October 30 – Zenobius and Zenobia; Alphonsus Rodriguez

Zenobius & Zenobia (d. 285) were brother and sister (respectively), brought up in piety and Aegea. You can find Aegea in Asia Minor. Piety can be hard to find. Zenobius grew up to be a doctor, healing people both with medicine and prayer (medicine as practiced in third-century Aegea needed a lot of prayer). Zenobia grew up too but what she did before her martyrdom didn’t get recorded. When their wealthy parents shuffled the coil, they gave their inheritance to the poor. Zenobius went on to become bishop, and converted many a pagan to the faith before the icy grip of Diocletian (metaphorically speaking) came down upon him (mixed metaphorically speaking). The governor took ill (pardon the pun) at Zenobius’ intransigence in the whole pagan-god-worshipping thing, and had him nailed to a cross. Then they started the torture. Seeing all this, Zenobia went to the governor, confessed herself a Christian, and told him to knock it off. The siblings were both placed on a red-hot iron bed, and in a boiling kettle, before being beheaded. Their bodies were reverently buried by the priest Hermogenes. Zenobius is the patron saint of sufferers and survivors of breast cancer.

Alphonsus Rodriguez (1532–1617) (aka Alonso) was the son of a wool merchant, although details are fuzzy wuzzy. Peter Faber, one of the original Jesuits, passed through town when Alonso was a lad, and helped prepare him for his first communion. Alonso entered the Jesuit school at fourteen, but less than a year later his father died, and he had to return home to help his mother with the family business. At 26 he married, which was happy and good, but then unhappy and ungood settled in for quite a spell. By 31 he had lost his business, his wife, and two of their three children. He moved in with his sisters, who helped him look after his remaining son, until he, too, passed away. Okay, that’s the bad news.

Freed from worldly cares, Alonso decided to re-pursue his dream of making a religious profession. The Jesuits, being picky, wanted him to continue his education before they showed him the inside of the front door, but his attempts to study at the University of Barcelona came to naught. He was admitted to the society as a lay brother, however, the provincial remarking, “Well, if he can’t be admitted as a brother or a priest, he can enter to become a saint.” Smart man.

Alonso began his probationary period at either Valencia or Gandia (depending on whether the person you ask is from Valencia or from Gandia). After six months he was sent to the (relatively) new college on Majorca, where he saw a great deal of the inside of the front door—he became the doorwarden, a position he held for 46 years. The porter at a Jesuit college in those days, in case you were wondering (actually whether or not you were wondering), was in charge of greeting visitors, fetching fathers/brothers/students/hangers-on when needed, delivering messages, running errands, distributing alms to the needy, and renewing the subscription to Jesuit Quarterly.

Alonso’s gentle spirit had a profound influence on both the men of the institution and the whole town. He would counsel townspeople who had no other “ear” (so to speak), and became known for his sermons in the college dining room, which were so well-received that people sat listening long after the food was eaten. (Whether because they were stingy with the food or the sermons were really long, my sources do not say.) He had a deep devotion to Our Lady, and was known to make copies by hand of the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception for anyone who requested it for their personal prayers.

He is the patron saint of Majorca.