The Doctorate of St. Teresa:
The historical development of an idea
Fr. Valentino Macca, O.C.D.
Vol. 21 (1970/1-2) pp. 35-113
The Positio, concluded by this favorable judgment of the Promoter General of Faith, was distributed to all the Cardinals and Prelates of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to whom the matter was submitted:
An, attentis insigni vitae sanctitate et eminenti doctrina eiusque benefico in vita Ecclesiae pondere, procedi posse arbitrarentur ad Sanctam Teresiam a Iesu Ecclesiae Doctorem declarandam.
The matter was then dealt with directly in the meeting that the Sacred Congregation held at the Vatican on 15 July 1969, the eve of the solemn Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. After the learned and widespread report of Card. Arcadio M. Larraona, Promoter of the Cause, Cardinals and Official Prelates of the Sacred Congregation unanimously decided that St. Teresa of Avila was worthy of being inscribed by the Supreme Pontiff in the catalog of the Doctors of the Church.
The following 21 July, Paul VI, informed of the favorable judgment of the Sacred Congregation, approved the decision and ordered that St. Teresa of Jesus be numbered among the Doctors of the Church, reserving for himself the determination of the day of proclamation, and giving the order that the corresponding Apostolic Brief should be prepared.
All of this is reflected in the Decree Urbis et Orbis of 21 July of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
According to this decree, therefore, St. Teresa of Avila has already been declared a Doctor of the Church. However, the solemn proclamation that the Holy Father, as was later announced, will make during a solemn ceremony in St. Peter’s on 27 September 1970, has not yet taken place.
We have presented the historical development of the idea of the Doctorate of St. Teresa of Avila from its humble and at the same time already powerful origins immediately after the Saint’s death until the happy official goal that now is approaching. It is an idea that immediately emerged with extraordinary clarity, even if not in strictly canonical terms, given the extraordinary value of Our Holy Mother Teresa’s doctrine and the widespread diffusion and influence that her books and her Magisterium soon had, praised by Popes and Bishops, exalted by the liturgy, used by Doctors and mystical writers, which became more and more an unquestionable authority in the field of mystical theology. While many believed that with Teresa of Jesus we were faced with a typical case of the Church declaring a Doctor equipollenter, from 1882 onwards, however, with ever greater insistence the voices were heard of those who implored a formal declaration. In 1923, an appeal was made to the Holy See to achieve this intention; it failed. The time was not ripe.
Providence arranged that in the climate of grace created by Vatican II, Paul VI, so supernaturally open to the signs of the times, should have the inspiration to give for the first time to a female Saint, distinguished for a marvelous doctrine that made her the teacher and mother of spiritual life in the Church, the title of Doctor.
The Pope, chosen by God for this act, had already in 1965 practically called her Doctor; in 1967 he greeted her as “great teacher of Catholic mysticism” and “extraordinary interpreter of the things of God”; while on 10 September 1965, he declared her principal patroness of all Catholic writers in Spain, affirming that she was the “luminary of Spain and of the whole Church” through her books, filled with heavenly wisdom, and even today she remains “praestantissima magistra” [exceptional teacher].
The solemn act of 27 September 1970—crowning all of this—will give the title, full rights, and honors of “Doctor of the Church” to the one who loved to call herself “daughter of the Church”.
Fr. Valentino di Santa Maria, o.c.d.
17 February 1924 – 7 January 1988
Father Valentino Macca, O.C.D. was a native of Brescia, Italy whose decades of service to the Discalced Carmelite Order left an indelible impression. He entered the Order at age 16 in the convent at Brescia, professing his solemn vows in 1945. When he completed his theological studies at the Teresianum in Rome, Cardinal Adeodato Piazza ordained him to the priesthood in 1950. Not long after, Father Valentino began to serve the Order at the General Curia in Rome. First, he served as a member of the communications team, the Centro Informativo; next, he labored as General Archivist, eventually assuming the direction of the Analecta O.D.C. as well.
Father Valentino distinguished himself for many years as the professor of Marian Spirituality and Mariology at the Marianum in Rome; to this day, Mariologists cite his published works. He served as a consultor to various dicasteries of the Holy See; his final curial assignment before his death was as a Relator for the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints. The library of the Teresianum in Rome lists 40 titles in its catalog where Father Macca is either the author, editor, or even the subject. We are pleased to bring an excerpt from his writings on Carmelite history to our readers. For a more complete biography of Father Valentino in Italian, we direct our readers to the Enciclopedia Bresciana article here.
Translations from the Italian are the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.