The Saint of the Day
St. Alfonso Rodriguez – October 31
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
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He was born at Segovia, Spain in 1531, son of a pious wool merchant. He received the good influence of the first Jesuits to come to Spain, in particular Blessed Peter Faber, who lived for a time with his family, and later that of St. Francisco de Villanueva. After his father’s death Alfonso took over the family business. However, because of his lack of aptitude, the business entered into bankruptcy. At around the same time, he lost his wife and three children, as well as his mother.
“In failure,” he said afterwards, “I saw the majesty of God. I recognized the wickedness of my life. I had not been concerned about God, and in that state, I was on the verge of my eternal perdition. I saw the sublime grandeur of God from the dust of my misery. I imagined myself as a second David, and the Miserere was the expression of my state of soul.”
Statue of St. Alfonso Rodriguez in the Church of Manresa, Spain
At age 40, he entered the Society of Jesus as a lay brother, and after a six month novitiate he was sent to the Jesuit College of Mount Zion on the Island of Palma de Majorca to be the doorkeeper at the adjoining monastery. He was the doorkeeper there for 45 years. His saintly behavior led many to hold him in high regard and numerous people began to ask for his spiritual advice. St. Alfonso had a special gift for spiritual conversation. His superior affirmed that no spiritual treatise produced as much spiritual good as contact with that lay brother. He always responded to every request in his large correspondence. His fame spread and he became known as the Doctor of Majorca.
By bearing the enormous and multiple spiritual difficulties he experienced in his own life, he learned the spiritual science. Thanks to his good response to grace, he said, “insofar as the consciousness of my own debility became keen in me, I felt the grandeur of the Lord.”
For three days before his death, after his last Communion, St. Alfonso 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. He died October 31, 1617.
Comments of Prof. Plinio:
This is a magnificent life that has three very important points.
First, in an extremely humble position, St. Alfonso did an enormous good for the island of Majorca, Spain and the entire world. He was the doorkeeper of a monastery on the island of Palma de Majorca. In that time, communication from the island to the continent was difficult. It was much more isolated than it is today. There he spent 45 years of his existence; nothing less than 45 years! He had the most humble position possible. Notwithstanding, the exquisite perfume of Our Lord Jesus Christ exhaling from his soul spread out over the island of Palma de Majorca, Spain and the entire world.
The port of Majorca
The figure of that old doorkeeper, amiable, hospitable, always accessible to everyone, available for every consultation, made the poor chair of this doorkeeper a venerable throne of wisdom. Everyone would go there to see him, to listen to him. This is the magnificence appropriate to even a very humble life when such a life is dedicated to the service of Our Lord and the Holy Catholic Church.
Why? Because both sanctity and wisdom have an incomparable power of irradiation. A saint does not need to be in a strategic place. Wherever he is, he attracts admiration and affection. It is enough for a man to have a sanctity that is “victa et not picta” – lived and not faked.
Second, the way St. Alfonso was called to contemplate and serve God Our Lord is magnificent. It is a way that speaks deeply to my soul. He considered the grandeur of God, infinitely great, infinitely majestic, infinitely wise, transcendent, excellent, sublime, radiant, absolute, and mysterious. When we consider everything in this world that we can see and analyze, we realize that all is insufficient and futile unless it is a reflection of God. If it were not for God, everything is empty, faded and tasteless.
Since we have faith, we know that everything in creation, beyond its material being, is a symbol, a veil that permits us to see the Absolute Being - Perfect, Eternal, Most Wise, and Sublime - reflected in the visible reality. Only in considering that superior reality can our weary eyes marvel and rest. Finally we found something that is worthy to see, contemplate and love, that rouses our complete dedication. To the measure that we consider that He is not like us, that He is perfect and we are just dust, mere creatures conceived in original sin, then our existence acquires meaning.
A vision of St. Alfonso Rodriguez by Zurbanan
We see that St. Alfonso Rodriguez made this consideration and insofar as he ascended in his spiritual life, he repented of his sins and increasingly desired to know more about the grandeur of God. Today many persons are afraid to think about the grandeur of God. It is not my case, I feel a great joy to contemplate such grandeur, and I imagine that this was the source of the overwhelming happiness that St. Alfonso felt in his last three days. He was experiencing a pre-taste of his coming encounter with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Third, it is interesting to note that St. Alfonso had a special gift for conversation. We know well that many saints are called to be silent and in this path they sanctify themselves. But it is also true that other saints are called to speak and talk in different types of conversations.
What is the gift or the charisma of conversation? It is a communicative form of the love of God, the Holy Church, and the Catholic cause that overflows from the heart of the one who speaks. A conversation can be a grace, and such a conversation can be the fruit of a charisma that comes from Our Lady to make a relationship a means for persons to sanctify themselves.
Let us ask St. Alfonso Rodriguez to help us follow his example of humility, his sense of the grandeur of God, and his fruitful conversations.
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.
|Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.
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