|Memorial of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez,
Romans 8:26-30 or Ephesians 6:10-18
Psalm 13:4-5,6 or Psalm 62:2-6
Luke 13:22-30 or Luke 14:7-11
Born in Spain to a merchant family, Alphonsus was drawn to the Jesuits by Blessed Peter Favre, S.J. Before he entered the Society he was happily married, father to three children, and a successful businessman. Their happy life together did not last long as his children and wife died in rapid succession, leaving the Saint inconsolable. He found ultimate consolation in God. After two unsuccessful attempts to enter the Society of Jesus, he was accepted as a brother candidate in 1571 at the age of thirty-seven. He was sent to Palma on the island of Majorca for his novitiate. He never left that island. He died there forty-six years later.
For nearly five decades he served as the doorkeeper of the Jesuit
college in Palma. He was noted for his gracious, kind, patient and,
humble service to all who entered the house. Brother Alphonsus was
the spiritual mentor of St. Peter Claver and inspired him to go to Cartagena
and minister to the slaves brought from Africa.
Today’s gospel from St. Luke recounts the familiar story of the marriage guest who chose the place of honor, only to be asked to change his seat after the arrival of a more important guest. Great was the embarrassment! Such was life in a class-conscious society. A more humble person, a person with greater self-knowledge, would have “known” his place.
Today’s saint knew his place. His place was with his Lord and with those he served. His understanding of humility was that of Thomas Aquinas who noted, “humility is an honest assessment of who one is before God.” St. Alphonsus stood before God in all simplicity, honesty, and humility and in that served his Lord by serving others. For he came to know he was God’s creation sustained in God’s love. That is the essence of humility.
As doorkeeper, Alphonsus’ duty was to receive visitors who came to the college, deliver messages, and distribute alms to the needy. In his journal he wrote “each time the doorbell rang he looked at the door and envisioned that it was Jesus standing outside.” On the way to the door he would say, “I’m coming, Lord!” For some forty-six years his guests were treated like the Lord and he willingly played the servant. From this life of service we can learn what our brother learned, namely that we grow in humility as we discover our true center is in God’s will and we come to recognize our total dependence is found in God. And from this realization comes the desire to serve -- to serve God and to serve one another.
What prepares us for this service is found in the reading from Paul to the Philippians where he writes of the armour of God; armour needed to withstand the evil of the day, but also armour which equips us “to pray at all times in the Spirit.” The impulse to serve, nurtured in prayer, comes from the Spirit. For those who equip themselves with truth and righteousness, peace and faith, and the word of God, are equipped to pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayers and supplications.
Humility, too, is a gift, nurtured in the life of the Spirit.
We come to know as St. Alphonsus came to know, that the way of Jesus is
not of power, but of love. A love that is strong enough to withstand
evil of any description or circumstance. This is a love that expresses
itself in service and is rooted in an honest realization of who each of
us is before God.
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