You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2014.
St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
Lived: (c. 1533-1617) | Feast Day: Thursday, October 30, 2014
|Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.
Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.
His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.
Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.
We like to think that God rewards the good even in this life. But Alphonsus knew business losses, painful bereavement and periods when God seemed very distant. None of his suffering made him withdraw into a shell of self-pity or bitterness. Rather, he reached out to others who lived with pain, including enslaved blacks. Among the many notables at his funeral were the sick and poor people whose lives he had touched. May they find such a friend in us!
The Church is a very human organization but also the garden of God’s grace. It is a place where great sanctity keeps blooming. Saints are people who make the living Christ visible to us in a special way. Some saints have given their lives in the service of Christ and his Church; others have spoken and written words that keep nurturing us; some have lived heroically in difficult situations; others have remained hidden in quiet lives of prayer and meditation; some were prophetic voices calling for renewal; others were spiritual strategists setting up large organizations or networks of people; some were healthy and strong; others were quite sick, and often anxious and insecure.
But all of them in their own ways lived in the Church as in a garden where they heard the voice calling them the Beloved and where they found the courage to make Jesus the center of their lives.’
“The dark night descends on a soul only when everything else has failed. When you are no longer the best meditator in the class because your meditation produces absolutely nothing. When prayer evaporates on your tongue and you have nothing left to say to God. When you are not even tempted to return to a life of worldly pleasures because the world has proven empty and yet taking another step through the void of the spiritual life feels futile because you are no good at it and it seems that God has given up on you, anyway.
“This, says John, is the beginning of blessedness! This is the choiceless choice when the soul can do nothing but surrender. Because even if you cannot sense a shred of the Beloved’s love for you, even if you can scarcely conjure up your old passion for him, it has become perfectly clear that you are incapable of doing anything on your own to remedy your spiritual brokenness. All efforts to purge your unspiritual inclinations have only honed the laser of attention on the false self. Unwilling to keep struggling, the soul finds itself surrendering to its deepest inner wound and breathing in the stillness there.
“The only action left to the soul, ultimately, is to put down its self-importance and cultivate a simple loving attention toward the Beloved. That’s when the Beloved takes over and all our holy intentions vaporize. That’s when the soul, says John, is infused passively with his love. Though his radiance is imperceptible to the faculty of the senses and invisible to the faculty of the intellect, the soul that has allowed itself to be empty can at last be filled and overflow with him.”
From Mirbai Starrs introduction to her translation of Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross
Superabundant Grace by Henri Nouwen
Over the centuries the Church has done enough to make any critical person want to leave it. Its history of violent crusades, pogroms, power struggles, oppression, excommunications, executions, manipulation of people and ideas, and constantly recurring divisions is there for everyone to see and be appalled by.
Can we believe that this is the same Church that carries in its center the Word of God and the sacraments of God’s healing love? Can we trust that in the midst of all its human brokenness the Church presents the broken body of Christ to the world as food for eternal life? Can we acknowledge that where sin is abundant grace is superabundant, and that where promises are broken over and again God’s promise stands unshaken? To believe is to answer yes to these questions.
Glimmer of Light
Always bear in mind as a safe general rule that while God tries us by His crosses and sufferings, He always leaves us a glimmer of light by which we continue to have great trust in him and to recognize His immense goodness.