Modern Doctors of the Church

To the modern ear, the word “doctor” is normally associated with physicians, or perhaps university professors. But in Latin, the word means “teacher,” and docere, “to teach,” connotes “to show” or “to demonstrate”; a doctor is one who teaches us something by showing it to us. It is with this in mind that we understand the Church’s criteria for those whom she honors with the title “Doctor of the Church.” To be a “Doctor of the Church,” one must live a life of both profound intellectual achievement and great sanctity. Doctors of the Church are saints, first and foremost: they show us how to live. But they are also teachers: they articulate the truths of the faith in a manner worthy of study and even of incorporation into the Magisterium of the Church. The Church is very careful with her use of the title “Doctor.” Indeed, only 33 people have ever been so honored—most of them centuries after their deaths.

Only eight Doctors of the Church have lived in the past five centuries: St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582), St. John of the Cross (1542–1591), St. Peter Canisius (1521–1597), St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559–1619), St. Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621), St. Francis de Sales (1567–1622), St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1787), and St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897). Their brilliant works vary from Scriptural commentary to mystical poetry to catechetical instruction and spiritual direction. While it would perhaps be convenient to lump these saints together as products of the “Counter-Reformation,” of the Church’s response to Protestantism—and it is certainly true that the Church’s struggle with the realities of a Christendom torn asunder form the backdrop for much of their work—in reality, their writings are profoundly mystical, moral, and practical in nature. They tend to focus on union with God and on the pursuit of what St. Francis de Sales called “the devout life.” Their writings are, therefore, of far more than historical interest. It’s hard to imagine Christian works more timeless than those of St. John of the Cross, for example, or of St. Teresa of Ávila.

The Post-Reformation Catholic Thought and Piety Collection lets you study the Faith with these most profound of companions—surrounding your study with their wisdom and piety. What’s more, the collection is currently on Community Pricing and so is one of the best deals Logos will ever offer. Place your bid today and make the Church’s teachers your own.

Written by
Andrew Jones
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Written by Andrew Jones