This post is going to do three things I usually try avoid when blogging: commenting about matters pertaining to the Society of Jesus, writing spiritual reflections, and posting things that are essentially another’s work. But I cannot resist a word about St. Alphonsus Rodríguez.
Today—as the secular world celebrates Halloween and most of the Church observes the 30th Saturday in Ordinary Time—the Society of Jesus remembers the lay brother Alphonsus Rodríguez, who died on this date in 1617. When we think “Jesuit saint” the type that comes most readily to mind is a heroic missionary priest or a valiant martyr. Think Xavier, Jogues, Campion. Alphonsus was none of these things. The task assigned to him was different: answering the door at the Jesuit college in Majorca. For nearly four decades, answering the door. That, at least, was what seen on the exterior. In his interior life of prayer—unknown until after his death—Alphonsus was blessed with the highest mystical graces. The students at the college came to the holy porter for advice and encouragement—including the future “slave of the slaves” St. Peter Claver, whom Alphonsus urged to the missions.
This month began with the remembrance of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the great saint of “Little Way.” Today, the month ends with another “Little Way” saint, Alphonsus Rodríguez, who reminds us that holiness need not come through martyrdom in a foreign land, but can come—and in fact, for most of us, will come—through our everyday tasks, even if they be as humble as opening the door in an ordinary Jesuit college.
Alphonsus’s confrère Gerard Manley Hopkins has captured the spirit of this saint’s life perhaps better than anyone, and so I close with the following Hopkins poem:
In honour of
St. Alphonsus Rodríguez
Laybrother of the Society of Jesus
|HONOUR is flashed off exploit, so we say;|
|And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield|
|Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,|
|And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.|
|On Christ they do and on the martyr may;|
|But be the war within, the brand we wield|
|Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,|
|Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.|
|Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,|
|Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,|
|Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)|
|Could crowd career with conquest while there went|
|Those years and years by of world without event|
|That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.|