Friday, 1 August 2008
Saint Alphonsus Liguori was born in Marianella, in the Kingdom of Naples. He was the first born of seven belonging to the Neapolitan nobility. Two days after he was born he was baptized at the Church of Our Lady the Virgin as Alphonsus Mary Antony John Cosmas Damian Michael Gaspard de' Liguori. Liguori went to law school at age sixteen, becoming a very well-known lawyer. He was thinking of leaving the profession, (He wrote to someone, “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.”)  when at age 27, after having lost an important case, he made up resolution to leave the profession of lawyer.
In 1723, after a long process of discernment, he abandoned his legal career and, despite his father's strong opposition (and reluctant consent), began his seminary studies in preparation for the priesthood in the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. He was ordained a priest on 21 December 1726, at the age of 30. He lived his first years as a priest with the homeless and marginalized youth of Naples. He founded the "Evening Chapels". Run by the young people themselves, these chapels were centers 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. His sermons were very effective at converting sinners.
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 regions of the Kingdom of Naples where he found people who were much poorer and more abandoned than any of the street children in Naples.
On 9 November 1732 Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, when a nun named Sister Maria Celeste Castarosa (whose body would later be found incorrupt) told him that it had been revealed to her that he was the one God had chosen to found the Congregation. This order's goal was to teach and preach in the slums of cities and other poor places. They also fought Jansenism which was a heresy that denied humans free will and barred many Catholics from receiving the Eucharist. He gave himself entirely to this new mission. A companion order of nuns was founded simultaneously by Sister Maria Celeste.
Alphonsus was consecrated Bishop of the diocese of Sant'Agata dei Goti in 1762. He tried to refuse the appointment because he felt too old and too sick to properly care for the diocese. During this time he wrote sermons, books, and articles to encourage devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1775 he was allowed to retire from his office and went to live in the Redemptorist community in Pagani, Italy where he died on August 1, 1787. He was canonized on May 26, 1839, by Pope Gregory XVI, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in the year 1871 by Pope Pius IX. He was named "Patron of Confessors and Moralists" by Pope Pius XII in the year 1950, who wrote an encyclical "Haurietis Aquas" regarding St. Alphonsus.