Saint of the Day – 28 September – St Simón de Rojas O.SS. (1552-1624) “Father Ave Maria”/ “Apostle of the Ave Maria”, Religious Priest of the Trinitarian Order, Founder of the Lay Apostolate of the Congregation of the Slaves of the Sweet Name of Mary, Marian Devotee, Theologian, Philosopher, Spiritual Writer, Apostle of Charity, Apostolic Visitor – born on 28 October 1552 in Valladolid, Spain and died on 28 September 1624 in Madrid, Spain of natural causes. He was Beatified on 19 March 1766 by Pope Clement XIII and Canonised on 3 July 1988 by St Pope John Paul II.
Father SIMON DE ROJAS of the Trinitarian Order was born at Valladolid, Castilla, Spain, 28 October, 1552. At twelve years of age, he entered the Trinitarian monastery of the city where he was born and there made his religious profession on 28 October 1572. He studied at the University of Salamanca from 1573 to 1579 and was ordained a priest in 1577. Thereafter, he taught philosophy and theology at Toledo from 1581 to 1587 and from 1588 until his death he fulfilled with much prudence the office of superior in various monasteries of his province and was sent as apostolic visitor twice to his own province of Castilla and once to that of Andalusia.
On 14 April 1612 he founded the Congregation of the Slaves of the Sweet Name of Mary and in 1619 he was named tutor to the royal princes of Spain and in 1621 he was elected Provincial of Castilla and the following year he was chosen confessor of Queen Isabel of Borbon.
His Canonisation during this Marian year (1988), worthily rewards him for his tender devotion to Mary. He has been a compared to St Bernard of Clairvaux and to St Ildefonso of Toledo, for this immense understanding and devotion of the role of the Blessed Virgin Mother.
It was his mother, the virtuous Constanza, who instilled and helped grow in the soul of Simon the love of Mary. The veneration that she and her husband Gregorio constantly gave to Mary, makes it easily understandable why the first words that Simon, who had been a slow learner and stuttered, said at the age of fourteen months, were “Ave, Maria”. He was only repeating the prayer so frequently recited by his parents.
His greatest joy was to visit Marian shrines, to pray to Mary and with Mary, to imitate her virtues, to sing her praises, to acknowledge her importance in the mystery of God and of the Church. Through profound theological studies, he came to understand even better the mission of Mary in cooperation with the Trinity for the salvation of the human race and the sanctification of the Church. He lived his religious vows in the imitation of Mary. He held that, for everyone to be completely of God, as Mary had been, it was necessary to become her slaves, or better, slaves of God in Mary; for this reason he established the Congregation of the Slaves of Mary for the greater glory of the Trinity, in praise of the Virgin, in the service of the poor. For him, to be a slave of Mary meant belonging totally to her: “Totus tuus” in order to unite oneself more intimately to Christ and in Him through the Spirit, to the Father.
The Congregation founded by him was intended for the laity, persons of every social class could join. The members, who included the King and his children, dedicated themselves to honour Mary by giving maternal help to her favourite children – the poor. This work still continues in Spain. Fr Simon, who is held to be one of the greatest contemplatives of his time and who in his work, “The Greatness of Prayer” is clearly a great instructor of prayerful souls, wanted the contemplative dimension joined to the active through works of mercy.
Faithful to the Trinitarian charism, he promoted the ransom of captives, he helped relieve the many needs of the poor, he consoled the sick, the destitute and the left-out of every kind. He accepted duties at the Court, only on the condition that he be able to continue his work with the poor, whom he helped in a thousand ways, always with a smile on his face and at any hour of the day or night.
The expressions of his love of Mary are manifold. The painters who depicted him, put the greeting “Ave Maria” on his lips, words he uttered so frequently that he was familiarly called: “Father Ave Maria”.
He had thousands of images of the Most Holy Virgin printed with the inscription: “Ave Maria”, which he also sent abroad. He had rosaries made with seventy-two blue beads on a white cord, symbols of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception and also a reminder that Mary, according to the belief of the time, lived to the age of 72 years. He sent these rosaries everywhere, even to England. Using his influence at Court, he had the angelic greeting so dear to him, “Ave Maria”, engraved in letters of gold on the facade of the royal palace in Madrid. On June 5th, 1622, he petitioned the Holy See for the approval of his liturgical text composed in honour of the Sweet Name of Mary, which later, Pope Innocent XI extended to the universal Church.
After his death on 29 September 1624, the honours bestowed on him at his funeral, took on the aspect of an anticipated canonisation. For twelve days, the most re-known preachers of Madrid exalted his virtues and his holiness. Impressed with this unanimous veneration, on 8 October shortly after Fr Simon’s death, the Papal Nuncio ordered the beginning of the process leading to his glorification by the Church. His heroic virtues were recognised by PopeClement XII on 25 March 1735 and he was beatified on 19 March 1766. And today, 3 July, 1988, just before the close of the Marian Year, Pope John Paul II, enters the name of this great servant of Mary and Father of the poor on the list of the Saints.”…Vatican.va