John of Avila

1500-1569. Spanish missionary and scholar. Born near Toledo, he studied law at Salamanca only to abandon it (1515) for philosophy and theology at Alcalá under Domingo de Soto. He dispensed the family fortune to the poor after his ordination in 1525 and hoped to go to America as a missionary. Persuaded to work in Spain instead, he was a missionary in Andalusia for nine years. A great preacher and counselor, he pleaded strongly for reform and denunciation of vice in high places, which brought him before the Inquisition, where he was declared innocent (1533). From Seville he went to Cordova and then to Granada in 1537 where he helped found the university. His greatest work was in reforming Spanish clerical life, with a large circle of disciples around him who taught in colleges he founded. The University of Baeza became a model for seminaries and schools of the Jesuits, who revered him and whose work he widely encouraged. John of God, Francis Borgia, Teresa of Avila, and Louis of Granada (his biographer) benefited from his friendship and counsel. His sermons and letters of spiritual direction are literary classics, but Audi Filia (c.1530) on Christian perfection is his best work.