Today is the feast day of Saint Alphonsus Rodriquez. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez was born in Spain in 1531, of a well-to-do commercial household of Segovia, the third of eleven children. When Alphonsus was eleven years old, he and his older brother were sent to a Jesuit college. He had already manifested great joy in serving the Jesuits when they had given a mission in Segovia and lodged in his father’s country home; now he rejoiced in the one year of study he was able to undertake, before the death of his father interrupted these pursuits. His brother, after certain affairs were settled, returned to school, but Alphonsus was obliged to remain at home, destined one day to replace his father.
He accepted this lot and in 1557 married a virtuous wife. They were blessed with a daughter and two sons. But God intended to sanctify this soul of predilection by great and heroic sufferings. Only five years later he was already a widower, with only one little boy of three years remaining for him to raise. He believed this calamity must have come upon him for his sins, and he developed a great horror of sin. He asked God to let him bear even the torments of hell here below, rather than fall into a single mortal sin. He offered himself entirely to God, for whatever He might desire of him. Then he began a life of severe penance. A year later his mother died. He looked at his beautiful and innocent child, the only bond which still attached him to the earth. He prayed to God that if ever that child should offend Him, to take him at once. His prayer was granted before long. (1)
Then, nearing forty, Alphonsus applied to join the Jesuits, but they rejected him as being too old and without sufficient education. He set himself to study Latin and applied again. This time the provincial admitted him as a lay brother. Six months later he was sent to the Jesuit college of Monte Sion in Majorca, where he spent the remaining forty-five years of his life.
He worked as a door-keeper but also devoted himself to prayer and penances. Through attention to his own inner struggle, Alphonsus was able to influence not only young students, like St. Peter Claver, whom he advised to go to America and became the “saint of the slaves”, but also local civic and social leaders, who came to his lodge for advice and direction. (3)
It has often been said that he was the author of the well known “Little Office of the Immaculate Conception”, and the claim is made by Alegambe, Southwell, and even by the Fathers de Backer in their Bibliothque de la Compagnie de Jesus. Apart from the fact that the brother did not have the requisite education for such a task, Father Costurer says positively that the office he used was taken from an old copy printed out of Spain, and Father Colin asserts that it existed before the Saint’s time. It may be admitted, however, that through him it was popularized. He left a considerable number of manuscripts after him, some of which have been published as “Obras Espirituales del B. Alonso Rodriguez” (Barcelona, 1885, 3 vols., octavo, complete edition, 8 vols. in quarto). They have no pretense to style; they are sometimes only reminiscences of domestic exhortations; the texts are often repeated; the illustrations are from every-day life; the treatment of one virtue occasionally trenches on another; but they are remarkable for the correctness and soundness of their doctrine and the profound spiritual knowledge which they reveal. They were not written with a view to publication, but put down by the Saint himself, or dictated to others, in obedience to a positive command of his superiors. (2)
When he died on October 31, 1617, his funeral was attended by Church and government leaders. He was declared Venerable in 1626, and in 1633 was named a patron of Majorca, where his remains are enshrined. Since the Jesuits were suppressed in Spain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Alphonsus was not beatified till 1825. He was canonised with his friend with St. Peter Claver in September 1888. (3)
Image: Alphonse Rodriguez (5)
Research by REGINA Staff