Rodríguez Santiago, Carlos Manuel Cecilio, Bl.
RODRÍGUEZ SANTIAGO, CARLOS MANUEL CECILIO, BL.
Lay founder of the Círculo de Cultura Cristiana (Circle of Christian Culture); b. Nov. 22, 1918, Caguas, Puerto Rico; d. there, July 13, 1963. Chali (Charlie), as he was known to his friends, was the second of the five children of Manuel Baudilio Rodríguez Rodríguez and Herminia Santiago Esteras. The home environment was indisputably pious: one sister became a Carmelite nun and his only brother a Benedictine monk and the first Puerto Rican abbot. He attended Catholic schools and earned a high school commercial diploma in 1939 despite frequent interruptions due to the chronic ulcerative colitis, which he suffered from age 13. In 1946, after working as an office clerk, he enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico, but continued illness forced him to leave school during his sophomore year. Nevertheless, he continued to study on his own, expanding his knowledge on a variety of topics.
While holding an administrative position at the Agricultural Experimental Station of the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras, he promoted his love of the Easter Vigil, the Paschal Mystery, and the liturgy within the Catholic University Center. There he founded the Circle of Christian Culture to enliven the faith of students and faculty, and the Te Deum Laudamus parochial choir in Caguas. Chali dedicated his salary to the poor, the funding of the circle, and publishing Liturgy and Christian Culture to promote understanding of the sacred liturgy.
During the last year of his life, while suffering rectal cancer, Chali experienced the "dark night of the soul"—a sense of abandonment by God; nevertheless, he clung to his faith in the Resurrection till the end. Uniquely his cause for beatification was initiated (Dec. 8, 1992) and propelled forward by the laity. Pope John Paul II declared him venerable (July 7, 1997), approved the miraculous cure of Deli Santana de Aguilóo's non-Hodgkins malignant lymphoma attributed to Charlie's intercession (Dec. 20, 1999), and beatified him (April 29, 2001). He is the first blessed from the Caribbean.
Bibliography: L'Osservatore Romano, Eng. Ed. 18 (2001), 1, 6–8; 19 (2001), 7, 10. Information from the Círculo Carlos M. Rodríguez, Centro Universitario Católico, 10 Mariana Bracetti, San Juan, PR 00925-2201.
[k. i. rabenstein]