Doctors of the Church

Doctors of the Church

All of the saints are examples of heroic sanctity. A select few have guided the faithful by exceptional writing or preaching that transcends time. Since the Middle Ages these men and women have been given the honorary title of Doctor of the Church.

The title of Doctor of the Church is not one of healing but of teaching. No formal education is required but these doctors have demonstrated a deep understanding of the faith and sound teaching that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

These saints have left the Church with an extensive body of writings that can be used to know God better and to gain a deeper understand the authentic teaching of the Church.

The 37 men and women who have been named as doctors of the Church are diverse in education, age, background, and spirituality.

An already canonized saint is only declared a Doctor of the Church by a pope or ecumenical council. The first doctors were named in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII and the latest doctor was named by Pope Francis in 2022.

Sharing their deep understanding of God with others:

Inspired by the Holy Spirit but not infallible:

How different the person who devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High! He explores the wisdom of all the ancients and is occupied with the prophecies; He preserves the discourses of the famous, and goes to the heart of involved sayings; He seeks out the hidden meaning of proverbs, and is busied with the enigmas found in parables. He is in attendance on the great, and appears before rulers. He travels among the peoples of foreign lands to test what is good and evil among people. His care is to rise early to seek the Lord his Maker, to petition the Most High, To open his mouth in prayer, to ask pardon for his sins. If it pleases the Lord Almighty, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; He will pour forth his words of wisdom and in prayer give praise to the Lord. He will direct his knowledge and his counsel, as he meditates upon God’s mysteries. He will show the wisdom of what he has learned and glory in the Law of the Lord’s covenant. Many will praise his understanding; his name can never be blotted out; Unfading will be his memory, through all generations his name will live; Peoples will speak of his wisdom, and the assembly will declare his praise.

Sirach 39: 1-10

Teaching with power and clarity:

Periods of renewal in the Church are also intense moments of catechesis. In the great era of the Fathers of the Church, saintly bishops devoted an important part of their ministry to catechesis. St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, and many other Fathers wrote catechetical works that remain models for us.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 8

Doctors of the Church contribute teaching for all times:

Intellectual contributions of saints are evaluated by the Church:

Indeed, when the Magisterium proclaims someone a doctor of the Church, it intends to point out to all the faithful, particularly to those who perform in the Church the fundamental service of preaching or who undertake the delicate task of theological teaching and research, that the doctrine professed and proclaimed by a certain person can be a reference point, not only because it conforms to revealed truth, but also because it sheds new light on the mysteries of the faith, a deeper understanding of Christ’s mystery. The Council reminded us that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, understanding of the “depositum fidei” continually grows in the Church, and not only does the richly contemplative study to which theologians are called, not only does the Magisterium of pastors, endowed with the “sure charism of truth”, contribute to this growth process, but also that “profound understanding of spiritual things” which is given through experience, with the wealth and diversity of gifts, to all those who let themselves be docilely led by God’s Spirit. Lumen gentium, for its part, teaches that God himself “speaks to us” in his saints. It is for this reason that the spiritual experience of the saints has a special value for deepening our knowledge of the divine mysteries, which remain ever greater than our thoughts, and not by chance does the Church choose only saints to be distinguished with the title of “doctor”.

Pope John Paul II, Proclamation of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face as a Doctor of The Church, 19 October 1997

The first 8 Great Doctors of the Church:

Doctors from the Patristic Period:

Doctors from the Middle Ages:

A poet, philosopher, and theologian:

A champion in the fight against heresy:

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Look at the Lord:

Share this page with friends and family to start a conversation about your faith.

Don’t miss a post. Learn more about the Catholic Church and strengthen your Catholic faith.

Find more Fiercely Catholic video issues here.

Subscribe here.

Book a Fiercely Catholic program at your next conference, retreat, or other Catholic event.