By Larry Peterson
The friar pulled open the big, oak door, and before him stood a disheveled looking man staring at him. The year was 1571, and the down and out fellow was a thirty-seven-year-old cloth merchant seeking admission to the order. The weary, hunched man was not seeking to be a priest but, instead, he just wanted to be admitted as a lay brother. The friar shook his head and was about to dismiss the man when the man said, “Peter Faber was my friend.”
Peter Faber was probably St. Ignatius of Loyola’s best friend. He is considered by many as the co-founder of the Jesuits. He had passed away in 1545 at the age of thirty-nine but for the man to have said “he was his friend” made the friar pause and hold the door open. Staring at the wretched-looking fellow the friar asked, “And how do you dare claim to be friends with Peter Faber?”
The man introduced himself as Alphonsus Rodriguez. He explained that when he was a boy of about ten, Peter Faber had stayed with his family while he was preaching a mission in Segovia. Alphonsus also told him that Friar Peter had prepared him for his First Holy Communion. The man was allowed to come in, and the friar called another of the brothers over to hear the man’s story.
Alphonsus went on to explain that he had to quit school at the age of twelve. That was when his dad died unexpectedly, and he had to leave school because he had nine brothers and sisters, and his mother needed his help. Alphonsus eventually married a woman named Maria Suarez when he was twenty-six. They had three children together, and two died before the age of five. Then Maria suddenly passed away, and Alphonsus was a widower with one child to raise. His last child also suddenly passed.
Alphonsus was now thirty-seven years old, worn out, and frail-looking. He explained he had no desire to re-marry and only wished to spend the rest of his life serving God. Fortunately, people who were having a tough time of it were always welcomed by the Jesuits. Having been instructed by Peter Faber himself, the resident Jesuits were quite willing to accept Alphonsus.
Alphonsus had minimal education, so he had to take courses at the College of Barcelona. His health was poor, and he only managed a year of studies. But he was then accepted into the Jesuit novitiate on January 31, 1571. It was said that the provincial joked that if Alphonsus could not qualify for the priesthood or become a brother maybe he could stay and become a saint. He was sent to the town of Palma where he did odd jobs at the Jesuit College of Montesino. He made his perpetual vows on April 5, 1573, when he was 41 years old.
In 1579 Brother Alphonsus became the porter at the college. He did odd jobs, answered the door welcoming travelers and guests, and did almost every type of different job that needed to be done. His position at Jesuit College was his first, last, and only assignment as a member of the Jesuits.
Brother Alphonsus experienced great heartache in his life. He had lost his young wife to disease, his three children, one after the other, and he also had lost his business as a wool merchant. He had become a lay Jesuit Brother and spent the rest of his life doing the most humble work imaginable.
Unknown to most, Alphonsus had developed a deep relationship with God and was given the gift of the spirit that enabled him to deeply affect anyone who spoke with him. He managed to bring countless people to peace within themselves, and his reputation spread far and wide.
Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez died on October 31, 1617. He was eighty-four years old. He was canonized a saint by Pope Leo XIII in September of 1888.
St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, please pray for us.
Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019