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Saint Alphonsus Ligouri

Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church. 

Alphonsus Mary was born of the noble family of Liguori near Naples, in 1696, and was given so many Christian names at his baptism that in after-life he selected there-from the first two, namely, Alphonsus Mary, and called himself by them alone. As a child he was carefully tutored in many branches of learning, and at thirteen was well trained in the humanities, and had become an accomplished musician. At sixteen, after due examination in civil and canon law at the University of Naples, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Both Laws. Then for two years he took training under two eminent lawyers of Naples; and thereupon began the practice of law, wherein he became most successful. And it is said that he never lost a case during the eight years of his practice, until the last case he pleaded, which was the occasion of his final decision that he was not called of God to secular pursuits.

In early youth he had joined certain pious confraternities, wherefrom he derived much spiritual profit through their practices of prayer, and of corporal works of mercy, chief of which was visiting the poor and nursing the sick. However, his fondness for music led him to frequent the theatre, and other worldly amusements; and although he became somewhat slack in his devotion during that time, he silenced his conscience by being always careful to remove his spectacles when anything disedifying went on before his eyes, because he was so near-sighted that without his glasses he was unable to see anything at all. In 1722 he made a retreat, and received holy confirmation, and thereupon made a private resolution not to marry, but to hold himself in readiness for some special vocation from God. Twice he refused to enter upon an advantageous marriage which his father wished to arrange; and finally he decided that God had called him to the priesthood. Whereupon his father was incensed against him, and was reconciled to him only when he promised to remain at home, and prepare for the priesthood under tutors. After his ordination he began to preach wherever he could, and soon became known for his persuasive powers with the sinful and worldly, and with the poor and ignorant. And that he might not turn aside from his work, he bound himself by a vow never to waste any time.

In 1732, on the advice of his spiritual directors, he undertook the foundation of a religious Institute, later known as the Redemptorists, to provide missioners to labour among the poor and unshepherded of the Christian household. Great difficulties attended this foundation, and Alphonsus suffered much from maligners. Finally the Pope made him Bishop of Santagato-de-Goti; which office he undertook against his own desires, but therein became a most beloved and faithful pastor. When his ill health forced him to resign his bishoprick, his persecutions and difficulties increased; and through a misunderstanding he was removed by the Pope even from the superiorship of the Redemptorists, and declared no longer to be a member thereof. This gave him time to apply himself anew to his writing, and he was able to complete his several treatises on moral and ascetical theology, for which he is now so well known. During the last months of his life he suffered greatly from interior trials and temptations, but died blessedly, in the peace of God, toward the dawn of August 1st, 1787, in his ninety-first year. In 1839 he was canonized, and in 1871 declared a Doctor of the Church.

Collect

O GOD, who didst inflame blessed Alphonsus, thy Confessor and Bishop, with zeal for the salvation of souls, and didst thereby increase thy Church with a new offspring: grant, we pray thee; that we may in such wise be taught by his wholesome counsels, and strengthened by his ensample, that we may be counted worthy to attain in gladness unto thee. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 1351-1352



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