This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August 1 -- Feast of Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

He was baptized as Alphonsus Maria Antony John Cosmas Damian Michael Gaspard de Liguori.  Being a bright little guy, he was in law school by age 16.  Eight years into his law career, suffering his first loss, he made good on something he said to a friend a couple years prior: "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.

His dad was not thrilled that he ditched his practice for the seminary, but how can an eighteenth century Italian Catholic father say, No son, please don't become a priest.  Well, probably just like that, with an earnest tone and furrowed brow, but fortunately for the Church, Papa Liguori didn't say that.

As a priest in Naples, Saint Alphonsus made the astute observation that missionary work should not be limited to the colonial lands where folks had their own religions.  He didn't argue against evangelizing in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific islands, but he preferred to work the neglected Catholics outside his own door.  He started with street kids whose neglect and deprivation was leading them to lives of crime, pain, and sin.  Give them some food, a warm place to sleep, the Word of God, and a basic education -- all of a sudden their productive citizens and faithful congregants.  And you never even needed a passport to be a missionary!

Crest of the Redemptionists
Then he discovered that whole families living in the hinterlands were being abandoned by the Church.  Not intentionally, of course, but no one was making an effort to reach out to them.  Saint Alphonsus co-founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptionists, but not to be confused with the twelfth century Redemptionists who bought Christians enslaved by Muslims).  Sister Maria Celeste Crostarosa was also a co-founder, organizing the women's side of the Congregation.  Sister Maria Celeste is at the Venerable stage of the canonization process, and her feast is September 14.

Alphonsus was ordered to become the bishop of Sant'Agata dei Goti in spite of his protests.  He hung in the job until age 78, at which point he was allowed to retire to a Redemptionist community, where he hung for twelve more years.  A musician, painter, and poet, he had lots of things to occupy his time when he wasn't writing one of the 111 theological works, the most celebrated of which is Moral Theology.  I'll confess right now that I don't understand (with sufficient depth to comment) the differences among probabilism, aequiprobabilism, and probabiliorism.  I do understand that the Jansenists were alienating Christians by contending they were not morally rigorous enough to receive Communion.  A quick search of the Gospel doesn't turn up any passages where Jesus turned away sincere folks because they had sinned at some point.  Double-check:  Nope, that's pretty much the complete opposite of my understanding.

Whatever else he may have written, I figure that Saint Alphonsus is rightly called a Doctor of the Church for having brushed the Jansenists back and taken the Word to the forgotten, marginalized Christians right there at home.

No comments:

Post a Comment