Saint Alonso de Orozco, Priest
Oropesa (Toledo), Spain, 17 October 1500-Madrid, Spain, 19 September 1591
Saint Alonso was canonized 19 May 2002 by Pope John Paul II
lessed Alonso de Orozco has a very special place among the mystics of sixteenth Century Spain. Of all of them he was perhaps the most prolific and no doubt the most read of his own day. Some twenty works of his in Spanish went though many editions, and some of them were translated into other languages. There is a large collection of sermons in Latin, culled from his long preaching career.
Alonso was born at Oropesa (Toledo), Spain, on 17 October 1500. He studied at Talavera de la Riena, where his family had relocated in 1508, and then at Toledo. Afterward he studied law at the University of Salamanca and was exposed to the preaching of Saint Thomas of Villanova. Attracted to Augustinian religious life by the words and example of this famous friar, Alonso entered the novitiate at the age of twenty-two, together with his brother Francis, on 8 June 1522. His master was the saintly Louis de Montoya, and his prior was Thomas of Villanova. The death of Francis during the novitiate was a great trial to Alonso, but he persevered and professed vows the following year.
For thirty years Alonso was engaged in the apostolate of teaching and preaching. Four times he was appointed prior of various monasteries and in 1548 obtained permission to fulfill his long felt desire to go to the missions in Mexico. By the time he reached the Canary Islands, however, a severe case of arthritis forces his return home. In the book of his Confessions, Alonso records that in the year 1542, while residing in the monastery of Seville, he beheld in a dream the Mother of God “who spoke to me but one word, and that was ‘Write.'” Ever after Alonso followed this instruction, producing books on a variety of subjects up until his ninetieth year.
In 1551 he was appointed prior in the royal city of Valladolid and shortly thereafter named court preacher and chaplain to the royal family. Ten years later King Philip II transferred his court to Madrid and Blessed Alonso was constrained to accompany him. He occupied a cell in the friary of San Felipe el Real, where his life was one of simplicity and humility in contrast to the official functions of the court in which he necessarily participated. In the midst of his many duties in Madrid he was also responsible for the foundation of three convents of Augustinian contemplative nuns and the College of the Incarnation for the education of candidates to the Order. As he neared his eightieth year Friar Alonso approached the king with the request that he might be relieved of his duties at the court in order to spend his final days in prayer and seclusion in preparation for his death. The response of the King was an unqualified refusal, echoed loudly by the members of the court, who desired that the “saint of the court” should carry on in his ministry to them. As it happened, his services would continue for another ten years.
On 19 September 1591, after an illness of several weeks duration, Alonso died at the age of ninety, mourned by young and old, wealthy and poor, the humble and the great. He was buried in the church of the College of the Incarnation in Madrid. In 1853 his remains were transferred to the community chapel of the Valladolid monastery and later placed in an altar of the new church there. Finally in1978 they were returned to Madrid to rest in the chapel of the contemplative nuns of Talavera de a Riena.
Pope Leo XIII declared Alonso de Orozco blessed 15 January 1882. The Augustinian Family celebrates his memory on 19 September.