Why did Deacon Tom & Mary Jane leave their jobs, paychecks, and home for full-time ministry?
This week, our regular hosts Deacon Tom and Mary Jane will sit in ‘the hot seat’ as Angela Santana hosts Catholicism Live!
Hear their little-known story about how they gave up the lifestyle they knew for an uncertain future serving God. How was their first trip to the Holy Land? What was it like witnessing to the Catholic faith door-to-door? Why and how did they start the Pilgrim Center of Hope?
Tune in for an inspiring look at the Foxes’ extraordinary call from God, and how saying, “Here we are, Lord,” has impacted San Antonio, South Texas, and the global Church.
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More information related to this episode of Catholicism Live!:
Saint of the Week:
St. Alonso Rodriguez, also known as Alphonsus or Alfonso (Feast Day: October 30)
Some saints attack the world head-on, like St. Peter Claver, the friend and disciple of St. Alonso. Others like Alonso himself fight personal battles against failure, loss, temptation, and disease. We tend to admire more activist champions such as Peter Claver, who worked among slaves for forty years. But why should we think any the less of saints such as Alonso, who was more like us in his ordinariness and suffering? And who showed us how to be faithful in long lasting spiritual and personal struggles?
During his lifetime, Brother Alonso Rodriguez never became a priest, published a book, or advanced professionally. But writings discovered after his death revealed a true mystic, who attended to a rich spiritual life while he worked as a doorkeeper and porter.
Born in Spain during 1532. When he was fourteen, his father died unexpectedly and Alonso left school to help his mother run the family business. He met and courted a devout woman named Maria. They were married and she soon gave birth to two children. Alphonsus had a happy family and a career, and it seemed that life could not get better.
Then, tragedy struck yet again. Maria died in childbirth and the baby died with her. His ailing mother soon died, as well, and Alonso was left with one child and a business that was only getting worse. As the business got worse, his remaining child seemed to get sicker and sicker with both grief and some unknown illness. He was 31. His remaining child died. Heavy taxes and expenses led Alonso to the brink of financial ruin; many biographers depict him as feeling like a failure in life. He eventually became homeless and a beggar.
Afterwards, he said, “In failure, I saw the majesty of God. I recognized the wickedness of my life. I had not been concerned about God, and in that state, I was on the verge of my eternal perdition. I saw the sublime grandeur of God from the dust of my misery. I imagined myself as a second David, and the Miserere (have mercy) was the expression of the state of my soul.”
Without his wife and children, and having few prospects due to his lack of a higher education, Alonso turned his thoughts to religious life. Even there, however, he faced difficulties. In his early years, Alonso had met one of the first Jesuits, Bl. Peter Faber; and with his old life in ruins, he developed an interest in joining the recently established Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
Alonso applied for admission to the Jesuits, but was refused because he was not educated. Undaunted, he returned to Latin school, humbly bearing the ridicule of his classmates. He failed to acquire the high school diploma despite attending for two years. The Jesuit Fathers in Valencia said he was unfit to join. But Alonso’s years of prayer had not been in vain: they were answered when a leader of the Jesuits, sensing his dedication, admitted him as a lay-brother.
In modern times, Jesuit Brothers work in a wide range of careers, with few limitations. During the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the lay-brothers of the Society of Jesus were known as “temporal coadjutors,” and assisted the priests by performing more routine duties such as cooking, construction and farming.
The Jesuits sent Alonso to the boy’s school at Montesión on the island of Majorca, to work as a porter and door-keeper. He assumed the responsibilities of receiving visitors and guests and carrying their luggage, tracking down students or priests when they were needed, delivering messages, and distributing alms to the poor. While other Jesuits traveled the globe evangelizing whole nations, and undertook a vast reform of the Catholic Church throughout Europe, Alonso carried bags and ran errands for 46 years.
It was repetitious and monotonous work, demanding much humility, but Rodriguez imagined everyone who knocked at the door to be the Lord himself and greeted everyone with the same smile he would have given God. Each time he opened the door, Brother Alonso said to himself, “I’m coming, Lord!” The practice reminded him to treat each person as Jesus himself. Students felt the presence and influence of Brother Alonso and came to him for advice, encouragement and prayers. His Jesuit superiors started to take notice as well, and asked him to begin a private record of his life and thoughts.
In his old age, Alonso experienced no relief from his trials. The more he exercised humility and practiced penance, the more he seemed to be subject to spiritual dryness, vigorous temptations, and even assaults from demons. (Twice, they threw him down a cement staircase.) In 1591 he was already 60 years old when he received an order to sleep thereafter in a bed; until then he had contented himself with a few hours of sleep on a table or in a chair. He served a chapel where the elderly or infirm fathers celebrated late Masses.
Rodriguez struck up a notable friendship with one young man, Peter Claver, and advised him to volunteer for the South American missions. Following his advice, St. Peter Claver eventually catechized, baptized and spoke out for the rights of 300,000 slaves in South America.
In 1617 his body was ravaged with disease. For three days before his death, after his last Communion, Alonso remained in ecstasy. “What happiness!” exclaimed an eyewitness. He died at midnight, October 30.
His superiors examined the written records he had left behind describing his spiritual life. What they found was the life of a saint and mystic. His approach was simple: Christ was appearing in every person who appeared at the door; the task was to encounter God in any task. From this awareness, he proceeded to a life of contemplation akin to the renowned saints of his era (such as St. Ignatius or St. Teresa of Avila), whose grand achievements are better known.
Brother Alonso Rodriguez was declared a saint in 1887. He is buried on the same island of Majorca where he answered the door and carried bags for five decades.
(Biography adapted from Catholic News Agency and other sources, including an article by Bert Ghezzi from his book, Voices of the Saints)
Quote read during our episode this week:
“I put myself in spirit before our crucified Lord, looking at him full of sorrow, shedding his blood and bearing great bodily hardships for me.
As love is paid for in love, I must imitate him, sharing in spirit all his sufferings. I must consider how much I owe him and what he has done for me. Putting these sufferings between God and my soul, I must say, ‘What does it matter, my God, that I should endure for your love these small hardships? For you, Lord, endured so many great hardships for me.’ Amid the hardship and trial itself, I stimulate my heart with this exercise. Thus, I encourage myself to endure for love of the Lord who is before me, until I make what is bitter sweet. In this way learning from Christ our Lord, I take and convert the sweet into bitter, renouncing myself and all earthly and carnal pleasures, delights and honors of this life, so that my whole heart is centered solely on God.”
Another of St. Alonso’s great insights to humility:
“In the difficulties which are placed before me, why should I not act like a donkey? When one speaks ill of him — the donkey says nothing. When he is mistreated — he says nothing. When he is forgotten — he says nothing. When no food is given him — he says nothing. When he is made to advance — he says nothing. When he is despised — he says nothing. When he is overburdened — he says nothing… The true servant of God must do likewise, and say with David: Before You I have become like a beast of burden.”
Saint Alonso Rodriguez, pray for us!
May we gain hope from St. Alonso’s example: No event, no matter how tragic or frustrating, can keep us from answering God’s beautiful calling for our lives – the call to holiness.
Pearl of the Week
: Appointment with God
by Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R.
Paperback book with just under 60 pages. Use this book as a guide for a prosperous and consistant prayer life. Fr. Michael addresses both physical and spiritual aspects of prayer.
Watch the first in a series of videos about this book from YouTube here: