As part of his ongoing Wednesday catecheses, Pope Benedict XVI discussed various important figures in the history of the church. Some of these figures are known as the Doctors of the Church. The sense of the word "doctor" here is not the medical one; rather these men and women are great teachers (as in the Latin docere, to teach) and witnesses to the truth of the Christian faith. Their writings and teaching were not only important in their own time, but continue to enrich Christian life. This volume collects Benedict's words on 32 of the 35 doctors officially recognized by the Catholic church. When the volume was published, Benedict had not yet presented on Peter Chrysologus; also, he had not yet declared Hildegard of Bingen and John of Avila doctors. His catechesis on Hildegard is available in the Holy Women volume of Benedict's catecheses.
The book is a valuable resource, providing brief biographies and overviews of the major works and theological contributions of these holy men and women. Reading it is inspirational without being difficult, and has pointed me to further reading, i.e. what the doctors themselves wrote.
It also points out the historical challenges of the church which always seem to return again. St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan in the 1200s, had to deal with the "Spiritual" Franciscans, who assumed that St. Francis had ushered in an entirely new age of the church where the old, hierarchical structure should be abandoned as a new utopia begins. One immediately thinks of modern people who are "spiritual" but not "religious," because they don't want to be tied down to any doctrines or obligations.
I highly recommend this book and look forward to catching up on Hildegard in Holy Women.
Sample text: on St. Jerome, who lived in the late 300s...
Moreover, an aspect rather disregarded in ancient times but held vital by our author [i.e. Jerome] is the promotion of the woman, to whom he attributes the right to a complete formation: human, scholastic, religious, professional. [p. 77]