|Saint Alphonsus Liguori
Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
|Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church
September 27, 1696
Marianella, Campania, Kingdom of Naples
August 1, 1787 (aged 90)
Pagani, Campania, Kingdom of Naples
September 15, 1816, Rome, Italy by Pope Pius VII
May 26, 1839, Rome, Italy by Pope Gregory XVI
August 2 (General Roman Calendar 1839-1969)
arthritis, confessors, moralists, theologians, vocations; Naples (co-patron)
Saint Alphonsus Liguori (September 27, 1696 – August 1, 1787) was an Italian Catholic Bishop, spiritual writer, theologian, and founder of the Redemptorists, an influential religious order. He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI and declared a Doctor of the Church.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori was born in Marianella, near Naples, then part of the Kingdom of Naples. He was the first-born of seven belonging to the Neapolitan nobility. Two days after he was born he was baptized at the Church of Our Lady the Virgin as Alphonsus Mary Antony John Cosmas Damian Michael Gaspard de' Liguori. Alphonsus Liguori went to law school at age sixteen, becoming a very well-known lawyer. He was thinking of leaving the profession, and wrote to someone: "My friend, our profession is too full of difficulties and dangers; we lead an unhappy life and run risk of dying an unhappy death. For myself, I will quit this career, which does not suit me; for I wish to secure the salvation of my soul." At the age of twenty-seven, after having lost an important case, he made a firm resolution to leave the profession of law.
In 1723, after a long process of discernment, he abandoned his legal career and, despite his father's strong opposition (and reluctant consent), began his seminary studies in preparation for the priesthood in the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. He was ordained a priest on December 21, 1726, at the age of 30. He lived his first years as a priest with the homeless and marginalized youth of Naples. He founded the "Evening Chapels." Run by the young people themselves, these chapels were centers of prayer and piety, preaching, community, social activities, and education. At the time of his death, there were 72 of these chapels with over 10,000 active participants. His sermons were very effective at converting those who were alienated from their faith.
The saint suffered from scruples much of his adult life, and felt guilt about the most minor issues relating to sin. Moreover, the saint viewed scruples as a blessing at times, he wrote: "Scruples are useful in the beginning of conversion.... they cleanse the soul, and at the same time make it careful".
In 1729 Alphonsus left his family home and took up residence in the Chinese College in Naples. It was there that he began his missionary experience in the interior regions of the Kingdom of Naples where he found people who were much poorer and more abandoned than any of the street children in Naples.
On November 9, 1732, St Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, 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. This order's goal was to teach and preach in the slums of cities and other poor places. They also fought Jansenism which was a heresy that denied humans free will and barred many Catholics from receiving the Eucharist. He gave himself entirely to this new mission. A companion order of nuns was founded simultaneously by Sister Maria Celeste.
Alphonsus kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in a 19th-century stained glass window of Carlow Cathedral
Alphonsus was consecrated Bishop of Sant'Agata dei Goti in 1762. He tried to refuse the appointment, proposing his age and infirmities as arguments against his consecration. During this time he wrote sermons, books, and articles to encourage devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1775 he was allowed to retire from his office and went to live in the Redemptorist community in Pagani, Italy where he died on August 1, 1787. He was canonized on May 26, 1839, by Pope Gregory XVI, and later proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871 by Pope Pius IX. He was named "Patron of Confessors and Moralists" by Pope Pius XII in 1950, who wrote of him in an encyclical "Haurietis Aquas."
Alphonsus was proficient in the arts- his parents having had him being trained by various masters of the arts - being a musician, painter, poet, and author at the same time. He put all his artistic and literary creativity at the service of the Christian mission and he asked the same of those who joined his Congregation. His biography says that, in his later days, he liked to go to the local theater, which at the time had a very bad reputation; after being ordained, each time he attended the recitals Alphonsus simply took his optic glasses off and sat in the last row, listening to the music and not paying attention to anything else.
Alphonsus wrote 111 works on spirituality and theology. The 21,500 editions and the translations into 72 languages that his works have undergone attest to the fact that he is one of the most widely read Catholic authors. Among his best known works are The Great Means of Prayer, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ and The Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament. Prayer and its power, love, his relationship with Christ and his first-hand experience of the pastoral needs of the faithful made Alphonsus one of the great masters of the interior life.
His best known musical work is his Christmas hymn Quanno Nascetti Ninno, later translated into Italian by Pope Pius IX as Tu scendi dalle stelle ("From starry skies Thou comest").
In the field of Mariology, Alphonsus Liguori wrote The Glories of Mary, Marian Devotion, Prayers to the Divine Mother, Spiritual Songs, Visitations to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary, The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, and other writings. His Mariology, though mainly pastoral in nature, rediscovered, integrated and defended the Mariology of Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose and other fathers and represented an intellectual defence of Mariology in the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment, with whose cold rationalism his often flaming Marian enthusiasm contrasted.
Alphonsus' greatest contribution to the Church was in the area of moral theological reflection with his Moral Theology. This work was born of Alphonsus' pastoral experience, his ability to respond to the practical questions posed by the faithful and from his contact with their everyday problems. He opposed sterile legalism and strict rigorism - according to Alphonsus, those were paths closed to the Gospel because "such rigor has never been taught nor practiced by the Church". His system of moral theology is noted for its prudence, avoiding both laxism and excessive rigor. He is credited with the position of Aequiprobablism, which avoided Jansenist rigorism as well as laxism and simple probablism.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
- PREPARATION FOR DEATH
- WAY OF SALVATION AND OF PERFECTION :Meditations.Pious Reflections. Spiritual Treatises.
- GREAT MEANS OF SALVATION AND OF PERFECTION : Prayer. Mental Prayer. The Exercises of a Retreat.Choice of a State of Life, and the Vocation to the Religious State and to the Priesthood.
- THE INCARNATION, BIRTH AND INFANCY OF JESUS CHRIST :The Mysteries of Faith.
- THE PASSION AND THE DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST
- THE HOLY EUCHARIST :The Sacrifice, the Sacrament,and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.Practice of Love of Jesus Christ. Novena to the Holy Ghost.
- GLORIES OF MARY : i. Explanation of the Salve Regina, or Hail, Holy Queen. Discourses on the Feasts of Mary. 2. Her Dolors. Her virtues. Practices.Examples. Answers to Critics. Devotion to the Holy Angels, Devotion to St. Joseph. Novena to St. Teresa. Novena for the Repose of the Souls in Purgatory.
- VICTORIES OF THE MARTYRS :The Lives of the Most Celebrated Martyrs of the Church.
- THE TRUE SPOUSE OF JESUS CHRIST
- DIGNITY AND DUTIES OF THE PRIEST : SELVA, a collection of Material for Ecclesiastical Retreats. Rule of Life and Spiritual Rules.
- THE HOLY MASS : Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Ceremonies of the Mass. Preparation and Thanksgiving. The Mass and the Office that are hurriedly said.
- THE DIVINE OFFICE :Translation of the Psalms and Hymns.
- PREACHING : The Exercises of the Missions. Various Counsels.Instructions on the Commandments and Sacraments.
- SERMONS FOR ALL THE SUNDAYS IN THE YEAR
- MISCELLANY :Historical Sketch of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. Rules and Constitutions of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. Instructions about the Religious State. Lives of two Fathers and of a Lay Brother, C.SS. R. Discourses on Calamities. Reflections useful for Bishops. Rules for Seminaries.
- LETTERS I
- LETTERS II
- LETTERS III
- LETTERS IV
- LETTERS V
- LIFE OF ST. ALPHONSUS LIGOURI
- HISTORY OF HERESIES I
- HISTORY OF HERESIES II
- Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament and to Most Holy Mary: The Classic Text and with a Spiritual Commentary by Dennis Billy, C.Ss.R.
- The Religious State