This Advent, Ignatian writers from across the Jesuit Conference are sharing 25 days of reflections on Ignatian heroes. You can receive these reflections directly in your inbox by signing up here.
Day 13: Alphonsus Rodriguez
By John Dougherty
The Ignatian tradition has no shortage of heroes: missionaries and martyrs, poets and labor organizers. But the one who inspires me the most had a much simpler job. He was a doorman.
St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (1533-1617) lived a whole life before entering the Society. He was a husband, a father, a businessman. But when his family died and his business collapsed, his entire life was upended. Feeling a call to join the Jesuits, he was rejected several times due to his lack of a formal education, before finally being accepted as a Jesuit brother.
From there he wasn’t sent on any grand adventures to the far corners of the Earth. Instead, he was made the porter at the Jesuit university in Majorca, where his main responsibility was to greet guests as they arrived and to show them where to go. It was simple, anonymous work, but Rodriguez approached it with extraordinary zeal. He would greet every visitors as if they were Christ (whenever he heard a knock at the door, he would say “I’m coming, Lord!”), and soon became known by the scholastics at the university for his wisdom and faith. Many would come out to visit him in the gatehouse to receive his guidance. Despite his humble position, he touched many lives, and left behind a legacy of holiness.
When I first decided to become a high school campus minister, I imagined a lot of grand, heroic deeds: inspiring retreat talks that would leave students in tears, deep conversations that would change lives, moments of courageously standing up for justice while my students and colleagues looked on in admiration. In reality, my work is much more humble. Mostly it’s emails, scheduling (and rescheduling) meetings and packing retreat supplies.
This work isn’t about heroic deeds. It’s about making a student feel that they are loved, inviting them to grow closer to God, and hopefully giving them the tools to discover how God is calling them to live. St. Alphonsus’ story reminds me that my job is to see Christ in others and help them to see Christ in themselves. In fact, that’s all of our jobs – no matter what we do for a paycheck. There’s no work more humble, or more important, than that.
Reflection: How do you find Christ in your work and/or daily activities? What humble acts of service is God calling you to this Advent season?
John Dougherty is the director of Mission & Ministry at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia. He was previously the director of campus ministry at Saint Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, New Jersey. His writing has appeared in America Magazine, Millennial Journal and more.