July 31, 2016

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor

St. Alphonsus Liguori
August 1st is the Memorial of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. He was born in 1696 near Naples, Italy, the son of a captain in the Royal Navy and a devoted mother from a noble family. His parents provided him with an exceptional education in philosophy, literature, and the arts. He was 16 when he was awarded doctorates of civil and canon law. When he was 18, like many nobles, he joined the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy with whom he cared for the sick at the hospital for "incurables," washing afflicted bodies, feeding the helpless, changing bedclothes and devoting himself to works of mercy. Following his father's will he became a lawyer and before he was 20, he was regarded as one of the most gifted lawyers working in the kingdom of Naples.

Christ's claim on Alphonsus' heart was absolute. Alphonsus left the law to enter the priesthood, much to the disappointment of his father. He was ordained in 1726. His charity and apostolic spirit led him to found the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. The Redemptorists ministered throughout the countryside, market towns, and villages of Italy to announce the Kingdom of God. He became Bishop of Sant' Agata dei Goti, near Naples, and died at the age of ninety, in 1787. For his works on Moral Theology he was naned a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint for confessors, final perseverance, theologians and vocations.

Adapted Excerpts via the Redemptorists Order, Catholic Culture, the Breviary.

The Life of St. Alphonsus Liguori

Alphonsus Liguori, born in 1696, was the son of an ancient Neapolitan family. His father was an officer in the Royal Navy. At the age of sixteen, Alphonsus received his doctorate in both canon and civil law and for nearly ten years practiced at the bar. When he found that one of the legal cases he was defending was not based on justice but on political intrigue, he gave up the practice of law and dedicated his life to God.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1726, St. Alphonsus Liguori joined a group of secular priests dedicated to missionary activities. He involved himself in many kinds of pastoral activities, giving missions and organizing workers, and had a part in the founding of an order of contemplative nuns.

In 1732, he founded the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers, to work especially among the country people of Italy who often lacked the opportunity for missions, religious instruction, and spiritual retreats. Strangely, his first companions deserted him; but Alphonsus stood firm, and soon vocations multiplied and the congregation grew.

The Redemptorists were approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749, and Alphonsus was elected superior general. In 1762, he was appointed bishop of Sant' Agata dei God and as bishop he corrected abuses, restored churches, reformed seminaries, and promoted missions throughout his diocese. During the famine of 1763-64, his charity and generosity were boundless, and he also carried on a huge campaign of religious writing.

In 1768, he was stricken with a painful illness and resigned his bishopric. During the last years of his life, problems in his congregation caused him much sorrow and when he died on August 1, 1787, at Pagani, near Salerno, the Redemptorists were a divided society. He was beatified in 1816, canonized in 1839, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints, Rev. Clifford Stevens.

Collect Prayer

O God, who constantly raise up in your Church new examples of virtue, grant that we may follow so closely in the footsteps of the Bishop Saint Alphonsus in his zeal for souls as to attain the same rewards that are his in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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