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Saint Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri

“One can in fact assert that there has not been one error even in our times which Alphonsus, at least in great measure, did not fight against.” -Blessed Pope Pius IX, Qui Ecclesiae Suae, Apostolic Letter, Rome, 1871

 

“I have always been an avid reader of works by authors of sermons, especially of materials useful for preaching missions. I have read St. John Chrysostom, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Siniscalcqui, Barcia, and the Venerable John of Avilla.” –Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Missionary Bishop to Cuba (1807-1870)

 

“He who does not acquire the love of God will scarcely persevere in the grace of God, for it is very difficult to renounce sin, merely through fear of chastisement…The heart into which Divine Love enters no longer makes any account of all that the world esteems. Saint Francis de Sales says that when the house is on fire, all the goods are thrown out of the window; by which he means, that when the heart is inflamed with Divine Love, man, without sermons, or exhortations from his Spiritual director, of himself seeks to divest himself of all worldly goods, honors, riches, and other earthly things, that he may have nothing but God.” -Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori; Bishop, Founder, and Doctor of the Church

 

“Think of what the Saints have done for their neighbor because they loved God. But what Saint’s love for God can match Mary’s? She loved Him more in the first moment of her existence than all the Saints and angels ever loved Him or will love Him. Our Lady herself revealed to Sister Mary Crucified that the fire of her love was most extreme. If Heaven and earth were placed in it, they would be instantly consumed. And the ardors of the seraphim, compared with it, are like cool breezes. Just as there is not one among all the Blessed who loves God as Mary does, so there is no one, after God, who loves us as much as this most loving Mother does. Furthermore, if we heaped together all the love that mothers have for their children, all the love of husbands and wives, all the love of all the angels and Saints for their clients, it could never equal Mary’s love for even a single soul.”  -Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori; Bishop, Founder, and Doctor of the Church, The Glories of Mary

 

On August 2nd each year we celebrate the the feast of that glorious Bishop, the founder of the Redemptorist Order, and the Moral Doctor of the Universal Church.  He is in fact the only person ever to have been canonized a saint in the Catholic Church and who was a Bishop, the founder of his own order and a Doctor of the Church.  He has had a greater impact on the Church even just in these past few centuries than most saints have.  There is no other doctor of the Church that one can compare with this glorious Saint, except for of course the Angelic Doctor himself: Saint Thomas Aquinas.  Saint Alphonsus is probably the most notable Thomistic Theologian after Saint Thomas and Saint Albert the Great, though all the great Doctors after Thomas were Thomists (formally or not). 

 

Alphonsus was also one of the most prolific writers in the history of the Church and considering that he was busy founding a religious community of nuns, priests, and brothers and then later on was a Bishop of a troubled diocese it is astounding what he accomplished in this regard.  He is in fact the best-selling author of all time, and we are not speaking here of just Saints or Catholics or even of religious writers, but of any author at any time ever.  The only exception to this claim is of course the Bible which is in its own class. In the work: The Thirty-Three Doctors of the Church, by Father Rengers, O.F.M. Cap., the following statistics are given:

 

“There had been 4,110 editions of St. Alphonsus in the original language, which was either Italian or Latin. Altogether there had been 17,125 traceable editions in 63 languages. Besides his books and booklets, 1,451 letters of St. Alphonsus have been published. In figures given in 1961 for Shakespeare, the number of languages into which he had been translated was 77. But in editions of his works, Shakespeare, with a head start of 150 years, trails St. Alphonsus by some 7,000 editions. (An edition here means a publication containing one or more of his works)

“In August, 1962, an article by R. J. Miller C.SS.R. in ‘The Liguorian’ estimated that there had been some 21,000 editions of the various works of St. Alphonsus. This would mean that, as of that time, one or other of his works had been put out in a new edition somewhere in the world every three or four days for the previous 200 years! Fr. Miller says that St. Alphonsus Liguori, as a published author, has no competitors: ‘The most popular author, who ever lived, was St. Alphonsus Liguori, and he never wrote a novel. No other writer, sacred or profane (we are not speaking of the Holy Bible, which is a class by itself), ancient or modern, has had so many different editions of his works published as St. Alphonsus.’”

Now, the work that consumed much of Saint Alphonsus life was his monumental work: The Moral Theology, which is principally the reason for his being declared a doctor of the Church (though Blessed Pope Pius IX said that he was one of the major contributors toward the definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception some 60 years after his death).  This work is absolutely a must read for all priests and especially moral theologians.  This work is so authoritative that even beyond being declared one of the very few Doctors of the Church he was given an approbation no other Saint has ever been given in the history of the Church:

 

“No ecclesiastical writer has ever received more direct, positive and formal approbation than that accorded by the Holy See to the moral writings of this Doctor of the Church. While still alive, four Popes expressed their admiration of his prudent doctrine. (…) In 1831, Pope Gregory XVI enhanced this approbation when he decreed that professors of theology could safely teach any opinion of St. Alphonsus, and that confessors, without weighting reasons, could safely follow him – simply on the fact that St. Alphonsus said so. Each of the thirteen predecessors of Pius XII in the chair of Peter has in some way or another recommended, approved or exalted the ‘Moral Theology’ of the Patron of confessors. In his Apostolic Brief of April 26, 1950, Pope Pius XII alludes to some of them. ‘By his learned writings, especially his ‘Moral Theology,’ he dissipated the darkness of error with which Jansenists and unbelievers have cloaked the world’ (Blessed Pius IX). He was ‘the most illustrious and benign of moralists’ (Leo XIII). ‘He illumined obscurity, made doubts plain and clear, and in the maze of over-strict and over-lax theological opinions, he hewed a path which directors of souls can tread in safety’ (Blessed Pius IX). To this chorus of pontifical voices, Pope Pius XII felt, he said, constrained to add his own, declaring St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori the celestial Patron of both confessors and moral theologians. For, as the Cardinals and bishops of Spain and Austria declared in their petition for his Doctorate, ‘the Moral Theology of St. Alphonsus has given back to the Sacred Tribunal of Penance the mercy and the kindness of the Sacred Heart.’” (Homoletic and Pastoral Review: New Patron of Confessors, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Vol. LI, No. 6, March 1951, Fr. Galvin J. J. C.SS.R., 1951, p. 511)

In fact it was only after reading the Moral Theology of Saint Alphonsus that the Cure of Ars (Saint John Vianney) was delivered from some errors of Jansenism which he had fallen into.  Saint John Bosco, also was delivered from Jansenism (before he ever fell into it) by the writings of Saint Alphonsus as taught to him by his spiritual father Saint Joseph Cafasso.  And his influence in this area was a powerful force until he was almost entirely eradicated from theologates and seminaries throughout the world in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.  And moral theology is now possibly in the most sorry state it has even been in even in the history of the Church.

 

Of all his books the most popular, and after the bible the most published book of all time, is his: Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This is an absolutely fantastic little book with prayers and mediations for each day of the month to our Lord and our Lady, which are meant to be prayed before the Blessed Sacrament.  It was originally written for the members of his religious community, but eventually it was expanded and made available to all the faithful.  This was in fact the first of his 111 books that he would publish of the course of his life.

 

In addition to being utterly brilliant, achieving degrees in both civil and canon law by the age of 16, he is one of the holiest men that ever lived.  One can find this just in his writings, but when one reads about his life and all that he suffered and that he accomplished and the good he has done for the Church we can only see the immense powerhouse of grace that was this man of Naples.

 

The spiritual writings of Saint Alphonsus are some of the richest for meditation and study in existance.  And one can find in his writings not just prayers and much food for prayer, but even a clear and perfect method for prayer.  In addition to this we can find many occasions where he devotes whole chapters and even whole books to the necessity of prayer and its benefits and the methods by which we can pray well and he always recommended good prayers such as the Holy Rosary and the Divine Office.

 

Few Saints have loved our Lady and showed such utter devotion to her more than Saint Alphonsus.  Our Blessed Mother even appeared to him on several occasions sending him into ecstasy that caused him to float up into the air like Saint Joseph of Cupertino.  The fruit of this devotion and love was the greatest work on our Lady ever written (with the possible exception of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by Saint Louis Marie de Montfort): The Glories of Mary.  

 

There is so much more that could be said about Saint Alphonsus, his writings, and his legacy in the Redemptorist Order which he founded. But let us conclude by seeing how Saint Alphonsus so perfectly imitated our Lord by accepting and most difficult suffering and trial at the end of his life.  For he suffering immensely in body, mind, and soul through his apostolic labors and especially in the founding of his Order which was so beloved by him, as were each and every member of his community including his disciple Saint Gerard Majella.  BUt near the end of his life when he was quite aged and nearly blind he was tricked into signing a document that he would not have had he known what it contained and this caused a terrible rift in the community and which resulted in this Holy Bishop being removed not just from being superior general of the order he had founded, but in being dismissed from the community all together.  Thus Saint Alphonsus died alone and cast out from the very order which he founded.  In this we see our Lord on the cross all alone and abandoned by his disciples and the apostles.  Surely then when he died our Lady came to accompany his soul to heaven with a multitude of angels just as in the story he tells in The Glories of Mary about the death of the poor shepherdess.

 

 

Sermon: Saint Alphonsus Liguori (Regina Prophetarum)

 

The works of Saint Alphonsus in English for FREE!

 

 

Life of Saint Alphonsus as given in the Divine Office:

 

Born at Naples of noble parents, Alphonsus Mary Liguori as very young man took delight in caring for the sick in the public hospitals and in devoting his spare time to prayer in churches. In obedience to his father he became a lawyer ; but when he had experienced the dangers of this kind of career, he abandoned the profession. He renounced his right of inheritance as oldest son and became a priest, attacking vice with such zeal that he obtained the conversions of a great number of sinners. He took special pity on the poor and those living in rural districts and founded the Congregation of Priests of the Most Holy Redeemer to preach the Gospel to them. Lest anything should turn him from his determination, he bound himself by a perpetual vow never to waste any time. Constant in contemplating the Passion of the Lord and the holy Eucharist, he was outstanding in his devotion to the holy Mother of God, being more than once refreshed by signs of her heavenly protection. He wrote many books of religious instruction and of devotion by which he strove to gain souls for Christ. He consistently refused the ecclesiastical honours offered to him, but was compelled by the Holy See to accept the Bishopric of the Church of Santa Agáta dei Goti, where he was generous to the poor and made himself all things to all men. He also brought nuns back to a more perfect form of life. Serious chronic illnesses led him to resign the episcopal office and return to his disciples. Finally, at the age of ninety years, radiant with innocence of life and penance, he died a most peaceful death in the year 1787. Pope Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the universal Church.

 

A translation of the propers of the Mass for the Feast of Saint Alphonsus:

 

Aug. 2 – St. Alphonsus M. de Liguori, E. C. D. – III Class

 

Introit Antiphon (Luke 4:18)

 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me; to bring good news to the poor He has sent me, to heal the contrite of heart. Ps. 77:1. Hearken, my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. Glory be. The Spirit of the Lord…

 

Collect

 

O God, Who through blessed Alphonsus Mary, Your Confessor and Bishop, fired with love for souls, enriched Your Church with a new family; we beseech You that, taught by his saving counsels and strengthened by his example, we may be enabled happily to come to You. Through our Lord.

 

Epistle (2 Tim. 2:1-7.)

 

Dearly beloved: Be strengthened in the grace which is in Christ Jesus; and the things that you have heard from me through many witnesses, commend to trustworthy men who shall be competent in turn to teach others. Conduct yourself in work as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as God’s soldier entangles himself in worldly affairs, that he may please him whose approval he has secured. And again, one who enters a contest is not crowned unless he has competed according to the rules. The farmer who toils must be the first to partake of the fruits. Take in what I tell you, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things. 

 

Gradual (Ps. 118:52-53.)

 

I remember your ordinances of old, O Lord, and I am comforted.  Indignation seizes me because of the wicked who forsake Your law. {V} Ps. 39:11. Your justice I kept not hid within my heart; Your faithfulness and Your salvation I have spoken of. Alleluia, alleluia. {V} Ecclus. 49:3-4. He was directed by God to the repentance of the nation, and he took away the abominations of wickedness. He turned to God with his whole heart, and though times were evil, he practiced virtue.

 

Gosepl (Luke 10:1-9.)

 

At that time, the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and sent them forth two by two before Him into every town and place where He Himself was about to come. And He said to them, “The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest. Go.  Behold, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry neither purse, nor wallet, nor sandals, and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’  And if a son of peace be there, your peace will rest upon him; but if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they have; for the laborer deserves his wages.  Do not go from house to house. And whatever town you enter, and they receive you, eat what is set before you, and cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”

 

Offertory Antiphon (Pr. 3:9, 27.)

 

Honor the Lord with your wealth, and give Him the first fruits of all your produce. Do not withhold him from doing good who is able; if you are able, do good yourself also.

 

Secret

 

O Lord, Jesus Christ, Who granted to St. Aphonsus Mary to celebrate this rite and thereby offer himself as a holy victim to You, consume our hearts by the heavenly fire of this sacrifice so that it may ascend as a sweet fragrance unto You. Who live.

 

Communion Antiphon (Ecclus. 50:1, 9.)

 

A great priest, who in his time renovated the house, and in his days reinforced the temple, as a bright fire, and frankincense burning in the fire.

 

Postcommunion

 

O God, Who made St. Alphonsus Mary, Your Confessor and Bishop, a faithful dispenser of this divine sacrament, grant by his merits and prayers, that Your faithful may frequently receive it, and, receiving it, praise it forever. Through our Lord.

 

 

A Prayer to Saint Alphonsus

 

Glorious Saint Alphonsus, Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church, devoted servant of our Lord and loving child of Mary, I invoke you as a saint in heaven. I give myself to you that you may always be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of holiness and salvation. Aid me in observing the duties of my state of life. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent love of the interior life after your own example.

 

Great lover of the Blessed Sacrament and the Passion of Jesus Christ, teach me to love Holy Mass and Holy Communion as the source of all grace and holiness, and to receive this Sacrament as often as I can. Give me a tender devotion to the Passion of my Crucified Redeemer.

 

Promoter of the truth of Christ in your preaching and writing, give me a
greater knowledge and appreciation of the divine truths.

 

Gentle father of the poor and sinners help me to imitate your charity toward my fellowmen in word and deed.

 

Consoler of the suffering, help me to bear my daily cross patiently in imitation of your own patience in  your long illness and to resign myself to the will of God

 

Good Shepherd of the flock of Christ, obtain for me the grace of being a true child of Holy Mother Church.

 

Saint Alphonsus, I humbly implore your powerful intercession for obtaining from the Divine Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare. I recommend to you in particular this favor. . .(Mention your request).

 

I have great confidence in your prayers. I earnestly trust that if it is God’s holy will, my petition will be granted through your intercession for me at the throne of God.

Saint Alphonsus, pray for me and for those I love, I beg of you, by your love for Jesus and Mary, do not abandon us in our needs. May we experience the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.

 

 

Litany of Saint Alphonsus

 

Lord have mercy on us.

Christ have mercy on us.

Lord have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.

Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Virgin Immaculate, pray for us.

St. Alphonsus, model of piety from tenderest youth, pray for us.
St. Alphonsus, scourge of heresies, &c.
St. Alphonsus, defender of the Catholic Faith,
St. Alphonsus, always occupied in evangelizing the poor,
St. Alphonsus, tender comforter of the afflicted,
St. Alphonsus, instructed in the divine art of converting sinners,
St. Alphonsus, enlightened guide in the path of perfection,
St. Alphonsus, who became all things to all men, to gain all for Christ,
St. Alphonsus, new ornament of the religious state,
St. Alphonsus, bold champion of ecclesiastical discipline,
St. Alphonsus, model of submission and devotion to the Sovereign Pontiff,
St. Alphonsus, who didst watch unceasingly over the flock committed to thee,
St. Alphonsus, full of solicitude for the common good of the Church,
St. Alphonsus, glory of the priesthood and of the episcopate,
St. Alphonsus, shining mirror of all virtues,
St. Alphonsus, full of tenderest love for the infant Jesus,
St. Alphonsus, inflamed with divine love whilst offering the holy Sacrifice of the Mass,
St. Alphonsus, fervent adorer of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist,
St. Alphonsus, penetrated with lively compassion whilst meditating on the sufferings of our Divine Saviour,
St. Alphonsus, specially devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary,
St. Alphonsus, favored by apparitions of the Mother of God,
St. Alphonsus, leading an angelic life,
St. Alphonsus, true patriarch in thy paternal solicitude for the people of God,
St. Alphonsus, endowed with the gift of prophecy and miracles,
St. Alphonsus, an apostle by the extent and fruit of thy labors,
St. Alphonsus, martyr by thine austerities,
St. Alphonsus, confessor by thy writings full of the Spirit of God,
St. Alphonsus, virgin by thy purity of soul and body,
St. Alphonsus, model of missionaries,
St. Alphonsus, founder of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer,
St. Alphonsus, our tender father and powerful protector,

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, St. Alphonsus.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
O God, who by Blessed Alphonsus Mary, thy confessor and bishop, inflamed with zeal for souls, hast enriched thy Church with a new progeny: we beseech thee, that taught by his saving counsels, and strengthened by his example, we may happily come to thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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