April 23, 2024

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The Life of Saint Father Jose Maria Rubio – Apostle of Madrid

Saint Jose Maria Rubio Peralta was born on July 22nd, 1864 to a simple farming family. He was the eldest of three brothers, living a traditional and religious childhood in the village of Dalías in Almeria, Spain. At the age of 11, he entered the seminary of Almeria and four years later began his priestly studies, which later ended in the Seminary of Madrid at the age of 22. After obtaining a degree in theology and a Doctorate in canon law, he was ordained in Madrid as a priest on September 24th 1887.

His first assignment was the parish of Chinchón, a town in Madrid where he worked for two years as coadjutor and one year as a pastor in the nearby town of Estremera. During this time he stood out for his austere life, his catechesis to children and service to the poor.

In 1893 he was appointed Chaplain of the Bernardas nuns in the church of Sacramento in Madrid. There he was noticed for his activities in the suburbs of the capital with ragmen and seamstresses, visiting neighborhoods such as Entrevías and Ventilla where he founded schools, preached the Word of God and formed many Christians. At that time he was also becoming known for his pastoral work in the confessional. During the years of 1890-1894 he also dedicated his time to teaching and lecturing at the seminary in Madrid in Latin literature, metaphysics and pastoral theology.

In 1904 he traveled as a pilgrim to the Holy Land and Rome, which greatly influenced him to make the decision to join the Society of Jesus, which he had desired to do since his student life but wasn’t possible until the death of his protector and patron priest Joaquín Torres Asensio. In 1908 at the age of 42 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Granada. After ending his training in 1911, he was designated at the professes house of Madrid where he developed an intense apostolic life until practically his death in Aranjuez on May 2nd 1929. His funeral was attended by over two thousand people, and he was described by Archbishop Eijo and Garay as the “apostle of Madrid,” declaring him as a model for the clergy of his diocese. 

In support of his character, all those who gave testimony about his life and ministry acknowledged that during his lifetime he was already considered a saint. He always felt like he was “sent” by Christ who had called upon him to work and live with Him and like Him. As a result, he worked tirelessly and spent long hours in prayer before the tabernacle in intimacy with the Lord. His apostolic and charitable work was born from his spiritual life, contemplating a poor and humble Jesus that appears in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which all Jesuits practice. He dedicated long hours of confessional and patiently listened to whoever came to him seeking advice. Therefore, it makes sense that to this day he has a strong presence among the poor in the suburbs of Madrid.

Precisely among them he recognized those who were chosen by the Lord and he gave them his time and energy, but above all his love and predilection. However, he was not content to serve only the urgent matters; he worried about the future of young people for whom he created schools, and he prepared lay teachers to attend to those young kids. He shared the good news of Jesus on the streets and in squares with popular missions, built chapels and made the Church present in the midst of misery.

It is said that he welcomed and attended equally to all those who approached him and often the meeting was extended into spiritual direction, which arose in the invitation to a service of the most disinherited as a requirement of faith. Thus people followed him in organized groups of men and women, such as the “Marys of the tabernacles,” who were collaborators of his numerous initiatives in favor of the needy, with a strong Eucharistic spirituality.

His motto for life was always “do what God wants, want what God does” and one could say it was, what marked the rhythm of his heart during his Jesuit life. His example as a “strong friend” of God challenges us to continue loving and serving Lord from the concreteness of our life, as he did.

On October 6th 1985 he was beatified and later on May 4th, 2003 canonized by Pope John Paul II. Currently, his remains rest in the church of the residence belonging to the Society of Jesus in Madrid where a huge number of grateful people come to venerate him for favors received through his intercession.