To what extent the life and Acts of this saint are historical, whether this "man of God," as he was and is called in the Orient, lived in the East or at Rome — these are questions we here must pass over. The story of St. Alexius, one of the most edifying in Christian hagiography, presents a glorious illustration of that Christian ideal of perfection which for Christ's sake embraces poverty and humiliations. Is it possible to be more heroic than to live for seventeen years under the steps in one's own house, to endure the wanton affronts of one's father's slaves, to remain as an unknown beggar to father, mother, and a bride still longing for her spouse? And for Alexius all this was motivated by an insurmountable love of Christ! Even supposing the legend to lack an historical kernel, it still would be marvelous to find a religion that could create such an ideal.
The Breviary gives these details. Alexius belonged to a noble Roman family. Prompted by a special divine illumination and moved by an ardent love for Jesus Christ, he left his maiden bride upon their wedding day and began a pilgrimage to the more illustrious churches of Christendom. He had devoted seventeen years to this pilgrimage and was at Edessa, a Syrian city, when his holiness was revealed by a picture of the Blessed Virgin that uttered his name. He left the place and by boat arrived at the port of Rome. His father received him as a traveling stranger and he remained there seventeen years, living under the stairs of the house unrecognized by anyone. Only after his death were documents found giving his name, family, and a kind of autobiography. He died July 17, 417, during the pontificate of Pope Innocent I.
Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Patron: Of beggars and pilgrims.
Symbols: A beggar or pilgrim holding a staircase (his emblem); asleep by the stairs, dirty water emptied on him; as a pilgrim with a staff and scrip; as a pilgrim, kneeling before the pope, to whom he gives a letter.