Rafael Arnáiz Barón

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St. Rafael Arnáiz Barón
Rafael Arnaiz Barón.jpg
Born 9 April 1911
Burgos, Spain
Died 26 April 1938
Dueñas, Palencia, Spain
Honored in
Cistercian Order
Beatified 27 September 1992 by Pope John Paul II
Canonized 11 October 2009, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI
Major shrine Abbey of San Isidro de Dueñas
Feast 27 April
Patronage Diabetics and World Youth Day

Rafael Arnáiz Barón, (9 April 1911, Burgos, Spain - 26 April 1938, Dueñas, Palencia, Spain) is a Spanish saint of the Roman Catholic Church.[1][2] He was a Trappist conventual oblate at the time of his death and he is considered one of the greatest mystics of the 20th century.[3]

Arnáiz, known in the monastery as Brother María Rafael, was born on 9 April 1911, in the city of Burgos, in north-central Spain. He was the first of four sons born to a well-to-do, deeply Catholic family. As a boy he went to several schools run by the Jesuit Fathers. By his adolescence it was clear that Arnáiz had human, intellectual, artistic and spiritual gifts. These qualities were well-balanced in him, producing an open, positive, joyful attitude to the world of persons and things, characterized by exuberant good humor, respect and humility.

After Arnáiz graduated from high school in 1930, he sought a deeper commitment to Christ began in 1930. As a graduation present, he spent his summer vacation with his Uncle Leopoldo and Aunt María, the Duke and Duchess of Maqueda, at their residence near Ávila. It marked the beginning of a deep and lasting friendship among them. At their encouragement, Arnáiz made his first contact that September with the Trappist Abbey of San Isidro de Dueñas. He was attracted to the abbey's silent beauty and by the soaring melodies of their Gregorian chant, such as the Salve Regina sung at Compline. Three years later, on 15 April 1934, having finished architectural studies, he entered the community as a postulant, then became a novice, convinced that this was his true religious calling.

From that moment, Arnáiz’s career accelerated, for he lived only four more years, because of a severe case of diabetes, which developed four months after his entering the abbey. The saddened, perplexed novice was forced to rest at home for a few months before returning to the abbey, which he did three successive times from 1935 through 1937, at the height of the Spanish Civil War. Arnáiz was called into the Nationalist Army but was declared unfit for active duty. On his final return to the abbey, due to his medical condition he was obliged to enter as an conventual oblate instead of as a monk, taking the last place and living on the margin of the community. This circumstance, however, revealed Arnáiz’s intense vocational commitment and the generosity of his gift of self. He died in the abbey’s infirmary at the age of 27, on 26 April 1938.

Despite his brief monastic life, Arnáiz embodied Cistercian grace in a pure and intense way. Allowing himself to be led through a series of bewildering contradictions and perplexities – sickness, war, inability to pronounce his vows, abnormal community relations – he renounced himself, his self-will and his human ideals. He lived with humiliation until, in death, he attained the essence of monastic vows—though he was never allowed to profess them officially. For Arnáiz, Christ was not the object of study but the companion of a transcendentally lived experience of absolute Love. His one desire was to live in order to love: love Jesus, love Mary, love the Cross, love his monastery. This love encapsulated his personal spirituality.

Arnáiz was proclaimed as a model for the youth of today by Pope John Paul II, as part of the ceremony wherein he beatified him in 1992. He was canonized as a saint by Pope Benedict XVI on 11 October 2009.

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