Blessed Alonso de Orozco has a very special place among the mystics of
sixteenth century Spain. Of all of them he was perhaps the most prolific
and no doubt the most read in his own day. Some twenty works of his in Spanish
went through many editions, and some of them were translated into other
languages. There is a large collection of sermons, in Latin, culled from
his long preaching career (1529-1591).
was born at Oropesa (Toledo), Spain, on 17 October 1500. He studied at Talavera
de la Reina, where his family had relocated in 1508, and then at Toledo.
Afterward he studied law at the University of Salamanca and was exposed
to the preaching of Saint Thomas of Villanova. Attracted to Augustinian
religious life by the words and example of this famous friar, Alonso entered
the novitiate at the age of twenty-two, together with his brother Francis,
on 8 June 1522. His master was the saintly Louis de Montoya, and his prior
was Thomas of Villanova. The death of Francis during the novitiate was a
great trial to Alonso, but he persevered and professed vows the following
For thirty years Alonso was engaged in the apostolate of teaching and
preaching. Four times he was appointed prior of various monasteries and
in 1548 obtained permission to fulfill his long felt desire to go to the
missions in Mexico. By the time he reached the Canary Islands, however,
a severe case of arthritis forced his return home. In the book of his Confessions,
Alonso records that in the year 1542, while residing in the monastery of
Seville, he beheld in a dream the Mother of God “who spoke to me but
one word, and that was, ‘Write’ ” Ever after Alonso followed
this instruction, producing books on a variety of subjects up until his
In 1551 he was appointed prior in the royal city of Valladolid and shortly
thereafter named court preacher and chaplain to the royal family. Ten years
later King Philip II transferred his court to Madrid and Blessed Alonso
was constrained to accompany him. He occupied a cell in the friary of San
Felipe el Real, where his life was one of simplicity and humility in contrast
to the official functions of the court in which he necessarily participated.
In the midst of his many duties in Madrid he was also responsible for the
foundation of three convents of Augustinian contemplative nuns and the College
of the Incarnation for the education of candidates to the Order. As he neared
his eightieth year Friar Alonso approached the king with the request that
he might be relieved of his duties at the court in order to spend his final
days in prayer and seclusion in preparation for his death. The response
of King Philip was an unqualified refusal, echoed loudly by the members
of the court, who desired that the “saint of the court” should
carry on in his ministry to them. As it happened, his services would continue
on for another ten years.
On 19 September 1591, after an illness of several weeks’ duration,
Alonso died at the age of ninety, mourned by young and old, wealthy and
poor, the humble and the great. He was buried in the church of the College
of the Incarnation in Madrid. In 1853 his remains were transferred to the
community chapel of the Valladolid monastery and later placed in an altar
of the new church there. Finally in 1978 they were returned to Madrid to
rest in the chapel of the contemplative nuns of Talavera de la Reina.
Alonso de Orozco was declared blessed on 15 January 1882 by Pope Leo
XIII. His memory is celebrated by the Augustinian Family on 19 September.