After the canonizations of Saints Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod, we have another one due for beatification. This time, he belongs to our era, someone who have rubbed elbows with the contemporaries of our parents and grandparents. Bishop Alfredo Verzosa (born 1877, died 1954) has experienced the atrocities of World War II, and witnessed the miraculous manifestations of the rose petals of Lipa. But that is getting ahead of the story.
Alfredo Verzosa was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, on December 9, 1877 from the well-to-do Verzosa clan. The family, being a seedbed for his sanctity, was deeply religious. At a young age, he entered the seminary at Nueva Segovia, and ordained in 1904.
He encountered many challenges during his early days of priesthood. Assigned in Ilocos, which was known to be the bulwark of the Aglipayans, he endured resistance from them. At that time, the people were fleeing from the Spanish tyranny of the past regime by turning to the Aglipayan religion. Some of them were even priests. Father Alfredo was zealous in converting them back to the Catholic Faith, even risking his own life. At one point, a spear that was meant for him hit and killed his horse.
THE GREAT BUILDER
In 1916, Pope Benedict XV appointed him as Bishop of Lipa. He is the first Filipino bishop of Lipa, and the first Ilocano bishop. He was also known as the great builder. Bishop Verzosa was untiring and diligent in his efforts to propagate the Church. During the years 1917 – 1951, he had opened several catechetical centers, established schools, built churches, seminaries, and convents. He founded the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart, a congregation whose main apostolate is catechesis and the education of the youth.
He was also instrumental in allowing the establishment of foreign religious congregations in our soil to help spread the word of God in our youth. Truly, we are fortunate to have a shepherd like Bishop Alfredo Verzosa, whose concern is always for the good of the Church and the growth of Faith. He even used his own inheritance money to subsidize his projects.
WORLD WAR II
When World War II broke out, several thousands of priests, nuns, and civilians were killed. The good bishop Verzosa tasked himself in helping the survivors escape the brutality of war by evacuating them to remote barrios safely.
it was unfortunate that many of his projects, the schools, religious houses and the seminaries, were reduced to ashes after the war. He lost no time in rebuilding. He was able to source funds from the Philippine War Damage Commission, and also dipped from his personal funds. On the very spot where thousands were massacred, Bishop Verzosa built the Carmelite monastery. He invited Carmelite nuns to live there, so that their powerful prayers may serve as reparations for the bloodshed committed there.
THE MIRACLE OF THE ROSE PETALS
In 1948, a young postulant from the said monastery claimed seeing apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Rose petals showered the convent, and the news spread that miracles were taking place. At first, the bishop was skeptical, and wanted to warn the nuns on getting carried away by sensationalism. When rose petals fell on him while inside the convent, the experience left him speechless. After that, he allowed the veneration by the public to go on.
THE LAST YEARS
Eventually, the Church declared the Apparitions and the Shower of Rose Petals a hoax. This has affected many, and personages were removed from office. One of them was the good Bishop Verzosa. He was relieved from his post and replaced by the younger Rufino Santos. He was then sent to Vigan, his hometown, and was given the title Titular Bishop of Capsa.
The humiliation of being stripped of his position and being exiled and the life of poverty that he now faced traumatized the bishop. He suffered a nervous breakdown as a result, and his health deteriorated. On his deathbed, even when in pain physically and emotionally, he uttered his final words of submission: “Let us bow to the will of the Church.”
Bishop Alfredo Verzosa, fearless disciple of the Lord, a zealous builder of the Church, and a loving shepherd to the flock of his diocese, died a peaceful death on June 27, 1954. His countenance was that of a saintly man humbly submitting himself to the will of God.
The cause for his beatification and canonization formally opened on Jan. 11, 2013, and will close in 2015.