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Mortals, sing! And, angels hail Him,

God Incarnate, Mary’s Son!

To whose Heart of Love appealing 

Man hath princely pardon won.

 Sing His clemency unfailing!

 Sing His mighty reign begun!

- Caroline D. Swan

About the beginning of the sixteenth century there lived at Segovia, in Spain, a wealthy merchant, whom the Lord had blessed with a large family of seven sons and four daughters.  Of these children, the second oldest was the one destined to make the name Rodriguez illustrious throughout the Christian world.  He was born on the 25th of July, 1531; and the day of his birth being the feast of the Apostle St. James, it seemed as though God wished that his whole life should be under the special protection of the great patron of Spain.  Carefully directed by a truly Christian mother, his heart from his earliest childhood days was penetrated with intense love for the Blessed Virgin a love that continued to increase as he advanced in years, so that at times he was with difficulty able to restrain the ardor of his feelings.  He could not behold one of Her statues without addressing it with a childlike simplicity and tenderness, and fervently begging his Mother to intercede for him with Her Divine Son.


When he was about nineteen years old it happened that two religious of the Society of Jesus arrived at Segovia, and were hospitably entertained at the house of his father.  In a short time the religious desired to leave the city, and Alphonsus and his brother were deputed to accompany them to the merchant’s country residence, and attend to their wants.  While there they were instructed by the religious in the truths of our Faith, and were trained to practices of devotion.  The following year they were sent to Alcala to complete their studies in the college of the Jesuits, but after a few months they were suddenly recalled home by the death of their father.


While his older brother devoted himself to the study of law, our Saint took upon himself the conduct of his father’s business.  Sometime afterwards he was espoused to Mary Suarez, by whom he had two children.  In his family life he faithfully fulfilled all the duties of a devout Christian, and merited for himself the eulogy which the Holy Spirit pronounced upon St. Joseph "He was a just man."  But it was in the designs of Almighty God that Alphonsus should be attached entirely to His service.  Now, Providence makes use of various means in order to draw souls to higher paths.  In the case of Rodriguez, the means employed were not unusual, but very efficacious it was by trials.  At one blow the hand of death cut off from him all that he held most dear upon earth his beloved spouse and his eldest child.


He was then thirty-two years old, and after this severe trial, disgusted with the world, he abandoned his business to the care of his brothers, and it became his only occupation to think of death and the salvation of his soul.  He made a general confession of his faults, and conceived such a lively sorrow for them that for three years he wept unceasingly.  To interior mortification he joined that of the body, which he frequently subjected to the most severe discipline.  He clothed himself in hair-cloth, and fasted rigorously on Friday and Saturday of each week.  He recited the Rosary every day, and frequently approached the Holy Sacraments with sentiments of deep contrition and fervent devotion.  Soon our Blessed Lord deigned to show how agreeable to Him was this constant sorrow for sin.  One night, while Alphonsus was weeping bitterly over the memory of faults committed, the Lord appeared to him in the midst of a number of Saints, resplendent with glory.  Among them was the seraphic St. Francis, who approached and asked why he wept so much.  "O dear Saint!" answered Alphonsus, "if one venial sin should be wept for during a whole life-time, why should I not weep, guilty as I am?"  This humble reply pleased our Lord, who gave him a look full of love, and the vision disappeared.


From that time Alphonsus felt the greatest attraction towards a life of contemplation.  The life and Passion of Jesus became the subjects of his meditations.  He represented to himself the Savior of the world full of sweetness conversing with men during His life, then crowned with thorns, covered with wounds, insulted by those He had come to save, humiliated before Pilate, meeting His Blessed Mother while sinking beneath the heavy weight of the Cross, and finally suffering a most ignominious death for the redemption of the world.  If our cold hearts are moved at the sight of Jesus suffering, what must be the sorrow of those whom this Divine Savior draws to Himself in an especial manner!

Each day that he was to receive Holy Communion, he was at an early hour kneeling before the altar, in order to prepare himself to receive in a worthy manner the God of all holiness.  One day the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin after receiving the Holy Eucharist, he fell into an ecstasy, and saw himself before the throne of Mary, with whom appeared St. Francis and his Angel Guardian.  He beheld Our Lady offering his soul to God, who accepted it.  When he came to himself, he was so filled with delight that he could hardly return home.  He had no further thought for this world: his soul was all absorbed in the joys of that heavenly country, which he seemed to have just left, and to which he eagerly longed to return.  Thenceforth, by a virtue which we may be unable to understand, but which is very familiar to the Saints, his heart was perfectly detached from everything of this earth.  His son, a beautiful child, three years of age, was the object of his tenderest love, but he resolved to offer him in sacrifice to God.  He prayed fervently that his child might be removed from all danger of sin, and his prayers were heard.  The boy died soon after, and then Alphonsus determined to retire wholly from the world, and enter some religious order.


As he had no knowledge of Latin, and the condition of his health, greatly enfeebled by his austerities, rendered him incapable of much study, he was admitted into the Society of Jesus simply as a lay Brother.  Thus at the age of thirty-nine years, on the 31st of January, 1571, he began his novitiate at the

College of St. Paul of Valencia.  Six months afterwards he was sent to another establishment on the Isle of Majorca, where he made the simple vows on April 5, 1573, and his solemn profession twelve years later.  There he passed the period of his religious life, for more than thirty years seeking to sanctify his daily actions, and become more and more pleasing in the sight of the Lord.  Each morning, at the first sound of the bell, he would throw himself upon his knees, and recite the Te Deum in thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having preserved him during the night, pronouncing with the greatest fervor these words: Dignare, Domine, die isto, sine peccato nos custodire.  After his other exercises of piety, he entered upon the duties of his office as porter, receiving everyone that came with as much attention as if he were our Lord Himself.  If he had to suffer any injuries, he bore them with great patience and humility.  When his duties permitted, he would recite the Rosary and give himself to prayer to the Blessed Virgin, for whom, like all the saints, he had a particular devotion.  Then he would pray to our Lord that he might die rather than commit a single mortal sin.  For every hour of the day he had a special invocation to the Queen of Heaven, and when evening came he recommended to Her the souls in Purgatory, for whom he would offer his own penances and mortification.  Often, too, the thought of those suffering souls would cause him to forget to take any nourishment.


But the demon could not endure such piety.  He commenced his attacks upon the servant of God by violent temptations against the most beautiful of the virtues, appearing to him under a thousand hideous forms.  Alphonsus constantly resisted him.  Then, to revenge himself, the enraged demon flung him headlong from the top of a staircase; but he was saved through the sacred names of Jesus and Mary, which he pronounced as he was falling.  The evil spirit next made use of a temptation which of all others is capable of afflicting a Saint he sought to persuade Alphonsus that one day he would stray from the path of virtue, and be lost forever.  In the midst of his trial the servant of God had recourse to Mary; his constant prayer was the recitation of the Rosary; but seeing that this temptation to despair was daily becoming more violent, he cried out: "O Mary, come to my aid, or I am lost!"  Then the Mother of God appeared to him, surrounded with heavenly splendor, and calmed the soul of Her servant, saying to him: "Alphonsus, My son, where I am thou hast naught to fear."  On several other occasions he received like proofs of the interposition of his Heavenly Mother; and it was but natural that he, on his part, should have a filial devotion towards Her, trusting in Her protection in all his difficulties, and obligating himself to always have recourse to such a powerful protectress, who would never abandon him.


A Spanish religious, who afterwards wrote a life of the Saint, was about to leave Majorca, and came to visit him.  Finding him wrapt in contemplation, he knelt and kissed his feet.  The Saint came to himself, and blushed that any one should so humble himself before him.  "Brother Alphonsus," said the other, "I am going to leave you.  In memory of the years that I have spent with you, give me, I beg of you, some spiritual token."  "Whenever you wish to obtain anything from God," replied Alphonsus, " have recourse to Mary, and you may rest assured you will obtain what you ask."  He himself constantly experienced the wonderful results of such unbounded confidence in the Mother of God.

It is hard for our proud reason to understand that blind obedience which characterized the Saints, and by which they made themselves so pleasing in the sight of Him who knows the most secret thoughts of the heart of man.  The love which Alphonsus bore to our Blessed Lord and His most Holy Mother made him realize that in fulfilling the orders of his superior he was doing the will of God, and this thought made the yoke of obedience sweet and easy.  Sometimes when he had been ordered to wait at a particular place, he would remain there whole days, until someone happened to think of him.  And if he were ridiculed on account of his simplicity, he profited by it as an occasion of suffering, and meriting a greater reward in heaven.


One day the rector of the College, in order to try him, told him to go to the docks and sail away without saying whither he was to go, or on what vessel he should take passage.  Alphonsus immediately started off, but before he had gone far he was met by another religious, who told him to return, as his superior called for him.  He immediately obeyed, and the superior asked him: "Where were you going?  There is no vessel now in port, and how did you expect to leave?"  He answered, with great simplicity, that he was going to practice obedience.  "Go to India," said the superior on another occasion.  The Saint immediately went down stairs, and asked the porter to let him out.  "Where are you going?" asked the porter.  "I am going to India; the superior has just ordered me."  "I cannot let you out unless you show me the permission," said the porter.  The Saint went back, and the rector asked him: "How were you going to India?"  "I was going to the port," said Alphonsus.  "If I found a ship there, I would get on board.  

If there were no ship, then I would walk as far as I could on the water, happy at least that I had been as obedient as was in my power."


A third time the superior wished to test the obedience of this holy soul.  He called him one day, and told him that he was too old and useless to be kept any longer, and that he should leave the house and go where he pleased.  At these words the holy old man bowed his head, and, without the least murmur, turned his steps to the door of the house wherein he had labored for more than thirty years, and whence he was now driven, without thought of his services nor regard for his old age.  He asked the Brother porter to let him out.  "No," replied the latter, with emotion, "no, dear Brother, I cannot open for you.  Return to your cell, and there remain as before."  This example of obedience produced, as the superior expected, a deep impression upon the other religious; for no one in the community found aught but pleasure in the practice of obedience.


About this time there was at the College a religious named Father Aguirra, who, after some years spent at Majorca, received orders to go to Catalonia.  On hearing this, Alphonsus betook himself to prayer, recommending to God the voyage of his friend.  Then the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, and told him that the vessel would be taken by the Turks, and that the religious, if he embarked, would be brought captive to Algiers.  "If Thou will’st, Thou canst save him," cried Alphonsus.  "I will never cease imploring Thee to bring him back to us safe and sound."  And his prayer was granted; for the superior, for some reason or other, before the vessel set sail, sent orders to the religious to return.


Sometime afterwards, as several religious were about to embark for Valencia, our Saint consulted the Lord on the issue of the voyage, and received for answer that it would be a golden voyage.  The vessel, however, was seized by infidel pirates, and the religious were taken captive to Algiers.  Still the voyage was indeed golden; for the religious made many conversions among the infidels; and one of them, Jerome Lopez, whose virtue hitherto had been rather weak, suffered most cruel tortures rather than deny his faith, and became the apostle of his time.


Alphonsus Rodriguez uttered many prophecies and wrought many miracles that have not as yet been recorded in his life.  The day at length came, after forty-five years passed in the practice of the highest virtues, when he was to receive the crown of immortality.  He died while pronouncing the sacred names of Jesus and Mary, on the 3ist of October, 1617, at the age of eighty-six years.  An immense concourse of people from all parts of the island attended the funeral, for the virtues of the Saint were known far and wide.  And ever since Alphonsus has not ceased to be the object of great veneration throughout the Church.  Many miracles have been wrought and still take place at his tomb.  The cause of his beatification was introduced in the year 1627, under the pontificate of Urban VIII.; but it was reserved to Leo XII. to inscribe him among the number of the Blessed, which was done by a decree of September 29, 1724.  Another Leo-Our Holy Father now happily reigning-has completed the work by placing him on the calendar of the Saints of the Church, January 15, 1888.


All is divine which the Highest has made,

Through the days He wrought till the day when He stayed:

Above and below, within and around,

From the center of space to its uttermost bound.


In beauty surpassing the universe smiled

On the morn of its birth, like an innocent child,

Or like the rich bloom of some delicate flower;

And the Father rejoiced in the work of His power.


Yet worlds brighter still, and a brighter than those,

And a brighter again, He had made, had He choose;

And you never could name that conceivable best,

To exhaust the resources the Maker possessed.


But I know of one work of His Infinite Hand,

Which special and singular ever must stand;

So perfect, so pure, and of gifts such a store,

That even Omnipotence ne’er shall do more.


The freshness of May and the sweetness of June,

And the fire of July in its passionate noon,

Munificent August, September serene,

Are together no match for my glorious Queen.


O Mary, all months and all days are thine own,

In thee lasts their joyousness, when they are gone;

And we give to thee May, not because it is best,

But because it comes first, and is pledge of the rest.

- Cardinal Newman

Cardinal Newman

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