Alphonsus Rodriguez was born in Segovia Spain on July 25, 1533. Alphonsus’ first contact with the Jesuits was when Peter Faber (one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola) went to Segovia to preach and teach catechism to children. He was sent to the Jesuit school at Alcala when he was twelve years old. He returned after his schooling to run the family cloth business, and was married when he was twenty-seven years of age. He had three children, Gaspar, Alphonsus and Maria. He was very happy with his family life and was a good husband to his wife and father to his children. However, in quick succession his son Gaspar died and then his daughter Maria. Shortly thereafter his wife died, and finally his son Alphonsus. He looked to the Jesuits for spiritual help and direction. After much discernment he presented himself as an applicant for the priesthood. However, since he was already thirty-five years old at that time, it was recommended that he join the Society as a coadjutor brother. On January 6, 1571, at the age of thirty-seven, Alphonsus entered the Jesuit novitiate. He pronounced his first and perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience on April 5, 1573, and took on various positions at the Jesuit College of Montesion in Palma on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain. In 1579, he was appointed as the doorkeeper of the College. As doorkeeper his duty was to receive visitors and take messages for the professors and students. On his way to the door he would repeatedly say, “I am coming Lord!” and greeted everyone with same warm smile that he would have reserved for the Lord. Legend has it that Our Lord and His Blessed Mother did appear to Alphonsus when he opened the door one day. He worked in the same position for fifteen years. When he was sixty-one years old his health began to decline, and he was appointed as assistant to the new porter, and worked in this position till he was eighty-two years, and from 1615 he was confined to his bed and could rise only occasionally. Finally on October 31, 1617 with the name of Jesus on his lips, he went to God.
He was beatified by Pope Leo XII on June 12, 1825, and canonized by Pope Leo XIII on January 15, 1888.
Since the text chosen for the feast of today includes 14,1,which spoke of a Sabbath setting, this text must be seen in that light. The text is set in the context of a meal, and contains instructions on behaviour to guests who were invited. Meals were important social ceremonies, and very little was left to chance. In his instructions, Jesus advocates what may be termed as practical humility, with words from Prov 25,6-7. It must be noticed that when the host asks the guest to move down from the place of honour, no term of address, respect or affection is used, whereas when the host invites the guest to move up, the guest is addressed as “friend”. The future tense that is used in 14,11 “will be humbled”, “will be exalted”) points beyond the immediate situation to the reversal of values that is characteristic of the economy of God’s kingdom. When one realises that God accepts one unconditionally, the result is practical humility.