mercredi 8 août 2012

Saint ALPHONSE de LIGUORI (1er août), missionnaire, fondateur et Docteur de l'Église


SAINT ALPHONSE de LIGUORI

Docteur de l'Église

(1696-1787)

Saint Alphonse de Liguori naquit près de Naples. Après de fort brillantes études, docteur en droit civil et canonique à seize ans, il embrassa la carrière d'avocat. Pendant les dix années qu'il remplit cette charge, il fut le modèle du parfait chrétien. Il commençait à se relâcher, quand il échoua dans un plaidoyer superbe où il avait déployé tous ses talents; "O monde! s'écria-t-il, désormais je te connais; tu ne m'auras plus."

Peu après, il entendit une voix lui dire: "Laisse le monde de côté, livre-toi à Moi tout entier..." Aussitôt il répondit, fondant en larmes: "O Dieu! Me voici, faites de moi ce qu'il Vous plaira." Aussitôt Alphonse va déposer à l'église de la Sainte Vierge son épée de gentilhomme, prend bientôt l'habit ecclésiastique, fait ses études de théologie, et au bout de trois ans reçoit le sacerdoce. Désormais le voilà embrasé du zèle des âmes; il se mêle au peuple des campagnes et s'éprend d'un amour spécial pour lui.

C'est alors que l'idée lui vint de fonder, pour exercer l'apostolat parmi cette classe si intéressante de la société, la Congrégation des Rédemptoristes. Traité d'insensé par son père, ses proches et ses amis, persécuté et abandonné bientôt par plusieurs de ses premiers collaborateurs, délaissé et méprisé par son directeur lui-même, Alphonse endura toutes les souffrances morales qui peuvent tomber sur un homme: rien ne put l'abattre ni le décourager.

Il eut plusieurs visions de la très Sainte Vierge; une fois, pendant un sermon sur les gloires de Marie, il fut ravi, et environné d'une éblouissante lumière.

Un jour, son pauvre accoutrement le fit prendre pour le cocher des autres missionnaires, et, à son premier sermon, son éloquence fit dire au peuple: "Si le cocher prêche si bien, que sera-t-il des autres!" Aux travaux apostoliques, Alphonse joignait les travaux intellectuels, et il composa un grand nombre d'ouvrages de piété et de morale qui l'ont fait élever au rang des docteurs.

Sacré évêque, Alphonse égala par ses vertus les plus saints pontifes. Il mourut à l'âge de quatre-vingt-onze ans.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950.



BENOÎT XVI

AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE

Place Saint-Pierre

Mercredi 30 mars 2011

Saint Alphonse de Liguori


Chers frères et sœurs,

Je voudrais aujourd’hui vous présenter la figure d’un saint docteur de l’Eglise à qui nous devons beaucoup, car ce fut un éminent théologien moraliste et un maître de vie spirituelle pour tous, en particulier pour les personnes simples. Il est l’auteur des paroles et de la musique de l’un des chants de Noël les plus populaires en Italie et pas seulement: Tu descends des étoiles.

Appartenant à une noble et riche famille napolitaine, Alphonse Marie de Liguori naquit en 1696. Doté de nombreuses qualités intellectuelles, il obtint à seulement 16 ans une maîtrise de droit civil et canonique. Il était l’avocat le plus brillant du barreau de Naples: pendant huit ans il gagna toutes les causes qu’il défendit. Toutefois, dans son âme assoiffée de Dieu et désireuse de perfection, le Seigneur le conduisait à comprendre que la vocation à laquelle il l’appelait était une autre. En effet, en 1723, indigné par la corruption et l’injustice qui viciaient le milieu juridique, il abandonna sa profession — et avec elle la richesse et le succès — et il décida de devenir prêtre, malgré l’opposition de son père. Il eut d’excellents maîtres, qui l’initièrent à l’étude de l’Ecriture Sainte, de l’histoire de l’Eglise et de la mystique. Il acquit une vaste culture théologique, qu’il mit à profit quand, quelques années plus tard, il entreprit son œuvre d’écrivain. Il fut ordonné prêtre en 1726 et il se lia, pour l’exercice de son ministère, à la Congrégation diocésaine des Missions apostoliques. Alphonse commença une action d’évangélisation et de catéchèse dans les couches les plus humbles de la société napolitaine, auxquelles il aimait prêcher, et qu’il instruisait sur les vérités fondamentales de la foi. Un grand nombre de ces personnes, pauvres et modestes, auxquelles il s’adressait, s’adonnaient souvent aux vices et accomplissaient des actes criminels. Il leur enseignait avec patience à prier, les encourageant à améliorer leur façon de vivre. Alphonse obtint d’excellents résultats: dans les quartiers les plus misérables de la ville se multipliaient les groupes de personnes qui, le soir, se réunissaient dans les maisons privées et dans les échoppes, pour prier et pour méditer la Parole de Dieu, sous la direction de plusieurs catéchistes formés par Alphonse et par d’autres prêtres, qui rendaient visite régulièrement à ces groupes de fidèles. Quand, suivant le désir de l’archevêque de Naples, ces réunions furent tenues dans les chapelles de la ville, elles prirent le nom de «chapelles du soir». Elles furent de véritables sources d’éducation morale, d’assainissement social, d’aide réciproque entre les pauvres: les vols, les duels, la prostitution finirent presque par disparaître.

Même si le contexte social et religieux de l’époque de saint Alphonse étaient bien différent du nôtre, les «chapelles du soir» apparaissent comme un modèle d’action missionnaire auquel nous pouvons nous inspirer également aujourd’hui pour une «nouvelle évangélisation», en particulier des plus pauvres, et pour construire une coexistence humaine plus juste, fraternelle et solidaire. Une tâche de ministère spirituel est confiée aux prêtres, alors que des laïcs bien formés peuvent être des animateurs chrétiens efficaces, un authentique levain évangélique au sein de la société.

Après avoir pensé partir pour évangéliser les peuples païens, Alphonse, à l’âge de 35 ans, entra en contact avec les paysans et les pasteurs des régions intérieures du royaume de Naples et, frappé par leur ignorance religieuse et par l’état d’abandon dans lequel ils se trouvaient, il décida de quitter la capitale et de se consacrer à ces personnes, qui étaient pauvres spirituellement et matériellement. En 1732, il fonda la Congrégation religieuse du Très Saint Rédempteur, qu’il plaça sous la protection de l’évêque Tommaso Falcoia, et dont par la suite il devint lui-même le successeur. Ces religieux, guidés par Alphonse, furent d’authentiques missionnaires itinérants, qui atteignaient aussi les villages les plus reculés en exhortant à la conversion et à la persévérance dans la vie chrétienne, en particulier au moyen de la prière. Aujourd’hui encore les Rédemptoristes, présents dans de nombreux pays du monde, avec de nouvelles formes d’apostolat, continuent cette mission d’évangélisation. Je pense à eux avec reconnaissance, en les exhortant à être toujours fidèles à l’exemple de leur saint fondateur.

Estimé pour sa bonté et pour son zèle pastoral, en 1762 Alphonse fut nommé évêque de Sant’Agata dei Goti, un ministère qu’il quitta en 1775 avec l’autorisation du Pape Pie vi, à la suite des maladies dont il était atteint. Ce même Pape, en 1787, en apprenant la nouvelle de sa mort, qui eut lieu après de grandes souffrances, s’exclama: «C’était un saint!». Et il ne se trompait pas: Alphonse fut canonisé en 1839, et en 1871 il fut déclaré Docteur de l’Eglise. Ce titre lui convient pour de nombreuses raisons. Tout d’abord parce qu’il a proposé un riche enseignement de théologie morale, qui exprime de manière adaptée la doctrine catholique, au point qu’il fut proclamé par le Pape Pie XII «Patron de tous les confesseurs et moralistes». A son époque, s’était diffusée une interprétation très rigoriste de la vie morale également en raison de la mentalité janséniste qui, au lieu d’alimenter la confiance et l’espérance dans la miséricorde de Dieu, fomentait la peur et présentait un visage de Dieu revêche et sévère, bien éloigné de celui que nous a révélé Jésus. Saint Alphonse, en particulier dans son œuvre principale intitulée Théologie morale, propose une synthèse équilibrée et convaincante entre les exigences de la loi de Dieu, gravée dans nos cœurs, pleinement révélée par le Christ et interprétée de manière faisant autorité par l’Eglise, et les dynamismes de la conscience et de la liberté de l’homme, qui précisément dans l’adhésion à la vérité et au bien permettent la maturation et la réalisation de la personne. Alphonse recommandait aux pasteurs d’âmes et aux confesseurs d’être fidèles à la doctrine morale catholique, en assumant, dans le même temps, une attitude charitable, compréhensive, douce, pour que les pénitents puissent se sentir accompagnés, soutenus, encouragés dans leur chemin de foi et de vie chrétienne. Saint Alphonse ne se lassait jamais de répéter que les prêtres sont un signe visible de la miséricorde infinie de Dieu, qui pardonne et illumine l’esprit et le cœur du pécheur afin qu’il se convertisse et change de vie. A notre époque, où on voit de clairs signes d’égarement de la conscience morale et — il faut le reconnaître — un certain manque d’estime envers le sacrement de la confession, l’enseignement de saint Alphonse est encore de grande actualité.

A côté des œuvres de théologie, saint Alphonse rédigea de très nombreux écrits, destinés à la formation religieuse du peuple. Le style est simple et plaisant. Lues et traduites dans un grand nombre de langues, les œuvres de saint Alphonse ont contribué à façonner la spiritualité populaire des deux derniers siècles. Certaines d’entre elles sont des textes à lire avec un grand intérêt encore aujourd’hui, comme Les Maximes éternelles, Les gloires de Marie, La pratique d’amour envers Jésus Christ, une œuvre — cette dernière — qui représente la synthèse de sa pensée et son chef-d’œuvre. Il insiste beaucoup sur la nécessité de la prière, qui permet de s’ouvrir à la Grâce divine pour accomplir quotidiennement la volonté de Dieu et poursuivre la sanctification personnelle. Au sujet de la prière, il écrit: «Dieu ne refuse à personne la grâce de la prière, par laquelle on obtient l’aide pour vaincre les concupiscences et les tentations. Et je dis, et je réponds et je répondrai toujours, tant que j’aurai vie, que tout notre salut réside dans la prière». De là vient son célèbre axiome «Qui prie se sauve» (Grand moyen de la prière et opuscules semblables. Œuvres ascétiques II, Rome 1962, p. 171). Il me revient à l’esprit, à cet égard, l’exhortation de mon prédécesseur, le vénérable serviteur de Dieu Jean-Paul II: «Nos communautés chrétiennes doivent devenir d’authentiques “écoles” de prière... Il faut alors que l’éducation à la prière devienne en quelque sorte un point déterminant de tout programme pastoral» (Lett. ap. Novo Millennio ineunte, nn. 33.34).

Parmi les formes de prière conseillées avec ferveur par saint Alphonse se détache la visite au Très Saint Sacrement ou, comme nous l’appellerions aujourd’hui, l’adoration, brève ou prolongée, personnelle ou communautaire, devant l’Eucharistie. «Assurément — écrit Alphonse — parmi toutes les dévotions celle d’adorer Jésus sacrement est la première après les sacrements, la plus chère à Dieu, et celle qui nous est la plus utile... Oh, quel délice d’être devant un autel plein de foi... et lui présenter nos nécessités, comme fait un ami avec un autre ami intime!» (Visites au Saint Sacrement et à la Sainte Vierge pour chaque jour du mois. Introduction). La spiritualité alphonsienne est en effet éminemment christologique, centrée sur le Christ et son Evangile. La méditation du mystère de l’Incarnation et de la Passion du Seigneur sont fréquemment l’objet de sa prédication. Dans ces événements en effet la Rédemption est offerte «copieusement» à tous les hommes. Et précisement parce qu’elle est christologique, la piété alphonsienne est aussi absolument mariale. D’une grande dévotion pour Marie, il en illustre le rôle dans l’histoire du salut: associée à la Rédemption et Médiatrice de grâce, Mère, Avocate et Reine. En outre, saint Alphonse affirme que la dévotion à Marie nous sera d’un grand réconfort au moment de notre mort. Il était convaincu que la méditation sur notre destin éternel, sur notre appel à participer pour toujours à la béatitude de Dieu, tout comme sur la tragique possibilité de la damnation, contribue à vivre avec sérénité et engagement, et à affronter la réalité de la mort en conservant toujours toute sa confiance dans la bonté de Dieu.

Saint Alphonse de Liguori est un exemple de pasteur zélé, qui a conquis les âmes en prêchant l’Evangile et en administrant les sacrements, s’unissant à une façon d’agir marquée par une bonté sereine et douce, qui naissait de l’intense rapport avec Dieu, qui est la Bonté infinie. Il a eu une vision à la fois réaliste et optimiste des ressources de bien que le Seigneur donne à chaque homme et il a donné importance aux élans et aux sentiments du cœur, ainsi qu’à ceux de l’esprit, pour pouvoir aimer Dieu et son prochain.

En conclusion, je voudrais rappeler que notre saint, de manière analogue à saint François de Sales — dont j’ai parlé il y a quelques semaines — insiste pour nous dire que la sainteté est accessible à chaque chrétien: «Le religieux comme religieux, le séculier comme séculier, le prêtre comme prêtre, le mari comme mari, le marchand comme marchand, le soldat comme soldat, et ainsi de suite pour tout autre statut» (La pratique de l’amour envers Jésus Christ. Œuvres ascétiques I, Rome 1933, p. 79). Rendons grâce au Seigneur qui, avec sa Providence, suscite des saints et des docteurs en des lieux et en des temps différents, qui parlent le même langage pour nous inviter à croître dans la foi et à vivre avec amour et avec joie notre être chrétiens dans les actions simples de chaque jour, pour avancer sur le chemin de la sainteté, sur la route vers Dieu et vers la joie véritable. Merci.

* * *

Depuis longtemps, ma pensée va souvent aux populations de la Côte d’Ivoire, traumatisées par de douloureuses luttes internes et de graves tensions sociales et politiques.

Alors que j’exprime ma proximité à tous ceux qui ont perdu un être cher et souffrent de la violence, je lance un appel pressant afin que soit engagé le plus vite possible un processus de dialogue constructif pour le bien commun. L’opposition dramatique rend plus urgent le rétablissement du respect et de la cohabitation pacifique. Aucun effort ne doit être épargné dans ce sens.

Avec ces sentiments, j’ai décidé d’envoyer dans ce noble Pays, le Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, Président du Conseil pontifical “Justice et Paix”, afin qu’il manifeste ma solidarité et celle de l’Église universelle aux victimes du conflit, et encourage à la réconciliation et à la paix.

* * *

Je salue avec joie les pèlerins francophones venus de Grèce, France et Suisse! Durant ce temps de carême, et toujours, tout chrétien est appelé à la sainteté. Par la prière, par l’amour pour Jésus présent dans l’Eucharistie et par la pratique du sacrement de la réconciliation, vous vous sanctifierez et vous changerez le visage de l’humanité! Avec ma bénédiction!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Mort le 1er août 1787. Béatifié en 1816. Canonisé par Grégoire XVI en 1839, immédiatement inscrit au calendrier le 2 août (en raison de la fête de St Pierre aux Liens sous le rite double et doté d’une messe propre. Proclamé Docteur en 1871 par le Bhx Pie IX.

Leçons des Matines avant 1960.

Au deuxième nocturne.

Quatrième leçon. Alphonse-Marie de Liguori naquit à Naples, de parents nobles, et donna dès son bas âge des marques évidentes de sa future sainteté. Ses parents l’offrirent jeune encore à saint François de Hiéronimo, de la société de Jésus ; celui-ci, après avoir bien prié, déclara que l’enfant deviendrait nonagénaire, qu’il serait élevé à la dignité épiscopale, et qu’il ferait un bien considérable dans l’Église. Dès l’enfance, Alphonse s’éloignait des jeux et formait, par sa parole et son exemple, de nobles adolescents à la modestie chrétienne. Devenu jeune homme, il se fit inscrire dans de pieuses confréries et mit son bonheur à servir les malades dans les hôpitaux publics, à vaquer longuement à l’oraison dans les églises et à fréquenter les sacrements. A la piété il unit si bien l’étude des lettres que, à peine âgé de seize ans, il fut reçu Docteur dans l’un et l’autre droit à l’université de son pays. Pour obéir à son père, il embrassa la carrière d’avocat, mais quoiqu’il obtînt de grands succès, il l’abandonna de lui-même, après avoir reconnu les périls du barreau. Il renonça ensuite à un très brillant mariage que son père lui proposait, abdiqua son droit d’aînesse et suspendit son épée à l’autel de Notre-Dame de la Merci, pour se consacrer au divin ministère. Devenu prêtre, il s’attaqua aux vices avec tant de zèle et remplit si bien l’office d’apôtre, en se portant rapidement ça et là au secours des pécheurs, que beaucoup se convertirent. Plein de compassion pour les pauvres et les paysans en particulier, il institua la Congrégation des Prêtres du très saint Rédempteur, qui, marchant sur les traces du Rédempteur lui-même, s’emploieraient à évangéliser les pauvres dans les campagnes, les bourgs et les villages.

Cinquième leçon. Pour que rien ne l’écartât de son but, il s’obligea par un vœu perpétuel à ne jamais perdre un instant. Et par suite, enflammé de zèle, il mit toute son application à gagner des âmes à Jésus-Christ et à les amener à une vie plus parfaite, soit en prêchant la parole divine, soit en écrivant des ouvrages remplis d’érudition sacrée et de piété. C’est chose vraiment merveilleuse de voir combien il a étouffé de haines et ramené de gens au droit chemin du salut dont ils s’étaient écartés. Serviteur dévoué de la Mère de Dieu, il publia un livre pour la glorifier ; et plusieurs fois, lorsqu’en prêchant il mettait plus de chaleur à ses louanges, tout l’auditoire observa que son visage resplendissait d’un éclat merveilleux projeté sur lui par la Vierge, et qu’il était ravi en extase. Il propagea admirablement le culte de la Passion du Seigneur et celui de la sainte Eucharistie, dont il était un contemplateur assidu. Pendant qu’il priait devant l’autel ou qu’il célébrait le saint Sacrifice, ce qu’il n’omit jamais, la véhémence de son amour le faisait se fondre en ardeurs séraphiques, ou l’agitait de mouvements extraordinaires, ou encore lui enlevait le sentiment des choses extérieures. Dans tout le cours de sa vie, il ne commit aucune faute mortelle, et joignit une admirable innocence à une égale pénitence. Il châtiait son corps par l’abstinence, les chaînes de fer, les cilices et de sanglantes flagellations. Entre autres dons, il reçut celui de prophétie, le double privilège de scruter les cœurs et d’être en deux endroits à la fois, ainsi que le pouvoir des miracles.

Sixième leçon. Les dignités ecclésiastiques qui lui furent offertes ne le tentèrent jamais. Toutefois l’autorité du Pape Clément XIII lui imposa la charge de gouverner l’Église de Sainte-Agathe-des-Goths. Si, devenu Évêque, il changea d’habit, il ne modifia en rien la sévérité de son genre de vie. Ce fut la même frugalité, le même zèle incomparable pour la discipline chrétienne, la même application à réprimer le vice et à détruire l’erreur, le même soin à s’acquitter des obligations pastorales. Libéral à l’égard des pauvres, il leur distribuait tous les revenus de son Église ; sa charité l’amena même à vendre, pendant une famine, le mobilier de sa maison, pour nourrir les affamés. Se faisant tout à tous, il ramena les religieuses à une forme de vie plus parfaite et prit soin de fonder un monastère de religieuses de sa congrégation. Des maladies graves et habituelles le déterminèrent à abandonner la charge de l’épiscopat : pauvre en quittant ses disciples, il revint pauvre au milieu d’eux. Enfin tout brisé qu’il était par la vieillesse, les fatigues, les longues souffrances de la goutte et d’autres maladies encore, son esprit continua d’être très lucide, et il ne cessa de parler et d’écrire sur les choses du ciel, que le jour où il expira paisiblement, âgé de quatre-vingt-dix ans aux calendes d’août, l’an mil sept cent quatre-vingt-sept, à Nocera degli Pagani, au milieu des larmes des religieux ses enfants. Ses vertus et ses miracles l’ayant illustré, le souverain Pontife Pie VII l’inscrivit aux fastes des Bienheureux ; et de nouveaux miracles ayant ajouté à sa gloire terrestre, Grégoire XVI le mit solennellement au catalogue des Saints, en la fête de la très sainte Trinité, l’an mil huit cent trente-neuf. Enfin le souverain Pontife Pie IX, de l’avis de la Sacrée Congrégation des Rites, le déclara Docteur de l’Église universelle.

Au troisième nocturne.

Au troisième nocturne. [1]

Lecture du saint Évangile selon saint Luc. Cap. 10, 1-9.

En ce temps-là : Le Seigneur désigna encore soixante-douze autres disciples, et les envoya deux à deux devant lui dans toutes les villes et tous les lieux où lui-même devait venir. Et le reste.

Homélie de saint Grégoire, Pape. Homilía 17 in Evangelia

Septième leçon. Notre Seigneur et Sauveur nous instruit, mes bien-aimés frères, tantôt par ses paroles, et tantôt par ses œuvres. Ses œuvres elles-mêmes sont des préceptes, et quand il agit, même sans rien dire, il nous apprend ce que nous avons à faire. Voilà donc que le Seigneur envoie ses disciples prêcher ; il les envoie deux à deux, parce qu’il y a deux préceptes de la charité : l’amour de Dieu et l’amour du prochain, et qu’il faut être au moins deux pour qu’il y ait lieu de pratiquer la charité. Car, à proprement parler, on n’exerce pas la chanté envers soi-même ; mais l’amour, pour devenir charité, doit avoir pour objet une autre personne.

Huitième leçon. Voilà donc que le Seigneur envoie ses disciples deux à deux pour prêcher ; il nous fait ainsi tacitement comprendre que celui qui n’a point de charité envers le prochain ne doit en aucune manière se charger du ministère de la prédication. C’est avec raison que le Seigneur dit qu’il a envoyé ses disciples devant lui, dans toutes les villes et tous les lieux où il devait venir lui-même. Le Seigneur suit ceux qui l’annoncent. La prédication a lieu d’abord ; et le Seigneur vient établir sa demeure dans nos âmes, quand les paroles de ceux qui nous exhortent l’ont devancé, et qu’ainsi la vérité a été reçue par notre esprit.

Neuvième leçon. Voilà pourquoi Isaïe a dit aux mêmes prédicateurs : « Préparez la voie du Seigneur ; rendez droits les sentiers de notre Dieu » [2]. A son tour le Psalmiste dit aux enfants de Dieu : « Faites un chemin à celui qui monte au-dessus du couchant » [3]. Le Seigneur est en effet monté au-dessus du couchant ; car plus il s’est abaissé dans sa passion, plus il a manifesté sa gloire en sa résurrection. Il est vraiment monté au-dessus du couchant : car, en ressuscitant, il a foulé aux pieds la mort qu’il avait endurée [4]. Nous préparons donc le chemin à Celui qui est monté au-dessus du couchant quand nous vous prêchons sa gloire, afin que lui-même, venant ensuite, éclaire vos âmes par sa présence et son amour.

1] L’évangile de la Messe reprenant celui des Messes des Évangélistes, les lectures du 3ème nocturne sont celles de ce Commun.

[2] Is. 40, 3.

[3] Ps 67, 5.

[4] La passion du Christ peut être comparée au couchant parce que la gloire de cet astre divin y a comme disparu et la mort du Sauveur également puisqu’elle l’a couché inanimé dans le tombeau.



Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

Hier, avec Pierre et les Machabées, nous admirions les substructions du palais que l’éternelle Sagesse se construit dans le temps pour durer toujours [7]. Aujourd’hui, nous conformant aux divines mœurs de cette Sagesse qui atteint en se jouant d’une extrémité à l’autre [8], c’est au sommet de l’œuvre, à la dernière des assises actuellement posées, qu’il nous est donné de contempler le progrès du glorieux édifice. Or, au sommet comme dans les fondations, l’œuvre est une, les matériaux restent sans prix : témoin la pierre d’une eau si pure qui, à cette heure, envoie sur nous ses feux.

Alphonse de Liguori est, à la fois comme Docteur et comme Saint, le plus récent des bienheureux auxquels s’adresse l’hommage universel du monde. Grand par ses œuvres et sa doctrine [9], à lui s’applique directement l’oracle de l’Esprit-Saint : Ceux qui enseignent la justice à plusieurs brilleront comme des étoiles dans les éternités sans fin [10].

Quand il parut, une secte odieuse voulait enlever au Père qui est aux cieux sa miséricorde et sa douceur ; elle triomphait, dans la conduite pratique des âmes, auprès de ceux-là même que rebutaient ses calvinistes théories. Sous couleur de réaction contre une école imaginaire de relâchement, dénonçant à grand bruit les propositions effectivement condamnables de quelques personnages isolés, les nouveaux pharisiens s’étaient posés en zélateurs de la Loi. Outrant le précepte, exagérant la sanction, ils chargeaient les consciences des mêmes intolérables fardeaux dont l’Homme-Dieu reprochait à leurs devanciers d’écraser les épaules humaines [11] ; mais le cri d’alarme jeté par eux, au nom de la morale en péril, n’en avait pas moins trompé les simples et fini par égarer les meilleurs. Grâce à l’ostentation d’austérité de ses adhérents, le jansénisme, habile du reste à prudemment voiler ses dogmes, n’était que trop parvenu, selon son programme, à s’imposer à l’Église malgré l’Église ; d’inconscients alliés lui livraient dans la cité sainte les sources du salut. Bientôt, en trop de lieux, les Clefs sacrées n’eurent plus d’usage que pour ouvrir l’enfer ; la table sainte, dressée pour entretenir et développer en tous la vie, ne fut plus accessible qu’aux parfaits : et ceux-ci n’étaient jugés tels que dans la mesure où, par un renversement étrange des paroles de l’Apôtre [12], ils soumettaient l’esprit d’adoption des enfants à l’esprit de servitude et de crainte ; quant aux fidèles qui ne s’élevaient pas à la hauteur du nouvel ascétisme, ne trouvant au tribunal de la pénitence, en place de pères et de médecins, que des exacteurs et des bourreaux [13], ils n’avaient plus devant eux que l’abandon du désespoir ou de l’indifférence. Partout cependant légistes et parlements prêtaient main forte aux réformateurs, sans se soucier du flot d’incrédulité haineuse qui montait autour d’eux, sans voir la tempête amoncelant ses nuages.

Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens hypocrites, qui fermez aux hommes le royaume des deux ; car vous n’y entrez point, et ne laissez pas les autres y entrer. Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens hypocrites, qui parcourez la mer et la terre pour faire un prosélyte, et lorsqu’il est fait, le rendez fils d’enfer deux fois plus que vous [14]. Ce n’est point de vos conventicules qu’il est dit que les fils de la Sagesse sont l’assemblée des justes [15] ; car il est dit aussi que ce peuple des justes est tout obéissance et amour [16]. Ce n’est point de la crainte dont vous êtes les apôtres, que le Psalmiste a chanté : La crainte du Seigneur est le commencement de la sagesse [17] ; car de cette crainte salutaire, sous la loi même du Sinaï, l’Esprit-Saint disait : « Vous qui craignez le Seigneur, croyez en lui, et vous ne perdrez pas votre récompense ; vous qui craignez le Seigneur, espérez en lui, et sa miséricorde viendra sur vous dans la joie ; vous qui craignez le Seigneur, aimez-le, et vos cœurs seront remplis de lumière » [18]. Tout écart, qu’il provienne de rigueur aussi bien que de faiblesse, heurte la justice en sa rectitude ; mais, depuis surtout Bethléhem et le Calvaire, il n’est point de péché qui atteigne plus le cœur divin que celui de défiance ; il n’est de faute irrémissible que dans la désespérance de Judas disant comme Caïn : « Mon crime est trop grand pour en obtenir le pardon » [19].

Qui donc cependant, dans l’impasse ténébreuse où les docteurs en vogue avaient amené les plus fermes esprits, retrouverait la clef de la science [20] ! Mais la Sagesse gardait en ses trésors, dit l’Esprit-Saint, les formules des mœurs [21]. De même qu’en d’autres temps à chaque dogme attaqué elle avait suscité des vengeurs nouveaux : en face d’une hérésie qui, malgré les prétentions spéculatives de ses débuts, n’eut véritablement que là de portée durable, elle produisit Alphonse de Liguori comme le redresseur de la loi faussée et le Docteur par excellence de la morale chrétienne. Également éloigné d’un rigorisme fatal et d’une pernicieuse indulgence, il sut rendre aux justices du Seigneur, pour parler comme le Psaume, leur droiture en même temps que leur don de réjouir les cœurs [22], à ses commandements leur lumineuse clarté qui les fait se justifier par eux-mêmes [23] à ses oracles la pureté qui attire les âmes et conduit fidèlement les petits et les simples des commencements de la Sagesse à ses sommets [24].

Ce ne fut point en effet seulement sur le terrain de la casuistique que saint Alphonse parvint, dans sa Théologie morale, à conjurer le virus qui menaçait d’infecter toute vie chrétienne. Tandis que, par ailleurs, sa plume vaillante ne laissait sans réponse aucune des attaques du temps contre la vérité révélée, ses œuvres ascétiques et mystiques ramenaient la piété aux sources traditionnelles de la fréquentation des Sacrements, de l’amour du Seigneur et de sa divine Mère. La Sacrée Congrégation des Rites, qui dut examiner au nom du Saint-Siège les œuvres de notre Saint, et déclara n’y rien trouver qui fût digne de censure [25], a rangé sous quarante titres différents ses innombrables écrits. Alphonse pourtant ne s’était résolu que bien tard à communiquer au public, par la voie de la presse, les lumières dont son âme était inondée ; son premier ouvrage, qui fut le livre d’or des Visites au Saint Sacrement et à la sainte Vierge, ne parut que vers la cinquantième année de l’auteur. Or, si Dieu prolongea il est vrai son existence au delà des limites ordinaires, il ne lui épargna ni la double charge de l’épiscopat et du gouvernement delà congrégation qu’il avait fondée, ni les plus pénibles infirmités, ni les souffrances morales plus douloureuses encore.

Je n’ai point caché votre justice dans mon cœur : j’ai publié de vous la vérité et le salut [26]. Ainsi en votre nom l’Église chante-t-elle aujourd’hui, reconnaissante pour le service insigne que vous lui avez rendu dans ces jours des pécheurs où la piété semblait perdue [27]. En butte aux assauts d’un pharisaïsme outré, sous le regard sceptique de la philosophie railleuse, les bons eux-mêmes hésitaient sur la direction des sentiers du Seigneur. Tandis que les moralistes du temps ne savaient plus que forger pour les consciences d’absurdes entraves [28], l’ennemi avait beau jeu de crier : Brisons leurs chaînes, et rejetons loin leur joug [29] Compromise par ces docteurs insensés, l’antique sagesse révérée des aïeux n’était plus, pour les peuples avides d’émancipation, qu’un édifice en ruines [30]. Dans cette extrémité sans précédents, vous fûtes, ô Alphonse, l’homme prudent désiré de l’Église, et dont la bouche énonce les paroles qui raffermissent les cœurs [31].

Longtemps avant votre naissance, un grand Pape avait dit que le propre des Docteurs est « d’éclairer l’Église, de l’orner des vertus, de former ses mœurs ; par eux, ajoutait-il, elle brille au milieu des ténèbres comme l’astre du matin ; leur parole fécondée d’en haut résout les énigmes des Écritures, dénoue les difficultés, éclaircit les obscurités, interprète ce qui est douteux ; leurs œuvres profondes, et relevées par l’éloquence du discours, sont autant de perles précieuses ennoblissant la maison de Dieu non moins qu’elles la font resplendir ». Ainsi s’exprimait au XIIIe siècle Boniface VIII, lorsqu’il élevait à la solennité du rit double les fêtes des Apôtres, des Évangélistes, et des quatre Docteurs reconnus alors, Grégoire Pape, Augustin, Ambroise et Jérôme [32]. Mais n’est-ce pas là, frappante comme une prophétie, fidèle autant qu’un portrait, la description surtout de ce qu’il vous fut donné d’être ?

Gloire donc à vous qui, dans nos temps de déclin, renouvelez la jeunesse de l’Église, à vous par qui s’embrassent derechef ici-bas la justice et la paix dans la rencontre de la miséricorde et de la vérité [33]. C’est bien à la lettre que vous avez donné sans réserve pour un tel résultat votre temps et vos forces. « L’amour de Dieu n’est jamais oisif, disait saint Grégoire : s’il existe, il fait de grandes choses ; s’il refuse d’agir, ce n’est point l’amour » [34]. Or quelle fidélité ne fut pas la vôtre dans l’accomplissement du vœu redoutable par lequel vous vous étiez enlevé la possibilité même d’un instant de relâche ! Lorsque d’intolérables douleurs eussent paru pour tout autre justifier, sinon commander le repos, on vous voyait soutenant d’une main à votre front le marbre qui semblait tempérer quelque peu la souffrance, et de la droite écrivant vos précieux ouvrages.

Mais plus grand encore fut l’exemple que Dieu voulut donner au monde, lorsqu’il permit qu’accablé d’années, la trahison d’un de vos fils amenât sur vous la disgrâce de ce Siège apostolique pour lequel s’était consumée votre vie, et qui en retour vous retranchait, comme indigne, de l’institut que vous aviez fondé ! L’enfer alors eut licence de joindre ses coups à ceux du ciel ; et vous, le Docteur de la paix, connûtes d’épouvantables assauts contre la foi et la sainte espérance. Ainsi votre œuvre s’achevait-elle dans l’infirmité plus puissante que tout [35] ; ainsi méritiez-vous aux âmes troublées l’appui de la vertu du Christ. Cependant, redevenu enfant par l’obéissance aveugle nécessaire dans ces pénibles épreuves, vous étiez plus près à la fois et du royaume des cieux [36] et de la crèche chantée par vous dans des accents si doux [37] ; et la vertu que l’Homme-Dieu sentait sortir de lui durant sa vie mortelle s’échappait de vous avec une telle abondance sur les petits enfants malades, présentés par leurs mères à votre bénédiction, qu’elle les guérissait tous [38] !

Maintenant qu’ont pris fin les larmes et le labeur, veillez pourtant sur nous toujours. Conservez les fruits de vos œuvres dans l’Église. La famille religieuse qui vous doit l’existence n’a point dégénéré ; plus d’une fois, dans les persécutions de ce siècle, l’ennemi l’a honorée des spéciales manifestations de sa haine ; déjà aussi l’auréole des bienheureux a été vue passant du père à ses fils : puissent-ils garder chèrement toujours ces nobles traditions ! Puisse le Père souverain qui, au baptême, nous a tous également faits dignes d’avoir part au sort des saints dans la lumière [39], nous conduire heureusement par vos exemples et vos enseignements [40], à la suite du très saint Rédempteur, dans le royaume de ce Fils de son amour [41].

[7] Prov. IX, 1.

[8] Sap. VIII, 1.

[9] Matth. V, 19.

[10] Dan. XII, 3.

[11] Matth. XXIII, 4.

[12] Rom. VIII, 15.

[13] Supplices litterae Episcopatus pro concessione tituli Doctoris S. Alphonso Mariae.

[14] Matth. XXIII, 13, 15.

[15] Eccli. III, 1.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Psalm. CX, 10.

[18] Eccli. II, 8-10.

[19] Gen. IV, 13.

[20] Luc. XI, 52.

[21] Eccli. I, 31.

[22] Psalm. XVIII, 9.

[23] Ibid. 9-10.

[24] Ibid. 8.

[25] Decretum 14 et 18 maii 1803.

[26] Verset du Graduel de la Messe, ex Psalm. XXXIX.

[27] Verset alléluiatique, ex Eccli. XLIX.

[28] Eccli. XXI, 22.

[29] Psalm. II, 3.

[30] Eccli. XXI, 21.

[31] Ibid. 20.

[32] Sexti Décret. Lib. III, tit. XXII, De reliqu. et veneratione Sanctorum.

[33] Psalm. LXXXIV, II.

[34] Greg. in Ev. hom. XXX.

[35] II Cor. XII, 9-10.

[36] Matth. XVIII, 3.

[37] Le Temps de Noël, T I, p. 353. Cf. ici.

[38] Luc. VI, 19.

[39] Col. I, 12.

[40] Collecta diei.

[41] Col. I, 13.


Bhx cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

Pour comprendre toute la grandeur de cette belle figure de docteur, d’évêque et de fondateur d’une famille religieuse, il faut la placer dans son cadre historique.

Alors que les moralistes laxistes et jansénistes, par leurs exagérations en faveur du probabilisme ou contre lui, avaient contribué à faire perdre jusqu’au sens moral à la classe la plus cultivée et la plus aisée, les Ordres religieux, dans le royaume de Naples, s’étaient comme repliés sur eux-mêmes, attentifs à conserver leur patrimoine et à défendre contre l’État, les évêques et les barons, leurs immunités et leurs exemptions. Quant à la Cour, elle regardait l’Église comme ayant confisqué à son avantage les droits de la couronne ; et, par l’intermédiaire de Tannucci elle préparait déjà un système de lois éversives, pour substituer au pouvoir pontifical le pouvoir royal jusque dans les intimes retraites du sanctuaire. Le clergé du royaume de Naples était nombreux, mais la vocation ecclésiastique était considérée fort souvent comme une simple carrière, assurant au candidat les revenus d’un bénéfice. Il ne faut donc pas s’étonner si, en un tel état de choses, le peuple des campagnes était abandonné à lui-même, plongé dans l’ignorance et dans le vice.

A de si grands maux, saint Alphonse vint enfin apporter remède, revêtu de la triple mission de docteur, d’évêque et de fondateur d’une nouvelle famille religieuse. Comme docteur, il traça la voie moyenne entre les excès des laxistes et ceux des rigoristes ; il popularisa dans ses livres ascétiques la piété catholique, la dévotion à Marie, à Jésus au Saint-Sacrement, à la Passion, et défendit contre les disciples de Tannucci les droits suprêmes de l’Église et du Pape. Pour cela il fut parfois obligé de faire imprimer ses œuvres en cachette et hors du territoire napolitain.

Comme apôtre et évêque, saint Alphonse se proposa d’imiter le Divin Rédempteur dans ses courses évangéliques à travers les villages de la Galilée et de la Judée, et il fonda une congrégation de missionnaires qu’il destina spécialement, non aux cités populeuses, mais aux pauvres paysans et aux montagnards.

Enfin, fondateur d’une nouvelle famille religieuse, le Saint a le mérite d’en avoir adapté les buts aux besoins du temps, et d’avoir mené à bonne fin son édifice spirituel à travers mille contradictions. Au lieu de fonder de nouveaux ordres réguliers, le pouvoir royal voulait alors supprimer les anciens, et allait jusqu’à exiger de Clément XIV la suppression de la Compagnie de Jésus.

Que la congrégation fondée par Alphonse ait pu demeurer pendant un si grand nombre d’années flottant en pleine mer orageuse, ce fut un vrai miracle. Le roi de Naples refusa jusqu’à la fin d’accorder l’exsequatur au décret pontifical d’approbation. Cet état illégal ne pouvait pas ne pas décourager les disciples mêmes du Saint ; aussi plusieurs d’entre eux désertèrent-ils ; les maisons de la Congrégation du Très-Saint-Rédempteur ouvertes dans l’État Pontifical finirent par proclamer un schisme, et exclurent de l’Institut le Fondateur lui-même, avec les maisons du royaume de Naples. Alphonse supporta tout avec sérénité ; il succomba bien au déchirement intérieur, mais confiant en Dieu il comprit quand il mourut (le Ier août 1787) que son sacrifice mettrait fin à l’épreuve. Après la mort de saint Alphonse la scène change : le Fondateur expulsé est élevé sur les autels, et sa congrégation étend ses frontières au delà de l’Italie et de l’Europe.

La messe est de facture récente, et le rédacteur, bien qu’habile, oublie souvent les règles de l’antique psalmodie liturgique et le style du Sacramentaire Grégorien. Sa composition est donc comme une chose détachée, une page indépendante, sans liens de style et de couleurs avec le fond antique du Missel.

L’introït (Luc., IV, 18) donne d’emblée le vrai caractère de saint Alphonse. C’est un missionnaire pour les pauvres campagnards, auquel s’adapte fort bien ce que le Sauveur s’appliqua à lui-même (Is., LXI, 1) dans la synagogue de Nazareth : « L’esprit du Seigneur est sur moi. C’est pourquoi il me consacra, me destinant à annoncer la bonne nouvelle, aux pauvres ».

Prière. — « Seigneur qui avez embrasé d’un saint zèle pour les âmes le bienheureux pontife Alphonse-Marie, et qui, par lui, avez donné une nouvelle famille à votre Église ; faites que, instruits par ses saints enseignements, et animés par ses exemples, nous puissions heureusement arriver jusqu’à vous ». Saint Philippe Néri disait gracieusement que les livres qu’on lit avec le plus de sécurité sont ceux dont la première lettre est une S, c’est-à-dire qui commencent par le nom et par le titre de l’auteur : Saint N... Cela est surtout vrai pour les œuvres des saints Docteurs, où l’Église nous assure que se trouve la seconde source de notre foi, après celle des Divines Écritures, c’est-à-dire la tradition catholique.

La lecture est tirée de l’Épître à Timothée (II, II, 1-7). L’Apôtre exhorte son disciple à se former des successeurs dans la prédication évangélique. — Voilà un des buts des Ordres religieux. — Pour annoncer avec efficacité la parole divine, la vie intérieure est nécessaire, car l’agriculteur, avant de vendre aux autres les fruits de son champ, s’en nourrit lui-même.

Le répons est tiré en partie du psaume 118 (52-53) et en partie du 39e (11). « Je me souviens de vos maximes éternelles, Seigneur, et je m’en trouve consolé ». — C’est une allusion au titre d’un des manuels de piété les plus populaires écrits par le Saint. — « Je me suis irrité contre ceux qui manquaient à votre loi. Je n’ai pas caché dans mon cœur votre justice ; j’ai annoncé vos vérités et votre salut ». Les saints brûlent d’un zèle ardent, et il est dans la nature du feu d’enflammer aussi les autres corps. Cependant les saints, tout en s’irritant contre le vice, sont pleins de compassion pour la personne du pauvre pécheur.

« Alléluia (Eccli., XLIX, 3-4). Dieu le destina à appeler les peuples à la pénitence. Il éloigna les scandales de l’impiété et dirigea son cœur vers le Seigneur. En des temps de corruption, il affermit la piété ». Cet éloge du roi Josias s’applique avec beaucoup de vérité à saint Alphonse, car le secret de son activité réformatrice, sa vie intérieure, est contenu dans ces mots : et gubernavit ad Dominum cor ipsius.

La lecture évangélique est la même que pour saint François Xavier le 3 décembre. Il ne faut pas se décourager dans le ministère apostolique, lequel ne peut jamais être vraiment stérile. La moisson est toujours abondante, sans proportion avec le petit nombre des ouvriers, parce que la grâce a une telle efficacité qu’elle surmonte facilement toutes les difficultés qui lui sont opposées.

L’antienne pour l’offertoire est tirée du Livre des Proverbes (III, 9, 27). « Honore de tes biens le Seigneur, et offre-lui les prémices de tes moissons. N’empêche pas de bien faire celui qui le peut ; et si cela t’est possible, toi-même fais le bien ». Autrefois, c’était à ce moment de la messe qu’on offrait à l’autel les dîmes et les prémices qui servaient à couvrir les dépenses du culte divin et à faire vivre le clergé et les pauvres. En général, les fidèles n’ont plus aujourd’hui une notion très exacte de l’obligation qu’ils ont de faire l’aumône aux indigents et de contribuer, dans la mesure du possible, aux besoins de l’Église.

Sur les oblations. — « O Seigneur, enflammez nos cœurs par le feu céleste du divin Sacrifice ; Vous qui avez accordé au bienheureux Alphonse-Marie non seulement le mérite de célébrer ces mêmes mystères, mais aussi de s’offrir lui-même comme une hostie sainte ». Voilà en effet ce que veut dire l’Église, quand elle adresse aux nouveaux prêtres les paroles du Pontifical romain : agnoscite quod agitis, imitamini quod tractatis.

L’antienne pour la Communion des fidèles est tirée de l’éloge de Simon, fils d’Onias, dans l’Ecclésiastique (L, I, 9). « Voici le grand prêtre qui, de son vivant, consolida le sanctuaire et fortifia l’édifice du temple, semblable à un feu étincelant ou à l’encens jeté pour brûler sur un brasier ». Ce feu dans lequel doit brûler l’encens de notre dévotion, c’est le Cœur très saint de Jésus, qui est semblable à un encensoir d’or brûlant sans cesse pour nous devant le trône de Dieu.

Après la Communion. — « Seigneur qui avez fait de votre bienheureux pontife Alphonse-Marie un fidèle ministre du Mystère Eucharistique et le prédicateur de sa gloire ; par ses mérites et par ses prières, faites que vos fidèles participent souvent au divin banquet afin que, grâce à la fréquente Communion, ils puissent en publier éternellement les gloires dans le ciel ». Cette collecte se rapporte d’une manière particulière à la mission eucharistique de saint Alphonse, et à son petit livre d’une haute inspiration, des Visites au Très Saint Sacrement.

Par cette pieuse pratique, le Saint transforma peu à peu son diocèse de Sainte-Agathe-des-Goths, nous disent ses historiens.


Châsse de saint Alphonse de Liguori dans la Basilique de Pagani

Dom Pius Parsch, Le guide dans l’année liturgique

« En Dieu, il y a une surabondante rédemption » [42].

1. Saint Alphonse de Liguori. — « Évangéliser les pauvres » fut le programme du Christ sur la terre. Le simple peuple, remarquait-il dans ses pérégrinations, est animé de bonne volonté, mais il erre comme un troupeau sans pasteur. « La moisson est grande, les ouvriers peu nombreux ». Au cours de l’histoire de l’Église, bien des saints, témoins du même spectacle, entreprirent de grouper autour d’eux des disciples pour l’œuvre des missions populaires : au moyen âge, saint François d’Assise et saint Dominique ; dans les temps modernes, saint Alphonse de Liguori, entre autres, fondateur de la congrégation du Très Saint Rédempteur, qui a pour tâche, à l’exemple du Sauveur, de parcourir villes et campagnes « pour annoncer aux pauvres le message joyeux ».

Jour de mort : 1er août 1787. Tombeau : à Nocera, en Campanie. Image : on le représente en habits d’évêque, la tête inclinée et le rosaire à la main. Vie : Alphonse de Liguori, fondateur des Rédemptoristes, appartenait à une honorable famille. Né en 1696, il suivit d’abord la carrière d’avocat. Un échec à la barre lui fit comprendre la vanité du monde et les dangers de sa carrière. Il se démit de sa charge, fut ordonné prêtre en 1726, et établit sa congrégation en 732. Remarquablement zélé, il se livra à la prédication et écrivit de nombreux ouvrages de théologie et d’ascétisme. Il fit vœu de ne jamais laisser inemployée la moindre parcelle de son temps. Grande fut sa dévotion envers la Très Sainte Vierge, à la louange de qui il composa son célèbre opuscule ; « Les Gloires de Marie ». Il travailla beaucoup à répandre la dévotion à la Passion et au Très Saint Sacrement. Il conserva toute sa vie une admirable innocence que ne souilla jamais une seule faute mortelle. Il pratiqua en même temps d’austères pénitences. N’ayant accepté que par obéissance l’évêché de Sainte-Agathe-des-Goths en 1762, il rentra en sa communauté en 1775 aussi pauvre qu’à son départ. Il mourut très âgé, à quatre-vingt-onze ans.

2. La messe (Spiritus Domini). — Cette messe, de composition récente, souligne avec précision les traits saillants de la physionomie du saint. L’Introït énonce le but de sa congrégation : « Évangéliser les pauvres ». A l’Épître, le vénérable fondateur encourage ses fils à combattre sous l’étendard du Christ et à travailler dans la vigne du Seigneur. Les versets du Graduel et de l’Alléluia célèbrent son zèle à convertir les pécheurs. L’Évangile, récit de la mission des soixante-douze disciples, est d’une application facile aux ouvriers apostoliques ; saint Alphonse et ses fils suivent fidèlement leurs traces. Le Grand-Prêtre, le Christ, apparaît dans notre saint homme une lumière ardente, étincelante (Communion). A l’Offertoire, nous sommes invités à prendre part aux anciens rites de l’Offrande.

[42] Ps. CXXIX : Origine du nom de Rédemptoriste.

SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/02-08-St-Alphonse-Marie-eveque



BENEDICT XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE

St. Peter's Square

Wednesday, 30 March 2011 

Saint Alphonsus Liguori


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to present to you the figure of a holy Doctor of the Church to whom we are deeply indebted because he was an outstanding moral theologian and a teacher of spiritual life for all, especially simple people. He is the author of the words and music of one of the most popular Christmas carols in Italy and not only Italy: Tu scendi dalle stelle [You come down from the stars].

Belonging to a rich noble family of Naples, Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori [known in English as Alphonsus Liguori] was born in 1696. Endowed with outstanding intellectual qualities, when he was only 16 years old he obtained a degree in civil and canon law. He was the most brilliant lawyer in the tribunal of Naples: for eight years he won all the cases he defended. However, in his soul thirsting for God and desirous of perfection, the Lord led Alphonsus to understand that he was calling him to a different vocation. In fact, in 1723, indignant at the corruption and injustice that was ruining the legal milieu, he abandoned his profession — and with it riches and success — and decided to become a priest despite the opposition of his father.

He had excellent teachers who introduced him to the study of Sacred Scripture, of the Church history and of mysticism. He acquired a vast theological culture which he put to good use when, after a few years, he embarked on his work as a writer.

He was ordained a priest in 1726 and, for the exercise of his ministry entered the diocesan Congregation of Apostolic Missions. Alphonsus began an activity of evangelization and catechesis among the humblest classes of Neapolitan society, to whom he liked preaching, and whom he instructed in the basic truths of the faith. Many of these people, poor and modest, to whom he addressed himself, were very often prone to vice and involved in crime. He patiently taught them to pray, encouraging them to improve their way of life.

Alphonsus obtained excellent results: in the most wretched districts of the city there were an increasing number of groups that would meet in the evenings in private houses and workshops to pray and meditate on the word of God, under the guidance of several catechists trained by Alphonsus and by other priests, who regularly visited these groups of the faithful. When at the wish of the Archbishop of Naples, these meetings were held in the chapels of the city, they came to be known as “evening chapels”. They were a true and proper source of moral education, of social improvement and of reciprocal help among the poor: thefts, duels, prostitution ended by almost disappearing.

Even though the social and religious context of the time of St Alphonsus was very different from our own, the “evening chapels” appear as a model of missionary action from which we may draw inspiration today too, for a “new evangelization”, particularly of the poorest people, and for building a more just, fraternal and supportive coexistence. Priests were entrusted with a task of spiritual ministry, while well-trained lay people could be effective Christian animators, an authentic Gospel leaven in the midst of society.

After having considered leaving to evangelize the pagan peoples, when Alphonsus was 35 years old, he came into contact with the peasants and shepherds of the hinterland of the Kingdom of Naples. Struck by their ignorance of religion and the state of neglect in which they were living, he decided to leave the capital and to dedicate himself to these people, poor both spiritually and materially. In 1732 he founded the religious Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, which he put under the protection of Bishop Tommaso Falcoia, and of which he subsequently became the superior.

These religious, guided by Alphonsus, were authentic itinerant missionaries, who also reached the most remote villages, exhorting people to convert and to persevere in the Christian life, especially through prayer. Still today the Redemptorists, scattered in so many of the world’s countries, with new forms of apostolate continue this mission of evangelization. I think of them with gratitude, urging them to be ever faithful to the example of their holy Founder.

Esteemed for his goodness and for his pastoral zeal, in 1762 Alphonsus was appointed Bishop of Sant’Agata dei Goti, a ministry which he left, following the illness which debilitated him, in 1775, through a concession of Pope Pius VI. On learning of his death in 1787, which occurred after great suffering, the Pontiff exclaimed: “he was a saint!”. And he was not mistaken: Alphonsus was canonized in 1839 and in 1871 he was declared a Doctor of the Church. This title suited him for many reason. First of all, because he offered a rich teaching of moral theology, which expressed adequately the Catholic doctrine, to the point that Pope Pius XII proclaimed him “Patron of all confessors and moral theologians”.

In his day, there was a very strict and widespread interpretation of moral life because of the Jansenist mentality which, instead of fostering trust and hope in God’s mercy, fomented fear and presented a grim and severe face of God, very remote from the face revealed to us by Jesus. Especially in his main work entitled Moral Theology, St Alphonsus proposed a balanced and convincing synthesis of the requirements of God’s law, engraved on our hearts, fully revealed by Christ and interpreted authoritatively by the Church, and of the dynamics of the conscience and of human freedom, which precisely in adherence to truth and goodness permit the person’s development and fulfilment.

Alphonsus recommended to pastors of souls and confessors that they be faithful to the Catholic moral doctrine, assuming at the same time a charitable, understanding and gentle attitude so that penitents might feel accompanied, supported and encouraged on their journey of faith and of Christian life.

St Alphonsus never tired of repeating that priests are a visible sign of the infinite mercy of God who forgives and enlightens the mind and heart of the sinner so that he may convert and change his life. In our epoch, in which there are clear signs of the loss of the moral conscience and — it must be recognized — of a certain lack of esteem for the sacrament of Confession, St Alphonsus’ teaching is still very timely.

Together with theological works, St Alphonsus wrote many other works, destined for the religious formation of the people. His style is simple and pleasing. Read and translated into many languages, the works of St Alphonsus have contributed to molding the popular spirituality of the last two centuries. Some of the texts can be read with profit today too, such as The Eternal Maxims, the Glories of Mary, The Practice of Loving Jesus Christ, which latter work is the synthesis of his thought and his masterpiece.

He stressed the need for prayer, which enables one to open oneself to divine Grace in order to do God’s will every day and to obtain one’s own sanctification. With regard to prayer he writes: “God does not deny anyone the grace of prayer, with which one obtains help to overcome every form of concupiscence and every temptation. And I say, and I will always repeat as long as I live, that the whole of our salvation lies in prayer”. Hence his famous axiom: “He who prays is saved” (Del gran mezzo della preghiera e opuscoli affini. Opere ascetiche II, Rome 1962, p. 171).

In this regard, an exhortation of my Predecessor, the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II comes to mind. “our Christian communities must become genuine ‘schools’ of prayer…. It is therefore essential that education in prayer should become in some way a key-point of all pastoral planning” (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, nn. 33, 34).

Among the forms of prayer fervently recommended by St Alphonsus, stands out the visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or as we would call it today, “adoration”, brief or extended, personal or as a community, before the Eucharist. “Certainly”, St Alphonsus writes, “amongst all devotions, after that of receiving the sacraments, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament takes the first place, is the most pleasing to God, and the most useful to ourselves…. Oh, what a beautiful delight to be before an altar with faith… to represent our wants to him, as a friend does to a friend in whom he places all his trust” (Visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary for Each Day of the Month. Introduction).

Alphonsian spirituality is in fact eminently Christological, centred on Christ and on his Gospel. Meditation on the mystery of the Incarnation and on the Lord’s Passion were often the subject of St Alphonsus’ preaching. In these events, in fact, Redemption is offered to all human beings “in abundance”. And precisely because it is Christological, Alphonsian piety is also exquisitely Marian. Deeply devoted to Mary he illustrates her role in the history of salvation: an associate in the Redemption and Mediatrix of grace, Mother, Advocate and Queen.

In addition, St Alphonsus states that devotion to Mary will be of great comfort to us at the moment of our death. He was convinced that meditation on our eternal destiny, on our call to participate for ever in the beatitude of God, as well as on the tragic possibility of damnation, contributes to living with serenity and dedication and to facing the reality of death, ever preserving full trust in God’s goodness.

St Alphonsus Maria Liguori is an example of a zealous Pastor who conquered souls by preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments combined with behaviour impressed with gentle and merciful goodness that was born from his intense relationship with God, who is infinite Goodness. He had a realistically optimistic vision of the resources of good that the Lord gives to every person and gave importance to the affections and sentiments of the heart, as well as to the mind, to be able to love God and neighbour.

To conclude, I would like to recall that our Saint, like St Francis de Sales — of whom I spoke a few weeks ago — insists that holiness is accessible to every Christian: “the religious as a religious; the secular as a secular; the priest as a priest; the married as married; the man of business as a man of business; the soldier as a soldier; and so of every other state of life” (Practica di amare Gesù Cristo. Opere ascetiche [The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ] Ascetic Works 1, Rome 1933, p. 79).
Let us thank the Lord who, with his Providence inspired saints and doctors in different times and places, who speak the same language to invite us to grow in faith and to live with love and with joy our being Christians in the simple everyday actions, to walk on the path of holiness, on the path towards God and towards true joy. Thank you.



To special groups:

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Norway, Japan, the Philippines and the United States. To the choirs I express my gratitude for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace.

Finally, my thoughts go to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. May the Lenten Season, with its repeated invitations to conversion, lead you dear young people, to a love which is increasingly aware of Christ and his Church. Dear sick people may it increase in you the certainty that the crucified Lord sustains you in trials. Dear newlyweds may you make in your conjugal life, a journey of constant growth in faithful and generous love.

* * *

APPEAL

For a long time my thoughts have been with the people of the Côte d’Ivoire, traumatized by the painful internal fighting and serious social and political tensions. While I express my closeness to all those who have lost someone dear and have been subjected to violence, I launch a pressing appeal so that a process of constructive dialogue for the common good may begin as soon as possible. The dramatic opposition makes restoration of respect and peaceful coexistence more urgent. No effort should be spared in this sense. With these sentiments, I have decided to send Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council Iustitia et Pax, to this noble country in order to express my solidarity and that of the universal Church to the victims of the hostilities and as well as encourage reconciliation and peace.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana



St. Alphonsus Liguori

Born at Marianella, near Naples, 27 September, 1696; died at Nocera de' Pagani, 1 August, 1787. The eighteenth century was not an age remarkable for depth of spiritual life, yet it produced three of the greatest missionaries of the Church, St. Leonard of Port Maurice, St. Paul of the Cross, and St. Alphonsus Liguori. Alphonsus Mary Antony John Cosmas Damian Michael Gaspard de' Liguori was born in his father's country house at Marianella near Naples, on Tuesday, 27 September, 1696. He was baptized two days later in the church of Our Lady of the Virgins, in Naples. The family was an old and noble one, though the branch to which the Saint belonged had become somewhat impoverished. Alphonsus's father, Don Joseph de' Liguori was a naval officer and Captain of the Royal Galleys. The Saint's mother was of Spanish descent, and if, as there can be little doubt, race is an element in individual character, we may see in Alphonsus's Spanish blood some explanation of the enormous tenacity of purpose which distinguished him from his earliest years. "I know his obstinacy", his father said of him as a young man; "when he once makes up his mind he is inflexible". Not many details have come down to us of Alphonsus's childhood. He was the eldest of seven children and the hope of his house. The boy was bright and quick beyond his years, and made great progress in all kinds of learning. In addition his father made him practice the harpsichord for three hours a day, and at the age of thirteen he played with the perfection of a master. Riding and fencing were his recreations, and an evening game of cards; he tells us that he was debarred from being a good shot by his bad sight. In early manhood he became very fond of the opera, but only that he might listen to the music, for when the curtain went up he took his glasses off, so as not to see the players distinctly. The Neapolitan stage at this time was in a good state, but the Saint had from his earliest years an ascetic repugnance to theatres, a repugnance which he never lost. The childish fault for which he most reproached himself in after-life was resisting his father too strongly when he was told to take part in a drawing-room play. Alphonsus was not sent to school but was educated by tutors under his father's eye. At the age of sixteen, on 21 January, 1713, he took his degree as Doctor of Laws, although twenty was the age fixed by the statutes. He said himself that he was so small at the time as to be almost buried in his doctor's gown and that all the spectators laughed. Soon after this the boy began his studies for the Bar, and about the age of nineteen practised his profession in the courts. In the eight years of his career as advocate, years crowded with work, he is said never to have lost a case. Even if there be some exaggeration in this, for it is not in an advocate's power always to be on the winning side, the tradition shows that he was extraordinarily able and successful. In fact, despite his youth, he seems at the age of twenty-seven to have been one of the leaders of the Neapolitan Bar.
Alphonsus, like so many saints, had an excellent father and a saintly mother. Don Joseph de' Liguori had his faults. He was somewhat worldly and ambitious, at any rate for his son, and was rough tempered when opposed. But he was a man of genuine faith and piety and stainless life, and he meant his son to be the same. Even when taking him into society in order to arrange a good marriage for him, he wished Alphonsus to put God first, and every year father and son would make a retreat together in some religious house. Alphonsus, assisted by divine grace, did not disappoint his father's care. A pure and modest boyhood passed into a manhood without reproach. A companion, Balthasar Cito, who afterwards became a distinguished judge, was asked in later years if Alphonsus had ever shown signs of levity in his youth. He answered emphatically: "Never! It would be a sacrilege to say otherwise." The Saint's confessor declared that he preserved his baptismal innocence till death. Still there was a time of danger.

There can be little doubt but that the young Alphonsus with his high spirits and strong character was ardently attached to his profession, and on the way to be spoilt by the success and popularity which it brought. About the year 1722, when he was twenty-six years old, he began to go constantly into society, to neglect prayer and the practices of piety which had been an integral part of his life, and to take pleasure in the attention with which he was everywhere received.

"Banquets, entertainments, theatres," he wrote later on--"these are the pleasures of the world, but pleasures which are filled with the bitterness of gall and sharp thorns. Believe me who have experienced it, and now weep over it." In all this there was no serious sin, but there was no high sanctity either, and God, Who wished His servant to be a saint and a great saint, was now to make him take the road to Damascus. In 1723 there was a lawsuit in the courts between a Neapolitan nobleman, whose name has not come down to us, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in which property valued at 500,000 ducats, that to say, $500,000 or 100,000 pounds, was at stake. Alphonsus was one of the leading counsel; we do not know on which side. When the day came the future Saint made a brilliant opening speech and sat down confident of victory. But before he called a witness the opposing counsel said to him in chilling tones: "Your arguments are wasted breath. You have overlooked a document which destroys your whole case." "What document is that?" said Alphonsus somewhat piqued. "Let us have it." A piece of evidence was handed to him which he had read and re-read many times, but always in a sense the exact contrary of that which he now saw it to have. The poor advocate turned pale. He remained thunderstruck for a moment; then said in a broken voice: "You are right. I have been mistaken. This document gives you the case." In vain those around him and even the judge on the bench tried to console him. He was crushed to the earth. He thought his mistake would be ascribed not to oversight but to deliberate deceit. He felt as if his career was ruined, and left the court almost beside himself, saying: "World, I know you now. Courts, you shall never see me more." For three days he refused all food. Then the storm subsided, and he began to see that his humiliation had been sent him by God to break down his pride and wean him from the world. Confident that some special sacrifice was required of him, though he did not yet know what, he did not return to his profession, but spent his days in prayer, seeking to know God's will. After a short interval--we do not know exactly how long--the answer came. On 28 August, 1723, the young advocate had gone to perform a favourite act of charity by visiting the sick in the Hospital for Incurables. Suddenly he found himself surrounded by a mysterious light; the house seemed to rock, and an interior voice said: "Leave the world and give thyself to Me." This occurred twice. Alphonsus left the Hospital and went to the church of the Redemption of Captives. Here he laid his sword before the statue of Our Lady, and made a solemn resolution to enter the ecclesiastical state, and furthermore to offer himself as a novice to the Fathers of the Oratory. He knew that trials were before him. His father, already displeased at the failure of two plans for his son's marriage, and exasperated at Alphonsus's present neglect of his profession, was likely to offer a strenuous opposition to his leaving the world. So indeed it proved. He had to endure a real persecution for two months. In the end a compromise was arrived at. Don Joseph agreed to allow his son to become a priest, provided he would give up his proposal joining the Oratory, and would continue to live at home. To this Alphonsus by the advice of his director, Father Thomas Pagano, himself an Oratorian, agreed. Thus was he left free for his real work, the founding of a new religious congregation. On 23 October of the same year, 1723, the Saint put on the clerical dress. In September of the next year he received the tonsure and soon after joined the association of missionary secular priests called the "Neapolitan Propaganda", membership of which did not entail residence in common. In December, 1724, he received minor orders, and the subdiaconate in September, 1725. On 6 April, 1726, he was ordained deacon, and soon after preached his first sermon. On 21 December of the same year, at the age of thirty, he was ordained priest. For six years he laboured in and around Naples, giving missions for the Propaganda and preaching to the lazzaroni of the capital. With the aid of two laymen, Peter Barbarese, a schoolmaster, and Nardone, an old soldier, both of whom he converted from an evil life, he enrolled thousands of lazzaroni in a sort of confraternity called the "Association of the Chapels", which exists to this day. Then God called him to his life work.

In April 1729, the Apostle of China, Matthew Ripa, founded a missionary college in Naples, which became known colloquially as the "Chinese College". A few months later Alphonsus left his father's house and went to live with Ripa, without, however, becoming a member of his society. In his new abode he met a friend of his host's, Father Thomas Falcoia, of the Congregation of the "Pii Operarii" (Pious Workers), and formed with him the great friendship of his life. There was a considerable difference in age between the two men, for Falcoia, born in 1663, was now sixty-six, and Alphonsus only thirty-three, but the old priest and the young had kindred souls. Many years before, in Rome, Falcoia had been shown a vision of a new religious family of men and women whose particular aim should be the perfect imitation of the virtues of Our Lord. He had even tried to form a branch of the Institute by uniting twelve priests in a common life at Tarentum, but the community soon broke up. In 1719, together with a Father Filangieri, also one of the "Pii Operarii", he had refounded a Conservatorium of religious women at Scala on the mountains behind Amalfi. But as he drew up a rule for them, formed from that of the Visitation nuns, he does not seem to have had any clear idea of establishing the new institute of his vision. God, however, intended the new institute to begin with these nuns of Scala. In 1724, soon after Alphonsus left the world, a postulant, Julia Crostarosa, born in Naples on 31 October, 1696, and hence almost the same age as the Saint, entered the convent of Scala. She became known in religion as Sister Maria Celeste. In 1725, while still a novice, she had a series of visions in which she saw a new order (apparently of nuns only) similar to that revealed to Falcoia many years before. Even its Rule was made known to her. She was told to write it down and show it to the director of the convent, that is to Falcoia himself. While affecting to treat the novice with severity and to take no notice of her visions, the director was surprised to find that the Rule which she had written down was a realization of what had been so long in his mind. He submitted the new Rule to a number of theologians, who approved of it, and said it might be adopted in the convent of Scala, provided the community would accept it. But when the question was put to the community, opposition began. Most were in favour of accepting, but the superior objected and appealed to Filangieri, Falcoia's colleague in establishing the convent, and now, as General of the "Pii Operarii", his superior. Filangieri forbade any change of rule and removed Falcoia from all communication with the convent. Matters remained thus for some years. About 1729, however, Filangieri died, and on 8 October, 1730, Falcoia was consecrated Bishop of Castellamare. He was now free, subject to the approval of the Bishop of Scala, to act with regard to the convent as he thought best. It happened that Alphonsus, ill and overworked, had gone with some companions to Scala in the early summer of 1730. Unable to be idle, he had preached to the goatherds of the mountains with such success that Nicolas Guerriero, Bishop of Scala, begged him to return and give a retreat in his cathedral.

Falcoia, hearing of this, begged his friend to give a retreat to the nuns of his Conservatorium at the same time. Alphonsus agreed to both requests and set out with his two friends, John Mazzini and Vincent Mannarini, in September, 1730. The result of the retreat to the nuns was that the young priest, who before had been prejudiced by reports in Naples against the proposed new Rule, became its firm supporter, and even obtained permission from the Bishop of Scala for the change. In 1731, the convent unanimously adopted the new Rule, together with a habit of red and blue, the traditional colours of Our Lord's own dress. One branch of the new Institute seen by Falcoia in vision was thus established. The other was not to be long delayed. No doubt Thomas Falcoia had for some time hoped that the ardent young priest, who was so devoted to him, might, under his direction, be the founder of the new Order he had at heart. a fresh vision of Sister Maria Celeste seemed to show that such was the will of God. On 3 October, 1731, the eve of the feast of St. Francis, she saw Our Lord with St. Francis on His right hand and a priest on His left. A voice said "This is he whom I have chosen to be head of My Institute, the Prefect General of a new Congregation of men who shall work for My glory." The priest was Alphonsus. Soon after, Falcoia made known to the latter his vocation to leave Naples and establish an order of missionaries at Scala, who should work above all for the neglected goatherds of the mountains. A year of trouble and anxiety followed.

The Superior of the Propaganda and even Falcoia's friend, Matthew Ripa, opposed the project with all their might. But Alphonsus's director, Father Pagano; Father Fiorillo, a great Dominican preacher; Father Manulio, Provincial of the Jesuits; and Vincent Cutica, Superior of the Vincentians, supported the young priest, and, 9 November, 1732, the "Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer", or as it was called for seventeen years, "of the Most Holy Saviour", was begun in a little hospice belonging to the nuns of Scala. Though St. Alphonsus was founder and de facto head of the Institute, its general direction in the beginning, as well as the direction of Alphonsus's conscience, was undertaken by the Bishop of Castellamare and it was not till the latter's death, 20 April, 1743, that a general chapter was held and the Saint was formally elected Superior-General. In fact, in the beginning, the young priest in his humility would not be Superior even of the house, judging one of his companions, John Baptist Donato, better fitted for the post because he had already had some experience of community life in another institute.

The early years, following the founding of the new order, were not promising. Dissensions arose, the Saint's former friend and chief companion, Vincent Mannarini, opposing him and Falcoia in everything. On 1 April, 1733, all the companions of Alphonsus except one lay brother, Vitus Curtius, abandoned him, and founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, which, confined to the Kingdom of Naples, was extinguished in 1860 by the Italian Revolution. The dissensions even spread to the nuns, and Sister Maria Celeste herself left Scala and founded a convent at Foggia, where she died in the odour of sanctity, 14 September, 1755. She was declared Venerable 11 August, 1901. Alphonsus, however, stood firm; soon other companions arrived, and though Scala itself was given up by the Fathers in 1738, by 1746 the new Congregation had four houses at Nocera de' Pagani, Ciorani, Iliceto (now Deliceto), and Caposele, all in the Kingdom of Naples. In 1749, the Rule and Institute of men were approved by Pope Benedict XIV, and in 1750, the Rule and Institute of the nuns. Alphonsus was lawyer, founder, religious superior, bishop, theologian, and mystic, but he was above all a missionary, and no true biography of the Saint will neglect to give this due prominence. From 1726 to 1752, first as a member of the Neapolitan "Propaganda", and then as a leader of his own Fathers, he traversed the provinces of Naples for the greater part of each year giving missions even in the smallest villages and saving many souls. a special feature of his method was the return of the missionaries, after an interval of some months, to the scene of their labours to consolidate their work by what was called the "renewal of a mission."

After 1752 Alphonsus gave fewer missions. His infirmities were increasing, and he was occupied a good deal with his writings. His promotion to the episcopate in 1762 led to a renewal of his missionary activity, but in a slightly different form. The Saint had four houses, but during his lifetime it not only became impossible in the Kingdom of Naples to get any more, but even the barest toleration for those he had could scarcely be obtained. The cause of this was "regalism", the omnipotence of kings even in matters spiritual, which was the system of government in Naples as in all the Bourbon States. The immediate author of what was practically a lifelong persecution of the Saint was the Marquis Tanucci, who entered Naples in 1734. Naples had been part of the dominions of Spain since 1503, but in 1708 when Alphonsus was twelve years old, it was conquered by Austria during the war of the Spanish Succession. In 1734, however, it was reconquered by Don Carlos, the young Duke of Parma, great-grandson of Louis XIV, and the independent Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was established. With Don Carlos, or as he is generally called, Charles III, from his later title as King of Spain, came the lawyer, Bernard Tanucci, who governed Naples as Prime Minister and regent for the next forty-two years. This was to be a momentous revolution for Alphonsus. Had it happened a few years later, the new Government might have found the Redemptorist Congregation already authorized, and as Tanucci's anti-clerical policy rather showed itself in forbidding new Orders than, with the exception of the Society of Jesus, in suppressing old ones, the Saint might have been free to develop his work in comparative peace. As it was, he was refused the royal exequatur to the Brief of Benedict XIV, and State recognition of his Institute as a religious congregation till the day of his death. There were whole years, indeed, in which the Institute seemed on the verge of summary suppression. The suffering which this brought on Alphonsus, with his sensitive and high-strung disposition, was very great, besides what was worse, the relaxation of discipline and loss of vocations which it caused in the Order itself. Alphonsus, however, was unflagging in his efforts with the Court. It may be he was even too anxious, and on one occasion when he was over-whelmed by a fresh refusal, his friend the Marquis Brancone, Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs and a man of deep piety, said to him gently: "It would seem as if you placed all your trust here below"; on which the Saint recovered his peace of mind. A final attempt to gain the royal approval, which seemed as if at last it had been successful, led to the crowning sorrow of Alphonsus's life: the division and apparent ruin of his Congregation and the displeasure of the Holy See. This was in 1780, when Alphonsus was eighty-three years old. But, before relating the episode of the "Regolamento", as it is called, we must speak of the period of the Saint's episcopate which intervened.

In the year 1747, King Charles of Naples wished to make Alphonsus Archbishop of Palermo, and it was only by the most earnest entreaties that he was able to escape. In 1762, there was no escape and he was constrained by formal obedience to the Pope to accept the Bishopric of St. Agatha of the Goths, a very small Neapolitan diocese lying a few miles off the road from Naples to Capua. Here with 30,000 uninstructed people, 400 mostly indifferent and sometimes scandalous secular clergy, and seventeen more or less relaxed religious houses to look after, in a field so overgrown with weeds that they seemed the only crop, he wept and prayed and spent days and nights in unremitting labour for thirteen years. More than once he faced assassination unmoved. In a riot which took place during the terrible famine that fell upon Southern Italy in 1764, he saved the life of the syndic of St. Agatha by offering his own to the mob. He fed the poor, instructed the ignorant, reorganized his seminary, reformed his convents, created a new spirit in his clergy, banished scandalous noblemen and women of evil life with equal impartiality, brought the study of theology and especially of moral theology into honour, and all the time was begging pope after pope to let him resign his office because he was doing nothing for his diocese. To all his administrative work we must add his continual literary labours, his many hours of daily prayer, his terrible austerities, and a stress of illness which made his life a martyrdom.

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.

Not less remarkable than the intensity with which Alphonsus worked is the amount of work he did. His perseverance was indomitable. He both made and kept a vow not to lose a single moment of time. He was helped in this by his turn of mind which was extremely practical. Though a good dogmatic theologian--a fact which has not been sufficiently recognized--he was not a metaphysician like the great scholastics. He was a lawyer, not only during his years at the Bar, but throughout his whole life--a lawyer, who to skilled advocacy and an enormous knowledge of practical detail added a wide and luminous hold of underlying principles. It was this which made him the prince of moral theologians, and gained him, when canonization made it possible, the title of "Doctor of the Church". This combination of practical common sense with extraordinary energy in administrative work ought to make Alphonsus, if he were better known, particularly attractive to the English-speaking nations, especially as he is so modern a saint. But we must not push resemblances too far. If in some things Alphonsus was an Anglo-Saxon, in others he was a Neapolitan of the Neapolitans, though always a saint. He often writes as a Neapolitan to Neapolitans. Were the vehement things in his letters and writings, especially in the matter of rebuke or complaint, to appraised as if uttered by an Anglo-Saxon in cold blood, we might be surprised and even shocked. Neapolitan students, in an animated but amicable discussion, seem to foreign eyes to be taking part in a violent quarrel. St. Alphonsus appeared a miracle of calm to Tannoia. Could he have been what an Anglo-Saxon would consider a miracle of calm, he would have seemed to his companions absolutely inhuman. The saints are not inhuman but real men of flesh and blood, however much some hagiographers may ignore the fact.

While the continual intensity of reiterated acts of virtue which we have called driving-power is what really creates sanctity, there is another indispensable quality. The extreme difficulty of the lifelong work of fashioning a saint consists precisely in this, that every act of virtue the saint performs goes to strengthen his character, that is, his will. On the other hand, ever since the Fall of Man, the will of man has been his greatest danger. It has a tendency at every moment to deflect, and if it does deflect from the right path, the greater the momentum the more terrible the final crash. Now the saint has a very great momentum indeed, and a spoiled saint is often a great villain.

To prevent the ship going to pieces on the rocks, it has need of a very responsive rudder, answering to the slightest pressure of Divine guidance. The rudder is humility, which, in the intellect, is a realization of our own unworthiness, and in the will, docility to right guidance. But how was Alphonsus to grow in this so necessary virtue when he was in authority nearly all his life? The answer is that God kept him humble by interior trials. From his earliest years he had an anxious fear about committing sin which passed at times into scruple.

He who ruled and directed others so wisely, had, where his own soul was concerned, to depend on obedience like a little child. To supplement this, God allowed him in the last years of his life to fall into disgrace with the pope, and to find himself deprived of all external authority, trembling at times even for his eternal salvation. St. Alphonsus does not offer as much directly to the student of mystical theology as do some contemplative saints who have led more retired lives. Unfortunately, he was not obliged by his confessor, in virtue of holy obedience, as St. Teresa was, to write down his states of prayer; so we do not know precisely what they were. The prayer he recommended to his Congregation, of which we have beautiful examples in his ascetical works, is affective; the use of short aspirations, petitions, and acts of love, rather than discursive meditation with long reflection. His own prayer was perhaps for the most part what some call "active", others "ordinary", contemplation. Of extraordinary passive states, such as rapture, there are not many instances recorded in his life, though there are some. At three different times in his missions, while preaching, a ray of light from a picture of Our Lady darted towards him, and he fell into an ecstasy before the people. In old age he was more than once raised in the air when speaking of God.
His intercession healed the sick; he read the secrets of hearts, and foretold the future. He fell into a clairvoyant trance at Arienzo on 21 September, 1774, and was present in spirit at the death-bed in Rome of Pope Clement XIV.

It was comparatively late in life that Alphonsus became a writer. If we except a few poems published in 1733 (the Saint was born in 1696), his first work, a tiny volume called "Visits to the Blessed Sacrament", only appeared in 1744 or 1745, when he was nearly fifty years old. Three years later he published the first sketch of his "Moral Theology" in a single quarto volume called "Annotations to Busembaum", a celebrated Jesuit moral theologian. He spent the next few years in recasting this work, and in 1753 appeared the first volume of the "Theologia Moralis", the second volume, dedicated to Benedict XIV, following in 1755. Nine editions of the "Moral Theology" appeared in the Saint's life-time, those of 1748, 1753-1755, 1757, 1760, 1763, 1767, 1773, 1779, and 1785, the "Annotations to Busembaum" counting as the first. In the second edition the work received the definite form it has since retained, though in later issues the Saint retracted a number of opinions, corrected minor ones, and worked at the statement of his theory of Equiprobabilism till at last he considered it complete. In addition, he published many editions of compendiums of his larger work, such as the "Homo Apostolicus", made in 1759. The "Moral Theology", after a historical introduction by the Saint's friend, P. Zaccaria, S.J., which was omitted, however, from the eighth and ninth editions, begins with a treatise "De Conscientia", followed by one "De Legibus". These form the first book of the work, while the second contains the treatises on Faith, Hope, and Charity. The third book deals with the Ten Commandments, the fourth with the monastic and clerical states, and the duties of judges, advocates, doctors, merchants, and others. The fifth book has two treatises "De Actibus Humanis" and "De Peccatis"; the sixth is on the sacraments, the seventh and last on the censures of the Church.

St. Alphonsus as a moral theologian occupies the golden mean between the schools tending either to laxity or to rigour which divided the theological world of his time. When he was preparing for the priesthood in Naples, his masters were of the rigid school, for though the center of Jansenistic disturbance was in northern Europe, no shore was so remote as not to feel the ripple of its waves. When the Saint began to hear confessions, however, he soon saw the harm done by rigorism, and for the rest of his life he inclined more to the mild school of the Jesuit theologians, whom he calls "the masters of morals". St. Alphonsus, however, did not in all things follow their teaching, especially on one point much debated in the schools; namely, whether we may in practice follow an opinion which denies a moral obligation, when the opinion which affirms a moral obligation seems to us to be altogether more probable. This is the great question of "Probabilism". St. Alphonsus, after publishing anonymously (in 1749 and 1755) two treatises advocating the right to follow the less probable opinion, in the end decided against that lawfulness, and in case of doubt only allowed freedom from obligation where the opinions for and against the law were equal or nearly equal. He called his system Equiprobabilism. It is true that theologians even of the broadest school are agreed that, when an opinion in favour of the law is so much more probable as to amount practically to moral certainty, the less probable opinion cannot be followed, and some have supposed that St. Alphonsus meant no more than this by his terminology. According to this view he chose a different formula from the Jesuit writers, partly because he thought his own terms more exact, and, partly to save his teaching and his congregation as far as possible from the State persecution which after 1764 had already fallen so heavily on the Society of Jesus, and in 1773 was formally to suppress it. It is a matter for friendly controversy, but it seems there was a real difference, though not as great in practice as is supposed, between the Saint's later teaching and that current in the Society. Alphonsus was a lawyer, and as a lawyer he attached much importance to the weight of evidence. In a civil action a serious preponderance of evidence gives one side the case. If civil courts could not decide against a defendant on greater probability, but had to wait, as a criminal court must wait, for moral certainty, many actions would never be decided at all. St. Alphonsus likened the conflict between law and liberty to a civil action in which the law has the onus probandi, although greater probabilities give it a verdict. Pure probabilism likens it to a criminal trial, in which the jury must find in favour of liberty (the prisoner at the bar) if any single reasonable doubt whatever remain in its favour. Furthermore, St. Alphonsus was a great theologian, and so attached much weight to intrinsic probability. He was not afraid of making up his mind. "I follow my conscience", he wrote in 1764, "and when reason persuades me I make little account of moralists." To follow an opinion in favour of liberty without weighing it, merely because it is held by someone else, would have seemed to Alphonsus an abdication of the judicial office with which as a confessor he was invested. Still it must in fairness be admitted that all priests are not great theologians able to estimate intrinsic probability at its true worth, and the Church herself might be held to have conceded something to pure probabilism by the unprecedented honours she paid to the Saint in her Decree of 22 July, 1831, which allows confessors to follow any of St. Alphonsus's own opinions without weighing the reasons on which they were based.

Besides his Moral Theology, the Saint wrote a large number of dogmatic and ascetical works nearly all in the vernacular. The "Glories of Mary", "The Selva", "The True Spouse of Christ", "The Great Means of Prayer", "The Way of Salvation", "Opera Dogmatica, or History of the Council of Trent", and "Sermons for all the Sundays in the Year", are the best known. He was also a poet and musician. His hymns are justly celebrated in Italy. Quite recently, a duet composed by him, between the Soul and God, was found in the British Museum bearing the date 1760 and containing a correction in his own handwriting.

Finally, St. Alphonsus was a wonderful letter-writer, and the mere salvage of his correspondence amounts to 1,451 letters, filling three large volumes. It is not necessary to notice certain non-Catholic attacks on Alphonsus as a patron of lying. St. Alphonsus was so scrupulous about truth that when, in 1776, the regalist, Mgr. Filingeri, was made Archbishop of Naples, the Saint would not write to congratulate the new primate, even at the risk of making another powerful enemy for his persecuted Congregation, because he thought he could not honestly say he "was glad to hear of the appointment." It will be remembered that even as a young man his chief distress at his breakdown in court was the fear that his mistake might be ascribed to deceit. The question as to what does or does not constitute a lie is not an easy one, but it is a subject in itself. Alphonsus said nothing in his "Moral Theology" which is not the common teaching of Catholic theologians.

Very few remarks upon his own times occur in the Saint's letters. The eighteenth century was one series of great wars; that of the Spanish, Polish, and Austrian Succession; the Seven Years' War, and the War of American Independence, ending with the still more gigantic struggles in Europe, which arose out of the events of 1789. Except in '45, in all of these, down to the first shot fired at Lexington, the English-speaking world was on one side and the Bourbon States, including Naples, on the other. But to all this secular history about the only reference in the Saint's correspondence which has come down to us is a sentence in a letter of April, 1744, which speaks of the passage of the Spanish troops who had come to defend Naples against the Austrians. He was more concerned with the spiritual conflict which was going on at the same time. The days were indeed evil. Infidelity and impiety were gaining ground; Voltaire and Rousseau were the idols of society; and the ancien régime, by undermining religion, its one support, was tottering to its fall. Alphonsus was a devoted friend of the Society of Jesus and its long persecution by the Bourbon Courts, ending in its suppression in 1773, filled him with grief. He died on the very eve of the great Revolution which was to sweep the persecutors away, having seen in vision the woes which the French invasion of 1798 was to bring on Naples.

An interesting series of portraits might be painted of those who play a part in the Saint's history: Charles III and his minister Tanucci; Charle's son Ferdinand, and Ferdinand's strange and unhappy Queen, Maria Carolina, daughter of Maria Teresa and sister of Marie Antoinette. Cardinals Spinelli, Sersale, and Orsini; Popes Benedict XIV, Clement XIII, Clement XIV, and Pius VI, to each of whom Alphonsus dedicated a volume of his works. Even the baleful shadow of Voltaire falls across the Saint's life, for Alphonsus wrote to congratulate him on a conversion, which alas, never took place! Again, we have a friendship of thirty years with the great Venetian publishing house of Remondini, whose letters from the Saint, carefully preserved as became business men, fill a quarto volume. Other personal friends of Alphonsus were the Jesuit Fathers de Matteis, Zaccaria, and Nonnotte.

A respected opponent was the redoubtable Dominican controversialist, P. Vincenzo Patuzzi, while to make up for hard blows we have another Dominican, P. Caputo, President of Alphonsus's seminary and a devoted helper in his work of reform. To come to saints, the great Jesuit missionary St. Francis di Geronimo took the little Alphonsus in his arms, blessed him, and prophesied that he would do great work for God; while a Franciscan, St. John Joseph of the Cross, was well known to Alphonsus in later life. Both of them were canonized on the same day as the Holy Doctor, 26 May, 1839. St. Paul of the Cross (1694-1775) and St. Alphonsus, who were altogether contemporaries, seem never to have met on earth, though the founder of the Passionists was a great friend of Alphonsus's uncle, Mgr. Cavalieri, himself a great servant of God. Other saints and servants of God were those of Alphonsus's own household, the lay brother, St. Gerard Majella, who died in 1755, and Januarius Sarnelli, Cæsar Sportelli, Dominic Blasucci, and Maria Celeste, all of whom have been declared "Venerable" by the Church.

Blessed Clement Hofbauer joined the Redemptorist congregation in the aged Saint's lifetime, though Alphonsus never saw in the flesh the man whom he knew would be the second founder of his Order. Except for the chances of European war, England and Naples were then in different worlds, but Alphonsus may have seen at the side of Don Carlos when he conquered Naples in 1734, an English boy of fourteen who had already shown great gallantry under fire and was to play a romantic part in history, Prince Charles Edward Stuart. But one may easily overcrowd a narrow canvas and it is better in so slight a sketch to leave the central figure in solitary relief. If any reader of this article will go to original sources and study the Saint's life at greater length, he will not find his labour thrown away.


Sources

Much of the material for a complete life of St. Alphonsus is still in manuscript in the Roman archives of the Redemptorist Congregation and in the archives of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars. The foundation of all subsequent lives is the Della vita ed istituto del venerabile Alfonso Maria Liguori, of ANTONY TANNOIA, one of the great biographies of literature. Tannoia was born about 1724 and entered the Redemptorist Congregation in 1746. As he did not die till 1808 (his work appeared in 1799) he was a companion of the Saint for over forty years and an eyewitness of much that he relates. Even where he is not that, he may generally be trusted, as he was a Boswell in collecting facts. His life contains a number of minor inaccuracies, however, and is seriously defective in its account of the founding of his Congregation and of the troubles which fell on it in 1780. Tannoia, also, through some mental idiosyncrasy, manages to give the misleading impression that St. Alphonsus was severe. There is a somewhat unsatisfactory French translation of Tannoia's work. Mimoires sur la vie et la congrigation de St. Alphonse de Liguori (Paris, 1842, 3 vols.). The English translation in the Oratory Series is also rather inadequate. A justly celebrated life is the Vie et Institut de Saint Alphonse-Marie de Liguori, in four volumes, by CARDINAL VILLECOURT, (Tournai, 1893). The German life, DILGSKRON, Leben des heiligen Bischofs und Kirchenlehrers, Alfonsus Maria de Liguori (New York, 1887), is scholarly and accurate. CARDINAL CAPECELATRO has also written a life of the Saint, La Vita di Sant' Alfonso Maria de Liguori (Rome, 2 vols.). The latest life, BERTHE, Saint Alphonse de Liguori (Paris, 1900, 2 vols. SVO), gives an extremely full and picturesque account of the Saint's life and times. This has recently been translated into English with additions and corrections (Dublin, 2 vols., royal SVO); DUMORTIER, Les premihres Redemptoristines (Lille, 1886), and Le Phre Antoine-Marie Tannoia (Paris, 1902), contain some useful information; as does BERRUTI, Lo Spirito di S. Alfonso Maria de Liguori, 3 ed. (Rome, 1896). The Saint's own letters are of extreme value in supplementing Tannoia. A centenary edition, Lettere di S. Alfonso Maria de'Liguori (ROME, 1887, 3 vols.), was published by P. KUNTZ, C.SS.R., director of the Roman archives of his Congregation. An English translation in five volumes is included in the 22 volumes of the American centenary edition of St. Alphonsus's ascetical works (New York). There are many editions of the Saint's Moral Theology; the best and latest is that of P. GAUDI, C.SS.R. (Rome, 1905). The Saint's complete dogmatic works have been translated into Latin by P. WALTER, C.SS.R., S. Alphonsi Mariae de Liguori Ecclesiae Doctoris Opera Dogmatica, (New York, 1903, 2 vols., 4to). See also HASSALL, The Balance of Power (1715-89) (London, 1901); COLLETTA, History of the Kingdom of Naples, 1734-1825, 2 vols., tr. by S. HORNER (Edinburgh, 1858); VON REUMONT, Die Carafa von Maddaloni (Berlin, 1851, 2 vols.); JOHNSTON, The Napoleonic Empire in South Italy, 2 vols. (London, 1904). Colletta's book gives the best general picture of the time, but is marred by anti-clerical bias.

Castle, Harold. "St. Alphonsus Liguori." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 1 Apr. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01334a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Paul T. Crowley. Dedicated to Fr. Clarence F. Galli.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01334a.htm

Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Bishop and Doctor of the Church


(1696-1787)




Saint Alphonsus was born of noble parents near Naples, in 1696. His spiritual formation was entrusted to the Oratorian Fathers of that city, and from his boyhood Alphonsus was known as a very devout little Brother of the Minor Oratory. At the early age of sixteen he became a doctor in civil law; and entering this career with ardor, he met great success and renown. A mistake, however, by which he lost an important case, showed him the vanity of human fame and glory. He decided to abandon the legal profession at the age of twenty-seven, to labor for the glory of God alone. Alphonsus' father long opposed his decision, but as a man of virtue consented at last.

Saint Alphonsus was ordained a priest in 1726, and he soon became as renowned a preacher as he had been a lawyer. His father stopped in a church to pray one day, and amazed, heard his son preaching; he suddenly saw clearly how God had marvelously elevated his son, and was filled with joy, saying: My son has made God known to me! As for Alphonsus, he loved and devoted himself to the most neglected souls in the region of Naples. He was a very perfect confessor, and wrote a manual which has been used ever since for the instruction of those who administer the sacrament of Penance. A musician of the first rank, Saint Alphonsus gave up his instruments to devote himself more perfectly to his apostolic labors; he nonetheless composed joyous religious hymns for the poor folk he heard singing in the streets, that they might glorify God and not waste their voices and efforts in vain and worldly songs.

To extend and continue his work, he later founded the missionary Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, for the evangelization of the poor. At the age of sixty-six he became Bishop of Saint Agatha, a suffragan diocese of Naples, and undertook the reform of his diocese with the zeal of a Saint. He made a vow never to waste a moment of time, and, though his life was spent in prayer and work, he also composed a vast number of books. These volumes were filled with such great science, unction, and wisdom that in 1871 he was declared by Pius IX a Doctor of the Church. Saint Alphonsus wrote his first book at the age of forty-nine, and in his eighty-third year had published about sixty volumes; at that time his director forbade him to continue writing. The best known of his books is his volume entitled The Glories of Mary, by which he exalts the graces and narrates the wondrous deeds of mercy of the Mother of God for those who invoke Her.
Very many of these books were written in the half hours snatched from his labors as a missionary, as a religious Superior, and finally as a Bishop, often in the midst of unrelenting bodily and mental sufferings. With his left hand he would hold a piece of marble against his aching head, while his right hand wrote. Yet he counted no time lost which was spent in charity. He did not refuse to maintain a long correspondence with a simple soldier who asked for his advice, or to play the harpsichord in his declining years, while he taught his novices to sing spiritual canticles. He lived in times of religious laxity, and met with many persecutions and disappointments. During his last seven years he was prevented by constant sickness from offering the adorable Sacrifice, but he received Holy Communion daily, and his love for Jesus Christ and his trust in Mary's prayers sustained him to the end. He died in 1787, in his ninety-first year.

Reflection: Let us do with all our heart and attention the duty of each day, leaving to God the result as well as the care of the future.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

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Born to the nobility, Alphonsus was a child prodigy; he became extremely well-educated, and received his doctorate in law from the University of Naples at age 16. He had his own legal practice by age 21, and was soon one of the leading lawyers in Naples, though he never attended court without having attended Mass first. He loved music, could play the harpsichord, and often attended the opera, though he frequently listened without bothering to watch the over-done staging. As he matured and learned more and more of the world, he liked it less and less, and finally felt a call to religious life. He declined an arranged marriage, studied theology, and was ordained at age 29.

Preacher and home missioner around Naples. Noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. Writer on asceticism, theology, and history; master theologian. He was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious. Founded the Redemptoristines women‘s order in Scala in 1730. Founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Liguorians; Redemptorists) at Scala, Italy in 1732.

Appointed bishop of the diocese of Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Italy by Pope Clement XIII in 1762. 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 ill health, and went into what he thought would be 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 thelogy, and his skills as a lawyer, Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king‘s approval. However, by this point 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.

Alphonsus vowed early to never to waste a moment of his life, and he lived that way for over 90 years. Declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871.

When he was bishop, one of Alphonsus’s priests led a worldly life, and resisted all attempts to change. He was summoned to Alphonsus, and at the entrance to the bishop‘s study he found a large crucifix laid on the threshold. When the priest hesitated to step in, Alphonsus quietly said, “Come along, and be sure to trample it underfoot. It would not be the first time you have placed Our Lord beneath your feet.”

Born

Alphonsus Liguori


The founder of the Redemptorists, St. Alphonsus, was born near Naples on September 27, 1696. Alphonsus studied in the University of Naples and graduated as a Doctor of Civil and Church Law. He practiced with outstanding success in the Neapolitan courts for ten years but he abandoned his legal career owing to a grievous disappointment over an important case that he lost, probably due to a bribed judge.


He fell into a depression and, at his recovery, he spent his time caring for prisoners and the incurably sick. During one hospital visit, he had a profound religious experience that led to his decision to become a priest. While still a seminarian, he became a member of a society of secular priests and seminarians dedicated to preaching missions (revivals) in parishes. After his ordination he continued this work and also began to form small communities of laity in the poorest districts of Naples who regularly gathered for mutual spiritual support.

At the earnest request of his spiritual director, Bishop Tommaso Falcoia, Alphonsus helped and encouraged Sister Maria Celeste Crostarosa and the other nuns of a convent in Scala (a town overlooking the Amalfi coast) in inaugurating the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer, an institute of contemplative nuns devoted to the perfect following of Christ the Redeemer. This Order has grown to 48 convents throughout the world.

In his work with the nuns he began to feel a call to gather a group of men to bring the Gospel message to the neglected peasants in the hills of southern Italy. On November 9, 1732 with five companions and under Falcoia as Director, he established, also at Scala, the Congregation of the Most Holy Savior. When the pope approved the group in 1749 as a new religious order, the title was changed to Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). The new Institute, devoted to the care of the most neglected, pursued its objectives by means of founding its residences in areas with no churches from which the members could spend most of the year conducting missions and catechetical programs throughout wide regions where the poor folk were spiritually abandoned.

In spite of his reluctance, Alphonsus was ordained Bishop of Sant'Agata dei Goti, a poor diocese in the hills of southern Italy where poverty and famine made physical care of the people as necessary as spiritual. From 1768 a disabling illness made pastoral work extremely difficult, but it was not until 1775 that the Holy See accepted his resignation from the bishopric.

The closing years of his life were clouded by great sorrow in addition to his illness. In an attempt to gain royal approbation for the Congregation he found his community presented by the court of Naples with a revised rule that Alphonsus accepted, either because he did not understand it because of his age and illness or because he considered it an empty formality since the Congregation would continue following the papal rule. But the Holy See, which was in conflict with the King over its rights, reacted by rejecting the revision. It divided the institute, placing the houses in the Papal States under an autonomous major superior and withdrawing its recognition from the houses in the Kingdom of Naples where Alphonsus lived. Alphonsus was greatly wounded by this political action and died in Pagani near Salerno on August 1, 1787 before the Congregation he had founded could be reunited.

Though he wrote much about prayer and union with God with an assurance that could only have come from personal experience, Alphonsus has been honored principally for his pastoral spirit. His own life and that of his Congregation were dedicated to bringing to the poor the redemption won by Christ. To that he devoted a long life of extraordinary activity. In addition to his duties as leader of the Redemptorists for almost forty-five years and to the care of his diocese, he was actively engaged in missions for thirty-four years, and consecrated his outstanding literary, artistic, and musical skills to the same pastoral purpose. His hymn Tu scendi dalle stelle is to Italy what Silent Night is to an American Christmas.

It is impossible to give a full account of his enormous literary production. Between 1728 and 1778 he p?blished no fewer than 111 works. A researcher in 1933 identified 4110 editions of his original texts and 12,925 editions of translations in 61 languages. Since that date the numbers have continued to increase.

The most important of his writings is his textbook Theologia Moralis (Moral Theology), the first edition of which appeared in 1748. Nine editions appeared in his lifetime.

Alphonsus developed an approach to conscience and to moral decision making that successfully avoids the extremes of rigor and laxity. It is an excellent expression of his pastoral prudence, a compassionate understanding of the redeemed person as he or she actually lives. This work led to his being declared a Doctor of the Church (1871) and the Patron of Confessors and Moral Theologians (1950).

His understanding of God's mercy and human dependence on it made him the inexorable foe of Jansenism, a movement toward moral rigorism that was prevalent in the Church of his time. These themes are elaborated in his spiritual writings. He taught that with the help of grace, given especially in answer to prayer, anyone could attain to a love of God that results in conformity to the Divine Will.

Alphonsus was the most decisive influence on the development of Catholic moral theology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His views on the primacy of conscience have led to the renewal of moral theology in the post-Vatican II era. In other fields, too, he has left his mark: in the theology of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the treatment of papal authority, in the appreciation of the interaction of prayer and grace, and in spiritual guidance. Many of his works, notably The Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the Glories of Mary, and Prayer, the Great Means of Salvation, are classics of Catholic spirituality.

--Webmaster's Note:

The preceding biography is provided courtesy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Seattle, Washington, which is administered by the Redemptorists.

SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0801.shtml

Saint Alphonsus Liguori
St. Alphonsus Ligouri was born near Naples, Italy, in 1732. He was a hard-working student. He received his degree in law and became a famous lawyer. A mistake he made in court convinced Alphonsus of what he had already thought: he should give up his law practice and become a priest.
His father tried to persuade him not to do it. However, Alphonsus had made up his mind. He became a priest. His life was filled with activity. He preached and wrote books. He started a religious congregation called “Redemptorists.”
St. Alphonsus offered wise spiritual direction and brought peace to people through the sacrament of Reconciliation. He also wrote hymns, played the organ and painted pictures. St. Alphonsus wrote sixty books. This is incredible considering his many other responsibilities. He also was often sick. He had frequent headaches, but would hold something cold against his forehead and keep doing his work.
Although he was naturally inclined to be hasty, Alphonsus tried to control himself. He became so humble that when Pope Pius VI wanted to make him a bishop, he gently said “no.” When the pope’s messengers had come in person to tell him of the pope’s choice, they called Alphonsus “Most illustrious Lord.” Alphonsus said, “Please don’t call me that again. It would kill me.”
The pope helped Alphonsus understand that he really wanted him to be a bishop. Alphonsus sent many preachers all over his diocese. The people needed to be reminded again of the love of God and the importance of their religion. Alphonsus told the priests to preach simple sermons. “I never preached a sermon that the simplest old woman in the church could not understand,” he said.
As he got older, St. Alphonsus suffered from illnesses. He had painful arthritis and became crippled. He grew deaf and almost blind. He also had disappointments and temptations. But he had great devotion to the Blessed Mother as we know from his famous book called the Glories of Mary. The trials were followed by great peace and joy and a holy death.
St. Alphonsus died in 1787 at the age of ninety-one. Pope Gregory XVI proclaimed him a saint in 1839. Pope Pius IX proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1871.


Sant' Alfonso Maria de' Liguori Vescovo e dottore della Chiesa


Napoli, 1696 - Nocera de' Pagani, Salerno, 1 agosto 1787

Nasce a Napoli il 27 settembre 1696 da genitori appartenenti alla nobiltà cittadina. Studia filosofia e diritto. Dopo alcuni anni di avvocatura, decide di dedicarsi interamente al Signore. Ordinato prete nel 1726, Alfonso Maria dedica quasi tutto il suo tempo e e il suo ministero agli abitanti dei quartieri più poveri della Napoli settecentesca. Mentre si prepara per un futuro impegno missionario in Oriente, prosegue l'attività di predicatore e confessore e, due o tre volte all'anno, prende parte alle missioni nei paesi all'interno del regno. Nel maggio del 1730, in un momento di forzato riposo, incontra i pastori delle montagne di Amalfi e, constatando il loro profondo abbandono umano e religioso, sente la necessità di rimediare ad una situazione che lo scandalizza sia come pastore che come uomo colto del secolo dei lumi. Lascia Napoli e con alcuni compagni, sotto la guida del vescovo di Castellammare di Stabia, fonda la Congregazione del SS. Salvatore. Intorno al 1760 viene nominato vescovo di Sant'Agata, e governa la sua diocesi con dedizione, fino alla morte, avvenuta il 1 agosto del 1787. (Avvenire)

Patronato: Napoli, Teologi, Moralisti, Confessori

Etimologia: Alfonso = valoroso e nobile, dal gotico

Emblema: Bastone pastorale

Martirologio Romano: Memoria di sant’Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, vescovo e dottore della Chiesa, che rifulse per la sua premura per le anime, i suoi scritti, la sua parola e il suo esempio. Al fine di promuovere la vita cristiana nel popolo, si impegnò nella predicazione e scrisse libri, specialmente di morale, disciplina in cui è ritenuto un maestro, e, sia pure tra molti ostacoli, istituì la Congregazione del Santissimo Redentore per l’evangelizzazione dei semplici. Eletto vescovo di Sant’Agata dei Goti, si impegnò oltremodo in questo ministero, che dovette lasciare quindici anni più tardi per il sopraggiungere di gravi malattie. Passò, quindi, il resto della sua vita a Nocera dei Pagani in Campania, tra grandi sacrifici e difficoltà.

Tracciare un profilo breve di un santo, grande e longevo quale fu il napoletano Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, è quasi un’impresa. Qui lo si ricorda soprattutto per la sua tutela dei moralisti, come dal nuovo titolo conferitegli da papa Pio XII nel 1950. Il significato del suo nome, Alfonso, rispecchia sinteticamente la sua personalità: valoroso e nobile.

  L’attualità del santo di Napoli sta nel fatto che, pur contrastando nella sostanza il relativismo morale e riconoscendo la Chiesa cattolica come suprema maestra, diede spazio alle “voci interiori della coscienza” e mantenne una posizione di equilibrio e di pratica prudenza tra i due estremi del rigorismo e del lassismo. Tale posizione affiora in quasi tutte le sue numerosissime opere di meditazione e di ascetica, ma soprattutto è sempre presente nell’ancora oggi studiata Theologia moralis. È questo in effetti il vero capolavoro di colui che, canonizzato nel 1839, venne decretato da papa Pio IX Dottore della Chiesa nel marzo 1871.

  Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori nacque il 27 settembre 1696 a Marinella, nei pressi di Napoli, nel palazzo di villeggiatura della nobile famiglia: il padre Giuseppe era ufficiale di marina e la madre, Anna Cavalieri, apparteneva al casato dei marchesi d’Avenia. Egli fu il primo dei loro otto figli e crebbe all’insegna di una robusta educazione religiosa, addolcita però sempre da sentimenti di compassione nei riguardi dell’infelicità altrui. Si suole suddividere la sua vita in cinque distinti periodi, in ognuno dei quali la personalità si arricchiva o si modulava con tanta fede in Gesù e con grande devozione a Maria e alle sue “glorie”.

  Fino a ventisette anni prevalsero gli studi privati nel campo della musica, delle scienze, delle lingue e del diritto, seguiti da una iniziale brillante carriera forense. Questa si interruppe improvvisamente per una delusione provata in un processo giudiziario tormentato di falsità. Tra il 1723 e il 1732 si colloca il periodo ecclesiastico con l’ordinazione sacerdotale nel 1726 e l’esercizio ad ampio raggio del ministero. Quando nel 1730 fu mandato a Scala, sopra Amalfi, esplose la sua spiritualità con la fondazione due anni dopo e poi la diffusione della Congregazione del SS. Salvatore, successivamente approvata dal papa Benedetto XIV come Congregazione del SS. Redentore.

  L’intento era quello di imitare Cristo, cominciando dai redentoristi stessi, i quali andavano via via operando per la redenzione di tante anime con missioni, esercizi spirituali e varie forme di apostolato straordinario.

  Mantenendo la carica di Rettore Maggiore della Congregazione, Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori fu poi, dal 1762 al 1775, vescovo di S. Agata dei Goti, centro oggi in provincia di Benevento e allora sede episcopale di un’area montagnosa, povera e bisognosa di ogni forma di aiuto, al quale il santo rispose con generosità.

  Ammalato di artropatia deformante e quasi cieco, dopo dodici anni di direzione diocesana, Alfonso Maria si dimise e si ritirò nella casa dei suoi fratelli a Nocera de’ Pagani, in provincia di Salerno, tra preghiere e meditazioni. Là morirà il 1° agosto 1787, non senza avere prima subito la dura tribolazione di uno sdoppiamento dei suoi confratelli, ciò che si ricompose soltanto sei anni dopo la sua morte. La Chiesa universale lo ricorda solennemente ogni anno in occasione del dies natalis.

Autore: Mario Benatti


Œuvres de Saint Alphonse de Liguorihttp://jesusmarie.free.fr/alphonse.html