At the end of the month of October, we will celebrate the 4th centennial of the death of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ. Born in Segovia, Spain, in 1532, he is the patron saint of the lay brothers of the Company of Jesus (the Jesuits). Jesuit lay brothers are men who are called to the religious life as Jesuits but who are not called to priestly ministry. Although they are not ordained, they share the mission of the Jesuits, carrying out various responsibilities. St. Alphonsus Rodriguez was a lay Jesuit brother who was characterized by his vocation to service and humility. Who was Saint Alphonsus? What did he do? Let’s discover 10 aspects of his personality and legacy:
He’s known as the Holy Porter. “I’m on my way, Lord,” is the phrase he repeated every time the doorbell rang at the Montesion College in the Spanish city of Palma, on the island of Majorca, where he lived for more than 40 years. He exercised the role of porter (or doorkeeper) with a prayerful passion.
Vocation to service: This phrase describes well his humble, simple character, and his desire to be open to God’s will.
He joined the Company of Jesus at the age of 39. He was a merchant who lost everything, and decided to start his life over after losing his wife and children. He was the second of 11 siblings.
He knew St. Peter Faber, disciple of St. Ignatius of Loyola. St. Alphonsus’ father was a wealthy merchant, and his family had welcomed St. Peter when he arrived in Segovia to preach.
He was a famous spiritual counselor. St. Alphonsus’ sensitivity towards others and to God’s will, which inspired him to carry out his task as porter with great joy, led many people to seek him as a spiritual guide. St. Peter Claver, apostle to African slaves, was one of those who turned to Alphonsus for counsel.
He possessed the gifts of vision and healing. St. Alphonsus knew by divine revelation that St. Peter Claver was destined to evangelize in South America, where Claver later baptized more than 300,000 slaves. St. Alphonsus also cured the superior of his community, who suffered from very painful rheumatism; after Alphonsus prayed for him all night, his superior woke up completely cured.
Absolute obedience. His faithfulness to his vocation was such that, even when he was elderly and sick, he accepted an order from the father superior of his community in Montesion to go as a missionary to South America. The order was actually just a test of his loyalty, so the saint never went on the voyage.
He had almost no formal education. When he requested to join the Jesuits, the provincial is said to have commented that while Alphonsus might not have had the education to become a priest or a brother, he was qualified to enter the Jesuits in order to become a saint.
He was canonized in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII. Although Alphonsus died in 1617, the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain delayed his cause for beatification and canonization.
Fellow Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a sonnet about him. Hopkins, considered one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, praised St. Alphonsus for his heroic sanctity in daily service.
On October 31, Jesuit communities around the world will honor and remember St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ, with many activities, events, and celebrations. The virtues of this great and humble saint are so solid that they are still venerated today.