St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori
A Thirsting Soul
Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, Alphonsus Liguori in English, was born in 1696 in Naples, Italy. He belonged to a wealthy noble family. His father was a captain in the Royal Navy, while his mother was a very devout woman. His parents provided him with an exceptional education. He studied literature, philosophy and the arts.
Years later, Alphonsus became the most brilliant lawyer in the tribunal of Naples. For eight years, he won all the cases he defended. However, despite the fame and recognition he enjoyed, in his soul was a thirst for God and the desire of perfection. Alphonsus was led by the Lord to understand that He was calling him to a different vocation. In 1723, he grew indignant at the blatant corruption and injustice ruining the reputation of the legal profession.
With this in the background, Alphonsus abandoned his profession, with all the riches and success it entailed, and decided to become a priest despite his father’s opposition. He was taught by excellent teachers who introduced him to the study of the Sacred Scriptures, Church history and mysticism. He formed in himself a vast theological culture which later on was put to good use on his work as a writer.
A Pastor of the Marginalized
In 1726, Alphonsus was ordained to the priesthood. He entered the diocesan Congregation of Apostolic Missions for the exercise of his ministry. Alphonsus started his mission of evangelization and catechesis among the humblest and poorest in Neapolitan society. He preached to them and instructed them about the basic teachings and truths of the faith. Many of these people were very often prone to vice and worse, were involved in crimes. With much patience, he taught them to pray and encouraged them to improve their way of life.
Alphonsus’ efforts reaped very good results. In the most wretched districts of the city, groups of people increased in number, meeting in the evenings in private houses to pray and meditate on the Word of God. These groups were guided by several catechists trained by Alphonsus himself and other priests. At the desire of the Archbishop of Naples, these meetings were held in the chapels and came to be known as “evening chapels”. These became true and proper sources of moral education, social improvement and reciprocal help among the poor.
Going into the Deep
When he was 35 years old, after considering leaving and evangelizing the pagan peoples, Alphonsus came into contact with the peasants and shepherds of the hinterland of the Kingdom of Naples. He was struck by their ignorance of religion and their poor state. Alphonsus decided to leave the capital and dedicated himself to these people who were poor both materially and spiritually. In 1732, he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, now known as the Redemptionists.
He put the congregation under the protection of Bishop Tommaso Falcoia, and of which he subsequently became the superior. The members of the congregation were authentic itinerant missionaries. They reached the most remote of villages and exhorted people to convert and persevere in the Christian life, most especially through prayer.
Alphonsus’ reputation, goodness and pastoral zeal led him to be appointed as Bishop of Sant’Agata dei Goti in 1762. He continued his work there until he eventually fell ill which gravely weakened him and made him leave his office in 1787 through the concession of Pope Pius VI. In 1787, Alphonsus breathed his last after great suffering. He was canonized in 1839. His feast day is August 1.
Five Interesting Facts About St. Alphonsus Liguori
- St. Alphonsus Liguori is the patron saint of moral theologians and confessors.
- St. Alphonsus Liguori is also the patron saint of those suffering from arthritis. St. Alphonsus experienced really painful arthritis all his life. This is why he is often portrayed with his chin touching his neck.
- When he was only 16 years old, St. Alphonsus Liguori obtained a degree in civil and canon law.
- St. Alphonsus Liguori was declared Doctor of the Church in 1871 by Pope Pius IX.
- St. Alphonsus Liguori was known to have a deep love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin. One of his works was The Glories of Mary, one of the most profound Marian literature ever written.
Prayer to St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori
O God, who constantly raise up in your Church new examples of virtue,grant that we may follow so closely in the footstepsof the Bishop Saint Alphonsus in his zeal for soulsas 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,God, for ever and ever. Amen.