14. St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, Canisius College

St. Alphonsus Rodriquez
Canisius College, 1870
Buffalo, New York

Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez (1533-1617) was born in Segovia, Spain, the son of a wealthy merchant. Peter Faber, a Jesuit priest who was one of the first companions of Ignatius of Loyola, stayed with the family when he was visiting Segovia and prepared Alphonsus for his First Communion. When the young Rodriguez was only 12 and a student at the Jesuit school in Alcalá, his father died suddenly. “Alonso” then had to leave school to help his mother with the family business and in time, he married and had children.

When Alonso’s children and his wife died, he sold his business and sought to join the Jesuits. Since he was already 35, he was not admitted. But his desire to become a Jesuit was so strong that he studied theology for two years on his own. Eventually, the Provincial superior recognized his deep sincerity and mature spirituality and accepted Alphonsus as a Jesuit Brother in 1571.

His first and life-long assignment of service to others as Brother Alphonsus was at the Jesuit College in Palma, Majorca. There he took on the duties of receptionist, message bearer (before there were telephones), manager of almost anything that needed attention, and an advisor and informal counselor. He became a spiritual guide for many students, visitors and Jesuits, including one who became a missionary in Columbia: Saint Peter Claver.

After more than 40 years of continuous daily service at the college, Alphonsus died peacefully on October 31, 1617. After his death, his notes revealed the great depth of his personal prayer experiences. On a day when many in the United States are celebrating Halloween, Jesuits world-wide give thanks for the ministry of Jesuit Brothers.

Saint Alphonsus is pictured in a cassock with a rope cincture from which a loop drops to a key ring at his side. He stands above a doorway with a wooden door set into a stone arch. All these symbols relate to his many years of being the faithful doorkeeper-receptionist of the Jesuit College on the island of Majorca.

The seal of Canisius College displays the stripes of the Oñaz family and the wolves and caldron of Loyola. Both symbols are black on a golden background. The inscription reads: Canisius College, Buffalo, N.Y.; the date of foundation is 1870. The school colors are royal blue and gold.