Saint José María Rubio
March 3, 1953. Doctor Luis García Andrade from Madrid saw María Victoria Guzmán Gasco in consultation. This two and a half year old little girl was suffering from a serious infection with meningeal complications. She would sometimes have convulsions lasting five or ten minutes, during which her arms and legs went stiff. The diagnosis was hopeless: tuberculous meningitis. Despite vigorous treatment, the condition of María Victoria worsened; on March 8, she appeared to be dead: sunken eyes, pinched nostrils, imperceptible breathing, body cold as marble and unresponsive.
Someone then said that the girl could have been saved had she been commended to Father Rubio. The mother, thinking that nothing was impossible for God, made a search for a relic of the priest. Taking the child in her arms, she pressed the relic over her entire body while imploring, “Father Rubio, make her better,” by which she meant that if she was revived that the child would be in good health. Indeed, according to the doctors, María Victoria would have remained blind and mentally retarded in the unlikely event of survival.
After a moment, to general amazement, María Victoria opened her eyes, sat up in her mother’s arms and said: “Mama, I want my pretty shoes to go walk in the street.” On March 10, Maria Victoria was brought to Doctor Andrade. A blood test showed the disappearance of the symptoms, which had led, four days previously, to the most alarming diagnosis. The doctor said, “It is truly a miracle of Father Rubio. Don’t leave Madrid without going to the Jesuit house to tell everything to Father Cuadrado” (vice-postulant for the beatification of Father Rubio).
The miracle was studied by Doctors Bosch Marin, a member of the Academy of Medicine, and Torres Gost, director of the hospital for infectious diseases. Since she was only two and a half years old, the miraculously recovered child could not have been an hysteric or a pretender. In addition, the tests revealed that she had been attacked by an acute organic infection from which she had been suddenly cured and did not have the least psychological sequelae. The doctors of the medical commission of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints would recognize, on June 27, 1984, that the cure had been “instantaneous, complete and permanent, without any possible natural explanation.” The miracle aided in achieving the beatification of Father Rubio.
Before going forward with the beatification or canonization of a servant of God, the Church requires a miracle attributable to the intercession of the servant. Today, in such causes, one is talking essentially about miracles of physical cure. Seven criteria allow a cure to be judged miraculous: 1. The disease or infirmity must be serious and, in the opinion of competent physicians, incurable or, at best, extremely difficult to cure. 2. The afflicted person must not be on the verge of being cured or in a crisis which classically precedes a cure. 3. Medical treatment must not yet have been used, or at least have been without effect. 4. The cure must be instantaneous. 5. It must be perfect, that is, concerning the totality of the disease; there must be no serious sequel. 6. The cure must not be preceded by periods of remission or recovery. 7. The cure must be stable and durable, and must not be followed by relapse. When all of these criteria are fulfilled, and when there is no remaining possibility of a natural explanation of the cure, the miracle can be recognized.
A miracle is a tangible and certain fact that departs from the constant and known laws of nature and is not possible without a special intervention by God. Why does God perform miracles? Firstly, to reinforce the Faith. The Acts of the Apostles shows that miracles strengthen the faith of believers and facilitate conversions: Now by the hands of the Apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And with one accord they would all meet in Solomon’s portico; but of the rest, no one dared to associate with them, yet the people made much of them. And the multitude of men and women who believed in the Lord increased still more (5: 12-14). Saint Augustine asserted that the first function of miracles was to establish the faith (City of God, B. 22).
Miracles can also demonstrate the sanctity of a man that God wishes to set forth as an example. In the case of a beatification, the Church requires a miracle in order to confirm the previous judgment that it reached concerning the heroic practice of the virtues by the candidate.
Long moments with Mary
But who was Blessed Father Rubio? José María Rubio came into the world in Andalusia, Spain on July 22, 1864. His parents were farmers and very good Christians: every night the family said the Rosary together. The “Hail Mary” is a prayer that comes from Heaven. Pope John Paul II has said, “Christians learn to recite it as a family from their youngest age, receiving it as a precious gift to keep all their life. This same prayer, recited tens of times in the Rosary, helps many of the faithful to enter into a praying contemplation of the Gospel mysteries and sometimes to spend long interludes in intimate contact with the Mother of Jesus… They ask the Blessed Mother of the Lord to accompany and protect them on the road of daily existence” (November 15, 1995). In fact, the intercession of Mary produces abundant fruits of sanctity and arouses vocations.
Early on José María spent a lot of time at church, and when it was closed he asked the sacristan for the key so that he could pray before the Blessed Sacrament, thus revealing his supernatural spirit. He also showed a lot of affection towards his family-he would have twelve brothers and sisters, of whom six would die quite young-and he was studious at school. After his studies in philosophy and theology at the seminary in Grenada, José María was ordained a priest in 1887. He was appointed vicar, then pastor, and he also performed the office of chaplain to the Bernardine Sisters for thirteen years. In his priestly apostolate he cared for the sick and the poor whom he loved to instruct in the truths of the faith. A witness would say, “It was a pleasure to listen to him.” Through his simple and unaffected language, God Himself passed. In the confessional, he gave vigorous spiritual direction. Those who asked for his help continued to be faithful to him, even if his direction called for the forsaking of bad habits. He called on his penitents to follow the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. He plunged them into the supernatural, teaching them to speak with God in meditation and prayer, to make an examination of conscience and to endure the difficulties of life for the love of God.
The “Guard of Honor” and the “Marys”
In 1905, his father passed away from this world into eternity. This painful grief liberated Don José María who was already in his forties. From the beginning of his seminary days, he had wished to enter the Jesuits, but his parents had refused. In 1906 he realized his desire. At the Jesuit novitiate, Father Rubio fervently gave himself to prayer and penance. He wrote, “Everything comes to me from my God and everything must be returned to Him. So too my heart must remain in love with my gentle Lord Jesus, my good, my repose, my consolation, my richness and one day, in Heaven, my eternal joy and glory.”
A variety of ministries were assigned to him. In 1911, the International Eucharistic Congress of Madrid instituted a renewal of religious observance and of works of piety toward the Holy Eucharist. Among these, the “Honor Guard of the Sacred Heart” was entrusted to Father Rubio. It brought its members together for services for the first Friday of the month (with a holy hour the night before), the first Sunday of the month, a monthly recollection, the Novena of the Feast of the Sacred Heart and charitable activities. Father quickly revealed his qualities as an organizer. Another work was added to this, that of the “Marys of the tabernacles.” It consisted of providing “Marys” to adore at deserted tabernacles that had been abandoned by Christians. Father required that these “Marys,” who represented the holy women who were at Golgotha at the foot of Jesus’ Cross, completely abandon the worldly life: no novels, no fashion, no dancing. He taught them to live according to the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity.
The holy hours organized by Father had an immense success and brought on profound spiritual transformations. The adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament is indeed an exercise which is very useful for souls. Christ Jesus, who died, rose again and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and who intercedes for us, is present in His Church in many ways, but most especially in the Eucharistic species (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, 1373). “In the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood, together with the soul and divinity, of Our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained” (CCC, 1374).
The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the Sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated Hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession (cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Mysterium fidei. “The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go meet Him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to make amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease” (John Paul II, cf. CCC 1380).
A captivating simplicity
The success of Father Rubio’s preaching was such that even many priests and Jesuits were astonished. Crowds flocked to him. It would later be said, “He succeeded in penetrating hearts as if he were the blade of a knife.” Nevertheless, in human terms, Father Rubio was a preacher without talent; there was nothing extraordinary about his doctrine, his style, and his delivery. He expressed himself with a somewhat ingenuous simplicity, as if he were in a private conversation. He shared his profound interior life with souls.
For example, speaking one day of making amends for faults one had committed, he said, “My dear brothers, would you prefer another form of making amends than this? Do your duty. Fathers of a family, fulfill well your beautiful mission. Wives, ladies who are listening to me, fulfill well each of your duties in the vocation which the Divine Heart has given to you. Accomplishing a duty requires sacrifice.” And in his simple and easy-to-understand language, he did not hesitate to affirm that gravely lacking to accomplish one’s duties of state by refusing sacrifice, is to start on the road to Hell; sincere conversion is then necessary to start back on the road to Heaven.
In his preaching, Father Rubio always repeated the same things, but souls were always gripped with repentance and love. He spoke of the ultimate fate of man: death, judgment, Heaven, Hell. Nowadays, “one rarely speaks and then only a little bit about the ultimate destiny,” said Pope Paul VI. “However, the Second Vatican Council recalled for us the solemn eschatological truths concerning ourselves, including the terrible truth of possible eternal punishment that we call Hell, of which Christ spoke unhesitatingly” (Audience of September 8, 1971). The same Pope also said, “One of the fundamental principles of Christian life is that it must be lived in terms of its future and eternal eschatological destiny. Yes, that ought to make us tremble. Let us again listen to the prophetic voice of Saint Paul: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2: 12). The seriousness and the uncertainty of our final fate have always been great objects of meditation and a source of unmatched energy for morality and also for the sanctity of the Christian life” (April 28, 1971).
On the occasion of November 1, 1983, Pope John Paul II said: “Reflection occasioned by the commemoration of the dead plunges us into the great chapter of the ultimate destiny: death, judgment, Hell, Paradise. It is the perspective that we must always have before our eyes, it is the secret so that life finds fullness and significance and unfolds every day with the strength of hope. Let us meditate often on the ultimate fate and always better understand the meaning of life.” The saints have always believed the teaching of the Church on the ultimate destiny, including the existence of Hell, a dogma which is difficult to accept for modern minds, which are more subject to impressions and feelings than to the light of faith. Blessed Frédéric Ozanam wrote, “Some modern people cannot accept the dogma of the eternity of the pains of Hell-they find it inhuman; but can they love humanity more or have a more exact understanding of justice and injustice than Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Francis de Sales? So it is not that they love humanity more, it is that they have a less vivid feeling of the horror of sin and the justice of God.”
While he too taught these salutary truths, Father Rubio did not fail to exhort his listeners to trust in God, reminding them that He had placed at their disposition abundant supernatural means to reach Heaven: prayer, penance, frequent sacraments, forgiveness of wrongdoings, etc. His method, based on trust in the power of grace, unleashed some combative fears. One day he was going to preach in the popular neighborhood of Entravias y Vallecas, and it was immediately suggested that he speak on social questions without breathing a word about confession. In spite of that, the Jesuit spoke only about confession. When he finished, everyone without exception knelt down in the mud and asked for confession.
Beneath a stairway
Supported by these words of the prophet Isaiah: Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they may become white as snow (1: 17-18), and on those of the prophet Daniel: Atone for your sins by good deeds (4: 24), Father recommended the practice of good works and aid to the poor. He himself gave the example. Every day, he received letters asking for help. He had to find refuge for old people, dowries for religious vocations, work for the unemployed; he also had to recommend women for domestic service, regularize marriages, resolve litigation, obtain charity for beggars, visit the sick, etc. Not being able to create more than one of himself, he called on the help of lay people. One of his penitents said, “Several times in the parlor, when I was hoping for a spiritual discussion, he said to me with great delicacy: `We will speak tomorrow. Can you take my place for a work of charity? Under a stairway, at such and such address on such and such street, there is a poor tubercular. She is a soul in which Jesus can be found. She is in the greatest distress.’ “
Father Rubio loved to enthrone the Sacred Heart (that is, to put one of His images in a place of honor) – he performed 10,000 enthronements in 18 years – not only in public buildings and schools, but also in the poorest of homes. For a cowherd, who slept in the stable, he placed the image of the Sacred Heart above the animals’ feeding trough. He founded and directed four Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul. He spent a lot of time caring for the sick, saying that this care is an incentive to taking interest in souls who are in a bad state and, in general, in those who are not easy to get along with. While walking with a companion, they would recite the Rosary together and end with a prayer in a church.
One day, an older woman said to him, “Come this afternoon to hear the confession of a man who is going to die,” and she gave him the address. When Father Rubio rang at the door, a young man who was playing the piano came to let him in. The priest told him the name of the “sick person.” The man said, “That’s me.”-“Excuse me, I was told that there was a dying person here.” The man began to laugh, then invited his visitor, who had walked up three stories, to rest for a bit. So Father went in and, noticing a photograph, recognized the older woman, who that morning had told him to come here: “That is my mother; she has been dead for a long time.”-“Yes, that really was the lady who gave me your name and address, telling me to go hear the confession of a dying man.”-“Wait a moment,” the man said, “and hear my confession.” The next day, at dawn, the musician was found dead in his bed.
Father Rubio went to the distant suburbs of the capital where the poor of the town were crowded, eaten away by misery and want. He wished to systematically evangelize these people. But in these neighborhoods, a cassock seemed out of place. There was no Mass, not even a place to celebrate it. Besides, nobody felt the need for one, any more than they felt the need for a Catholic school. With the help of another Jesuit, Father Rubio succeeded in buying some land and building a church and two schools on it, in the middle of the ragpickers.
Full of confusion
Through all of his works, Father Rubio carried on within himself an intense spiritual life. In 1917, God made him undergo difficult interior tests and crises of scruples. There were also exterior persecutions: Some of his fellow priests were harsh judges of his projects and methods, poked fun at his works, claimed that he wanted to hoard everything. In these humiliations, he showed uncommon patience. He sincerely confessed his insufficiency: “I don’t know how God judges me. Rather bad, I fear. Pray for me! I walk full of confusion as I see the state of my soul. My friends will persuade the good Jesus to take pity on me.” Meantime, he was convinced that one should take advantage of one’s faults and imperfections in order to grow in humility. He himself sought advice among his superiors, his equals and his inferiors.
Since his youth, during which he had to take a year of rest, Father Rubio had never bothered about himself, working himself to exhaustion. One day, the doctor made a diagnosis of cardiac angina. His Superior decided to send him to rest at the novitiate of Aranjuez. Father did not have any illusions: “I am going to Aranjuez to die.” Taking with him just his Crucifix and two notebooks, he got into the vehicle that two of his spiritual daughters had arranged for him. They were upset about seeing him leave. He told them, “You don’t need me. You know the road to Heaven and that is the only thing that you have to do.”
“I have come here to arrange my affairs with God and to rest,” he said on arrival at Aranjuez. On May 2, 1929, the vigil of the first Friday of the month, he said to his Superior, “Father, what a beautiful day tomorrow will be, to go to Heaven even today!” Since his priestly ordination, 41 years earlier, he often repeated insistently his desire to die on the first Thursday of the month in order to celebrate first Friday in Heaven. About six o’clock that evening, he felt very bad. He quickly received the last rites. Soon afterward, he died, leaving his earthly body, while his soul entered into the inexpressible happiness of Heaven.
Proclaiming Father José María Rubio as Blessed, on October 6, 1985, Pope John Paul II presented him as an “authentic other Christ.” Through the help of the Most Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph, let us also be perfect disciples of the Saviour. The monks pray for you and for all of those who are dear to you, living and deceased.
Written by Dom Antoine Marie, OSB.(All of the above was printed by permission from the St. Joseph de Clairval Abbey, Flavigny, France. ( http://www.clairval.com) Editor’s Note – Father José María Rubio was canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 4th, 2003.