19 February 2010

Blessed Alvarez of Cordoba

19 FEBRUARY 2010. Today we celebrate the feast day of Blessed Alvarez of Cordoba, a Dominican friar and priest. Alvarez was born at Zomora, Spain in the middle of the fourthteenth century and entered the Dominican Order in A.D. 1368. Blessed Alvarez preached throughout Spain and Italy. By his preaching and devotion to the Lord's passion, Alvarez spread the practice of the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) throughout Western Europe. Blessed Alvarez died on 19 February 1430.

During his life Blessed Alvarez was the personal confessor, spiritual guide, and political advisor to Queen Catherine of Castile. And, Alvarez was charged with the educating the young King John II. Blessed Alvarez founded a Dominican house of strict observance in mountains around Cordoba, called Escalaceli (Ladder of Heaven), which became a well known house of piety and learning. Blessed Alvarez spent his time at Escalaceli, during the day, preaching, teaching, and begging for alms in the street. At night he was absorbed in prayer. Tradition tells that Blessed Alvarez set up a series of images in the gardens of Escalaceli with images of the Holy Land and our Lord's Passion--a foundational practice that we know today as the Stations of the Cross.

Tradition tells of two particular events in the life of Blessed Alvarez of Cordoba that provide great instruction on how we are called to live our lives today.

Our Lord calls us to humble ourselves and place our trust in Him.--Once, when the entire food stocks of Escalaceli consisted only of a single head of lettuce, Blessed Alvarez invited all of his Dominican brothers to sit with him at the table. When they had done so, Blessed Alvarez said a prayer of thanksgiving for the meal and sent a porter to answer the door. When the porter opened the door, he found a stranger leading a mule that was loaded with food. After the mule was unloaded of the food, the stranger and animal disappeared.

What you do for the least of my brothers, says the Lord, you do for Me.--Once, Blessed Alavarez found a dying beggar in the streets. Moved with pity, Blessed Alvarez wrapped the beggar in his own cloak and carried him back to Escalaceli. However, when he arrived at the priory and unwrapped his cloak, he found not the beggar, but a crucifix. That crucifix reportedly still hangs in Escalaceli today.


God of mercy, 
you endowed Blessed Alvarez with the gifts of penance 
and divine love. 
With the help of his prayers and example 
may we always bear the suffering of Christ 
in our bodies and your love in our hearts. 
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.


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