Alphonsus Rodriguez

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Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J
Born (1532-07-25)July 25, 1532
Segovia, Spain
Died October 31, 1617(1617-10-31) (aged 85)
Palma, Majorca, Spain
Venerated in Catholic Church
(Society of Jesus)
Beatified 1825 by Pope Leo XII
Canonized 15 January 1888 by Pope Leo XIII
Major shrine Jesuit College
Palma, Majorca, Spain
For other people with this name, see Alfonso Rodriguez

Saint Alphonsus Rodríguez, S.J. (Spanish: Alfonso) (July 25, 1532 – October 31, 1617) was a Spanish Jesuit lay brother, now venerated as a saint. He was a native of Segovia. He is sometimes confused with Fr. Alonso Rodriguez, S.J., another Jesuit, who wrote the Exercicio de perfección y virtudes cristianas (3 vols., Seville, 1609), which has frequently been re-edited and translated into nearly all languages; (in English as Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues).

Life and work

Rodríguez was the son of a wool merchant. When Peter Faber, one of the original Jesuits, visited the city to preach, the Rodríguez family provided hospitality to the Jesuit. Faber prepared the young Alphonsus for his First Communion.[1] When he was 14, his father died and Alphonsus left school to help his mother run the family business.[2] At the age of 26 he married María Suarez, a woman of his own station, with whom he had three children. At the age of 31 he found himself a widower with one surviving child, the other two having died. From that time on he began a life of prayer and mortification, separated from the world around him. On the death of his third child his thoughts turned to a life in some religious order.[3]

Previous associations had brought him into contact with the first Jesuits who had come to Spain, Saint Peter Faber among others, but it was apparently impossible to carry out his purpose of entering the Society as he was without education, having only an incomplete year at a new college begun at Alcalá by Francis Villanueva. At the age of 39 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 on January 31, 1571, at the age of 40.[3] The provincial is supposed to have said that if Alphonsus was not qualified to become a brother or a priest, he could enter to become a saint.[1]


Distinct novitiates for seminarians and lay brothers had not yet been established in Spain, and Alphonsus began his term of probation at Valencia or Gandia—this point is a subject of dispute—and after six months was sent to the recently founded college on Majorca, where he remained in the humble position of porter for 46 years, exercising a marvelous influence not only on the members of the household, but upon a great number of people who came to the porter's lodge for advice and direction. As doorkeeper, his duties were to receive visitors who came to the college; search out the fathers or students who were wanted in the parlor; deliver messages; run errands; console the sick at heart who, having no one to turn to, came to him; give advice to the troubled; and distribute alms to the needy. Alphonsus tells that each time the bell rang, he looked at the door and envisioned that it was God who was standing outside seeking admittance. 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.[3] He made his final vows in 1585 at the age of 54.

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 when engaged on most distracting employments, continual. His Jesuit superiors, seeing the good work he was doing among the townspeople, were eager to have his influence spread far among his own religious community, so on feast days they often sent him into the pulpit in the dining room to hear him give a sermon. On more than one occasion the community sat quietly past dinner time to hear Alphonsus finish his sermon.[4]

Bro. Alphonsus became very feeble when he reached his eighties and in his last months, his memory began to fail and he was not even able to remember his favourite prayers.[5] Alphonsus died on October 31, 1617.[6]


File:Francisco de Zurbarán 069.jpg
The vision of Alonso Rodríguez, by Francisco de Zurbarán.

He had a deep devotion to Our Lady, especially as the Immaculate Conception, and would copy the entire little office of the Blessed Virgin for private recitation for those who asked. He left a considerable number of manuscripts after him, some of which have been published as Obras Espirituales del B. Alonso Rodriguez (Barcelona, 1885, 3 vols., octavo, complete edition, 8 vols. in quarto). They are sometimes only reminiscences of domestic exhortations, the texts are often repeated, the illustrations are from everyday life, and the treatment of one virtue occasionally entrenches upon another. 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 his superiors.


Alphonsus Rodriguez 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.[6]

In 1760, Pope 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 on January 15, 1888. His remains are enshrined at Majorca.


Though his life was punctuated with personal tragedies and disappointments, and he left no special writings or teachings, his impact on the people he met was his legacy. He served with such love that the act of opening the door became a sacramental gesture.[7]

There is a parish dedicated to St. Alphonsus Rodriguez in Woodstock, Maryland.[8]

St. Alphonsus is the subject of a sonnet by fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, "In Honour Of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Laybrother Of The Society Of Jesus".[9]


  • Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1924.

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