Saint of the Day – 31 October – St Alphonsus Rodríguez, SJ (1532-1617), (Spanish: Alonso) was a Spanish Jesuit lay brother, Doorkeeper, Mystic, Visionary, Apostle of Charity and of Prayer, Spiritual Adviser – born 25 July 1532 at Segovia, Spain died on 31 October 1617 at Palma, Mallorca, Spain of natural causes. Patronages – Jesuit College, Palma, Majorca, Spain.
Alphonsus Rodríguez was the son of a wool merchant. When St Peter Faber SJ (1506-1546), one of the original Jesuits, visited the city to preach, the Rodríguez family provided hospitality to the Jesuit. Faber prepared the young Alphonsus for his First Communion. When he was 14, his father died and Alphonsus left school to help his mother run the family business. 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 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 (1509-1557). At the age of 39 he attempted to make up this deficiency by following the course at the College of Barcelona but without success. His austerities had also undermined his health.
After considerable delay, he was finally admitted into the Society of Jesus as a lay brother on 31 January 1571, at the age of 40. Itis believed that the provincial said that if Alphonsus was not qualified to become a brother or a priest, he could enter to become a saint.
Distinct novitiates for seminarians and lay brothers had not yet been established in Spain and Alphonsus began his term of probation at Valencia or Gandia—this point is a subject of dispute—and after six months was sent to the recently founded college on Majorca, where he remained in the humble position of porter for 46 years, exercising a marvellous influence, not only on the members of the household but upon a great number of people, who came to the porter’s lodge for advice and direction. As doorkeeper, his duties were to receive visitors who came to the college, search out the fathers or students who were wanted in the parlour, 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. 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.
Among the distinguished Jesuits who came under his influence was St Peter Claver (1580-1654), who lived with him for some time at Majorca and who followed his advice in asking for the missions of South America. He made his final vows in 1585 at the age of 54.
Alphonsus Rodriguez 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, Pope 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. His Canonisation took place in September 1888. His remains are enshrined at Majorca.