The Saints are an eclectic bunch. Far from being one size fits all, they are a mix of different personalities, they lived very different lives, and while they have in common their strong faith, their gifts varied hugely. Among these saints, the Church has given some of them the title “Doctor” to 36 saints who made a significant contribution to theology or doctrine. Only four of these 36 are women, but they are nevertheless extraordinary saints who can inspire our lives today.
St Catherine of Siena
Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patron of Europe – Feast Day 29th April
St Catherine (1347-1380) was born at Siena, one of twenty five children. At a young age she decided to dedicate herself to the Lord and resist the attempts of her family to find her a suitable husband. She became a Dominican Tertiary and both her writings and her stigmata reveal her intimate union with God. Despite her retired life, St Catherine was actively involved in public affairs and persuaded the pope, Gregory XI, to return to Rome from Avignon. She later tried to unite the Church during the Great Schism and moved to Rome, where she died aged thirty-three. She was proclaimed patroness of Italy in 1939, Doctor of the Church in 1970 and a patron of Europe in 1999.
Quote: “God is more willing to pardon than we have been to sin.”
St Teresa of Avila
Virgin and Doctor of the Church – Feast Day 15th October
St Teresa (1515-1582) was born in Avila (Spain). She joined the Carmelite convent at Avila and, after a quarter of a century as a nun, began to reform the Order, with the help of St Peter of Alcántara and St John of the Cross. She founded seventeen reformed houses in Spain and, despite her busy life of administration, reached the highest ‘mansions’ of union with God. Her outstanding works of ascetical and mystical theology led her to be declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970.
Quote: “To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience.”
St Therese of Lisuex
Virgin and Doctor of the Church – Feast Day 1st October
St Thérèse Martin (1873-1897) was born at Alençon and, aged fifteen, entered the Carmel of Lisieux, thus joining two of her sisters. Although she died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty four, such was the influence of her spiritual writings and her ‘little way’ that she was declared a Doctor of the Church by St John Paul II in 1997. She is also Patron of the Missions and Co-Protectress of France (with St Joan of Arc).
Quote: “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
St Hildegard of Bingen
Virgin and Doctor of the Church – Feast Day 17th September
St Hildegard (September 16, 1098 – September 17, 1179) was a German abbess and mystic. She became a Benedictine nun at 18 and was later elected superior. She founded two monasteries and was known to be an expert in many areas, including music and natural sciences, knowledge which came from visions she received from a very young age. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI canonised her and named her a Doctor of the Church.
Quote: “Prayer is nothing but the inhaling and exhaling of the one breath of the universe.”
Live the Liturgical Year with the Saints and their feast days in Saints of the Roman Calendar.