Feast of Alphonsus Rodriguez—Oct. 31

 

The Catholic calendar of saints is heavy on founders of religious orders, who have the personnel in Rome to pursue the cause of canonization. So it’s unusual and delightful to celebrate a saint who did only the ordinary, extraordinarily well.

Rodriguez’ transformation began in tragedy—the deaths of his mother, wife and children, the failure of his business, the refusal of the Jesuits to admit him due to his age and lack of education. Finally, they allowed him to become a lay brother. And for the next forty years, he opened the door of their college in Majorca.  His quiet fidelity is known to most through Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem:

“Yet God…

Could crowd career with conquest while there went

Those years and years by of world without event

That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.”

Saint Peter Claver was one who as a seminarian passed through that door, and was attracted by Rodriguez’ prayerfulness, his attention to Christ in each person. Did that steady influence help Claver’s decision to devote his life to West African slaves arriving in Cartagena, enduring deplorable conditions?

I met a current version of Alphonsus in an 86-year old porter who’d opened the door to the shrine at Aganzazu, Spain for 68 years. He banged his cane on the floor with surprising vigor, announcing “Aqui!” “Here,” he meant, St. Ignatius had prayed before a small statue of Mary found amidst brambles and thorns before he was born. Had that led him to “finding God in all things”?

Such mysterious, unseen networks connect apparently random people and events, all woven with threads of kindness that become a powerful chain, a grace that cements.

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