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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori was born in 1696 A.D. at Marianelli near Naples, Italy. He was of noble birth, and a child prodigy. 

He was well educated, and received his doctorate in law from the University of Naples at the age of 16. He had his own law practice by the age of 21, and was one of the leading lawyers in Naples. He never attended court without having attended Mass first. He practiced law for 8 years, and as he matured and learned more and more of the world, he liked it less and less. He was humiliated by the loss of an important case, and he felt a call to the religious life. He entered a missionary society of secular priests, the "Neapolitan Propaganda", and was ordained a priest in 1726 where he devoted his time to work among the poor. 

Alphonsus was noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. He wrote on asceticism, history and was a master theologian. He was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious. Alphonsus founded the Redemptoristines women's order at Scala, Italy in 1730.

In 1732, with the help of Bishop Thomas Falcoia of Castellamare, he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Liguorians; Redemptorists) at Scala. 

Alphonsus was appointed bishop of Saint Agata dei Gotti by Pope Clement XIII in 1762. There he worked to reform the clergy and revitalize the faithful in a diocese with a bad reputation. 

He was afflicted with severe rheumatism, and often could barely move or raise his chin from his chest. In 1775 he resigned his see due to his health, and went into what he thought was a prayerful retirement. In 1777, the royal government threatened to disband his Redemptorists, claiming that they were covertly carrying on the work of the Jesuits, who had been suppressed in 1773. Calling on his knowledge of the Congregation, his background in theology, and his skills as a lawyer, Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king's approval. However, by this time Alphonsus was nearly blind, and was tricked into giving his approval to a revised 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 Alphonsus from his position as leader of the Order. This caused Alphonsus a crisis in confidence and faith that took years to overcome. However, by the time of his death he had returned to faith and peace. 

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori died of natural causes at Nocera de' Pagani, Italy in 1787. Pope Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

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