St. Alfonso Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church (1696-1787)


From the Editor’s Desk (Wednesday, August 1, 2018, Gaudium Press) Alfonso Maria de ‘Liguori was born near Naples in 1696. His parents were Joseph, captain of the royal galleys , and Anna Knights of Avenia.The father wanted his eldest son received a good education, so Alfonso as a child was educated by preceptors. At thirteen, he started his law studies and to sixteen, four years before the normal age, he obtained his doctorate in civil and canon law in Naples university .

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It is said of him (with a little ‘exaggeration) who has never lost a case in eight years of advocacy exercise. In 1717 Giuseppe tried to arrange a marriage for his son, but the thing did not succeed. The old screw say that for a year or two his religious enthusiasm waned somewhat and, although not a great sinner , loved the life of society, entertainment to fashion and music of the Neapolitan theater. In Lent of 1722 he made a retreat with the Vincentians. In Lent of 1723 decided, in private, not to marry and to practice law only up to when I had shown her “inner guidance “, which he recognized as the voice of God .

Alfonso few months lost an important cause and indignation of the father added an interior locution: while visiting the hospital sick of incurable heard twice the inner voice that said, ” Leave the world and give yourself to me .” He went to the church of Our Lady of Mercy , put down his sword on the altar and asked to become part of the Oratory priests. Joseph tried to dissuade his son, but eventually left him to become a priest, provided, however, that it remained in the house and would not enter into the congregation of the Oratory and Alfonso accepted, on the advice Oratorian Pagano, his spiritual director.

He began to study theology in the house and in 1726 was ordained a priest . For two years he devoted himself to apostolic activity in the kingdom of Naples and earned a reputation for outspoken and preacher of effective confessor , who avoided the refinements and Jansenist rigor. ” It is a pleasure to listen to his sermons: she forgets himself and preaches Jesus Christ,” he was told. Was the penitents as souls to be saved and not as criminals to be punished or scare. It is said he never refused absolution to anyone. But some people found fault with his behavior. Heorganized the “slackers”, ie the unemployed and idlers of Naples, in groups who gathered to receive religious instruction. Once scolded one of the members that showed excessive zeal for fasting and another priest added, ” God willing that we eat to live; if you have received the cutlets, eat them and be thankful: you will do well . ” The story began to circulate and turned to discredit Alfonso: You said that the groups were secret societies of Epicureans or quietist or even that they were part of a new sect called “cutlets”. Some members were arrested and Alfonso had to explain what had happened.

The archbishop told him to be cautious and “schnitzel circles” continued undisturbed;It was later transformed in the ‘ Association of the Chapels , which in the early twentieth century there were thousands of workers, with daily meetings for prayerand religious instruction in the chapels of the brotherhood. In 1729, at the age of thirty-three years . Alfonso left home to become chaplain of a college where they were preparing missionaries for China.

Here he met Thomas Falcoia, a priest who was twice her age and who became his close friend. The Falcoia had tried for years to found a new religious institute following a vision that he claimed to have had in Rome, but was only able to found a convent of nuns in Scala near Amalfi.

In celebration of the Transfiguration of 1731 the nuns dressed the new red and blue dress and began a life of strict enclosure and severe penance: it was the beginning of theRedemptorist nuns , still flourishing today in various countries. Alfonso himself extended the new rule and made it clearer. Bishop Thomas the then suggested to found a new congregation of missionaries who worked especially among farmers. In November 1732 he left Naples for Scala, where 9 of the same month it was founded the Congregation of SS. Redeemer.From 1726 to 1752 he preached everywhere in the kingdom of Naples, especially in villages, with great success. His confessional was always crowded: many hardened sinners returning to the sacraments, enemies were reconciled and resolved family disputes. In a few years were erected several foundations new, despite the opposition of the anti-clerical faction at the local and state level.

With the experience of the former lawyer, strict and sensitive preacher, he became a prominent moral theologian After the death of Falcoia in 1743, the life of Alfonso was very intense . He led the congregation through difficult events, internal and external, working to have it recognized by the king, took care of a lot of people in his ministry, he led missions in Naples and Sicily, wrote hymns, composed melodies, he devoted himself to painting. After 1752 his health began to decline and therefore its missionary force was slowed down ; then he dedicated more time to write . A canon of Naples expressed a general feeling when he said: ” If I were pope, the canonizzerei without trial .” Father Mazzini said, ” He fulfilled perfectly the divine commandment to loveGod above all things, with all your heart and all your strength, as everyone could see, as I saw better than any other in the long years spent with him ” .

Alfonso was stern, yet full of tenderness and mercy ; being himself plagued by frequent scruples, was especially kind to those who were prey. He sixty-six years when Pope Clement XIII appointed him bishop of St. Agatha of the Goths, between Benevento and Capua. He began to reform the seminar and also how to assign benefits. Then there were priests who said Mass in fifteen minutes or less : Alfonso suspended them until they had changed their way of celebrating. He also wrote an essay on the topic: ” Truly seeing celebrate Mass in this way is enough to lose faith .”

It was in S. Agata recently when plague and famine broke out . Alfonso had predicted several times in the previous two years, but she had done nothing to prevent them. Given that thousands of people were starving, he sold everything to buy food for the hungry , he too many debts to procure aid. At one point the people in turmoil wanted to kill the mayor of St. Agate , wrongly accused of concealing food; then Alfonso, challenging their fury, offered his life in place of that of the mayor, then calmed them by distributing food rations for two days. Bishop Alfonso became very concerned of public morality . This earned him many enemies, so much so that his life was often threatened by high-ranking people or those against whom he had brought court proceedings.
” Everyone has to monitor his flock. When will these people hunted here and there, in disgrace, without food or accommodation, then put judgment and give up their lives as sinners . ” The Alfonso attitude may sound harsh, if judged in the light of certain ideas of great tolerance of the late twentieth century, but considering the conditions of time and place in which he lived, his careful examination of applications and authentic purpose of the moral law , his relentless pursuit of the best for the people and for the religious community, make him a saint of all time.

In June of 1767 Alfonso was such a strong and persistent attack of rheumatic feverwhich is feared for him. He received the last sacraments and even began to plan a funeral. But after twelve months his life was out of danger . The neck, however, remained bent permanently and that it is found in the portraits. As long as the surgeons were unable to straighten a little, the pressure of the chin caused him a living wound in the chest so much that he could not celebrate Mass. In later he succeeded, using a chair at the time of communion. In 1784-85 through a terrible “dark night of faith ” and is said to have suffered temptations on all matters of faith and all the virtues. He was assailed by scruples, by fears unjustified , by illusions then described as diabolical.
This lasted for eighteen months , with rare peace and lucid intervals. Then followed a period of frequent ecstasies . It is said that gifts of prophecy and even miracles have taken the place of the interior trials. Reports on the experiences of the time of Alfonso, then old and sick, presenting them as an exemplary case of the struggle between the good and bad inclinations; But today it is impossible to frame it within the terms of modern geriatric medicine, although the start of different diseases can sometimes appear as a struggle between light and darkness.

Alfonso died in the night between July 31 and August 1, 1787, two months after his ninety-first birthday. In 1796 Pius VI, the Pope who condemned him as a result of a misunderstanding, decreed the introduction of his cause. In 1816 he was beatified in 1839 and canonized in 1871, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. In 1793 the government of Naples recognized the original rule and the Redemptorists were united again. Currently they are widespread throughout Europe, in America and in other parts of the world.



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