by Margaux Salcedo
I learned of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori because he is the patron saint of our parish, St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish in Magallanes, Makati.
I have been going to this parish for 17 years but it was only last year, when the parish celebrated 50 years, that I learned about his contributions to the Catholic Church. He is one of the most revered theologians in the Catholic church!
Patron of Lawyers
He is primarily known as the patron of lawyers. This is because he was a renowned lawyer in his younger years: he is said to have graduated from the University of Naples with doctorates in civil and canon law at only 16 years of age! He became one of the leaders of the Neapolitan Bar by the age of 27 and never lost a case, i.e., until one that some say was rigged, others say he lost due to a document he overlooked; either way, this one case made him quit the profession altogether and eventually become a priest!
Founder of the Redemptorists
Just six years after becoming a priest, he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, or the Redemptorists, with the intention of bringing Christ's message beyond the slums of Naples to the most remote corners of Italy.
Love for the Blessed Sacrament
He later became Bishop of Sant'Agata dei Goti in Southern Italy from 1762 to 1775, where he stood as a fine example of the genuine pastoral experience, with his unique ability to respond to practical questions posed by the faithful on their everyday problems.
He is even remembered for selling his carriage and episcopal ring just to give the money to the poor.
While he was compassionate to the poor and even to sinners, he was firm in his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. “Certainly”, he wrote, “amongst all devotions, after that of receiving the sacraments, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament takes the first place, is the most pleasing to God, and the most useful to ourselves…. Oh, what a beautiful delight to be before an altar with faith… to represent our wants to him, as a friend does to a friend in whom he places all his trust”. (Introduction, Visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary for Each Day of the Month.)
Patron of Confessors
He also stressed the importance of the Sacrament of Confession.
Pastors of souls and confessors must be faithful to the Catholic moral doctrine, he advised, but at the same time must assume a charitable, understanding, and gentle attitude so that penitents might feel accompanied, supported and encouraged on their journey of faith and of Christian life. He stressed that priests are a visible sign of the infinite mercy of God who forgives and enlightens the mind and heart of the sinner so that he may convert and change his life. For this, he is regarded as the patron of confessors.
Patron of Moral Theologians
He was a prolific writer, with 111 works on spirituality and theology. He is one of the most widely-read Catholic authors, with over 21,500 editions of his work published and translated into 72 languages. The Moral Theology, published in 1748, is considered his greatest contribution to the Roman Catholic Church. Revered for his work in moral theology, St. Alphonsus is also the patron of moral theologians.
He was also noted for his Mariology. The Glories of Mary, which are five complete books, is regarded as his greatest work on the Blessed Virgin, where he assembled the very finest information about Our Lady, taken from the many writings of the Saints, holy authors, and from Sacred Scripture.
Patron of the Arts
St. Alphonsus was also a talented composer, musician, painter, and poet. In 1732, while staying at the Convent of Consolation in Foggia in Southern Italy, he wrote “Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle” (From Starry Skies Descending), which became a popular Christmas carol that is sung and played to this day. This was written in Latin. Later, Pope Pius IX translated this to Italian. You might have heard Pavarotti’s rendition of it! Or Andre Bocelli's, who says this is the most popular song in Italy!
Patron of Arthritis Sufferers
After he became bishop, St. Alphonsus started experiencing attacks of arthritis and sciatica, which gradually became so severe that it spread to his hips, pelvic region and spine, and his body became deformed, forcing his head downward until his chin was pressed to his chest. Eventually, he needed to resign as bishop, but he continued writing and praying, and he never lost his sense of humor. Unable to sleep, he would pray the rosary every hour for the entire 24 hours of the day. He is therefore the special patron of all who suffer from arthritis and similar pains.
Doctor of the Church
Bishop Alphosus Maria de Liguori died on August 1, 1787 in Nocera di Pagani, near Naples, with a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary in his hands at the stroke of the noon Angelus bell.
He was beatified in 1816 and canonized in 1839.
St Alphonsus was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871, recognized for addressing nearly every aspect of the Moral Tradition. Pope Pius IX also declared that a priest could rely upon St. Alphonsus' teaching in the confessional without advice from any other teacher. No other writer in the Church's history has this sort of appeal.
He was named the patron of confessors and moral theologians by Pope Pius XII on April 26, 1950.
Model for New Evangelization
He was declared a model for New Evangelization by Pope Benedict XVI in March 2011, more than 200 years after his death, calling the saint “a model of missionary action which can also inspire us today for a 'new evangelization”. It is remembered that St. Alphonsus, as a young priest, created the the Evening Chapels - centers of prayer and piety, preaching, community, social activities and education managed by the young people themselves, which had multiplied to 72 chapels and had over 10,000 participants at the time of his death.
St Alphonsus in the Philippines
Today, as we go on our own journeys of faith and join the Church’s call for New Evangelization, we look to St. Alphonsus for guidance and inspiration, that we may follow in his example of emulating Christ, his devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his compassion for the poor.
If you would like to pray in the presence of his relic, the St Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish in Magallanes, Makati has a bone relic of St Alphonsus just below his image near the altar of the church.