Alphonsus Rodriguez (also Alonso), Saint, b. at Segovia in Spain, July 25, 1532; d. at Majorca, October 31, 1617. On account of the similarity of names he is often confounded with Father Rodriguez the author of “Christian Perfection”, who though eminent for his holiness was never canonized. The Saint was a Jesuit lay brother who entered the Society at the age of forty. He was the son of a wool merchant who had been reduced to poverty when Alfonso was still young.
At the age of twenty-six he married Mary Suarez, a woman of his own station in life, and at thirty-one found himself a widower with one surviving child, two others having died previously. From that time he began a life of prayer and mortification, altogether 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, Bl. Peter Faber among others, but it was apparently impossible to carry out his purpose of entering the Society as he was without education, having had only an incomplete year in a new college begun at Alcala by Francis Villanueva.
At the age of thirty-nine 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, January 31, 1571. Distinct novitiates had not as yet been established in Spain, and Alfonso began his term of probation at Valencia or at Gandia this point is a subject of dispute and after six months was sent to the recently-founded college of Majorca, where he remained in the humble position of porter for forty-six years, exercising a marvellous influence on the sanctification not only of the members of the household, but upon great numbers of people who came to the porter’s lodge for advice and direction.
Among the distinguished Jesuits who came under his influence was St. Peter Claver, who lived with him for some time at Majorca, and who followed his advice in asking for the missions of South America. The bodily mortifications which he imposed on himself were extreme, the scruples and mental agitation to which he was subject were of frequent occurrence, his obedience absolute, and his absorption in spiritual things even while engaged on most distracting employments, continual.
It has been often said that he was the author of the well known “Little Office of the Immaculate Conception“, and the claim is made by Alegambe, Southwell, and even by the Fathers de Backer in their Bibliotheque de la Compagnie de Jesus. Apart from the fact that the Brother had not the requisite education for such a task, Father Costurer says positively that the Office he used was taken from an old copy printed out of Spain, and Father Colin asserts that it existed before the Saint’s time. It may be admitted, however, that through him it was popularized. He left a considerable number of MSS. after him, some of which have been published as “Obras Espirituales del Alonso Rodriguez” (Barcelona, 1885, 3 vols., octavo, complete collection, 8 vols., in quarto). They have no pretensions to style; they are sometimes only reminiscences of domestic exhortations; the texts are often repeated; the illustrations are from everyday life; the treatment of one virtue occasionally trenches on another; but they are remarkable for the correctness and soundness of their doctrine and the profound spiritual knowledge which they reveal. They were not written with a view to publication, but put down by the Saint himself or dictated to others, in obedience to a positive command of superiors.
He 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 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 canonization took place, September 6, 1887. His remains are enshrined at Majorca.
T. J. CAMPBELL