From the Pastor's Desk
Greetings and blessings!
I have been asked to write a short message each week for the church website. It is an honor to share each week daily liturgy readings and some reflection on theology or teachings of the church.
On November 1st, we will celebrate the Feast of All Saint's. We hear so much about the male saints but rarely hear about the female saints. I would like to reflect on four female saints who became Doctors of the Church. Here are four of them: St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux.
We are blessed to have the Communion of Saints, and we are encouraged to get to know a patron saint from among the many in number. From an early childhood, I learned how helpful it is to have someone to follow along my journey of life, with someone whose life offers encouragement and advice, whose knowledge can help guide my life spiritually. Also, someone I can turn to through their powerful intercession can help guide me in my spiritual life each day in times of struggle.
I may have a specific need or a question and looking to find intercession for. There are times when a saint has found me, bringing with her wisdom I didn't know I needed. To make it simpler to find the right saint to suit our needs, the Church has designated saints as patrons of cultures, occupations, countries and illnesses.
The church has also created categories of saints, groups of saints with similar qualities. There are some that are self-explanatory –virgins and martyrs need very little explanation. Looking back at the Early Church Fathers, for example, are a particular small group. But one of the smaller groups are known as Doctor of the Church.
Now, I am not talking about a medical doctor, this is a title meant to convey something like the gravitas of a Ph.D. I would argue that the Doctors of the Church are just saints that many of us need to understand the faith better, and to grow in our relationship with the Lord.
What does it mean to be a Doctor of the Church? The saints who receive this designation are not more important than any other saint, this title honors these men and woman for accomplishing something huge: impacting the Church's theology and with it her people's understanding of who God is and how they relate to him.
To be declared a Doctor of the Church, a person must meet three certain criteria:
The person must be of exemplary holiness.
They must have contributed substantially to the Church's
theology and moral life through their writing, research or speaking.
They must be declared a doctor by either a full Church council or by papal decree.
Today, there are 37 Doctors of the Church. Some are very well known saints like Jerome and Augustine, and others are more obscure, likely to be only known in Catholic academic circles.
Among these 37 Doctors of the Church are four women in the history of the Church history to rise to this distinction.
In the next letter, I will reflect on these four women who have reached this title of Doctor of the Church.