St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Catholic Church,
Woodstock, Maryland

St. Alphonsus Rodrigues . . . was an apostle, disciple, gatekeeper or receptionist and friend to all.

Here is the story of his life.

A Biographical Sketch of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez


Compiled by Joyce Utmar


Born: July 25, 1533 Died: Oct 31, 1617 Beatified: May 29, 1825 Canonized: Jan 15, 1888 (1532-1617)
Confessor and Lay Brother / Jesuit Coadjutor

LIFE IN SEGOVIA

Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez, also called St. Alonso, was born in Segovia, Spain, on July 25, 1532, one of 11 children of a wool and cloth merchant. He was prepared for First Communion by the pioneer Jesuit, Blessed Peter Favre, who was a friend of Alphonsus' father and lived with the family for a time. He and his brother were also prepared to attend a new college started at Alcalá by Francis Villanueva. He was sent to study at that Jesuit college at Alcala when he was about twelve, but did not complete his studies because of his father's sudden death. Alphonsus had to return home when his father died before completing even a year of study. In Segovia he took over the family business.
At the age of twenty-six he married Mary Francisco Suárez and had two daughters and a son. However, because of his lack of aptitude, rising export taxes or economic depression, the business went bankrupt. His daughters died, then his wife and mother. After that time he began a life of prayer, meditation and severe penances. When his son died a few years later, he began to think he had a vocation.

STUDIES FOR ENTERING THE JESUIT ORDER

Alphonsus sold his business and applied to the Jesuits, the order he knew best. His lack of education and poor health, undermined by his austere penances, made him less than desirable for the priesthood. The Jesuits said they couldn't take him. He was too old at 35, was not well, and did not have enough education to qualify for priestly studies. On the advice of a Jesuit friend, however, he did not give up. He started to study Latin in a class with little boys. Then after two years of further education at the College of Barcelona, he reapplied to the Society as a brother and was rejected again because of his age and health. But the Jesuit Provincial overrode the decision and granted Alphonsus permission to enter saying that "if Alphonsus were not fit to be a priest or a brother, he could, nevertheless, enter to become a saint." Finally he was admitted into the Society of Jesus at age 40 as a lay-brother on January 31, 1571.

LIFE WITH JESUITS

After a six month novitiate on the mainland he was assigned to the Jesuit College of Montesione (or "Mount Zion") on the Spanish island of Palma de Majorca. Here, as "hall porter" or door keeper he spent the last 46 years of his life. He made his final vows there in 1585 at the age of 54.
As doorkeeper, his duties were to receive visitors who came to the college, search out the fathers or students who were wanted in the parlor, deliver messages, run errands, console the sick at heart who, having no one to turn to, came to him, give advice to the troubled, and distribute alms to the needy.
His saintly behavior led many to hold him in high regard and many people began to ask for his spiritual advice. St. Alfonso had a special gift for spiritual conversation. His superior said that no spiritual reading produced as much spiritual good as contact with the lay brother. He always responded to every request in his large correspondence. His fame spread and he became known as the Doctor of Majorca.
In his memoirs, Alphonsus tells that each time the bell rang, he looked at the door and envisioned that it was God who was standing outside seeking admittance. On the way to the door, hewould say: "I'm coming, Lord!" Every visitor that came to Montesion was greeted with the same happy smile with which he would have greeted God. For fifteen years, Brother Alphonsus was in charge of the porter's lodge, a lowly job he did with humility and holiness. He was loved by all who came to him for advice and encouragement and asked his prayers, which he most willingly said.

SPIRITUALITY

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. The rosary was always in his hand. The young Peter Claver came to the college in 1605 when Alphonsus was 72. They became great friends, often meeting on the college grounds to discuss prayer and the pursuit of holiness. It was Brother Alphonsus who urged Peter to go to the South America as a missionary. Not only young students, such as St. Peter Claver, but local civic and social leaders came to his porter's lodge for advice and direction. Obedience and penance were the hallmarks of his life.

WRITINGS

He left behind a large number of manuscripts, some of which have been published as "Obras Espirituales del B. Alonso Rodriguez" or "Spiritual Works of Brother Alphonus Rodriguez" in 8 volumes published in Barcelona in 1885. They are simple in style with examples taken from every-day life, sometimes repetitive, but remarkable for the correctness and soundness of their doctrine and the profound spiritual knowledge which they reveal.
The quality and depth of the prayer life of Brother Alphonsus was known to only a few during his lifetime. It was only after his death, when his memoirs and spiritual notes were discovered, that it was learned how the humble brother had remarkable mystical experiences, including ecstacies, and visions of Our Lord, Our Lady, and the saints.

EXAMPLES OF OBEDIENCE

In 1591 when he was 60 years old he received an order to sleep in a bed. Before then he had contented himself with a few hours of sleep on a table or in a chair. His obedience was most outstanding. When he was over 70 and failing, just to test him, his rector ordered him to go to the West Indies. At once Alphonsus set out to find a ship, but he was stopped at the College gate and sent back to the rector, who explained to him the reason for his command: to see what his reaction would be.

ILLNESS & DEATH

Brother Alphonsus 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. For three days before his death, after his last Communion, St. Alfonsus remained in ecstasy. "What happiness!" exclaimed an eyewitness. It was just a fragment of his internal joy. Witnesses decided to call for a painter to draw a faithful picture of him. The painting is "A vision of St. Alfonso Rodriguez" by Zurbanan. On his death-bed, Brother Alphonsus opened his eyes wide and looked at all his Jesuit brethren surrounding him. Then he lowered his eyes to the crucifix in his thin hands, kissed it, and said, "Jesus!" and with that went to God. Alphonsus died after a long illness on October 31, 1617, and his funeral was attended by Church and government leaders.

CANONIZATION

He was declared Venerable in 1626. In 1633 he was chosen by the Council General of Majorca as one of the special patrons of the city and island. In 1760 Clement XIII decreed that "the virtues of the Venerable Alonso were proved to be of a heroic degree"; but the expulsion of the Society from Spain in 1773, and its suppression, delayed his beatification until 1825. He was canonized with St. Peter Claver on September 6, 1887. 1888? His remains are enshrined at Majorca and his Feast Day is October 30 or 31.
Comments of Prof. Plinio Corra de Oliveira: three very important points.
First, in an extremely humble position, St. Alfonsus did enormous good for the island of Majorca, Spain and the entire world. That old doorkeeper, amiable and hospitable, was always accessible to everyone.
Second, the way St. Alfonsus was called to contemplate and serve Our Lord is magnificent.
Third, it is interesting to note that St. Alfonso had a special gift for conversation, a way to communicate the love of God, the Holy Church, and the Catholic cause that overflows from the heart can be a grace and a means for persons to sanctify themselves.

Sources

1 www.newadvent.org/cathen/01341a.htm
2 www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=1285
3 www.stthomasirondequoit.com/SaintsAlive/id184.htm
4 www.jesuit.org.sg/.../alphonsus.rodriguez.html
5 www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/SODimages4/200_...
6 www.daughtersofstpaul.com/saintday/m10.html#top
7 http://magnificat.ca/cal/engl/10-30.htm
8 www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1184

Brother Alphonsus was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1888, the same day that his friend Peter Claver was raised to the honors of the altar. Alphonsus' feast is celebrated on October 31.

Do not hesitate to call the parish (410) 461-5267 and/or send fax to 410 750-7286.



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This page is dated November 2007.