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Simón de Rojas (1552-1624) 



Father SIMON DE ROJAS of the Trinitarian Order was born at Valladolid, Castilla, Spain, the 28th of October, 1552. At twelve years of age, he entered the Trinitarian monastery of the city where he was born and there made his religious profession on October 28, 1572; he studied at the University of Salamanca from 1573 to 1579; he was ordained a priest in 1577; he taught philosophy and theology at Toledo from 1581 to 1587; from 1588 until his death he fulfilled with much prudence the office of superior in various monasteries of his province and was sent as apostolic visitor twice to his own province of Castilla, and once to that of Andalusia; on April 14, 1612 he founded the Congregation of the Slaves of the Sweet Name of Mary; in 1619 he was named tutor to the royal princes of Spain; on May 12, 1621 he was elected Provincial of Castilla; on January 1, 1622 he was chosen confessor of Queen Isabel of Borbon; he died on September 29, 1624.

His canonization during this Marian year, worthily rewards him for his tender devotion to Mary. Lope de Vega compares him to St. Bernard of Clairvaux and to St. Ildefonso of Toledo.
It was his mother, the virtuous Constanza, who instilled and helped grow in the soul of Simon the love of Mary. The veneration that she and her husband Gregorio constantly gave to Mary, makes it easily understandable why the first words that Simon, who had been a slow learner and stuttered, said at the age of fourteen months, were "Ave, Maria". He was only repeating the prayer so frequently recited by his parents.

His greatest joy was to visit Marian shrines, to pray to Mary and with Mary, to imitate her virtues, to sing her praises, to acknowledge her importance in the mystery of God and of the Church. Through profound theological studies, he came to understand even better the mission of Mary in cooperation with the Trinity for the salvation of the human race and the sanctification of the Church. He lived his religious vows in the imitation of Mary. He held that, for everyone to be completely of God, as Mary had been, it was necessary to become her slaves, or better, slaves of God in Mary; for this reason he established the Congregation of the Slaves of Mary for the greater glory of the Trinity, in praise of the Virgin, in the service of the poor. For him, to be a slave of Mary meant belonging totally to her: "Totus tuus" in order to unite oneself more intimately to Christ and in Him through the Spirit, to the Father.

The Congregation founded by him was intended for the laity: persons of every social class could join. The members, who included the King and his children, dedicated themselves to honor Mary by giving maternal help to her favorite children: the poor. This work still continues in Spain. Fr. Simon, who is held to be one of the greatest contemplatives of his time and who in his work, "The Greatness of Prayer" is clearly a great instructor of prayerful souls, wanted the contemplative dimension joined to the active through works of mercy. Faithful to the Trinitarian charism, he promoted the ransom of captives, he helped relieve the many needs of the poor, he consoled the sick, the destitute and the left-out of every kind. He accepted duties at the Court, only on the condition that he be able to continue his work with the poor, whom he helped in a thousand ways, always with a smile on his face and at any hour of the day or night. The expressions of his love of Mary are manifold. The painters who depicted him, put the greeting "Ave Maria" on his lips, words he uttered so frequently that he was familiarly called: "Father Ave Maria". He had thousands of images of the Most Holy Virgin printed with the inscription: "Ave Maria", which he also sent abroad. He had rosaries made with seventy-two blue beads on a white cord, symbols of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception, and also a reminder that Mary, according to the belief of the time, lived to the age of 72 years. He sent these rosaries everywhere, even to England. Using his influence at Court, he had the angelic greeting so dear to him, "Ave Maria", engraved in letters of gold on the facade of the royal palace in Madrid. On June 5th, 1622, he petitioned the Holy See for the approval of his liturgical text composed in honor of the Sweet Name of Mary, which later,
Pope Innocent XI extended to the universal Church.

After his death on September 29th, 1624, the honors bestowed on him at his funeral, took on the aspect of an anticipated canonization. For twelve days, the most re-known preachers of Madrid exalted his virtues and his holiness. Impressed with this unanimous veneration, on October 8th, shortly after Fr. Simon's death, the Papal Nuncio ordered the beginning of the process leading to his glorification by the Church. His heroic virtues were recognized by Clement XII, on March 25th, 1735; he was beatified by Clement XIII on March 19, 1766. And today, July 3rd, 1988, just before the close of the Marian Year, Pope John Paul 11, enters the name of this great servant of Mary and Father of the poor on the list of the Saints.