The Church’s Best Teachers
January is a busy month across the board. In January, we have Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the March for Life, and International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Plus, as the first month of the calendar year, people have a fresh attitude of renewal. But January also has another, less obvious distinction for Catholics: it is a month in which we celebrate the feast days of several Doctors of the Church.
These Doctors don’t have an MD. The title comes from the Latin docere, which means “to teach.” Doctors of the Church are recognized by the Church for the value of their writings and teachings to all Catholics, no matter in which time period they live. The writings and teachings of Doctors of the Church are not infallible, but they are considered deeply significant and influential. The New World Encyclopedia describes these saints as having “eminent learning” and “great sanctity.” Currently, the Church recognizes 36 Doctors, the most recently named being St. Gregory of Narek. The Doctors of the Church include bishops, priests, nuns, and others who were teachers, writers, and mystics.
This January, get to know some of the Doctors of the Church and the great gifts they have given to the faith:
St. Basil the Great, c. 330-379 AD (feast day Jan. 2; pictured left) – Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. He produced a number of writings that helped define Christian theology and defend against the heresies of his time. He also recorded monastic regulations in a text that is still used by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
St. Gregory of Nazianzus, 329-389 AD (feast day Jan. 2; pictured right) – A Christian poet, orator, and theologian. He was instrumental in shaping early Christian theology, especially regarding the Trinity. Along with St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa, he is one of the Cappadocian Fathers.
St. Hilary of Poitiers, c. 300-368 AD (feast day Jan. 13) – Bishop of Poitiers and a defender against Arianism.
St. Francis de Sales, 1567-1622 (feast day Jan. 24) – Bishop of Geneva. He taught that all Christians, not just clergy and religious, are called to holiness. He is also known for converting Calvinists, promoting spiritual direction, and founding the Order of the Visitation.
St. Thomas Aquinas, c. 1225-1274 (feast day Jan. 28) – A philosopher and theologian of the Order of Preachers. He is one of the Church’s most important theologians. His most famous work is the Summa Theologica.