Doctors of the Church

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"The requisite conditions are enumerated as three:

  • eminens doctrina,
  • insignis vitae sanctitas,
  • Ecclesiae declaratio

(i.e., eminent learning, a high degree of sanctity, and official recognition by the Church)" (Online Catholic Encyclopedia).

"There are therefore [as of 2017, thirty-six] Doctors of the Church, of whom nine are Eastern and [twenty-seven] Western. They include three Carmelites, two Jesuits, three Dominicans, three Franciscans, a Redemptorist, and five Benedictines" (Online Catholic Encyclopedia, web editor's note, revised).


Patristic Era Date Feast Notes
St. Athanasius of Alexandria 297-373 May 2 Bishop of Alexandria. Dominant opponent of Arianism. "Athanasius Contra Mundum": he stood alone against the world. Father of Orthodoxy. The Athanasian Creed is attributed to him.
St. Ephraem of Syria 306-373 June 9 Biblical exegete and ecclesiastical writer. Called The Lyre of the Holy Spirit.
St. Hilary of Poitiers 315-368 January 13 Bishop. His name comes from the Greek word for happy or cheerful. Called "Hammer of the Arians" (Latin: Malleus Arianorum) and "The Athanasius of the West." Married man; his daughter, Abra, is also recognized as a saint. His feast day is a fixed point in the English court calendar and academic terms: Hilary, Easter, Trinity and Michaelmas.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem 315-387 March 18 Bishop of Jerusalem. Opponent of Arianism in the East. "He is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion."[1]

"The catechetical lectures are among the most precious remains of Christian antiquity. The include an introductory address, eighteen instructions delivered in Lent to those who were preparing for baptism, and five 'mystagogical' instructions given during Easter week to the same persons after their baptism."[2] Cyril's work also provides insight into the structure of the liturgy, the use of the sign of the Cross in prayer, and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

St. Basil the Great of Caesarea 329-379 January 2 One of the three Cappadocian Fathers. Father of monasticism in the East.
St. Gregory Nazianzus 330-390 January 2 Called the Christian Demosthenes because of his eloquence and, in the Eastern Church, the Theologian. One of the three Cappadocian Fathers.
St. Ambrose 340-397 December 7 One of the four traditional doctors of the Latin Church. Meliglossos: honey-tongued; bees and beehives appear in his iconography. Opponent of the Arian heresy in the West. Bishop of Milan. Accepted local authority over local customs: ""When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the church where you are." This gave rise to our saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." He was chosen to be bishop before he was baptized: "On 7 December 374 he was baptized, ordained as a priest, and consecrated as bishop. He immediately gave away his wealth to the Church and the poor, both for the good it did, and as an example to his flock."[3]
St. Jerome 343-420 October 30 One of the four traditional doctors of the Latin Church. Father of biblical studies.
St. John Chrysostom 347-407 September 13
  • Bishop of Constantinople. Patron of preachers and called Golden-Mouthed because of his eloquence.
  • The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches honor him as a saint and count him among the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus.
St. Cyril of Alexandria 376-444 June 27 Patriarch. Opponent of Nestorian heresy. Made key contributions to Christology. "Seal of the Fathers."
St. Augustine of Hippo 354-430 August 28 Bishop of Hippo. First doctor of the Church and one of the four traditional doctors of the Latin Church. Doctor of Grace.
St. Peter Chrysologus 400-450 July 30 Bishop of Ravenna. Called Golden-Worded.
Pope St. Leo I the Great 400-461 December 10 Wrote against Nestorian and Monophysite heresies, and also against the errors of Manichaeism and Pelagianism.
Pope St. Gregory I the Great 540-604 October 3 Fourth and last of the traditional doctors of the Latin Church. Defended papal supremacy and worked for clerical and monastic reform.
St. Isidore of Seville 560-636 April 4 Archbishop, theologian, historian. Last Father of the Western church. Regarded as the most learned man of his time. Patron of the internet because of his encylopedic work, Etymologies.
St. Bede, the Venerable 673-735 May 25 Benedictine priest. Father of English history. "St Bede was the first person to be recorded as The Venerable."[4]
St. John Damascene 675-749 December 4 Greek theologian. Called Chrysorrhoas, Golden Speaker because of his eloquence. Doctor of the Assumption.
St. Gregory of Narek 951-1003 October 13 Armenian monk, poet, mystical philosopher, theologian. "Armenia's first great poet"--"Book of Lamentations."
Middle Ages (scholasticism) Date Feast Notes
St. Peter Damian 1007-1072 February 21 Benedictine. Ecclesiastical and clerical reformer.
St. Anselm of Canterbury 1033-1109 April 21 Archbishop of Canterbury. Father of scholasticism.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux 1090-1153 August 20 Cistercian. Called Mellifluous Doctor because of his eloquence.
Hildegaard of Bingen 1098-1179 September 17 "Sibyl of the Rhine." German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.
St. Anthony of Padua 1194-1231 June 13 Franciscan friar. Evangelical Doctor and Hammer of Heretics.
St. Albert the Great 1200-1280 December 15 Dominican. Patron of natural scientists; called Doctor Universalis, Doctor Expertus.
St. Bonaventure 1217-1274 July 15 Franciscan theologian. Seraphic Doctor.
St. Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274 January 28 Dominican philosopher and theologian. Called Angelic Doctor. Patron of Catholic schools and education.
St. Catherine of Siena 1347-1380 April 29 Dominican stigmatist and mystic. Persuaded the Pope to return to Rome after Avignon Exile (1377)--but that move, in turn, occasioned the Great Western Schism (1378-1417). "I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, not in myself."
Renaissance ("Reformation") Date Feast Notes
Saint John of Avila 1500-1569 10 May Apostle of Andalusia. Descendent of "conversos," recently converted Spanish Jews. Had hoped to be a missionary in the Americas, but was persuaded to work in Andalusia instead. Mystic, ascetic, reformer. Founded several colleges. Revered by the Jesuits because of his support for the Society of Jesus. Inspired St. Teresa of Ávila, St. John of God, St. Francis Borgia and the Venerable Louis of Granada. Buried in a Jesuit Church.
St. Teresa of Avila 1515-1582 October 15 Founder of Discalced Carmelite order and great mystical author.
St. Peter Canisius 1521-1597 December 21

April 27

Jesuit theologian. Leader in the Counter-Reformation. The "Second Apostle of Germany" and "The Hammer of Protestantism" (St. Boniface was the original "Apostle of Germany.") The Roman Calendar assigns his feast as an optional memorial on 21 December; the Society of Jesus celebrates his feast on 27 April.
St. John of the Cross 1542-1591 December 14 Founder of the Discalced Carmelites for men, following St. Teresa of Avila. Doctor of mystical theology.
St. Robert Bellarmine 1542-1621 October 17 Jesuit. Defended doctrine under attack during and after the Reformation. Wrote two catechisms. "Gentle Doctor of The Controversies" and the "Prince of Apologists."
St. Francis de Sales 1567-1622 January 24 Bishop, leader in Counter-Reformation. Patron of Catholic writers and the Catholic press.
St. Lawrence of Brindisi, O.F.M. Cap. 1559-1619 July 21 Apostolic Doctor. Vigorous Capuchin preacher in the post-Reformation period. Scripture scholar. He loved the Eucharist. On one occasion, it took him four hours to celebrate Mass; on another, sixteen![5] "He regarded Mary as the font of Mercy and the kindest of Mothers."[6] Rode into battle against the Turks twice armed only with a cross.
Enlightenment Date Feast Notes
St. Alphonsus Liguori 1696-1787 August 1 Patron of confessors and moralists. Founder of the Redemptorists.
Modern Age Date Feast Notes
St. Thérèse of Lisieux / Theresa of the Child Jesus 1873-1897 October 1 Patroness of the missions. Carmelite nun who offered her life for the salvation of souls and the growth of the Church.

Four traditional doctors of the West

"Certain ecclesiastical writers have received this title on account of the great advantage the whole Church has derived from their doctrine. In the Western church four eminent Fathers of the Church attained this honour in the early Middle Ages: St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome. The 'four Doctors' became a commonplace among the Scholastics, and a decree of Boniface VIII (1298) ordering their feasts to be kept as doubles in the whole Church is contained in his sixth book of Decretals (cap. "Gloriosus", de relique. et vener. sanctorum, in Sexto, III, 22)" (Old Catholic Encyclopedia).

  • St. Ambrose (340-397)
  • St. Jerome (343-420)
  • St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430; "The first doctor of the Church")
  • Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604)

Doctors and doctrines

All the great defenders of Catholic dogmas are both saints and doctors of the Church:[1]

  • St Athanasius manfully defended the deity of Christ
  • St Basil, St Gregory Nazianzus, St John Chrysostom, and St Hilary defended the dogma of the Holy Trinity
  • St Basil, in particular, defended the deity of the Holy Spirit
  • St Jerome manfully defended the perpetual virginity of our Lady
  • St Cyril manfully defended Mary as "Mother of God"
  • St Leo manfully defended the humanity of Christ and the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ
  • St John Damascene manfully defended the images of Christ, Mary, and the Saints

Mystical doctors

  • St. Catherine of Siena
  • St. Teresa of Avila
  • St. John of the Cross
  • St. Thérèse of Lisieux / Theresa of the Child Jesus
  • St. Hildegaard of Bingen

Evangelical doctors

  • St. Anthony
  • St. John of Avila
  • St. Peter Canisius