July 13th is the feast day of the first American layman to be beatified. I love “Charlie”, as Carlos Manuel Rodriguez is affectionately known. And I am not alone. It seems like there is something about Charlie that just makes people love him. After he died in 1963, the hospital refused to take any payment for his care because he had brought such joy to those who cared for him.
Charlie is a great saint for the Church because he shows us a way to follow Jesus that is beautiful in its simplicity. He was ill for most of his short life of 44 years but he did not let his illness stop him from living with enthusiasm and joy and he took every opportunity to share his faith in Christ.
Because of his illness, he was not able to become a priest. It also took him until he was 21 to finish High School and he could only complete one year of college. But he did not allow any of that to stop him.
Instead, he organized discussion groups in towns across Puerto Rico and he taught catechism to High School students. He even taught bishops and priests because he wanted the love of Christ to resound in every heart.
One of the things he wanted most of all was to see the restoration of the Easter Vigil. He wanted people to understand that Easter night was the holiest night of the year because it was the night when Jesus restored us to life. He lived to see the Church once again celebrate the Easter Vigil with joy and understanding. On his tomb is written, “We live for that night”.
Now we have a great intercessor in Heaven. All his adult life, he had only one pair of shoes. These shoes were kept and people now write prayer intentions and leave them in his shoes. His beatification miracle was for a woman who had been a friend and now had cancer. She was completely cured. He is a faithful and humble friend.
Here is part of a letter he wrote to a friend who was having a difficult time:
Don’t you want that peace that Our Lord offers and that the world neither knows nor can give? Have you no devouring thirst for Fullness? Aren’t you hungry for happiness? Don’t you feel deep inside the longing for a Love that fully quenches your thirst for love? Don’t you think it’s worth investigating and seriously considering the problem and the only solution?
Examine all the paths you have walked and all the solutions you have tried to give to your problems and difficulties. Which of them has left you satisfied? Why not try to see if the only way and the only solution is indeed what it purports to be? You lose nothing by trying. Why pretend to quench thirst with corrupted waters that cannot quench it? And with the source so close!
Blessed Charlie, pray for us!