Today Pope Benedict declared St John of Avila and St Hildegard of Bingen Doctors of the Church. The proclamation took place during the Mass for the Opening of the Synod of Bishops: the synod will look at the New Evangelisation. It was quiet approprate that these Saints should be declared Doctors today since their lives, ministry and teachings are evangelical in nature, calling all men and women to come and recognise who Jesus Christ is, what he did for us and what he has in store for us.
St John travelled the dusty roads of Spain preaching to a people who had fallen away from the faith, trying to inject vitality and love for Christ, while encouraging the clergy to live lives worthy of their vocation. He would be most welcome to Ireland in these times when people are either confused having been led astray by unfaithful clergy, struggling to remain true to the Church in a hostile climate, or they have given up and embraced a godless existence. This is the situation the Bishops and the whole Church has to face and find ways in which to proclaim the Gospel anew. One of the challenges we have to face is the presumption of these jaded, fallen away Catholics - they think they know the faith and have rejected it or compromised it with the demands of the secular world, when in reality they know little of the riches of our faith, our heritage and the way of Christ.
St Hildegard understood what the riches of the faith are, having lived the faith to a heroic and having seen those riches in the many visions she received. Sharing her insights, like the Prophets Daniel and Ezekiel, and St John the Beloved Disciple, whom she resembles in the nature of her prophetic mysticism, God utters prophetic words through her - the words of the Gospel, drawing all men and women to the Word himself. Though radical feminists and neo-pagans try to reinvent her, St Hildegard is very much in the heart of the Church trying to call others in after her. She shares her visions so we can be inspired to abandon ourselves to Christ so we may come to share in those visions ourselves.
Both of these Doctors remind us of the Second Vatican Council's central teaching: the universal call to holiness - a teaching much ignored and perhaps even denied as the 'spirit of Vatican II' crowd push an agenda which seems more like the universal call to mediocrity and rupture. Listening again to Fr Hans Kung's moan we can see that these rebels are drifting further and further away not only from the true spirit of the Council, but also from the teachings of Jesus Christ himself. The fidelity of St John and St Hildegard to the Church and to the person of the Holy Father, to whom both were obedient, contrasts sharply with the post-conciliar rebellion, and offers us a nourishing example of love, peace and hope.