Thursday, 1 September 2011

St. John of Avila

St. John of Avila, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011

During World Youth Day in Madrid in August, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI declared that he will give the high honour of Doctor of the Church to St John of Avila. He is not to be confused with St John of the Cross who was named a Doctor of the Church in 1926, although the two did know each other.

Now, let me introduce you to St. John of Avila -- our newest doctor of the Church.  Please forgive me for writing at such length about St. John of Avila; however, with all the information suddenly available, just be thankful that I didn't write even more!  If you do want more information, go to

Saint John of Ávila was born in Almodóvar del Campo of a wealthy and pious family of Jewish converso descent. 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 de Henares, 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.

As a priest, he desired to go to Mexico as a missionary, but this plan was frustrated because of his Jewish ancestry. No “New Christian” was allowed by law to “pass to the Indies”. John of Avila dedicated himself therefore to his priestly ministry in southern Spain: teaching Catechism to both children and adults, passing long hours in the confessional, preaching, directing many souls to a greater sanctity of life through the exercise of mental prayer, meditation and recollection.

But there were those driven, no doubt, by jealousy, who denounced him to the Inquisition on the false grounds that his teaching was like that of the Protestants of the north. He was therefore, arrested and passed almost a year in the prison of the Inquisition. He bore his unjust imprisonment with great strength of soul, using the time to translate the Imitation of Christ into the Spanish language, and to begin his own important book “Audi Filia” (Listen, My Daughter). Being found innocent of the accusations brought against him, he left the prison without ever uttering a word against those who falsely accused him.

Although St. John of Avila did not take part in the great Council of Trent directly, he exercised some influence over ideas concerning the reform of priestly reformation at the Council of Trent. Avila linked the priesthood closely to the Eucharist and regarded holiness as the preeminent quality of a priest, who must serve as a mediator between God and man. To this end, he recommended painstaking selection of candidates followed by rigorous spiritual and intellectual formation within a community. For Avila, renewal of the priesthood demanded the priest's conformity to Christ as both Good Shepherd and High Priest.

I, personally, did not even know of St. John of Avila. In fact, I was so ignorant that when I first heard the Holy Father's announcement, I thought he was just using an alternate name for St. John of the Cross. I told myself that it was time for me to begin to learn more about the holy priest. As I learned, especially as I read some of the quotes I found from his writings, I knew I wanted to try to draw this saint and so began the process I go through each time from conception to the "birth" of a drawing. While I don't think of what I have drawn as a true icon, it is done in the "iconic" style that has become so much a part of my technique. I hope you find it meaningful.  Oh, by the way, the writing in the book at St. John's side is Spanish and the heading reads:  "Treatise on the Priesthood".



I came across the photo below and thought it would work well as part of a book cover on feline humour!  Of course, the question is "do cat's even have a sense of humour?"  As I playfully created the front cover of my imaginary book, I thought immediately of certain photographs that I could include in such a volume.  I have shown a few of them below.  Maybe one of these days I will even think seriously about creating such a book!

Cover of my imaginary book -- the cat is the photo is saying "what's modesty?"

Here is one of the photos I would want to include -- a stoned cat with a hookah pipe

Here are two adult cats and a kitten -- none of whom seem to be aware of the need for modesty!

This kitten appears to have heard someone somewhere say "play dead"!  She doesn't look immodest, just very strange. 

The text box in the photo says it all!
 Of course, none of these photos prove that cats have a sense of humour.  What they do prove is that cats do not have a sense of modesty -- which is as it should be.  What the pictures also prove is that cats, knowingly or unknowingly, do some very funny things.  Perhaps I should change the book title to "Why Do Cats Make Us Laugh?"


Here is a photo I came across recently of a Suki lookalike!  I think it is a very sweet photograph and, actually, it is something that I could see my Suki doing!

Suki is actually doing quite well and although she is not, at this moment, sleeping sweetly with a young child, she is asleep!

As for Sallie, she is also doing very well.  If my face was free of all these bruises, I would also look like I am doing very well!  But, alas, the bruises still haven't completely gone away. 

I do hope it won't be much longer before I return to my usual old lady skin colour with all its age spots! Wait a minute, on second thought maybe the bruises look better after all!  As you can see from all the bad jokes I am making, I am feeling quite "normal" again.

May the peace of God be with us all.

No comments: