"Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…" (John 18:37)

St. Alphonsus de Liguori – Doctor of the Church

phoca_thumb_l_alphonsus10

Alphonsus in his later years

Born: September 27, 1696 in Marianella, Kingdom of Naples

Died: August 1, 1787 in Pagani Italy

Canonized: May 26, 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI

Proclaimed Doctor of the Church: 1871

Feast Day: August 1st

Patronage: Confessors, Moral Theologians, Arthritis, Scrupulosity, Vocations.

Attributes: Praying with a Monstrance in his hands, Chaplet, Crucifix

 

“Nothing else is required than to act toward God in the midst of your occupations as you do, even when you are busy, among those who love you and whom you love.” St. Alphonsus de Liguori

Early Life

regegLittle Alphonsus took his first breath back in 1696 in his parents’ home at Marianella, located on the outskirts of Naples. He was the firstborn of a noble family that provided him with seven siblings: three brothers and four sisters. Back then, Naples and its surrounding regions consisted of people who came from either one of two separate classes: those who were noble, and those who were not. Thanks to the blessings of good fortune, his father encouraged him to pursue a career as a lawyer and provided him with the best education. While it soon became apparent to everyone that Alphonsus was gifted intellectually, his mother took it upon herself to develop her son’s spiritual dimension. Even as a child, she placed him under the guidance of her own spiritual director. For the next 30 years of his life, he had his own spiritual guide helping him discern the path set out for him by God.

At 16 years of age, Alphonsus graduated with a Doctoral Degree in Law from the University of Naples. By the time he was 21 years old, he had his own legal practice and was renowned as being the most brilliant lawyer in all of Naples. Talphonsus1hen something happened that would change the course of his entire life. “At the age of twenty-seven, after having lost an important case—the first he had lost in eight years of practicing law—he made a firm resolution to leave the profession of law.”[1] That one time failure had a profound effect on him. Disillusioned with the ways of the world, he turned the attention of his heart towards that which had long been growing within him: a strong call from God to serve Jesus in the poor as a priest. “He heard an interior voice, saying: “Leave the world, and give yourself to me.”[2]

Priestly Journey

Alphonsus was ordained at thirty years of age in the year 1726, and he soon became a well-known, popular preacher throughout the region. Later, during a holiday in the mountains, he was brought face-to-face with the great needs of so many shepherds and poor farmers who had no one to bring them the news about salvation in Christ and how they could share His life by means of the sacraments. Slowly, he began to understand that God was calling him to take up this task and establish an order of priests and nuns who would see this work through. “On 9 November 1732, Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer,[3] when Sister Maria Celeste Crostarosa told him that it had been revealed to her that he was the one God had chosen to found the congregation.”

While taking up this mission, he found himself undergoing an internal conversion concerning his image of God as judge to an experience of God as friend and Redeemer. Nevertheless, he “suffered from scruples much of his adult life and felt guilt about the most minor issues relating to sin.[4] At one and the same95a8494a98c45424686c05f8ef3d0eec time, the saint viewed scruples as a blessing. He wrote, “Scruples are useful in the beginning of conversion….they cleanse the soul, and at the same time make it careful.”[5]

His deep conviction that God’s love is greater than any human sin gave him much confidence in his preaching, for he truly believed that God wants to save every person. It was this acute awareness of his task as a priest to share the gift of eternal life offered to all in Christ that made the Sacrament of Reconciliation so much a part of his ministry. “Penitents should be treated as souls to be saved rather than as criminals to be punished.” He is said never to have refused absolution to a penitent.[6]

Thirty-six years later, at the age of 67 – much to his own shock and dismay – he was called to the office of bishop. He made every effort to refuse the appointment, but to no avail. He was ordained bishop in the year 1762 and from that point on, he took up this new task with the same energy he had given to his whole life. As bishop, he became more aware than ever that the structures of society often perpetuate poverty and injustice. He suffered through famine and want with the people of his diocese, and he saw the effects of slavery and prostitution. He realized that it is not enough to call individuals to a personal conversion. alphonsus_liguori2Christians must also work to convert sinful structures within society for justice, peace, and the common good. He was in constant demand to give retreats to priests and religious, was sought after as a spiritual director by many, and on top of all his regular duties he managed to write over one hundred and ten works, fifty of which were written following his appointment as bishop.

When asked how in the world he came to accomplish so much within the little time he had, he responded that he lived his life in accord with one particular maxim: “Never allow a moment to pass without employing it in some useful work.” If anyone has ever contemplated the recipe for sainthood, this is it! All one needs to do is add three words to that sentence and you end up with a foolproof roadmap for living life on earth as a saint: “Never allow a moment to pass without employing it in some useful work – for the Lord…”

Writings

I love the overture that sets the stage early in the pages of my favorite book on the priesthood, “Duties and Dignities of the Priesthood,” penned by St. Alphonsus: “Here is not man’s thought that is given to you as a rule for your thought: it is the thought of the ages.”[7]

Dignities

FJ’s favourite book

God wills that all people be saved, but not in the same way. The priesthood, of all possible ways to be saved, is the most noble, the most exalted and sublime. For the end for which God has instituted the priesthood has been to appoint on earth public persons to watch over the honor of his divine majesty, and to procure the salvation of souls. Therefore, just as it is the office of the Angels to praise God without ceasing in heaven, so it is the office of priests to praise God without ceasing on earth. Priests are placed in this world in order to make known to man God in his perfections, his justice and mercy, his commands, and to procure the respect, obedience, and love that God deserves. Jesus Christ came into this world for no other purpose than to light up the fire of divine love. The priest therefore, must labor during his whole life to inspire all with the love of God. He must always remember that as a minister of the altar, he belongs not to himself, but to God.[8]

What can safely be said of every book written by St. Alphonsus is that his words reach deep inside the interior of the human heart. Of all of his writings, he considered the book he wrote at 72 years of age, “The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ,” to be his most devotional and useful of all his works. His primary intention is to provide souls with a concrete blueprint approach on how to build a spiritual life that will eventually lead us to experience complete immersion in divine love.

To access the writings of St. Alphonsus de Liguori, please click HERE.

As the years went on, Alphonsus experienced his personal share in the Paschal Mystery of our Lord. “His austerities were rigorous, and he suffered daily the pain from rheumatism that was beginning to deform his body. He spent several years having to drink from tubes because his head was so bent forward. An attack of rheumatic fever, from May 1768 to June 1769, left him paralyzed. He was not allowed to resign his see, however, until 1775. In 1780, Alphonsus was tricked into signing a submission for royal approval of his congregation. This submission altered the original rule, and as a result Alphonsus was denied any authority among the Redemptorists. Deposed and excluded from his own congregation, Alphonsus suffered great anguish. But he overcame his depression, and he experienced visions, performed miracles, and gave prophecies. He died peacefully on August 1, 1787, at Nocera di Pagani, near Naples as the Angelus was ringing. He was beatified in 1816 and canonized in 1839. In 1871, Alphonsus was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX. His writings on moral, theological, and ascetic matters had great impact and have survived through the years, especially his Moral Theology and his Glories of Mary.”[9]

xLiguori2.jpg.pagespeed.ic.d771tfC47-

Here is a beautiful prayer composed by St. Alphonsus that is fitting of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

“My LORD Jesus Christ, Who because of Your love for men remain night and day in the Blessed Sacrament, full of pity and of love, awaiting, calling and welcoming all who come to visit You, I believe that You are present here on the altar. I adore You, and I thank You for all the graces You have bestowed on me, especially for having given me Yourself in this Sacrament, for having given me Your most holy Mother Mary to plead for me, and for having called me to visit You in this church.

I now salute Your most loving Heart, and that for three ends: first, in thanksgiving for this great gift; secondly, to make amends to You for all the outrages committed against You in this Sacrament by Your enemies; thirdly, I intend by this visit to adore You in all the places on earth in which You are present in the Blessed Sacrament and in which You are least honored and most abandoned.

My Jesus, I love You with my whole heart. I am very sorry for having so many times offended Your infinite goodness. With the help of Your grace, I purpose never to offend You again. And now, unworthy though I am, I consecrate myself to You without reserve. I renounce and give entirely to You my will, my affection, my desires and all that I possess. For the future, dispose of me and all I have as You please.

All I ask of You is Your holy love, final perseverance and that I may carry out Your will perfectly. I recommend to You the souls in Purgatory, especially those who had the greatest devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I also recommend to You all poor sinners.

Finally, my dear Saviour, I unite all my desires with the desires of Your most loving Heart; and I offer them, thus united, to the Eternal Father, and beseech Him, in Your name and for love of You, to accept and grant them.” Amen

 

Fr. Jerome Lavigne

 

Footnotes:

[1] Tannoja, Antonio, The life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1855) (John Murphy & Co., Baltimore, 1855).

[2] Miller, D.F. and Aubin, L.X., St. Alphonsus Liguori (Tan Books, 2009, ISBN 9780895553294).

[3] Fr. Paolo O. Pirlo, SHMI (1997). “St. Alphonsus Liguori,”My First Book of Saints (Sons of Holy Mary Immaculate – Quality Catholic Publications), 166–167.

[4] “Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori,” St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish, Peterborough, Ontario

[5] Selected writings by Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, 1999 ISBN 0-8091-3771-2 209.

[6] The true spouse of Jesus Christ: The complete works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (1929, Redemptorist Fathers Press, ASIN B00085J4WM), 545.

[7,8] St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Dignity and Duties of the Priest (Brooklyn, New York: Redemptorist Fathers, 1927), 7, 41-43.

[9] http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=1284

 

 

Tagged as: , , , , , , , ,