Apostolic preacher of Andalusia and author, b. at Almodóvar del Campo, a small town in the diocese of Toledo, Spain, 6 January, 1500; d. at Montilla, 10 May, 1569. At the age of fourteen he was sent to the University of Salamanca to study law. Conceiving a distaste for jurisprudence he returned after a year to his father's home, where he spent the next three years in the practice of most austere piety. His wonderful sanctity impressed a Franciscan journeying through Almodóvar, and at the friar's advice he took up the study of philosophy and theology at Alcalá, where he was fortunate to have as his teacher the famous Dominican De Soto. His parents died while he was a student 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 made preparation to go to Mexico in America. While awaiting, at Seville in 1527, a favorable opportunity to start for his new field of labour, his extraordinary devotion in celebrating Mass attracted the attention of Hernando de Contreras, a priest of Seville, who reported his observations to the archbishop and general inquisitor, Don Alphonso Manrique. The archbishop saw in the young missionary a powerful instrument to stir up the faith of Andalusia, and after considerable persuasion Blessed John was induced to abandon his journey to America. His first sermon was preached on 22 July, 1529, and immediately his reputation was established; crowds thronged the churches at all his sermons. His success, however, brought with it the hatred of a certain class, and while living 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 speedily 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. His appearance was a cause of public rejoicing. He began his career as apostolic preacher of Andalusia at the age of thirty. After nine years in that province 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 results of the hardships of his apostolate of forty years. He was declared Venerable by Clement XIII, 8 Feb., 1799, and beatified by Leo XIII, 12 Nov., 1893.
Among the disciples drawn to him by his preaching and saintly reputation may be named St. Theresa, St. John of God, St. Francis Borgia, and Ven. Louis of Granada. The spread of the Jesuits in Spain is attributed to his friendship for that body. Blessed John of Avila's works were collected at Madrid in 1618, 1757, 1792, 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 Ratisbon 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, London, 1904) to his disciples.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online