Friday, October 31, 2014

October 31 - Alphonsus Rodriguez, Porter, Victim of Tragedy, Sacramental Doorkeeper


Alphonsus' life was a pleasant one when he was young. He was the son of a wealthy wool merchant in Segovia, Spain. This meant that he lived a life of relative comfort and affluence and had little worry over where his next meal might come from. Also, it meant that he received a quality education at the nearby Jesuit college. Perhaps he even had a clerical career in mind. But, things took a turn for the worse in 1545 when his father died suddenly and unexpectedly. He left his studies behind because his mother needed him to come home. Even though it meant he would not be able to finish the education he valued, he left the Jesuit college and moved back home to take care of his mother and run the family business. Though crisis had afflicted the family and there was much grief for the loss of Alphonsus' father, it seemed that life had regained some of its normalcy.

In 1560, Alphonsus was doing a good job of running the business and taking care of his mother. He had met and courted a devout woman named Maria Suarez. They were married and she soon gave birth to two children. Alphonsus had a happy family and a career and it seemed that life could not get better. Alphonsus was happy to tellsome of his clients that he would soon be a father three times over since his wife was pregnant yet again. Business was not as good as it had been but he was still able to support his family. Then, tragedy found a home in Alphonsus' life.

Maria died in childbirth and the baby died with her. As Alphonsus was grieving and mourning the loss of his beloved wife and child, another affliction infiltrated his family and took another of his children. His ailing mother soon died, as well, and Alphonsus was left with one child and a business that was only getting worse. As the business got worse his remaining child seemed to get sicker and sicker with both grief and some unknown malady. Both his business and the life of his remaining child failed him at around the same time. Grief-stricken and broken-hearted, Alphonsus barely had the will to keep living. In less than three years, Alphonsus had lost everything and been reduced to homelessness and begging. It was at this time--in his late thirties--that Alphonsus decided to pursue a clerical career. Tragedy had stripped him of everything and he found nothing left that he could subsist upon. When he applied to the Jesuits, his application was denied because of his lack of education and his relatively advanced age. It's hard to imagine the yawning expanse of nothingness and darkness that dwelt within the life of Alphonsus when it appeared that even God had no use for him. But, at his darkest hour there was a single sliver of light: they offered him a position as a lay brother and house porter at a Jesuit college in Majorca. He took it. He jumped at a chance at hope.

As porter, he was a doorkeeper and caretaker of one of the halls at the college. It was a humble job and one that involved serving students who were receiving the opportunities that had been denied to him. But, there was something different about Alphonsus. Though he practically refused to talk about himself, he was keen to talk about God.Having been stripped of everything, he found himself further connected to the God that remained in the void left by tragedy. The love of God shined through Alphonsus to such a degree that his every word, action, and conversation became a type of sublime ministry. Soon, students were asking the college to allow Alphonsus to be their spiritual director. One such applicant was Peter Claver. People became very aware of the love that poured out of Alphonsus' broken heart and longed to be close to him and learn from him. Alphonsus longed to find and see God in the face and heart of every person who walked through his door. When he died in 1617, his funeral was attended by rulers and large crowds. This victim of tragedy had become an inspiration to many.

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