Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787), founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (also known as the Liguorians and the Redemptorists), Doctor of the Church, and humble servant of the Lord. The writings, sermons, and prayers of Saint Alphonsus remind us of the tenets of our faith, drawing us inward toward the Lord who resides in each one of us. Devoted to both the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Blessed Mother, Saint Alphonsus’ sermons were praised for their eloquence, love, and humility. Someone once remarked to him: "It is a pleasure to listen to your sermons; you forget yourself and preach Jesus Christ." Saint Alphonsus is considered the patron saint of moral theologians.
Saint Alphonsus was born to nobility, the oldest of eight children, in the village of Marianella near Naples, Italy. His mother, a deeply pious woman, instilled in him the love of Our Lord from an early age. His father, a naval officer, wishes his son to enter a military career. However, Alphonsus possessed bad eyesight, and suffered from chronic asthma, and as a result, he was steered in the direction of a legal degree. A child prodigy, he quickly surpassed his classmates in any intellectual activity, graduating from college at age 16 with a double doctorate in both canon and civil law. He was admitted to the bar that same year. By age 21, he had established his own successful legal practice, and was soon one of the most accomplished attorneys in Naples. Saint Alphonsus remained true to the teachings of his mother, never appearing in court without first having attended Mass, and refusing two arranged marriages by his father.
“Ah, world… I know you now!” He refused to practice law from that time forward, writing to a friend: "My friend, our profession is too full of difficulties and dangers; we lead an unhappy life and run risk of dying an unhappy death. For myself, I will quit this career, which does not suit me; for I wish to secure the salvation of my soul."
“My son has made God known to me!”
Despite failing health, Alphonsus undertook major reforms in the diocese upon his arrival, re-invigorating the seminary, providing spiritual rehabilitation to the clergy, creating missions, establishing social welfare programs, and combating public indecency. While he was bishop, one of Alphonsus’ priests led a worldly life, and resisted all attempts to reform. This erring priest 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.” In three years Alphonsus created such dramatic reform that the public cried for his transfer or resignation, which he requested, and Pope Pius VI accepted.
The life of Saint Alphonsus is remarkable for his willingness to empty himself of his own desires, trusting in the Lord—despite struggle, suffering, and failure. While he was a great writer, gifted preacher, and skilled leader, Saint Alphonsus is best known as a practical man who dealt in the concrete rather than the abstract. His life serves as a “practical” model when we have difficulty recognizing the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of our problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure. Saint Alphonsus suffered all these things, but attained the crown of sainthood because he was able to maintain an intimate sense of the presence of the suffering Christ through it all.
Links to Writings of Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori:
50 Maxims of Attaining Perfection
On the Love of Christ
On the Glories of Mary
“When we have to reply to anyone who has insulted us, we should be careful to do it always with gentleness. A soft answer extinguishes the fire of wrath.”
“There is no food which can fill the desires of our souls. All the goods of this earth — riches, honors, and pleasures — delight the sense of the body, but cannot satisfy the soul, which has been created for God, and which God alone can content.”
“Perfection is founded entirely on the love of God: ‘Charity is the bond of perfection;’ and perfect love of God means the complete union of our will with God’s.”
“My Jesus, I believe that Thou art truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love Thee above all things, and I desire to possess Thee within my soul. Since I am unable now to receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace Thee as being already there, and unite myself wholly to Thee; never permit me to be separated from Thee.”
"Our Savior says, if you have not received the graces that you desire, do not complain to me, but blame yourself, because you have neglected to seek them from me."
“We must show charity towards the sick, who are in greater need of help. Let us take them some small gift if they are poor, or, at least, let us go and wait on them and comfort them.”
“If we should be saved and become saints, we ought always to stand at the gates of the Divine mercy to beg and pray for, as an alms, all that we need.”
“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.”
“When we hear people talk of riches, honors and amusements of the world, let us remember that all things have an end, and let us then say: ‘My God, I wish for You alone and nothing more.’”
“He who trusts himself is lost. He who trusts in God can do all things.”
“All holiness and perfection of soul lies in our love for Jesus Christ our God, who is our redeemer and our supreme good. Has not God in fact won for himself a claim on all our love? From all eternity he has loved us. And it is in this vein that he speaks to us: “O man, consider carefully that I first loved you. You had not yet appeared in the light of day, not did the world yet exist, but already I loved you. From all eternity I have loved you.” Since God knew that man is enticed by favors, he wished to bind him to his love by means of his gifts: I want to catch men with the snares, those chains of love in which they allow themselves to be entrapped, so that they will love me. And all the gifts which he bestowed on man were given to this end. He gave him a soul, made in his likeness. He endowed him with memory, intellect and will; he gave him a body equipped with the senses. It was for him that he created heaven and earth and such an abundance of things. He made all these things out of love for man, so that all creation might serve man, and man in turn might love God our of gratitude for so many gifts. But he did not wish to give us only beautiful creatures; the truth is that to win for himself our love, he went so far as to bestow upon us the fullness of himself. The eternal Father went so far as to give us his only Son. When he saw that we were all dead through sin and deprived of his grace, what did he do? He sent his beloved Son to make reparation for us and to call us back to a sinless life.”
“God says to each of us: “Give me your heart, that is, your will.” We, in turn, cannot offer anything more precious than to say: “Lord, take possession of us; we give our whole will to you; make us understand what it is that you desire of us, and we will perform it.” If we would give full satisfaction to the heart of God, we must bring our own will in everything into conformity with his; and not only into conformity, but into uniformity also, as regards all that God ordains. Conformity signifies the joining of our own will to the will of God; but uniformity signifies, further, our making of the divine and our own will one will only, so that we desire nothing but what God desires, and his will becomes ours. This is the sum and substance of that perfection to which we ought to be ever aspiring; this is what must be the aim of all we do, and of all our desires, meditations and prayers. For this we must invoke the assistance of all our patron saints and our guardian angels, and, above all, of our divine mother Mary, who was the most perfect saint, because she embraced most perfectly the divine will.”
O most zealous Doctor of the Church, Saint Alphonsus, I, though unworthy to be thy servant, yet encouraged by the goodness of your heart, and of the great desire I have to please thee, come today, in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity, of my Angel Guardian, and of the Court of Heaven, to choose thee for my Father, and, after Mary, my Patron and my Protector. I firmly promise to serve thee always, and to do all in my power to make others to love thee also.
I entreat thee, then, my glorious Protector, by the love to which thou bearest to Jesus and Mary, to receive me into the number of thy devoted children, and to protect me at all times. Obtain for me the grace to imitate thy virtues, and to advance in the true way of Christian perfection. Obtain for me especially, O my Father, detachment from creatures, a tender and constant devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the spirit of prayer, and an ardent zeal for the salvation of souls.
Accept this humble prayer as a sign of my consecration to thy service. Assist me during life, and especially at my death, so that having honored, and served thee on earth, I may deserve to share with thee the joys of Heaven for all eternity. Amen.
My Protector, Saint Alphonsus, in all my wants, make me have recourse to Mary.
Year 2: Day 213 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Joined suffering with Christ; Practical obedience; True devotion.
Requested Intentions: For a family’s intentions (T); Successful examination results (B); Healing of a friend with cancer, for all those who help others (B); Healing and love (L); Grace and healing (V); Healing of a heart, consecration of a marriage (M); Health of a family, intentions of apostolate (H); For repentance (J); For a family in trouble (R); Healing, successful relationships for son, financial success (J); Success of a company (L); For a religious society (J); Healing of a husband, strength as a faithful caregiver (D); Healing of a son (T); Financial security, Healing and guidance (M); Healing of a heart and relationship (V); Employment for daughter (J); For a marriage that glorifies the Lord (K); Resolution of family situation, parents’ health (A); Positive results (C); For a son’s employment, faith, and relationships (S); Restored family relationships (A); Healthy conception and delivery of children (J); For a girlfriend’s recovery from a debilitating mental illness (J); For a daughter’s successful examination results (A); Occupational success, health and safety of family (S).
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."