For the first time in my life or ministry, I’m associated with a parish under the patronage of a doctor of the Church. My graduate school is my only other doctor/patron/community. All the talk earlier today about Cardinal Newman being named a doctor–that probably has to wait until he’s canonized, but I’m not sure why it would–got me thinking. Catholics probably should be able to identify what a “doctor” is, and why saints are given the title. How many doctors should they be able to identify? Anybody have the goods on all of them?

Here’s a little calendar for 2009 to get you thinking. Which two doctors share the same day? Which doctor is the only deacon in the group? How many women? How many popes? How many lay people?

And here’s one for a bit of discussion: which saints would you add to the doctor list? Is Cardinal Newman worthy? I find it interesting that lots of Catholics tout our late pope as “the Great,” but nobody seems to be promoting him as a doctor. Given that the theology of the body seems to be all over the place these days, I find that surprising.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Doctoring

  1. Liam says:

    Here’s my take on that portion of the doctors who I think have had the most direct influence on what we are taught, not just in theological propositions but in spiritual method:

    I. The classic lineup of first-tier doctors from the Patristic period:

    A. Eastern: Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nanzianzus and John Chrysostom.

    B. Western: Jerome, Augustine, Leo and Gregory.

    2. From the high Middle Ages – the flowering of Western mystical and scholastic thought:

    Anselm, Bernard, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Catherine of Siena (the last is really the late Middle Ages)

    3. From the post-Tridentine period – the translation of medieval mysticism into applied spirituality not just for religious but those in the world:

    Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and Francis de Sales

    3B: Honorable mention to Alphonsus Liguori, who along with the Jesuits (a counterpoised example) had lasting influence on confessional practice down to the present day (which, if you think it’s rather scrupuloius, was almost lax compared to the kind of monastic-influenced examens that prevailed before his work).

    4. From the modern period: St Therese, the best articulator of the Little Way that, along with St Pius X’s sacramental/liturgical revolution, paved the way for the full reinvigoration of the faithful as the People of God.

    I do wonder if Flannery O’Connor might make this list some day.

  2. Jim McK says:

    Bernard McGinn has a book The Doctors of the Church that gives brief biographies and significance of their theology. (there is another from TAN that may do the same thing)

    I have misplaced my copy, but my interest in the topic has left me with some usually useless knowledge about them, so I will guess:

    Ss Basil and Gregory share a feastday because of their friendship;
    Gregory the Great, and Leo the Great are the only Popes? (JP2 the Great may include Doctor, since these two are the only previous Popes the Great. I think JP will not get it because of the Second in his name)
    Ephrem the Syrian was a deacon.
    The 3 women are the only laypeople. (The New Catholic Encyc. in 1967 doubted that women would ever be given this title, only to have Pope Paul add Ss Catherine and Teresa in 1969)

    Again, I am not sure of these answers, so I welcome correction. The naming of Doctors is full of Church politics, as in Italian pride playing a role in naming St Catherine at the same time as the Spanish St Teresa; or the equal number of Dominicans and Franciscans on the list, etc.

    I think there should be a representative of the earlier mystics, like Ruysbreck or maybe Hildegarde. (Northern Europeans have a hard time getting on the list; is there anyone besides Albert the Great? His declaration as a Doctor was also his canonization, I believe.)

    Also, given the current Salesian ascendancy, and his regard for laity, I think St Francis de Sales is one of the most influential doctors.

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