Saint Alphonsus Liguori: Doctor of the Church


“This child will be blessed with length of days; he shall not see death before his ninetieth year; he will be a bishop and will do great things for Jesus Christ.” prophesied St. Francis Jerome, a friend of the Liguori family, upon the birth of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787). This prophecy was borne out to the letter, for St. Alphonsus Liguori lived to be 91; he became bishop at the unlikely age of 66 (even though in failing health); and he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer – which, 150 years after his death, had 350 houses throughout the world and over 7,000 members. Gifted by God with a brilliant mind, St. Alphonsus resolved early in life never to waste a moment. By age 16 he was awarded a doctorate in civil and Canon Law with highest honors. At 26 he had renounced life as a lawyer and became a priest, dedicating his ministry particularly to preaching, and especially to preaching missions. Under the inspiration of a series of visions seen by several holy nuns, he was led to found, first the Redemptoristine nuns for women, and shortly thereafter the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer for men, to which his name will be forever linked. As a Redemptorist, he personally conducted scores of missions and reconciled tens of thousands to Christ and His Church. Miracles abounded in his life – at least two of which were witnessed by the entire congregation in church – and include prophecy, bilocation, ecstasy, apparitions, cures and various other miracles. On one occasion, when Mt. Vesuvius was threatening to erupt and was actually shooting flames, it became quiescent as soon as St. Alphonsus blessed it. Renowned though he was for his other accomplishments as well as for his many virtues and miracles. St. Alphonsus Liguori is best known today for his writings. He wrote 111 books and pamphlets, including his monumental Moral Theology. Many of these works are still available today in popular editions and include The Glories of Mary, Preparation for Death, Uniformity with God’s Will, The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, Sunday Sermons, Way of the Cross, etc. St. Alphonsus Liguori is not just another saint or another writer among many others, for it was largely through the influence of his books, for example, that the rigors of the Jansenist heresy were counteracted and the consoling mercy and love of God were taught in their place. And many Popes have urged, recommended and even commanded that his writings be published and read widely by Catholics everywhere. These are but some of the highlights in the illustrious life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori – Bishop, Confessor, Founder and Doctor of the Church – a man whose life and work were a gift from God to a sinful world and are a blessing to our confused age through his writings, Congregation, and example of his holy and dedicated life. “He who prays will be saved,” said St. Alphonsus; “he who does not will be lost.” And again, “What is life for if not to prepare for a good death in the grace of God.”

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