"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
The poverty of St. Alexius of Rome
It is said St. Alexius left his wife on their wedding night - with her permission of course - to follow Christ in humility as the wandering ascetic we come to call a pilgrim. Fleeing Roman society, he made his way to the Holy Land, and eventually resided in Syria, living on the streets amongst others who depended upon alms for their support. It is believed he once managed to evade his father's servants who had been sent in search of him. Not recognizing him, so the legend goes, they even gave the Saint alms. His holiness was miraculously revealed to the locals and Alexi soon began to attract a following. Fearing the dangers that accompany the world's esteem, the Saint once again set out on pilgrimage.
St Alexi eventually returned to Rome and lived unrecognized as a beggar beneath one of the staircases of his father's villa. He lived upon alms and the refuse from his father's table, frequently enduring abuse from servants and street urchins. St. Alexi bore such treatment patiently, and repaid their taunts with edifying reflections and instructions on the faith. His reputation for holiness again increased, although he remained unrecognized by his father's household until his death. LaTour's painting, The Discovery of St. Alexius illustrates the moment when a servant discovered the dead Alexius' true identity.
St Alexi has become one of my very special patrons. I never knew how much until the last few years. It is an amazing grace to contemplate the Saint's vocation. To ruminate his coming to terms with abject poverty and homelessness, hollowing out his total dependence upon God alone - when all creatures fail, when there is no longer anything to claim as one's own... His confession of faith reveals what it means to be alone - surrounded by those we know. To be unrecognized and hidden - in plain sight.
The seed that falls to the ground and dies...
The Spirit helps us in our weakness, though we do not know how to pray as we ought. The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groans...