Tuesday, August 1, 2006
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

Memorial (1969 Calendar): August 1
Double (1955 Calendar): August 2

Today is the Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. He was born in 1696 to an ancient Neapolitan family; his father was an officer in the royal navy. He was a child prodigy and at the young age of 16, St. Alphonsus received his doctorate in both canon and civil law from the University of Naples. St. Alphonsus would never go to court without first attending Mass. He practiced for nearly 10 years until he realized that one of the legal cases he was defending was not based on justice but on the political scheme. He then gave up his career as a lawyer to serve God.

Declining an arranged married, he was ordained a priest in 1726. St. Alphonsus joined a group of secular priests dedicated to missionary activities. He would give missions, organize workers, and he even had a part in founding an order of contemplative nuns. He is remembered for his gentle understanding in the Confessional and his direct, clear style of preaching.

In 1732, St. Alphonsus Liguori founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists) in Scala, Italy. It was a congregation of priests and brothers. The congregation worked among country people, most in Italy, who lacked the opportunity for missions and religious instruction. While his first companions deserted him, many vocations came and the congregation rapidly grew.

In 1749, the Redemptorists were officially approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749, and Alphonsus was elected as the superior general of the congregation. St. Alphonsus continued to work for Christ when he was made a bishop of Sant' Agata dei God in 1762 by Pope Clement XIII. As bishop, he reformed seminaries, restored churches, and promoted missions. His charity was especially noted during the famine of 1763-64. During on event in his time as bishop, St. Alphonsus summoned a priest to him that refused to leave his worldly life. When the priest arrived, he found a large crucifix on the threshold of the bishop's study. And St. Alphonsus said to the priest, "Come along and be sure to trample it underfoot. It would not be the first time you have placed Our Lord beneath your feet."

In 1768 he resigned as bishop because he was greatly sickened by rheumatism. In 1777, the royal government sought to disband the Redemptorists because they claimed they were doing the work of the Jesuits, who were suppressed in 1773. Using his skills as a lawyer, St. Alphonsus defended his Congregation and obtained the king's approval.

By this time St. Alphonsus was nearly blind. Trying to take advantage of him, he was tricked into approving revised a Rule for the Congregation, one that suited the king and the anti-clerical government. When Pope Pius VI saw the changes, he condemned it and removed St. Alphonsus Liguori from the order's leader. This caused the saint a great crisis in confidence that lasted for many years.

St. Alphonsus Liguori died on August 1, 1787. When he died, the Redemptorists were a divided society - something that greatly saddened him, but he regained his confidence and peace. He was beatified in 1816, canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871. 

Bibliography: The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens


O God, Who didst kindle in blessed Alphonsus Mary, Thy Confessor and Bishop, burning zeal for the salvation of souls, and through him didst enrich Thy Church with a new offspring: grant, we beseech Thee, that imbued with his saving doctrine and strengthened by his example, we may be able happily to come to Thee. Through our Lord.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

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