Homily for the Feast of St. Alphonsus, the porter
By Pierre Bélanger, SJ
Alphonsus Rodríguez had an unusual journey in the Society of Jesus - but he is not the only one! From being a young businessman (even a teenager) who took over the family business when his father died, he got married, had three children... but soon his wife and children passed away. He was disoriented and sought advice from the Jesuits in Segovia, Spain. This led him to ask to join the Society. Regarded as a rather old fellow - 35 years of age! - and without any academic background, he was not admitted as a scholastic but rather as a brother and was sent to the Colegio Montesión, in Palma de Mallorca, as early as during his novitiate.
would be a porter there for 37 years. A task that may not seem very important,
but it was and still is, even if it has evolved. In the obituaries of St.
Alphonsus, we read: “The position of doorkeeper was one of great trust and
responsibility, because it was the public face of the community.” And further, “He
always tried to regard the people he met with the virtue in which each one
excelled (the useful, the humble, the hardworking) and he tried to discover
Christ in everyone who knocked at the door.”
During my last years at the Collège des Jésuites de Québec, I had a small job. I was the receptionist for a few hours a week, in the evenings or during the weekends, at a time when you had to go through the reception desk to get access to a Jesuit or a school extension: $1.25/hour, minimum wage. I liked this small salary but above all the “status” of “collaborator” of the college and the Jesuit community. And I think I can say that I was aware of being a “first impression” of the institution for those who called or came to the door. Without having the degree of holiness of St. Alphonsus - without the holiness that would have allowed me to see Christ himself in everyone! - I was performing an essential service, which I believe had a role in preparing me to enter the Society of Jesus, a role in my vocation.
Alphonsus Rodríguez, quite humbly and without always being aware of it, helped many people who came to him at the door of the Colegio Montesión.
there, at the door, available... this job of the porter that I have been
meditating on these last few days, made me reflect on the administrative
choices that have been made for years to replace the porters with “computerized
systems.” It also made me think about Andrea and Nicolò, the receptionists at
the Curia. Sometimes I wondered whether it was reasonable, from the point of
view of financial profitability, to pay these men for many hours, without them
having any other task than to welcome visitors. And I chose to pray for them and
their families because they represent a form of gratuity, openness, simplicity
in welcoming, virtues that today’s feast intends to highlight.
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