400 anniversary of St Alphonsus Rodriguez SJ

Painting by Zurbaran
Painting by Zurbaran

On 31 October 2017, we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez SJ of Spain (1533-1617), who remains an inspiration for Jesuits around the world.

St Alphonsus Rodriguez is the patron of Jesuit brothers. He was gifted with a unique spiritual resilience enabling him to integrate prayer and humble service.  He served as a doorkeeper at a Jesuit school in Palma Majora for 46 years, and inspired many who came into contact with him with his sanctity. 

Inspiration

Among these was another Jesuit saint, Peter Claver, known as the patron saint of slaves for his services to slaves in the South American mission territories.

St Alphonsus figures as one of the saints who impacted Pope Francis’ spirituality in a new book by Sean Salai SJ: “All the Pope’s Saints: The Jesuits Who Shaped Pope Francis” (2017).

Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ was another Jesuit inspired by the example of St Alphonsus, penning this poem in his honour.

 

In honour of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
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.

Canonisation

Alphonsus Rodriguez was declared venerable in 1626, less than ten years after his death. In 1633, he was chosen by the Council General of Majorca as one of the special patrons of the 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 of Jesus from Spain in 1773, and its subsequent suppression, delayed his beatification until 1825. His canonisation took place in September 1888.   His remains are enshrined at Majorca.

Celebration

In Spain the celebrations for the fourth centenary of the death of St Alphonsus will include a Eucharist in the cathedral of Segovia presided over by the Bishop with the assistance of the Spanish Jesuit Provincial on 29th October, which will be broadcast by RTVE live. In the cathedral of Palma de Mallorca another solemn Eucharist will be celebrated on the 31st presided over by the Bishop.

35 people made a pilgrimage from Segovia to Palma de Mallorca earlier in October.

In the Archive of the Society in Alcalá de Henares, all the manuscripts of St Alphonsus (in Montesión) have been digitized, and are available to anyone who asks them. The diocese of Segovia is studying the possibility of incorporating them into its archives.

Read a blog post by Hedwig Lewis SJ about the life of St Alphonsus