Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the Redemptorist Congregation. He was born Alphonsus Marie Antony John Cosmos Damien Michael Gaspard de Liguori on September 27,1696, at Marianella, near Naples, Italy. Raised in a pious home, Alphonsus went on retreats with his father, Don Joseph, who was a naval officer and a captain of the Royal Galleys. Alphonsus was the oldest of seven children, raised by a devout mother of Spanish descent. Educated at the University of Naples, Alphonsus received his doctorate at the age of sixteen. By age nineteen he was practicing law, but he saw the transitory nature of the secular world, and after a brief time, retreated from the law courts and his fame. Visiting the local Hospital for Incurables on August 28, 1723, he had a vision and was told to consecrate his life solely to God. In response, Alphonsus dedicated himself to the religious life, even while suffering persecution from his family. He finally agreed to become a priest but to live at home as a member of a group of secular missionaries. He was ordained on December 21, 1726, and he spent six years giving missions throughout Naples. In April 1729, Alphonsus went to live at the “Chiflese College,” founded in Naples by Father Matthew Ripa, the Apostle of China. There he met Bishop Thomas Falcoia, founder of the Congregation of Pious Workers. This lifelong friendship aided Alphonsus, as did his association with a mystic, Sister Mary Celeste. With their aid, Aiphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer on November 9, 1732. The foundation faced immediate problems, and after just one year, Alphonsus found himself with only one lay brother, his other companions having left to form their own religious group. He started again, recruited new members, and in 1743 became the prior of two new congregations, one for men and one for women. Pope Benedict XIV gave his approval for the men’s congregation in 1749 and for the women’s in 1750. Alphonsus was preaching missions in the rural areas and writing. He refused to become the bishop of Palermo but in 1762 had to accept the papal command to accept the see of St. Agatha of the Goths near Naples. Here he discovered more than thirty thousand uninstructed men and women and four hundred indifferent priests. For thirteen years Alphonsus fed the poor, instructed families, reorganized the seminary and religious houses, taught theology, and wrote. His austerities were rigorous, and he suffered daily the pain from rheumatism that was beginning to deform his body. He spent several years having to drink from tubes because his head was so bent forward. An attack of rheumatic fever, from May 1768 to June 1769, left him paralyzed. He was not allowed to resign his see, however, until 1775. In 1780, Alphonsus was tricked into signing a submission for royal approval of his congregation. This submission altered the original rule, and as a result Alphonsus was denied any authority among the Redemptorists. Deposed and excluded from his own congregation, Alphonsus suffered great anguish. But he overcame his depression, and he experienced visions, performed miracles, and gave prophecies. He died peacefully on August 1,1787, at Nocera di Pagani, near Naples as the Angelus was ringing. He was beatified in 1816 and canonized in 1839. In 1871, Alphonsus was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX. His writings on moral, theological, and ascetic matters had great impact and have survived through the years, especially his Moral Theology and his Glories of Mary. He was buried at the monastery of the Pagani near Naples. Shrines were built there and at St. Agatha of the Goths. He is the patron of confessors, moral theologians, and the lay apostolate. In liturgical art he is depicted as bent over with rheumatism or as a young priest.
QUOTES CONCERNING MODESTY:
‘We must practice modesty, not only in our looks, but also in our whole deportment, and particularly in our dress, our walk, our conversation, and all similar actions.’
‘Among the many martyrs who, in this persecution, sacrificed their lives, Dionysia, a lady of the city of Vita, was conspicuous. The persecutors, seeing her more animated than the rest, were preparing to strip her, in order that she should be scourged with rods, when she said: “I am willing to suffer; torture me as much as you please, but spare my modesty.”‘
‘With what delight did the holy youth obey Mary and Joseph! With what recollection of mind did he work! With what moderation did he take his food! With what modesty did he speak! With what sweetness and affability did he converse with all! With what devotion did he pray! In a word, every action, every word, every motion of Jesus, inflamed with love the hearts of, all those who beheld him, and especially of Mary and of Joseph, who had the good fortune to see him always at their side. Oh, how these holy spouses remained always intent on contemplating and admiring all the operations, the words, and gestures of this Man-God!
Grow, my beloved Jesus, grow continually for me; grow to teach me Thy virtues by Thy divine examples; grow to consummate the great sacrifice on the cross, on which depends my eternal salvation!’
‘Supreme and just Judge of the living and the dead, Thou who seest and knowest all things, even those very secrets that pass in the interior of my heart, and which I would not have known to any creature upon earth, is it possible that I should dare to appear in Thy presence, after having been so unfaithful to Thee? Alas! I can not fly from Thee, because Thou art present everywhere: I cannot hide myself from Thy view, because Thou seest all things. Ah! has not my insolence been insupport able in having dared, in the presence of Thy exalted majesty, before whom the purest angels cover their faces, to do what I would not have done before the meanest and the last of men? O my God! have mercy on me: I detest, with my whole heart, all my sins for the love of Thee.’
‘Reflect that the Most Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the only and almighty God, is everywhere present, that he sees all things, knows all things, and penetrates the inmost and most secret thoughts of our heart. He is that divine and infinite Majesty before whom the highest seraphim tremble with a holy fear, and veil their faces through respect;and we have the audacity to sin in his presence; to say, to do, and to think what, if known, would cover us with confusion before the meanest of men. Reflect, moreover, that this God, before whom we sin, is our sovereign Judge, who at the moment of our death will inevitably pass sentence upon the thoughts, the words, the actions, of which we may be found guilty.’
‘Miserable is the man that gives scandal! Our Lord says: He that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Is there the least glimmer of hope for a man who is cast into the sea with a millstone about his neck? The Gospel appears to say that there is no greater hope for the salvation of the authors of scandal.
St. John Chrysostom writes that the Lord is more inclined to show mercy to those who commit other more grievous sins, than to those who are guilty of the sin of scandal. What! says the Lord to the authors of scandal, are you not satisfied with offending me by your own sins? Do you wish to induce others also to insult me? In the Mirror of Examples, it is related that Jesus Christ said one day to a scandalous sinner, “Accursed wretch, you have despised what I have purchased by my blood.”
A mortal sin of scandal is committed by women who go about with their bosom immodestly exposed, or who expose their limbs improperly. Also by actors in immodest comedies, and still more by the persons who compose such comedies; also by painters who paint obscene pictures, and by the heads of families who keep such pictures in their houses. The father who speaks obscenely, or blasphemes the saints, in presence of his children, and the mother who brings into her house to live among her daughters young men who are in love with them, or betrothed to them, or other suspected persons, are guilty of a still more grievous sin of scandal. Some mothers say: do not suspect any evil. I answer, that it is their dutyto suspect; otherwise they will have to render to God an account of all the sins which may follow.
Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh. Listen to a horrible thing that happened in the city of Savona in the year 1560. I have read it in the chronicles of the Capuchins, and it is also related by Father Ardia. There was a woman who, even after marriage, did not cease giving scandal. This woman one day fell into a fit, and while she was in a state of unconsciousness, she saw the Lord condemning her to eternal fire. When she recovered the use of her senses, she did nothing but cry out, “Alas! I am damned, I am damned!” A confessor came to comfort her, but she answered, “What have I to do with confession? I am damned.” Then her daughter approached the bed, in order to encourage her, but she cried out: “Ah, accursed child! on your account, too, I am damned: for through you I have given scandal to others.” After these words the devils, in presence of all who were in the apartment, raised her up to the ceiling, and then dashed her so violently against the floor that she instantly expired.’