Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Matthew (13: 36-43) in which Jesus explains the parable of the weeds in the field. Afterwards, Fr Paul shares a little about Saint Alphonsus Liguori whose memorial we celebrate today.
Fr Paul says, Alphonsus was born in Marianella near Naples on September 27, 1696. He was the first born of a rather large family belonging to the Neapolitan nobility. He received a broad education in the humanities, classical and modern languages, painting and music. He finished his university studies earning a Doctorate in both civil and canon law and began his practice in the legal profession.
In 1723, after a long process of discernment, he abandoned his legal career and, despite his father’s strong opposition, began his seminary studies. 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 young people of Naples. He founded the “Evening Chapels”. Run by the young people themselves, these chapels were centres 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.
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 of the Kingdom of Naples where he found people who were just as poor and abandoned as many in the street children in Naples.
On November 9, 1732, Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, popularly known as the Redemptorists, in order to follow the example of Jesus Christ announcing the Good News to the poor and the most abandoned. From that time on, he gave himself entirely to this new mission.
Alphonsus was a lover of beauty: musician, painter, poet and author. He put all his artistic and literary creativity at the service of the mission and he asked the same of those who joined his Congregation. He wrote 111 works on spirituality and theology. Prayer, love, his relationship with Christ and his first-hand experiences of the pastoral needs of the faithful have made Alphonsus one of the great masters of the interior life.
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 the sterile legalism which was suffocating theology and he rejected the strict rigorism of the time.
Alphonsus was consecrated bishop of St Agatha of Golotha in 1762. He was 66 years old. He tried to refuse the appointment because he felt too old and too sick to properly care for the diocese. In 1775, he was allowed to retire from his office and went to live in the Redemptorist community in Pagani where he died on August 1, 1787. He was canonized in 1839, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871 and Patron of Confessors and Moralists in 1950.
So today Fr Paul invites us to pray, ‘St Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us!’