October 31, 2019 — Today is the feast of Jesuit St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, patron saint of Jesuit brothers.
Rodriguez was born in Segovia, Spain, on July 25, 1532, to wool and cloth merchants. When he grew of age, he was sent to a Jesuit college for his education but had to leave when his father died. At the age of 26, he married María Suarez and had three children with her, but this tranquility would not last. By the time he was 31, two of his children had passed away as well as his wife. Shortly after, his last surviving child also died.
This loss was difficult for Rodriguez. He turned to prayer and received spiritual direction from Jesuits. He felt called to join the Society but had some difficulty entering. He did not complete college and at 35, was considered too old to join the Society. He was persistent though and eventually was able to join the Society as a brother.
Rodriguez worked as the porter for the Jesuit college in Majorca, Spain, and would hold this position for most of his time in the Society. He was the first Jesuit that many people would encounter while visiting the college. He would to talk to visitors, listen to their stories and offer advice when needed. It was St. Alphonsus Rodriguez who encouraged his friend, St. Peter Claver, SJ, then a young Jesuit, to go to the New World and minister to the slaves who were brought over from Africa.
Rodriguez grew weak in his old age and died on October 31, 1617, at the age of 85. He was in the Society for 46 years, and while he never held a position of leadership or taught at an institution, his holiness and humility would have been seen by visitors of the Jesuit college. It was through his small acts of kindness and love that this humble porter is remembered as a saint.