Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (September 27, 1696 – August 1, 1787) was an Italian Catholic bishop, spiritual writer, scholastic philosopher and theologian, and founder of the Redemptorists, an influential religious congregation. He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI. Pope Pius IX proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1871.
Saint Alphonsus Maria de 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
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 - the
first he had lost in eight years of practicing law - 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 which were
managed 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 congregation'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 congregation of nuns was founded
simultaneously by Sister Maria Celeste.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 beatified on September 15, 1816, by Pope Pius VII and canonized on May 26, 1839, by Pope Gregory XVI. He was named patron of confessors and moralists by Pope Pius XII on April 26, 1950, who subsequently wrote of him in the encyclical Haurietis Aquas.
Alphonsus was proficient in the arts, his parents having had him
being trained by various masters of the arts, and was 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
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,The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, Visitations to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary, 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, against the cold rationalism of which 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. As a master of moral theology, he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871 by Pope Pius IX, one of only 34.
The Redemptorists founded the Alphonsian Academy for the advanced
study of Catholic moral theology in the spirit of St. Alphonsus. The
Academy offers licentiates and doctorates in moral theology. Many of the
professors are Redemptorists.
"Inspired by St. Alphonsus M. de Liguori, who strove to renew moral
theology in his time, and in harmony with the Magisterium of the Church,
as expressed especially in the Second Vatican Council, the Alphonsian
Academy seeks the fullest human and christian knowledge about humankind.
Rooted always in the salvific Mystery of Christ the Redeemer, the
Academy promotes the worth and meaning of human life by discerning the
norm of human behaviour in the individual, in the family, in civil
society and in religious faith. Over 4.600 students who have passed
through the Academy give vital witness to the pastoral and doctrinal
worth of the Institute."
|Liveleak on Facebook|