St Alphonsus Rodriguez

Widower, Jesuit lay brother (entered heaven 31 October 1617)

Dear Al,

I wouldn’t sweat it too much – there’s more to life than football championships.  Even if you stay forever foiled in your attempts to break in to the starting lineup, God will know how to make your efforts bear plenty of spiritual fruit (which, after all, is the best kind, since it tastes good forever).  The story of today’s saint may be somewhat encouraging for you.

His was an odd life.  A Spaniard, he longed for the religious life, but when his father died the young 26-year-old had to go home and take over the small family business.  Soon after he married, at the age of 26, the business took a dive. Then two of his three children died, followed soon after by the death of his wife. Unsure where God was leading him, in his early 30’s he moved in with his sisters, who helped take care of his remaining son.  They also taught him prayer and contemplation. When his third son died, he decided to follow his call to religious life, and attempted to join the Jesuits. But he was older already, and didn’t have much of an education, and so he was not admitted. He began to study, but couldn’t finish.  His health was waning fast due to his extreme self-imposed austerities, and he was heading for destruction when a Jesuit priest invited him to sign on as a Jesuit lay brother (religious who take vows but don’t study for the priesthood; normally they take care of the manual labor in Jesuit communities).  He did this, and spent the next 46 years as porter (doorkeeper) to a Jesuit community in Valencia, Spain. His duties included delivering packages, answering the door, taking care of travelers, and distributing alms to the poor. He was exemplary in every virtue, but especially in obedience (once a superior ordered him to eat his plate, so he energetically – though fruitlessly – applied his knife and fork to the rude earthenware).  He only professed his final vows when he was 54. When he turned sixty, he was ordered to sleep on a bed instead of in a chair or on a bench the ground – his usual places of rest.

During his years as porter, he developed a widespread reputation for wisdom and charity, such that the whole of Valencia, from the most exalted nobles to the humblest beggar, would come to him for advice and encouragement, which he freely, copiously, and beneficially bestowed.  Even religious superiors would consult him. Miracles were also attributed to him.

In short, this humble brother who stumbled into his vocation shows that even the best of plans are sometimes destined to fail.  So don’t let your lack of athletic progress get you down – if you just keep doing your best, you can be sure that God will gladly do the rest.

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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