Commentary on St Joseph Mary Rubio y Peralta, Priest, SJ
José María Rubio y Peralta was born on 22 July 1864 in Dalías, Spain. His parents were farmers and he was one of 12 children, six of whom died at a young age. In 1875 he began his secondary schooling in Almeria.
As he felt called to the priesthood, he transferred to the diocesan minor seminary in 1876 to continue his studies. In 1878 he moved to the major seminary of Granada, where he completed studies in philosophy, theology and canon law. On 24 September 1887 he was ordained a priest.
At this time, he also felt called to join the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) but because he was taking care of an elderly priest who needed to be looked after, he was not able to fulfil his wish for 19 years.
In the years following his ordination, Jose Maria was busy as a curate in Chinchón and then as parish priest in Estremera. In 1890, the bishop called him to Madrid, where he was given the responsibility of synodal examiner. He also taught metaphysics, Latin and pastoral theology at the seminary in Madrid and was chaplain to the Sisters of St Bernard.
In 1905 he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and, in the following year, entered the Jesuit novitiate in Granada. On 12 October 1908 he made his first vows as a Jesuit.
Jose Maria was an outstanding pastor and nurtured by a deep spiritual life. The Bishop of Madrid called him "The Apostle of Madrid". He was the city’s favourite confessor, spending long hours each day giving direction. He was known for his incisive, simple preaching that moved many to conversion. He also had particular devotion to the poor, always providing them with the material and spiritual assistance they needed. Through his preaching and spiritual direction, Jose Maria was also able to attract and guide many lay people who wanted to live a more authentic Christian life and to help him in his mission of helping the poor. Under his guidance, they opened tuition-free schools which offered academic formation as well as instruction in various trades. They also assisted the sick and disabled and tried to find work for the unemployed.
Although Jose Maria was the inspiration for all these works, he remained in the background, preferring to let his helpers take centre stage. He gave them the main responsibility and taught them to live and act like true apostles of the Lord.
Jose Maria also organised popular missions and spiritual exercises in the poorest areas of the city. He believed that the poor should be helped in all their needs – both spiritual and material and that they were to be encouraged and loved in a way that fully respected their human dignity.
The most important aspect of the apostolate for Jose Maria was prayer. Adoration of the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was the centre of his entire life. And it was the love of Christ that Jose Maria wanted to share with the poor. For him and his helpers, prayer came first, and it was through their prayer life that they received the strength to serve in the poorest and most abandoned areas of Madrid.
Fr José María Rubio died on 2 May 1929 in Aranjuez. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 6 October 1985 and canonised on 4 May 2003, also by Pope John Paul II.