Saint of the Day – 19 February – Blessed Alvarez of Cordova OP (c 1350–c 1430) Priest of the Order of Preachers, Confessor, Ascetic, Royal Advisor and Tutor, founder of many Churches and Convents, miracle-worker – born in c 1350 in either Lisbon, Portugal or Cordova, Spain (sources vary) and died in c1430 at Escalaceli near Cordova, Spain of natural causes, aged around 80 and is buried there. By his preaching and contemplation of the Lord’s Passion he spread the practice of the Way of the Cross, throughout the West.
Blessed Alvarez is claimed by both Spain and Portugal. He received the habit in the Convent of Saint Paul in Cordova in 1368 and had been preaching there for some time in Castile and Andalusia, when Saint Vincent Ferrer began preaching in Catalonia. Having gone to Italy and the Holy Land on a pilgrimage, Alvarez returned to Castile and preached the crusade against the infidels. He was spiritual advisor to the Queen-mother of Spain, Catherine daughter of John of Gaunt and tutor to her son who would become King John II. Alvarez had the work of preparing the people spiritually, for the desperate effort to banish the Moors from Spain. He also opposed the Avignon Pope Peter de Luna nd encouraged all to resist him.
Blessed Alvarez is remembered and honoured as a builder of Churches and Convents, an activity which was symbolic of the work he did in the souls of those among whom he preached. He founded, in one place, a Convent to shelter a famous image of Our Lady, which had been discovered in a miraculous manner. Near Cordova he built the famous Convent of Scala Coeli, a haven of regular observance. It had great influence for many years. His building enterprises were often aided by the angels, who, during the night, carried wood and stones to spots convenient for the workmen.
The austerities of Alvarez were all the more remarkable in that they were not performed by a hermit but by a man of action. He spent the night in prayer, as Saint Dominic had done; he wore a hairshirt and a penitential chain and he begged alms in the streets of Cordova, for the building of his churches, despite the fact, that he had great favour at court and could have obtained all the money he needed from the Queen. He had a deep devotion to the Passion and had scenes of the Lord’s sufferings made into small oratories in the garden of Scala Coeli.
On one occasion, when there was no food for the community but one head of lettuce, left from the night before, Blessed Alvarez called the community together in the refectory, said the customary prayers and sent the porter to the gate. There, the astonished brother found a stranger, leading a mule; the mule was loaded with bread, fish, wine and all things needed for a good meal. The porter turned to thank the benefactor and found that he had disappeared.
At another time, Blessed Alvarez was overcome with pity, at the sight of a dying man who lay untended in the street. Wrapping the man in his mantle, he started home with the sufferer and one of the brothers asked what he was carrying. “A poor sick man,” replied Alvarez. But when they opened the mantle, there was only a large Crucifix in his arms. This Crucifix is still preserved at Scala Coeli.
Blessed Alvarez died and was buried at Scala Coeli. An attempt wads made later to remove the relics to Cordova, but it could not be done because violent storms began each time the journey was resumed and stopped when the body was returned to its original resting place.
Blessed Alvarez founded Escalaceli (Ladder of Heaven), a Dominican house of strict observance in the mountains around Cordova. It became a well known centre of piety and learning. Alvarez spent his days there preaching, teaching, begging alms in the streets and spending his nights in prayer. In the gardens of the house, he set up a series of oratories with images of the Holy Lands and Passion, similar to modern Stations of the Cross.
A bell in the Chapel of Blessed Alvarez, in the Convent of Cordova, rings of itself when anyone in the Convent, or of special note in the Order, is about to die (Benedictines, Dorcy).
Alvarez was Beatified on 22 September 1741 At St Peter’s by Pope Benedict XIV.