VATICAN CITY, APR. 24, 2001 (Zenit.org).- This Sunday, Puerto Rico will have its first blessed.
Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, better known as Charlie, was a layman committed to the transmission of Christian humanism in the university world. His cause of beatification is unique, having been carried forward by the laity.
Charlie was born in Caguas on Nov. 22, 1918, the second of five children. Two of his sisters married, one is a Carmelite nun, and his brother is a Benedictine monk.
Charlie´s understanding of Christ´s resurrection changed his life. “We live for that night,” he said, referring to the Easter Vigil.
His principal apostolic work was carried out in the Catholic University Center of Rio Piedras. He founded the Christian Culture Circle, where he transmitted a balanced Christian philosophy, combining the natural and supernatural, the ancient and modern. When describing the Culture Circle, he once wrote: “We need Catholics who are alert to the present moment […] modern Catholics who know how to nourish themselves in the past but whose eyes are fixed on the future.”
His sickness — ulcerative colitis — interrupted what promised to be a brilliant student career. Initially, he engaged in administrative work at the University of Puerto Rico, but eventually he was dedicated full time to the Catholic University Center.
He bore his sickness, which began when he was 13 and which developed into terminal cancer, in heroic silence. In 1962, when already gravely ill, he told his Benedictine brother: “I am going to die and I am not prepared.” He then entered a period of spiritual darkness, when God seemed absent. It was not until a few days before his death that he found the peace of God. He died July 13, 1963.
Father Romualdo Rodrigo, postulator of the cause of beatification, talked to Vatican Radio about Charlie´s life.
“When he was 9 years old, a mad dog entered the house and caught a 1-year-old cousin of his by the neck to carry him away,” Father Rodrigo recalled. “Charlie threw himself on the dog and grappled with it until he was able to take the child away from it. That child is now 70. When I went to Puerto Rico, he showed me the scar the dog left on his neck when carrying him away. The confrontation with the dog left Charlie with a deep wound, which he endured all his life and, at the end, degenerated into cancer.”
“He suffered continuous diarrhea, which interrupted his university studies,” the postulator explained. “After the first year, he left and started to work. He gave everything he earned to the poor. The university students with whom he developed his apostolate are the ones who have carried forward his cause of beatification.”
As his fame for sanctity spread, a lay group of the Catholic University Center of Puerto Rico that he founded, requested the opening of the process of beatification, which commenced in the Diocese of San Juan of Puerto Rico on Dec. 8, 1992. It closed June 1, 1993. On July 7, 1997, the Pope promulgated the decree of Charlie´s heroic virtues.
About 2,000 Puerto Rican pilgrims are already in Rome, preparing for the event Sunday.
“By raising him this Sunday to the honor of the altars,” Vatican Radio´s international news program reported, “John Paul II offers the youth of Puerto Rico and the whole world an outstanding model of the lay apostolate.”