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St. Alphonsus Rodriguez and the Attraction of Holiness

Alphonsus was known for his prayerfulness and continual consciousness of God’s presence, but his deeply human struggles with scrupulosity and agitations of mind were present in his life.

Mark A. McNeil – Catholic Answers Article

The first half of Alphonsus’s life was full of tragedy. His poor father, a wool trader, died when Alphonsus was young. Years later, Alphonsus married Mary Suarez, though she would live only for five more years. Only one of their three children outlived Mary. Tragedy struck again within two years of her death when Alphonsus’ mother and remaining son both died.

Who wouldn’t be consumed by bitterness and anger in the face of such miserable misfortune? For the young widower, however, Alphonsus’s losses birthed a desire to consecrate his life completely to God. After his wife’s death, he immersed himself in intense prayer and rigid bodily disciplines.

Although most stories of Alphonsus’s life understandably focus on his prayerfulness and continual consciousness of God’s presence, others reveal his deeply human struggles with scrupulosity and agitations of mind. Obsession with rules can lead to mental torment about past and present sins and shortcomings. In this struggle, Alphonsus followed St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, who almost lost his battle with scrupulosity.

Ignatius was so tormented by his many sins that he came close to taking his own life during his stay in Manresa, the same place where he would begin to develop the highly influential Spiritual Exercises. For both Ignatius and Alphonsus, the crucible of interior pain would give birth to a path to hope and love for countless others influence by them.

Of the many who were profoundly influenced by St. Alphonsus, St. Peter Claver is perhaps the most well-known. Claver, after receiving counsel from Alphonsus, devoted his life to tireless missionary work among the victims of the slave trade. Both Alphonsus and Claver would later be recognized by their order as models of what became a common refrain for Jesuits, “a man for others,” a phrase intended as a stark contrast to the temptation to be men “for ourselves.”

Read the full article on Catholic.com