflicted with the new king, Henry I, opposing the investiture of laymen. Once again he was exiled to Rome in 1103, where Pope Paschal II worked out the terms of a compromise between the two intractable men by which the Church retained spiritual authority in investiture while the king enjoyed the right of selection.

Anselm’s prime concerns were the supremacy of ecclesiastical and spiritual authority, and the
theological theory of scholasticism. This emphasized the harmonizing of faith and reason, working on the principles of Aristotle. His celebrated ontological argument is found in his Proslogion of 1078, and has remained a significant element in theological and philosophical debate on the existence of God ever since.

He was declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Clement XI in 1720.

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Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 Fontaines – Clairvaux 1153)

The son of a nobleman of Burgundy, Bernard was born in the family castle near Dijon and educated in Chatillon-sur-Seine. As a young man he was known for his wit and charm, living a brilliant but dissipated life, but in 1113 he joined the original Cistercian monastery at Citeaux, along with four of his brothers and 27 other companions whom he persuaded to join him. The recently founded order was floundering, but this large novitiate revived it, and in 1115 Citeaux sent out Bernard as abbot with 12 other monks to form a daughter house at Langres. Its name was changed from Vallée d’Absinthe to Clairvaux.

Bernard’s works proved to be a huge influence on medieval spirituality. His treatise on the love of God and his sermons on the Song of songs have remained classic works. His popular name “Doctor Mellifluous,” reflects the sweet, affective nature of his teaching.

He was declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius VIII in 1830.

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Anthony of Padua (1195 Lisbon – Arcella 1231)

Son of a Portuguese knight, Anthony grew up in Lisbon and was educated at the cathedral there. At 15 he enrolled with the nearby Canons Regular of St. Augustine but left after only two years to finish his studies at Coimbra. After ordination in c. 1220 he joined the Franciscans, wanting to emulate their martyrs in North Africa, and took the name of Anthony in honor of the Egyptian saint. But illness compelled him to quit Marocco and the evangelizing of the Moors, and on the voyage back his ship was driven off course to Messina, Sicily. He travelled from there to Assisi, where the Franciscan General Chapter of 1221 was taking place.

At the end of the Chapter, Anthony was assigned to the small hermitage of San Paolo near Forli, and his enormous talent was first discovered when he was called on unexpectedly to speak at an ordination in Forli. Amazed by the power of his preaching, his provincial minister appointed him the first lector in theology of the Franciscans and commissioned him to preach throughout Italy. Thousands flocked to hear this short man denouncing sin and heresy with his resounding voice, crowds broke down in penitence, churches were too small to contain the hordes and he was obliged to speak in market-places, when the townsfolk would frequently close up their businesses to go and hear him.

He was recalled after the death of St. Francis to take on the position of minister provincial in Emilia or Romagna, and at the Chapter General in 1226 he was elected envoy to bring before Pope Gregory IX for settlement the questions that had arisen in the assembly. Anthony took the opportunity to secure the Pope’s permission to lay down his office and devote himself to preaching, primarily in Padua. Here he energetically denounced all social and moral wrong until in 1231 he became very ill.

He died at a Poor Clare convent on the outskirts of Padua, aged only 36, was canonized within the year and in 1946 was declared Doctor of the Church by Pius XII. His shrine at Padua is notorious for miracles, and he is frequently known as “the wonder-worker”, especially as the patron saint of lost objects; one legend tells how a novice who secretly borrowed his Psalter returned it in terror after a warning apparition. The 19th century devotion “St. Anthony bread”, alms given to the poor and hungry, reflects his social concern and exists as a fund today.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.

^ Doctor of the church

Albert the great (c. 1200 Lauingen – Cologne 1280)

Albertus’ titles of “great” and “universal” both refer to the phenomenal extent of his learning, he spoke so authoritatively on so many subjects that he was sometimes accused of magic by his bewildered contemporaries.

He was born in Swabia, the eldest son of the Count of Bollstädt, but while studying at the University of Padua in 1223 he overthrew his family’s objections, rejected his inheritance and joined the recently-founded Dominican order. The next few years were spent teaching theology, mainly in Cologne where he tutored Thomas Aquinas, and he quickly became known and respected for his erudition and understanding. Both were pioneers of the scholastic methods of learning, applying the principles of Aristotle to theology and insisting on the separateness and individual value of faith and reason.

Albertus left an immense legacy: 38 volumes filled with his thoughts and learning on a vast variety of subjects, and an enduring tradition of philosophical analysis

Albertus was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931.

^ Doctor of the church

Bonaventure (1221 Bagnoregio – Lyons 1274)

Legend has it that Giovanni di Fidanza, born near Orvieto in Tuscany to a noble physician father, received the name Bonaventure from St Francis of Assisi himself, who had miraculously cured him as a young child.

Bonaventure enrolled with the Franciscans in 1243 and quickly became known as one of their most promising novices. He was sent to study at university in Paris and went on to become Master of the Franciscan school there in 1253. A contemporary of Thomas Aquinas, his theology owed rather less to Aristotle and emphasized the affective aspect of faith over the purely rational; the two received their doctorate in theology together in 1257. Both two were involved in defending the mendicant monastic orders against their critics; largely thanks to Bonaventure’s treatise On the Poverty of Christ the mendicant orders received the approbation of Pope Alexander IV in 1256.

Aged only 36, Bonaventure was appointed minister-general of the Franciscans. This was a time of crisis for the order, which was suffering from poor organization and internal divisions; by his brilliant administration and moderate approach achieved such lasting success that he is known as the order’s second founder. He was appointed cardinal bishop of Albano by Pope Gregory X in 1273. He was directed by Gregory X to draw up the agenda for the 14th General Council of Lyons and played a prominent part there in securing the reunion of the Latin and Greek Churches. He preached at the mass of reconciliation, but died soon afterwards on 15 July.

Bonaventure’s intellectual legacy is impressive: his life of St Francis was the official biography of the Order and he also wrote many treatises including his famous commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences, important spiritual works such as the Breviloquium and the Itinerarium mentis ad deum, biblical commentary and hundreds of sermons.
He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Sixtus V in 1587.

^ Doctor of the church

Thomas Aquinas (1225 Roccasecca – Fossanuova 1274)

Born near Aquino in his family’s castle in Lombardy, Thomas was educated by the Benedictine monks at Monte-Cassino. In about 1239 he went on the University of Naples, where he was greatly impressed by the Dominican friars. He enrolled in the Dominican order in 1244 but his family was aghast because the Dominicans were a mendicant order, and they imprisoned him at Roccasecca for over a year to save the family honor. Thomas, however, rejoined the order in 1245 and left for further studies in Paris for three years.

In 1248 he accompanied his master Albertus Magnus to Cologne and was ordained there two years later before returning to Paris to teach. From there he wrote a defence to the mendicant order in answer to William of Saint-Amour, commentaries on Aristotle and Peter Lombard’s Sentences and some biblical works. After gaining his doctorate and teaching in several Italian cities he returned to Paris for three years in 1269, recalled by king and university alike. But in 1272 Naples demanded him back, appointing him regent of studies. It was at Naples on 6 December 1273 that he experienced a divine revelation so wonderful that he left his great Summa Theologica incomplete, saying that all his writings were like so much straw compared to the glory which had been shown to him. He died on 7 March travelling to the Council of Lyons.

His legacy of theological, philosophical and doctrinal works, most of them dictated to secretaries, is an awesome achievement. The most important work was the Summa Theologica, begun in about 1266 during his years in Italy but never completed. This five-volume document earned Aquinas the title of “universal teacher”; it is a systematic exposition which forms the basis of Catholic doctrine even today, and its authority and comprehensive scope have never been surpassed. Similarly influential was his Summa contra Gentiles, a treatise on God and the creation. He also wrote several hymns still used by the Church and a variety of treatise and commentaries.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V in 1567.

^ Doctor of the church

Catherine of Siena (1347 Siena – Rome 1380)

Giacomo Benincasa, a dyer of Siena, had 25 children, of whom Catherine was the youngest, a high-spirited and good-looking girl much given to penitential prayer who steadfastly refused her parents’ entreaties to marry. At the age of 16 she became a Dominican tertiary, living at home but spending much time in prayer and solitude. It was now that she first experienced visions, divine ones of Christ and his saints, and diabolical ones in periods of spiritual aridity.

After this preparative time she began work in a hospital, nursing patients with advanced cancer and leprosy. She gradually attracted a group of disciples.

Catherine and her disciples travelled widely, calling their listeners to respond to the love of God with repentance, reform and commitment and they are credited with several dramatic conversions. In an attempt to further communicate her ideals Catherine dictated her mystical Dialogue and several other devotional works and letters addressed to people of every social rank.

In 1375, the year in which she is said to have received the stigmata in ecstasy, Catherine entered the world of public affairs. She prevailed upon Pope Gregory XI to return his court from Avignon to Rome in 1375.

She was named patron saint of Italy in 1939 and proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

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Teresa of Ávila (1515 Ávila – Alba de Tormes 1582)

The daughter of aristocratic Castilian parents, Teresa exhibited a lively and pious disposition from an early age. On the death of her mother in c. 1529 she was sent to be educated by Augustinian nuns in Ávila but was obliged to quit the convent after three years because of her poor health. It was while she was convalescing that Teresa first read the letter of Jerome, which inspired her to take the veil herself, and despite initial opposition from her father she entered the Carmelite house in Ávila, the Convent of the Incarnation, in 1533. After only a year her health failed again she was forced to retire temporarily, but after recuperating with her family she returned to the convent in 1540.

The Carmelite convent of Ávila was not known for its asceticism; its many members were able to socialize freely with the townsfolk and they were allowed to retain personal possessions. Troubled by this easygoing atmosphere Teresa began the discipline of mental prayer, becoming gradually more spiritually-minded until in 1555 she began to experience ecstasies and visions and to hear voices. Much worried by these mystical experiences at first, and facing widespread misunderstanding and suspicion from the less ascetic members of her continuity, Teresa was greatly supported by St Peter of Alcantra who convinced her of the value and authenticity of her visions.

During Middle-age, Teresa resolved to found a religious house which would adhere more strictly to the original Carmelite rule, distressed by the laxity of life within her unreformed convent. Encouraged by Peter and others she secured papal approval for her new foundation in 1562. The first community of Discalced (barefoot) Carmelite nuns was St Joseph’s at Ávila, distinguished by the unreformed movement by the personal poverty of the nuns, the enclosed and disciplined spiritual life, and a regime of simple manual work that made the convent practically self-sufficient. In 1568 she helped St John of the Cross to found the first community of reformed Carmelite friars at Duruelo.

The Discalced Carmelites, both male and female houses, faced much opposition from their unreformed counterparts. The squabbling was ended only in 1579, when Pope Gregory XIII named the Discalced Reform as a separate and distinct association. It was during these troubled years that Teresa wrote her famous letters and books, most notably her own life in 1565, the Way of perfection written for nuns in 1573 and the Interior Castle in 1577, a classic work on contemplative prayer.

It was on October 4 that Teresa died and was buried at Alba de Tormes. She was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

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Peter Canisius (1521 – 1597)

Peter was born in the Netherlands. In 1536 Peter was sent to Cologne, where he studied arts, civil law, and theology at the university: he spent a part of 1539 at the University of Louvain, and in 1540 received the degree of Master of Arts at Cologne. He was admitted into the Society of Jesus in 1543. Canisius founded at Cologne the first German house of the order; at the same time he preached in the city and vicinity, and debated and taught in the university. In 1559 he opened a college in Munich; in 1562 he appeared at Trent as papal theologian.

During his lifetime his “Catechism” appeared in more than 200 editions in at least 12 languages. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.

^ Doctor of the church

John of the cross (1542 Fontiveros – Ubeda 1591)

Juan de Yepes y Alvarez was born on 24 June in Spanish Old Castle into an impoverished noble family. His father died while he was a child, and his mother moved with John to Medina del Campo, where he attended the catechism school. John was early apprenticed to the silk-making trade, but soon abandoned it to study at the Jesuit College in Medina. In 1563, he enrolled with the Carmelite order in the town and went on to study theology in Salamanca before being ordained as priest in 1567.

By now John was considering a move to the Carthusian order, seeking more complete and prayerful solitude. On a visit back to Melina he met Teresa of Ávila, who persuaded him instead to join her reform movement within the Carmelite order. Teresa had already founded the discalced Reform for nuns, and in 1586 John and four other friars founded the first men’s community at Duruelo. It was then that he took the name “John of the Cross”. In 1571 he was appointed rector of the new house of studies at Alcala, and in 1572 began a five-year service as confessor and spiritual director of the nuns of Ávila.

Discalced groups of the order reached such a height that in 1577 John was arrested and imprisoned at Toledo. The conditions in prison were harsh, yet he wrote some of his finest poems here, including “Noche obscura del alma” (Dark night of the Soul). After nine months he escaped and soon afterwards the Discalced were formally reorganized as distinct from the Calceds and were granted a separate province.

His mystical works such as the Spiritual Canticle, are among the most renowned in Christian literature, combining a profound poetic sensitivity and vision with a searching intellect and a well-developed theology.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1926.

^ Doctor of the church

Robert Bellarmine (1542 Montepulciano – Rome 1621)

Born near Siena on 4 October, Roberto Francis Romulus Bellarmine, known for his prowess in literature, music and rhetoric as a youth, enrolled with the Jesuit order at 18, against the wishes of his father. He spent some years teaching classics in Piedmont and Florence and studying theology in Padua and Louvain. In 1570 he was ordained at Ghent, and elected to the chair of theology at Louvain, where he promoted the study of Hebrew, paving the way for a full revision of the Vulgate, and lectured on the Summa theological of Aquinas, attacking the teachings of Baius. He gained a reputation as a brilliant theologian and preacher, and in 1576 was appointed professor of controversial theology at the new Roman College.

Over the next 11 years Bellarmine drafted his great work Disputations on the Controversies of the Christian Faith. It was an answer to the Protestant Centuries of Magdeburg, so well argued and displaying such a command of Scripture and Protestant theology that it was often assumed to be a work of a committee.

In 1592 he became rector of the Roman College and two years later was appointed provincial of Naples. In 1597 he became theologian to Pope Clemens VIII and produced two Catechisms which remained in use until recently. He was appointed cardinal in 1599.

He was appointed archbishop of Capua in 1602, but three years later he was recalled to Rome by the new Pope Paul V to act as chief spokesman of the Catholic Church against the attacks of the Protestants.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931.

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Lawrence of Brindisi (Brindisi 1559 – LISBON 1619)

Lawrence’s parents were excellent Christians. Lorenzo gave early evidence of a religious vocation. The Conventuals of Brindisi were entrusted with his education. When he was twelve years of age his father died. He then pursued his studies at Venice. In 1575 he was received into the Order of Capuchins under the name of brother Lorenzo, and after his profession, made his philosophical and theological studies at the University of Padua. It was said he knew the entire original text of the Bible. When still a deacon he preached the Lenten sermons in Venice, and his success was so great that he was called successively to all the principal cities of the peninsula. Subsequently, thanks to his numerous journeys, he was enabled to evangelize, at different periods, most of the countries of Europe.
It was on the occasion of the foundation of the convent of Prague (1601) that Lorenzo was named chaplain of the Imperial army, then about to march against the Turks. Lorenzo communicated to the entire army in a glowing speech. The battle was fought and the Christian army was victorious.
In the practice of religious virtues Lorenzo equals the greatest saints. He had to a high degree the gift of contemplation, and very rarely celebrated the Holy Mass without falling in ecstasies. After the Holy Sacrifice, his great devotion was the Rosary and the Office of the Blessed Virgin. He died at Lisbon in 1619.
He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1959 by Pope John XXIII.

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Francis of Sales (1567 Thorens – Lyons 1622)

The eldest son of the Seigneur de Nouvelles, Francis was born in the family castle in Savoy on 21 August and christened Francis Bonaventure. He was privately educated in Annecy, then at Clermont, a Jesuit college in Paris. In 1588 he went on to study rhetoric, philosophy and theology at the University of Padua, where he became a doctor of law in 1591. Francis decided to become a priest, and despite strong opposition from his family he was ordained in 1593 and became provost of Geneva. His first mission as a priest was in the Chablais, attempting to convert the strongly Calvinistic people there back to Catholicism. He was frequently under attack and in physical danger, but by patient, compassionate preaching he succeeded in making many new converts and restoring many lapsed Catholics to their original faith.
In 1599 he was appointed coadjutor to the bishop of Geneva, and, despite his initial reluctance, succeeded to the see in 1602. As a bishop he was a leading figure in the Counter-Reformation movement, famed for his simple, straightforward preaching, his administrative prowess and his untiring intellect. Francis involved himself personally with the teaching of catechisms, and he also founded many excellent schools. It was during this excellent time that he befriended Jane Frances de Chantal, a widow; he became her spiritual advisor and, guided by him, she founded the Order of the Visitation in 1610, usually known as the Visitandines.
It was in a Visitandine convent in Lyons that Francis died 12 years later on 28 December.
Two of his works are still very popular today: his Treatise on the Law of God and Introduction to the devout life.
He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871.

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Alfonso Maria De Liguori (1696 Marianelli – Nocera 1787)

The young Alfonso, whose father was a nobleman from Naples, distinguished himself at University there, gaining a doctorate in both civil and canon law at the age of only 16. From this promising beginning he went on to practice successfully at the bar in Naples for eight years, renowned for his eloquence. Alfonso became a priest in 1726.

In 1731 Alfonso reorganized the convent of Sister Mary Celeste of Scala in line with her visions, which he acknowledged as genuine, thus founding the Redemptines. His more famous foundation however was the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Ligorians or Redemptorists), which from its inception was fraught with difficulties. In 1743 Alfonso officially became superior and the male and female orders were formally approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749 and 1750 respectively.

Alfonso wrote several influential books of devotion, history and theology, of which the most famous is his Moral theology.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871.

^ Doctor of the church

Thérèse De Lisieux (1873 Alencon – Lisieux 1897)

Marie Francoise Martin was the youngest daughter of the watchmaker Louis Martin and his wife Zélie Guérin who died when Thérèse was only four or five years old. She was brought up in a pious middle-class milieu, and when the family moved to Lisieux in 1877 was cared for by her aunt and her older sisters and educated by Benedictine nuns. Five of the sisters were eventually to join the Carmelite convent at Lisieux. Although the youngest, Thérèse was the third to enroll, at the age of only 15, taking the name of Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

For the next nine years Thérèse lived quietly at the convent, serving for a time as assistant to the mistress of novices. Her aim was a simple, unselfconscious obedience, her “little way” as she called it. Her tranquility was disturbed when her father suffered two paralytic strokes and was subsequently confined to an asylum, where he lived for three years. Thérèse referred to this time as his “martyrdom”.

In 1895 Thérèse suffered a hemorrhage; it was the first symptom of tuberculosis. Her condition swiftly worsened and she died at the age of 24, after silently and patiently suffering enormous pain. It is probable that nothing would have been known of this self-effacing nun had she not written, under obedience to Mother Agnes (her sister Pauline), a short spiritual biography.

After her death this biography was edited by her sisters and published as “HISTOIRE D’UNE AME”, the story of a soul. The sweetness and simplicity of this small book charmed readers in every language into which it was translated, and suddenly the young unknown nun was accredited with interceding in innumerable miracles, attracting almost universal veneration. A great part of her popularity was her very simplicity; Thérèse had demonstrated that one need not accomplish great deeds or possess enormous talent to attain sanctity.

In 1925 she was canonized by Pius XI and a large church was built in Lisieux for the hordes of pilgrims visiting her shrine there. She was named patron of missions (along with Francis Xavier) in 1927, and in 1944 was declared joint patron of France with Joan of Arc. Thérèse said that after her death she would let fall “a shower of roses”, meaning the favours she would work by intercession. Her feast-day is on October 1. She was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

^ Doctor of the church


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