Saint Alphonsus Liguori was born in Marianella, Campania in the Kingdom of Naples. He was the first-born of seven belonging to the Neapolitan nobility. Two days after he was born he was baptized at the Church of Our Lady the Virgin as Alphonsus Mary Antony John Cosmas Damian Michael Gaspard de' Liguori. Alphonsus Liguori went to law school at age sixteen, becoming a very well-known lawyer. He was thinking of leaving the profession, and wrote to someone: "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." At the age of twenty-seven, after having lost an important case, he made a firm resolution to leave the profession of lawyer.
In 1723, after a long process of discernment, he abandoned his legal career and, despite his father's strong opposition (and reluctant consent), began his seminary studies in preparation for the priesthood in the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. He was ordained a priest on December 21, 1726, at the age of 30. He lived his first years as a priest with the homeless and marginalized youth of Naples. He founded the "Evening Chapels." Run by the young people themselves, these chapels were centers of prayer, community, the Word of God, social activities, and education. At the time of his death, there were 72 of these chapels with over 10,000 active participants. His sermons were very effective at converting those who were alienated from their faith.
The saint suffered from scruples much of his adult life, and felt guilt about the most minor issues relating to sin. Moreover, the saint viewed scruples as a blessing at times, he wrote: "Scruples are useful in the beginning of conversion.... they cleanse the soul, and at the same time make it careful".
In 1729 Alphonsus left his family home and took up residence in the Chinese College in Naples. It was there that he began his missionary experience in the interior regions of the Kingdom of Naples where he found people who were much poorer and more abandoned than any of the street children in Naples.
On November 9, 1732, St Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, when Sister Maria Celeste Crostarosa told him that it had been revealed to her that he was the one God had chosen to found the Congregation. This order's goal was to teach and preach in the slums of cities and other poor places. They also fought Jansenism which was a heresy that denied humans free will and barred many Catholics from receiving the Eucharist. He gave himself entirely to this new mission. A companion order of nuns was founded simultaneously by Sister Maria Celeste.
Alphonsus was consecrated Bishop of Sant'Agata dei Goti in 1762. He tried to refuse the appointment because he felt too old and too sick to properly care for the diocese. During this time he wrote sermons, books, and articles to encourage devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1775 he was allowed to retire from his office and went to live in the Redemptorist community in Pagani, Italy where he died on August 1, 1787. He was canonized on May 26, 1839, by Pope Gregory XVI, and later proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871 by Pope Pius IX. He was named "Patron of Confessors and Moralists" by Pope Pius XII in 1950, who wrote of him in an encyclical "Haurietis Aquas."
Alphonsus was proficient in the arts - his parents having had him being trained by various masters of the arts - being a musician, painter, poet, and author at the same time. He put all his artistic and literary creativity at the service of the Christian mission and he asked the same of those who joined his Congregation. His biography says that, in his later days, he liked to go to the local theater, which at the time had a very bad reputation; after being ordained, each time he attended the recitals Alphonsus simply took his optic glasses off and sat in the last row, listening to the music and not paying attention to anything else.
Alphonsus wrote 111 works on spirituality and theology. The 21,500 editions and the translations into 72 languages that his works have undergone attest to the fact that he is one of the most widely read Catholic authors. Among his best known works are The Great Means of Prayer, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ and "The Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament. Prayer and its power, love, his relationship with Christ and his first-hand experience of the pastoral needs of the faithful made Alphonsus one of the great masters of the interior life.
In the field of Mariology, Alphonsus Liguori wrote The Glories of Mary, Marian Devotion, Prayers to the Divine Mother, Spiritual Songs, Visitations to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary, The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, and other writings. His Mariology, though mainly pastoral in nature, rediscovered, integrated and defended the Mariology of Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose and other fathers and represented an intellectual defence of Mariology in the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment, the cold rationalism of which his often flaming Marian enthusiasm contrasted with.
Alphonsus' greatest contribution to the Church was in the area of moral theological reflection with his Moral Theology. This work was born of Alphonsus' pastoral experience, his ability to respond to the practical questions posed by the faithful and from his contact with their everyday problems. He opposed sterile legalism and strict rigorism - according to Alphonsus, those were paths closed to the Gospel because "such rigor has never been taught nor practiced by the Church". His system of moral theology is noted for its prudence, avoiding both laxism and excessive rigor. He is credited with the position of Aequiprobablism, which avoided Jansenist rigorism as well as laxism and simple probablism.
- ^ Knight, Kevin (2007). "St. Alphonsus Liguori". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01334a.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
- ^ Tannoja, Antonio. "The life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori" (1855) p. 30
- ^ Selected writings by Saint Alfonso Maria de' Liguori, 1999 ISBN 0809137712 page 209
- ^ The true spouse of Jesus Christ (The complete works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori 1929 by Redemptorist fathers Press, ASIN B00085J4WM page 545
- ^ P Hitz, Alfons v. Liguori, Paterborn 1967, p. 130.
- Sermons for all the Sundays in the year
- Glories of Mary
- Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament and to Most Holy Mary: The Classic Text and with a Spiritual Commentary by Dennis Billy, C.Ss.R.
- The Religious State
- The Life of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Saint and Bishop of the Catholic Church
- Life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, by Antonio Tannoja
- Free scores by Alphonsus Maria de Liguori in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)