Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez - Poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Today is October 30, the Feast of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez. St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, pray for us! 

Have you ever read Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem about St. Alphonsus Rodriguez? It is one of my favorites. It speaks to the great work that can be done with simple virtue and simple acts. 

It was the Age of Discovery. It was a time when Jesuits accompanied the European explorers to the most remote parts of the globe, and in some cases, like Saint Francis Xavier and Mateo Ricci, when the priests went farther then the explorers. 


St. Alphonsus Rodriguez was a porter, a doorman, for a remote Jesuit retreat house on an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It was the backwater of backwaters for a Jesuit during the Age of Explorers. 

Nevertheless, Rodriguez' great spiritual insight became renowned throughout Europe. The simple man became the destination for kings and princes. 

Read more about St. Alphonsus Rodriguez below. His was a life of great tragedy before joining the Jesuits.  

Here is one of Gerard Manley Hopkins' greatest poems about one of the simplest saints:


Gerard Manley Hopkins Poem About St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

In honour of 
St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
Laybrother of the Society of Jesus


Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.


⁠Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.


More About St. Alphonsus Rodriguez: Biography

[from Franciscan Media]

Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.

Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter, and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business, and with his young son, moved into his sister’s home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.

At the death of his son years later, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.

His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including Saint Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’ life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but centuries later he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.

Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.

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2 Comments

  1. I just heard about this poem on the radio. I hope you don't mind if I copy it?

    Another poet who might be appropriate at this moment in history is Phyllis McGinley. She was a devout catholic, wife and mother whose humorous poems praised such topics as suburban life, politics, modern art, and lives of the saints. She won the Pullitzer Prize in 1961 and was on the cover of Time June of 1965. Second wave feminists set out to trash her, notably Sylvia Plath and Betty Friedan. Today she is chiefly remembered for her poem "The Year Without a Santa Claus." She reminds me of Amy Coney Barrett.

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