"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.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

St. Alexis, l'homme de Dieu

St. Alexis and St. Benedict Joseph Labre are my very special patrons.  July 17 is the feast of St. Alexis - the saint who couldn't be married - ending his hidden life as a pilgrim, a mendicant - a beggar, living unrecognized beneath the staircase of his family home until after his death.  Something was off with these two guys - Alexis, and later, Benedict Joseph.  They give me hope.

Last evening I celebrated the feast of Mt. Carmel, joining a group of Carmelite friars and what seemed to me to be a full church of Secular Carmelites.  It was a wonderful grace.  I was astonished at how many people were there, including the six friars, three of whom are priests.  I felt like I had been on a long journey and returned to find the Church renewed by Carmelites.  So many holy people were there - it was a grace to worship with them.

The following is a short story about St. Alexis - he spent part of his life in Syria, so perhaps he will pray for the poor people of that country, so torn apart by civil war - especially the Christians, whose survival is very much threatened.

Story of St. Alexis.

St. Alexius the only son of Euphemianus, a wealthy Christian Roman of the senatorial class, fled his arranged marriage to follow his mysterious holy vocation. Disguised as a beggar, he lived near Edessa in Syria, accepting alms even from his own household slaves, who had been sent to look for him but did not recognize him, until a miraculous vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary singled him out as a "Man of God." Fleeing the resultant notoriety, he returned to Rome, so changed that his parents did not recognize him, but as good Christians took him in and sheltered him for seventeen years, which he spent in a dark cubbyhole beneath the stairs, praying and teaching catechism to children. After his death, his family found writings on his body which told them who he was and how he had lived his life of penance from the day of his wedding, for the love of God. (Source)


  1. I read the story of St. Alexius on the website of a monastery in Canada. All through it I was feeling terrible for his wife and parents. You can go to http://magnificat.ca and click on the Lives of the Saits under English, if you want to read a bit more.

  2. I found the "Reflection" at the bottom of the page Maggie referenced interesting:

    "We must always be ready to sacrifice our dearest and best natural affections in obedience to the call of our heavenly Father."

    Yet often I've read and heard the principle of "grace building upon nature" as a confirmation for this or that vocation, which seems to coincide with a person's desires or natural tendencies or perhaps affections. The more time goes on, the more I feel like there is very little but confusion and ambiguity when it comes to the ways of God and His will.

    1. The times were quite different in his day.

    2. Patrick - that's why I am confused myself. Still, it sounds like St. Alexis had an unambiguous call to follow.

      His poor parents!

      As for his wife - the marriage was no consummated, so I'm sure she wasn't stuck with a life of unchosen celibacy (which would be a sinful injustice).

    3. Yes, Mercury, she was stuck with a life of celibacy, and years of grief to go with it. Just because her husband ran out on her did not leave her free to seek a fulfilled marriage with another. In the eyes of the Church, she was married.

    4. He asked her permission and she granted it - I suspect she was cared for in the family home and lived the rest of her life relgiously and with contentment. That's my version at least.

    5. A nice version. That does make him sound so much better.

      Of the versions I read, in one he told (told, not asked) her that he was leaving - "Here's the checkbook, here's the car keys, enjoy your life, bye!" In the other two, he sneaked out without a word, like Brave Sir Robin. That accords much better with the rest of the story, with the years of grief and money spent on numerous search parties. Had she merely related to her in-laws what he said before he left, it might have mitigated their feelings of loss and betrayal, and saved them a bundle in search party fees.

      Full disclosure: I watched a near relative end two of his marriages under the guise of "God told me to." Very like a Roman, he told his wife of the time that it was over and she should go home to her parents now. Like good Christian wives, they submitted.

      I am very leery of those who use God as cover for their own choices.

  3. By the way, I'm grateful to know about saints like this. It gives me hope too that something can be off with someone and he/she can be a saint.

  4. Mercury,

    I could never doubt that St. Alexis had an unambiguous call to follow - how could I know one way or the other? He's a saint, so I trust the Church's judgment.

    Still, the exchange between Terry and Mrs. Rudd leads to more confusion. How does one know what God really wants?

    Today, given the circumstances, and if Mrs. Rudd is at all correct, I think spiritual directors would look at this discernment quite differently.

    1. Here is my best advice to you guys - ignore the saints you don't understand, relate to, or whose example is just too odd - pay no attention to them. God alone.

  5. Nice images and comments


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