Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago
Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago, born in 1918 in Puerto Rico, United States, is the first Caribbean-born person to be beatified by the Catholic Church. His faith-filled parents and especially his deeply devout and holy grandmother set the course of his spiritual life. After Catholic education in grade school, he went to public and then Catholic high school. By the third year, he experienced a severe gastrointestinal disorder. Though Carlos eventually graduated from high school and enrolled in college, his health issues were chronic and did not allow him to complete more formal education. However, he was a constant learner interested in the arts, science, philosophy, music, and religion. One of his jobs was as a clerk at an Agricultural Experiment Station. During his off time, he organized day trips and hikes so others could experience and appreciate God’s gift of creation.
Carlos lived very simply and had little concern for possessions or money. He used nearly all of his salary to promote the knowledge and love of Christ. He was active in the Holy Name Society and the Knights of Columbus. From early childhood, Carlos had a love of the Eucharist, a special devotion he shared with his mother. His adult life was devoted to the Sacred Liturgy. He wrote and published magazines to help people learn about and reflect on the mysteries of the liturgical celebrations. He started discussion groups for adults and young people, of special concern to him. As the number of participants in the discussions increased, Carlos moved near the university. He was determined to make Christ better known to professors and to students.
Since the Mass and all Catholic rituals at that time were in Latin, it was difficult for most people to appreciate the meaning of the words or the depth of symbolism. Carlos spent countless hours translating the Latin into Spanish. His work could not be used in Catholic services, but Carlos believed that the liturgy was central to a living faith and that everyone should have access to materials to help their understanding and prayer. He also promoted liturgical renewal among bishops and priests. Carlos died of cancer on July 13, 1963. He was 44. Five months later, one of the first documents from The Vatican Council ll, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was published. It included many of the reforms Carlos hoped and prayed for, including the use of local languages in the liturgy.
Illness complicated the life of Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago, but he didn’t let it limit his interests or caring for people. As his physical health declined, he didn’t complain but remained joyful. In many ways, he was a pioneer in the liturgical movement of the Church. He insisted that the call to holiness was universal and included lay people like himself. The depth of his spirituality was infectious. He said, “We need Catholics who are alert to the present moment . . . modern Catholics who know how to nourish themselves in the past but whose eyes are fixed on the future.” Carlos loved the Pascal Vigil. “We live for this night,” he said.
In 1992, the bishop of the Diocese of Caguas, Puerto Rico, authorized the beginning of the process toward the canonization of Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago. He was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul ll in December 1999. The Church celebrates the Feast of Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago each year on July 13. In Puerto Rico, he is fondly known as Beato Charlie.