Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Saint Alphonsus Liguori-Doctor of The Church



Alphonsus Liguori was born into a relatively prosperous family of the nobility in the year 1696 near Naples. The young Alphonsus was lucky in that both his parents were devout and raised their children in the same vein. When it came to Alphonsus though the parents had their work cut out for them not because he was a rebel but due to his determination and obstinate will, from an early age Alphonsus had a clear idea of what he liked and what he did not!

In these days Alphonsus would be considered a gifted child, perhaps even a prodigy as his keen intelligence and love of learning would impress all those around him including his father Don Joseph Liguori. Though Alphonsus loved his faith he was not a cold ascetic who remained untouched but rather embraced all forms of art from music to books to art. He also loved the various sports of the day including fencing and cards.

His parents most especially his father guarded the young Alphonsus from any undue harm and rather than send his brightest child to school Alphonsus was tutored at home under the watchful guidance of his father. Alphonsus was so bright and intelligent that he soon was able to progress much further than any other youth of his age. This could be due also to the fact that Alphonsus was a perfectionist. In every activity that Alphonsus undertook he tried to be the best in his chosen field, not in a sense of competitiveness but from a need to push himself to the limit.

Alphonsus quick intelligence allowed him to study and gain a degree as Doctor of Laws at the young age of 16. Being small in stature it was quite a sight to see this young boy being swamped by the Doctorate gown he had to wear much to the mirth of the gathered crowd.

By the age of nineteen Alphonsus was already practicing his profession in the law courts and though was to be a very able lawyer the job itself did not fulfill the need that was growing in the heart of this astute but also profoundly gifted young man. Alphonsus was not one for the bright lights and merriments enjoyed by others of his age this would change as he grew older. If anything he had an abhorrence for the theatrics and refused to take part in family entertainments, much to the disappointment of his father and siblings. Though Alphonsus loved the arts he was a purist in that he hated the contrived atmosphere of the actors profession and preferred instead to simply listen to the music at theatrical events.

From a young age Alphonsus had a deep and profound love for his faith to the extent that he took no part in anything that could corrupt his senses or lead him astray from the Churches Teachings. But still Alphonsus would have been treated much as a movie star would be treated in these days and like many movie stars some of this attention went to Alphonsus head as he enjoyed the good life with his companions though he did not do anything that would place his soul in mortal sin. Prayer soon fell on the backburner as Alphonsus often came home late from night spots. He found himself at 26 years of age being feted amidst high society as he attended banquets, assorted entertainments and other distractions.

This would not last long as God had other plans for this astute and intelligent young man and as usual it took a catastrophic even to stop Alphonsus in his tracks and re-evaluate his life. This was a lawyer who was greatly respected among his own and could hold his head high as he had purportedly never lost a case, this was to change, it would also change his life. Alphonsus took on a case and proceeded so quickly that he had forgotten to check all his facts and neglected to read relevant documents to this particular case. His belief in himself and in the courts was shattered as he learnt that he had been gravely mistaken in the man he was representing, and with an ashen face he said to his opposing lawyer upon reading the document, "You are right. I have been mistaken. This document gives you the case." All the early learning about his faith taught to him came to Alphonsus aid as he had an abhorrence towards lies and so Alphonsus was to leave a profession of which he loved, the law.

This loss of face shook poor Alphonsus to the core as he looked back and began to feel a deep and sincere sorrow for what his life had become, a mixture of frivolity and duplicity. Alphonsus would have none of it and instead turned to pray to help lead him to find what God wished for him to learn and to become. What helped Alphonsus through this difficult time was the faith which had been instilled in him by his parents from a very young age. Slowly but surely Alphonsus took slow steps away from the world and its seductions to the poor and their helplessness. It was as he was visiting a charitable hospital that Alphonsus would 'hear' an interior message as the Lord spoke to him, "Leave the world and give thyself to Me."

Upon receiving this Divine calling Alphonsus committed himself to work for the Lord through the Priesthood. This was to be no easy task for Alphonsus as his father Don Joseph strenuously objected to this new profession and instead tried to return Alphonsus back to the law. This brought great stress to Alphonsus and his family as his will and his mind was made up and he would not go back to his former lifestyle. After many disputes a compromise was reached between father and son, Alphonsus would be allowed to join the Priesthood so long as he remained at his home. After reaching this compromise Alphonsus had much studying to do and so came the steps that would eventually lead to Ordination into the Priesthood. Alphonsus in the year 1726 became an ordained Deacon, later that same year Alphonsus was Ordained a Priest at the young age of 30 years.

These were learning years for Father Alphonsus as he studied and met different men of the Faith one of whom would have a profound influence on his life this man being, Father Thomas Falcoia. These two men would be drawn into long discussions about their Faith the Mystery of God and other discourses which change Alphonsus life for the better.

Through the influence of Father Falcoia Alphonsus would be led through much adversity to begin a new Order and though he faced much opposition Alphonsus had never been fainthearted when faced with adversities, he simply persevered. So it was that in 1732 the 'Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer' began which would later become known as The Redemptorists. During this time Father Alphonsus was also a prolific writer and a great theologian as he was determined to never waste another minute on anything that was frivolous.

Things would not always run smoothly though as the new Order came under attack from within as dissension filled the ranks and Alphonsus would soon find himself abandoned by many of his former friends. This did not deter this man of steel from doing what was God's Will and not his own, as always Alphonsus obstinacy would hold him in good stead. Through all this discord Alphonsus never lost track of what he was about and that was to preach the Good News to all who would listen. As in many Orders Alphonsus also embraced the Mission field and he himself traversed many parts of Italy spreading the love of Jesus Christ to all people.

During all these travels trouble was never far away from Alphonsus as with any good thing Satan will also be working for its downfall. So it was that when a new government was formed under the leadership of Charles III this would bring further anguish to Alphonsus as suppression of religious Orders became the name of the game. Father Alphonsus would fight against this edict for many years at times near falling into despair until a friend cautioned the sensitive Alphonsus with these wise words, "It would seem as if you placed all your trust here below"; with these words ringing in his ears Alphonsus let go and put all things into the hands of God.

Though Alphonsus sought out no honors for himself still they sought him out and in 1762 Father Alphonsus was appointed Bishop of St. Agatha of the Goths. Considering his age this was a huge responsibility as Bishop Alphonsus found himself in a mission field where hundreds of thousands were ignorant of the faith and the rest remained indifferent. Even Religious Orders had become so secularized that Priests and Nuns took little note of obedience or in following the Will of God.

This was a desolate time for Alphonsus as he tried to instill in all those around him a love for their Faith through education and a renewed vigor for those who had embraced the Religious life to return to their original Vows. Not everyone was pleased with this Bishop and some even attempted to take his life rather than submit. This brought much suffering to Alphonsus not for his own sake or popularity but that the people were rejecting the love of God and the ramifications this would have upon their souls. During all these persecutions Alphonsus struggled on and continued his prodigious literary works which even today stand the test of time.

These last years were ones of dry martyrdom for Bishop Alphonsus as he struggled with one illness after another in a desolate landscape. It would be a severe case of rheumatic fever that would leave Alphonsus paralyzed to the end of his life. It was this illness that crippled Alphonsus head so that it rested on his chest which then began a serious of infections. This is why many portraits show him with a bent head, now we know the cause.

This great man of the Church was also touched with the Mystical as he was able to read hearts and also heal the sick. He was also present in spirit at the death bed of Pope Clement XIV.

The Catholic Church even to this day has been greatly blessed with the writings of this most wonderful son of the Church.

Bishop Alphonsus Liguori died in 1787.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

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