On August 1, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori. St. Alphonsus is the founder of the Religious Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists); he is the patron saint of confessors, moral theologians, and those who suffer from arthritis—a condition that caused him great pain and left him confined to a wheelchair later in life.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
“Bear well in mind that you have neither friend nor brother nor father nor mother nor spouse nor lover who loves you more than God.”
DAILY NOVENA PRAYER:
Glorious St Alphonsus, loving Father of the poor and sick, all your life you devoted yourself, with a heroic charity, to lighten their spiritual and bodily miseries. Full of confidence in your tender pity for the sick, since you yourself patiently borne the cross of illness, I come to you for help in my present need… (Mention your request here…) Loving father of the suffering, St Alphonsus, look with compassion upon me in my suffering. Ask God to give me good health. If it is not God’s will, then give me the strength to bear my cross patiently and to offer my sufferings with my crucified Savior and his Mother of Sorrows, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, in reparation for my sins and those of others, for the needs of this troubled world, and the Holy Souls in purgatory. Amen.
BRIEF BIOGRAPHY – PART 4
Eight times during his long life, without counting his last sickness, the Saint received the sacraments of the dying, but the worst of all his illnesses was a terrible attack of rheumatic fever during his episcopate, an attack which lasted from May, 1768, to June, 1769, and left him paralyzed to the end of his days. It was this which gave St. Alphonsus the bent head which we notice in the portraits of him. So bent was it in the beginning, that the pressure of his chin produced a dangerous wound in the chest. Although the doctors succeeded in straightening the neck a little, the Saint for the rest of his life had to drink at meals through a tube. He could never have said Mass again had not an Augustinian prior shown him how to support himself on a chair so that with the assistance of an acolyte he could raise the chalice to his lips. But in spite of his infirmities both Clement XIII (1758-69) and Clement XIV (1769-74) obliged Alphonsus to remain at his post. In February, 1775, however, Pius VI was elected Pope, and the following May he permitted the Saint to resign his see.
Alphonsus returned to his little cell at Nocera in July, 1775, to prepare, as he thought, for a speedy and happy death. Twelve years, however, still separated him from his reward, years for the most part not of peace but of greater afflictions than any which had yet befallen him. By 1777, the Saint, in addition to four houses in Naples and one in Sicily, had four others at Scifelli, Frosinone, St. Angelo a Cupolo, and Beneventum, in the States of the Church. In case things became hopeless in Naples, he looked to these houses to maintain the Rule and Institute. In 1780, a crisis arose in which they did this, yet in such a way as to bring division in the Congregation and extreme suffering and disgrace upon its founder.
The crisis arose in this way. From the year 1759 two former benefactors of the Congregation, Baron Sarnelli and Francis Maffei, by one of those changes not uncommon in Naples, had become its bitter enemies, and waged a vendetta against it in the law courts which lasted for twenty-four years. Sarnelli was almost openly supported by the all-powerful Tanucci, and the suppression of the Congregation at last seemed a matter of days, when on 26 October, 1776, Tanucci, who had offended Queen Maria Carolina, suddenly fell from power.
Under the government of the Marquis della Sambuca, who, though a great regalist, was a personal friend of the Saint’s, there was promise of better times, and in August, 1779, Alphonsus’s hopes were raised by the publication of a royal decree allowing him to appoint superiors in his Congregation and to have a novitiate and house of studies. The Government throughout had recognized the good effect of his missions, but it wished the missionaries to be secular priests and not a religious order. The Decree of 1779, however, seemed a great step in advance.
Alphonsus, having got so much, hoped to get a little more, and through his friend, Mgr. Testa, the Grand Almoner, even to have his Rule approved. He did not, as in the past, ask for an exequatur to the Brief of Benedict XIV, for relations at the time were more strained than ever between the Courts of Rome and Naples; but he hoped the king might give an independent sanction to his Rule, provided he waived all legal right to hold property in common, which he was quite prepared to do. It was all-important to the Fathers to be able to rebut the charge of being an illegal religious congregation, which was one of the chief allegations in the ever-adjourned and ever-impending action by Baron Sarnelli.
Perhaps in any case the submission of their Rule to a suspicious and even hostile civil power was a mistake. At all events, it proved disastrous in the result. Alphonsus being so old and so inform — he was eighty-five, crippled, deaf, and nearly blind — his one chance of success was to be faithfully served by friends and subordinates, and he was betrayed at every turn. His friend the Grand Almoner betrayed him; his two envoys for negotiating with the Grand Almoner, Fathers Majone and Cimino, betrayed him, consultors general though they were. His very confessor and vicar general in the government of his Order, Father Andrew Villani, joined in the conspiracy. In the end the Rule was so altered as to be hardly recognizable, the very vows of religion being abolished. To this altered Rule or “Regolamento”, as it came to be called, the unsuspecting Saint was induced to put his signature. It was approved by the king and forced upon the stupefied Congregation by the whole power of the State.
A fearful commotion arose. Alphonsus himself was not spared. Vague rumours of impending treachery had got about and had been made known to him, but he had refused to believe them. “You have founded the Congregation and you have destroyed it”, said one Father to him. The Saint only wept in silence and tried in vain to devise some means by which his Order might be saved. His best plan would have been to consult the Holy See, but in this he had been forestalled. The Fathers in the Papal States, with too precipitate zeal, in the very beginning denounced the change of Rule to Rome. Pius VI, already deeply displeased with the Neapolitan Government, took the fathers in his own dominions under his special protection, forbade all change of rule in their houses, and even withdrew them from obedience to the Neapolitan superiors, that is to St. Alphonsus, till an inquiry could be held.
A long process followed in the Court of Rome, and on 22 September, 1780, a provisional Decree, which on 24 August, 1781, was made absolute, recognized the houses in the Papal States as alone constituting the Redemptorist Congregation. Father Francis de Paula, one of the chief appellants, was appointed their Superior General, “in place of those”, so the brief ran, “who being higher superiors of the said Congregation have with their followers adopted a new system essentially different from the old, and have deserted the Institute in which they were professed, and have thereby ceased to be members of the Congregation.” So the Saint was cut off from his own Order by the Pope who was to declare him “Venerable”. In this state of exclusion he lived for seven years more and in it he died. It was only after his death, as he had prophesied, that the Neapolitan Government, at last, recognized the original Rule, and that the Redemptorist Congregation was reunited under one head (1793).
Alphonsus had still one final storm to meet, and then the end. About three years before his death he went through a veritable “Night of the Soul”. Fearful temptations against every virtue crowded upon him, together with diabolical apparitions and illusions, and terrible scruples and impulses to despair which made life a hell. at last came peace, and on 1 August, 1787, as the midday Angelus was ringing, the Saint passed peacefully to his reward. He had nearly completed his ninety-first year. He was declared “Venerable”, 4 May, 1796; was beatified in 1816, and canonized in 1839. In 1871, he was declared a Doctor of the Church.
“Alphonsus was of middle height”, says his first biographer, Tannoia; “his head was rather large, his hair black, and beard well-grown.” He had a pleasant smile, and his conversation was very agreeable, yet he had great dignity of manner. He was a born leader of men. His devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady was extraordinary. He had a tender charity towards all who were in trouble; he would go to any length to try to save a vocation; he would expose himself to death to prevent sin. He had a love for the lower animals, and wild creatures who fled from all else would come to him as to a friend. Psychologically, Alphonsus may be classed among twice-born souls; that is to say, there was a definitely marked break or conversion, in his life, in which he turned, not from serious sin, for that he never committed, but from comparative worldliness, to thorough self-sacrifice for God. Alphonsus’s temperament was very ardent. He was a man of strong passions, using the term in the philosophic sense, and tremendous energy, but from childhood his passions were under control. Yet, to take anger alone, though comparatively early in life he seemed dead to insult or injury which affected himself, in cases of cruelty, or of injustice to others, or of dishonour to God, he showed a prophet’s indignation even in old age. Ultimately, however, anything merely human in this had disappeared. At the worst, it was only the scaffolding by which the temple of perfection was raised. Indeed, apart from those who become saints by the altogether special grace of martyrdom, it may be doubted if many men and women of phlegmatic temperament have been canonized. The differentia of saints is not faultlessness but driving-power, a driving-power exerted in generous self-sacrifice and ardent love of God. The impulse to this passionate service of God comes from Divine grace, but the soul must correspond (which is also a grace of God), and the soul of strong will and strong passions corresponds best. The difficulty about strong wills and strong passions is that they are hard to tame, but when they are tamed they are the raw material of sanctity… (To be continued)
- (Culled from New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia)
(From the Redemptorists Media)
Glorious St. Alphonsus, bishop and doctor of the Church, devoted servant of our Lord and loving child of Mary, I invoke you as a saint in heaven. I give myself to your protection that you may always be my protector and my guide in the way of holiness and salvation. Aid me in observing the duties of my state of life. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent love of the interior life after your own example. Great lover of the Blessed Sacrament and the Passion of Jesus Christ, teach me to love Holy Mass and Holy Communion as the source of grace and holiness. Give me a tender devotion to the Passion of my Redeemer.
Promoter of the truth of Christ, through your preaching and writing, give me a greater knowledge and appreciation of the divine truths. Gentle father of the poor and sinners, help me to imitate your charity toward others in word and deed. Consoler of the suffering, help me to bear my daily cross patiently in imitation of your own patience in your long and painful illness and to resign myself to the will of God. Good Shepherd of the flock of Christ, obtain for me the grace of being a true child of Holy Mother Church.
St. Alphonsus, I humbly implore your powerful intercession for obtaining from the heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare. I recommend to you, in particular, this favor: (mention your request). I have great confidence in your prayers. I earnestly trust that if it is God’s holy will, my petition will be granted through your intercession for me at the throne of God. St. Alphonsus, pray for me and for those I love. I beg of you, by your love for Jesus and Mary, do not abandon us in our needs. May we experience the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.
Heavenly Father, You continually build up Your Church by the lives of Your saints. Give us grace to follow St. Alphonsus in his loving concern for the salvation of people and so come to share his reward in heaven. Walking in the footsteps of this devoted servant of Yours, may we be consumed with zeal for souls and attain the reward he enjoys in Your kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be…
Through the intercession of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, may Almighty God bless you + the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Compiled by Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, São Paulo, Brazil
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?
Lord grant us presence of mind always and everywhere and at all times to recognise Your Hands in our affairs.
Consoler of the suffering, help me to bear my daily cross patiently in imitation of your own patience in your long and painful illness and to resign myself to the will of God. Amen