Saint Alphonsus de Liguori
1910 by Mission Church Press, Boston, US.
PERMISSU SUPERIORUM C.SS.R.
Adapted from the German of Paul Leick by Cornelius J. Warren.
St. Alphonsus Liguori
Saint Alphonsus Mary de Liguori was born in 1696 near Naples, Italy, to a noble Neopolitan family. He was the son of a captain of the royal galleys. St. Alphonsus received a doctorate in both canon and civil law at the age of sixteen, and practiced law very successfully for eight years. But he abandoned the practice of law to become a priest, being ordained in 1726.
In 1732 St. Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Redemptorists. This order was established in the face of huge difficulties; it was even divided by a schism at the time of St. Alphonsus’ death. The Redemptorists have become famous for giving “missions” to enkindle and rejuvenate souls with true religious fervor.
In 1762 St. Alphonsus was obliged to become Bishop of St. Agatha. As bishop he reformed his small but slack diocese, but chronic ill health forced him to retire and he devoted himself anew to ascetical and moral theology. His experience in a lay profession, combined with natural common sense and sweetness of disposition, helped much to make him the best known of all moral theologians.
St. Alphonsus wrote numerous books, including his Moral Theology; of his many excellent devotional works, the masterpiece entitled The Glories of Mary is the most famous. He also spent much time combating anticlericalism and the heresy of Jansenism, and he was involved in several controversies regarding probabilism.
During the last years of his life St. Alphonsus suffered from ill health, especially from rheumatism which left him partially paralyzed. He experienced the dark night of the soul for several years toward the end of his life, but this period of suffering was followed by a period of peace and light during which he experienced visions and ecstasies, performed miracles, and made prophecies that later came true.
St. Alphonsus died in 1787, within two months of his 91st birthday. He was canonized in 1839, and in 1871 Pope Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the Church. His body rests in the church of his fathers at Pagani di Nocera.
In the ascetical writings of the holy Bishop and Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus de Ligouri, there is a characteristic charm and an irresistible attraction. Whoever reads them with the proper dispositions will discover in them an indefinable something that appeals to the heart and stirs it to its very depths. We imagine we see the loving personality of the holy Bishop before us, and hear the words of eternal life from his very lips. According to a beautiful legend, the visitor at the shrine of St. John at Ephesus can hear the pulsations of the Saint’s heart enclosed in the tomb. The heart of Alphonsus still throbs in his ascetical writings, where the whole being of the Saint seems enshrined. Little wonder therefore that the reverence and love entertained towards him in life should have passed to his edifying works, the reflex of his very self. There are few ascetical writers more widely known and more sincerely loved than St. Alphonsus.
The present volume is made up of choice selections from the various ascetical writings of the Saint. The order of virtues considered is that followed by the spiritual sons of St. Alphonsus in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. For each month of the year is assigned a particular virtue to which they are to devote their especial attention. This is a practice highly recommended by the masters of the spiritual life, and is fraught with the happiest results. It is hoped that the faithful will derive spiritual profit and pleasure from this course in “The School of Christian Perfection.”
C. J. W.