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The Unmistakable Witness of Saint Alphonsus Liguori


“If you embrace all things in this life as coming from the hands of God, and even embrace death to fulfill His holy will, assuredly you will die a saint.” ~ Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Our Church today celebrates the Memorial of the great Saint Alphonsus Liguori, a man of immense versatility and talent who went on to become a Bishop and Doctor of the Church. His divine resume however goes far beyond mere titles and accolades. Saint Alphonsus was the Communion of Saints’ proverbial Swiss Army Knife, excelling as a spiritual writer, composer, musician, artist, poet, lawyer, scholastic philosopher, and theologian during a storied life that spanned over 90 years (1696-1787).

Alphonsus was a child prodigy, obtaining a Doctorate in both Civil Law and Canon by the age of 16 or 17. But fate would intervene in his life by way of the gavel finally dropping against him, this after having practiced law for eight years without losing a case. He suffered his lone courtroom defeat in what was a very important case.

On the heels of this verdict, Alphonsus became disenchanted with the legal profession while simultaneously discerning a vocation to the Priesthood. He was ordained a Priest at the age of 29 and appointed Bishop at 66. He would go on to establish the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, perhaps better known as the Redemptorists, along the way becoming the most published author in history. Over 21,000 editions of his works having been published. On matters pertaining to moral theology he is considered a master.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori’s writings remain every bit as relevant today, a true testimony to the timelessness of uncompromising truth. He stressed Christ’s love and Mary’s help, a message that permeated his writings and his life too. In fact his most profound written works were those which centered on the Virgin Mary and the Blessed Sacrament, How appropriate it would be then that today’s Gospel is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:13-21), a miracle that foreshadows the Holy Eucharist, that sublime and ethereal food for the journey that Saint Alphonsus wrote of with such depth, understanding.and joy.

It was a constant source of amazement to Saint Alphonsus that Jesus would allow himself to be possessed by human beings in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. He would pray “My most courteous Lord, when you enter my soul in Holy Communion, then not only do you make yourself present to me but you make yourself food, you unite with and give yourself to me, so that in all truth I can say:My Jesus, now you are all mine".

Saint Alphonsus knew that in the Eucharist, the mystery of the Incarnation becomes more concrete because Christ unites himself to the communicant. He would oftentimes pray aloud “O eternal Word, you who became man, you were not content with dying for us; you gave us this Sacrament as company, nourishment and a pledge of Paradise. You appeared among us as an infant in a stable, as a poor man in a workshop, as an offender on a cross, as bread upon an altar. Tell me, must anything else be invented to make you loved?".

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Saint Alphonsus Liguori’s greatest accomplishment stems from his relentless pursuit of holiness, a path which culminated in the immortality of Sainthood. His desire to do God‘s will was so profound and carried out with such joy that the virtue he exemplified became heroic. It is God who makes Saints, let there be no mistake about that. But those who ascend to the rarefied air of Sainthood cooperate with God’s grace. In the case of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, the results speak for themselves.

To cooperate with God’s grace is our calling too, our vocation if you will. In fact the Communion Antiphon chosen for today’s Holy Mass celebrating the Memorial of Saint Alphonsus perhaps sums it up best. I’ll leave you with those words:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (John 15:16).

Saint Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

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