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St. Alphonsus Liguori

Bishop, Doctor of the Church, Moral Theologian

Founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer

Feast: August 1

Alphonsus Maria de Liguori was born at Marianella, a sector of Naples, on September 27, 1696. Firstborn of an aristocratic Neapolitan family, he completed his literary and scientific studies at home. He studied law and achieved his doctorate in civil and ecclesiastical law at the age of sixteen. At the age of twenty he was already known as a brilliant lawyer in the Neapolitan courts.

The turning point in his life came in 1723 with the loss of an important case. This led him to leave the Tribunal and become a priest. He was ordained on December 21, 1726. He immediately began an intense apostolate in the poor sectors of Naples with the urchins and hobos, giving himself specially to the catechesis and moral formation of the most simple people, by way of the Evening Chapels. As a member of the Apostolic Missions, he also dedicated himself to the preaching of missions in the surrounding areas of the Kingdom of Naples.

At a point where his health was seriously endangered by his apostolic labors, he went for a rest to Santa Maria dei Monti in the plateau above Amalfi. There he came in contact with the poor peasants and shepherds who were totally deprived of spiritual care. This experience gave birth, in the heart of Alphonsus, to the desire to found an institute for the evangelization of the poor, scattered in the countryside and rural villages. The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer was born at Scala on November 9, 1732. Alphonsus, along with his first companions, went from village to village, giving all of his human and spiritual gifts for the conversion of sinners. Preaching and prayer formed the heart of his missionary activity. Where he could not reach people with the spoken word, he sought to do so through his writings. His 111 works went through many editions. The most important are: his Theologia moralis, The Great Means of Salvation, The Eternal Maxims, The Glories of Mary, and The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ.

In 1762 he was named bishop of Santa Agata dei Goti. As bishop, Alphonsus continued his missionary fervor. He worked especially for the formation of the clergy. In 1775 he left his diocese and withdrew to Pagani, where he died on August 1, 1787, at the age of 91. He was canonized by Gregory XVI on May 26, 1839. On March 23, 1871, Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the Church and on April 26, 1950, Pius XII proclaimed him patron of Confessors and Moral Theologians.

Words of Wisdom

Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with God. Speak with familiarity and confidence as to your dearest and most loving friend. Speak of your life, your plans, your troubles, your joys, your fears. In return, God will speak to you–not that you will hear audible words in your ears, but words that you will clearly understand in your heart. These may be feelings of peace, hope, interior joy, or sorrow for sin…gentle knockings at the door of your heart.

St. Alphonsus Liguori