Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez

Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. At the age of 26 he married María Suarez, a woman of his own station, with whom he had three children. At the age of 31 he found himself a widower with one surviving child, the other two having died. From that time on he began a life of prayer and mortification, separated from the world around him. On the death of his third child he stepped back and reassessed his life.  His thoughts turned to a life in some religious order.

Previous associations had brought him into contact with the first Jesuits who had come to Spain, Saint Peter Faber among others, but it was apparently impossible to carry out his purpose of entering the Society as he was without education, having only an incomplete year at a new college begun at Alcalá by Francis Villanueva.

Finally at 40 years old, Alphonsus  sought to join the Jesuits. The provincial is supposed to have said that if Alphonsus was not qualified to become a brother or a priest, he could enter to become a saint. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted.

For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. His Jesuit superiors, seeing the good work he was doing among the townspeople, were eager to have his influence spread far among his own religious community, so on feast days they often sent him into the pulpit in the dining room to hear him give a sermon. On more than one occasion the community sat quietly past dinner time to hear Alphonsus finish his sermon.

He had a deep devotion to Our Lady, especially as the Immaculate Conception, and would copy the entire little office of the Blessed Virgin for private recitation for those who asked. 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 are sometimes only reminiscences of domestic exhortations, the texts are often repeated, the illustrations are from everyday life, and the treatment of one virtue occasionally entrenches upon another. 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.

The Saint became very feeble when he reached his eighties and in his last months his memory began to fail. He was not even able to remember his favourite prayers. He died on October 31, 1617.

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