Church Honours Saint Alphonsus Liguori – Bishop And Doctor Of The Church

Alphonsus Liguori was born into an aristocratic family at the turn of the 17th century in Naples, Italy.

A well educated young man, he opted to become a lawyer.

However, after just a few years, the deceit and manipulation he encountered in the profession made him give up law and decide to become a priest instead.

Influenced by the spirituality of St Philip Neri, who emphasized God’s all inclusive love, Alphonsus as pastor focused on the poor in the vast slums in Naples and its surroundings. He established ‘oratories’ or ‘chapels’ as places where the youth of the city could gather and feel at home, and where his homilies were legendary.

After a few years, his friend Maria Celeste Crostarosa influenced him to form a group of his own – the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Redemptorists, in short.

They would be men who would carry on the same kind of work under his inspiration. Maria Celeste joined him by establishing a group of women who worked with the Redemptorists in the same task of urban spiritual renewal.

Alphonsus Liguori was not just a zealous pastor; he was also a spiritual guide, a noted theologian and a prolific writer. He had a remarkable devotion to Our Lady and wrote many books about her. His teachings on prayer were very popular, and had a remarkable influence everywhere. We have more than a hundred books from his pen, translated into scores of languages.

But Alphonsus's greatest contribution to the Church was in the area of moral reflection with his Moral Theology. This work was born of Alphonsus' pastoral experience, his ability to respond to the practical questions posed by people, and from his contact with their everyday problems.

He opposed legalism and excessive rigidity in understanding the law of Christ. In this he ran counter to the prevailing viewpoint of the day, Jansenism, which emphasized God as a just and harsh judge.

Alphonsus Liguori began a tradition of moral theology which is respected even today. Deservedly did Pope Pius IX declare him a ‘doctor of the Church’ in 1871.

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