Born on the 24th June 1932, the Feast of St. John the Baptist, Alphonsus Lambe was called by God on the 21st January 1959 at just 26 years old. Many Bishops of South America would be full of praise for his life testifying to have had the privilege of the presence of a Saint in their midst.
Alfie (as his name was/is often abbreviated) was the youngest of eight children born to Timothy and Kate Lambe in their family home in Tullamore, Ireland. He was a delicate child, prone to fainting attacks.
Alfie’s deep faith manifested itself in his desire, at the tender age of 13 years of age, to join the Irish Christian Brothers. Alfie entered the Novitiate on September 8th, 1948, describing it as one of the happiest days of his life. However, as fainting attacks became more regular, it was decided that he should return home for a while. Alfie was heartbroken, fearing his dreams had come to an end.
As one door closed, another opened!
One evening in 1950, Alfie’s brother Jack invited him to attend a local Praesidium meeting of the Legion of Mary.
Alfie never looked back, immersing himself more and more in Our Lady’s work for souls.
In the summer of 1951, he took part in the ‘Holiday Extension Campaign’ organized by Seamus Grace and in 1952, he became a team leader.
An opportunity came in – becoming the Legion of Mary Envoy
He was invited by Seamus to accompany him in South America. He gladly accepted and his mother too though with slight reservations.
On 16th July 1953, the two envoys took off for Colombia. He was in Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay.
What are some of the unique attributes that are there for this young man that St. John Paul II, Pope has described as a model of a vocation leaven in the society that is a Christian inspiration to the modern World?
- He related with every one-prisoners, lepers and the different disadvantaged of the society. He taught legionaries of all walks of life and of all ages that everyone must be invited to join the Legion of Mary.
- Very religious he was but never made a show of his piety or purity, which was evident to all, and for this he was highly respected.
- Alfie taught legionaries how to make everyone an apostle for the Catholic Church. He brought legionaries with him wherever he went and showed them how to engage in apostolic work and how to extend the Legion. He was an example of a legionary always on duty.
- He was cheerful and at ease with cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests. He actually addressed a Conference of South American Bishops in which he spoke so well of the Legion of Mary that many bishops were enthusiastic and wanted to start the Legion of Mary in their dioceses right away.
- He faced Challenges but never did he look back. He was threatened to death for spreading Legion of Mary against the Marxist and Communist doctrines.
- Oftentimes he was not welcomed by some Priests but because most of them welcomed him, the Legion of Mary became a vehicle to transform parishes and bring people back to the Faith. Because of this, those who hadn’t welcomed him couldn’t help but be influenced by good reports from neighboring areas where the Legion flourished.
An example of Alfie’s work was meeting with a young railroad employee, Miguel Mancini. Alfie asked him if he would like to work for Our Blessed Lady. The reply Miguel gave him was that he was baptized but didn’t go to Mass that often. Alfie persisted saying that he hadn’t asked him if he was practicing and re-issued the invitation to work for Our Blessed Lady. Miguel accepted. A month later he became President of his Praesidium, later President of the Curia and in due course, he was elected President of the Comitium. On completion of his term of office, he entered the seminary and later became a Rector of one of the largest seminaries in South America.
His journey ended at just 26 years but just as Hilde Firtel gets to give testimony in 1967 in a book “Alfie Lambe, Legion Envoy”, “Lambe was a meteor-short flash of light that disappears shortly”.
“But whereas a meteor leaves no trace, Alfie’s work is thriving and flourishing in all the countries where he was active. The flame which consumed the Irishman and which he knew how to enkindle in all those who surrounded him, has become a wildfire which has seized an entire continent.”
Cause for canonisation
His cause was introduced just 12 years after his death by the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Aramburu.
One miracle is needed for his beatification and one more for his canonisation.
Each one has a role to play in this cause. Let us all promote the Cause of Alfie Lambe by reciting the beautification prayer daily and encouraging others to pray for Alfie’s intercession as well. Let us together make Alphonsus Lambe known.