Alphonsus Liguori

Alphonsus Liguori

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Alphonsus Liguori
birth_date=birth date|1696|09|27|mf=y
death_date=death date and age|1787|08|01|1696|09|27|mf=y
feast_day=August 1
August 2 (General Roman Calendar, 1839-1969)
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church

caption="St Alphonsus Liguori, Founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer"
birth_place=Marianella, Campania, Kingdom of Naples (now modern-day Italy)
death_place=Pagani, Italy
titles=Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church
beatified_date=September 15, 1816
beatified_place=Rome, Italy
beatified_by=Pope Pius VII
canonized_date=May 26, 1839
canonized_place=Rome, Italy
canonized_by=Pope Gregory XVI
attributes=|patronage=arthritis, confessors, moralists, theologians, vocations; Naples (co-patron)

Saint Alphonsus Liguori (September 27, 1696 – August 1, 1787) was a Roman Catholic Bishop, spiritual writer, Theologian, and founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, known as the "Redemptorists," an influential religious order. He was canonized in the year 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI and is a Doctor of the Church.


Saint Alphonsus Liguori was born in Marianella, Campania 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 [cite web
last = Knight
first = Kevin
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = St. Alphonsus Liguori
work = The Catholic Encyclopedia
publisher = New Advent
year = 2007
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-08-09
] . Alphonsus 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.") [ [ Tannoja, Antonio. "The life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori" (1855) p. 30] ] At the age of twenty-seven, after having lost an important case, he made a firm 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 December 21, 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 those who were alienated from their faith.

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 November 9, 1732, St 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 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, and later 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 of him in an encyclical "Haurietis Aquas."

Differing stories in his biography regarding his recreation

Tannoja, his first biographer, wrote that his parents did not let him do fencing because it was dangerous for body and soul, "Among these numerous occupations, all the recreation he permitted himself to take, was with D. Charles Cito, at whose house he passed an hour in the evening, to play at cards with other young people of irreproachable character, who visited there. The favorite games of the young gentlemen were tersillio, ombre, and such like, then usual in good society, in which the mind found recreation and exercise, while the morals received no damage. These amusements had very strict bounds, D. Joseph wishing that they might be rather a means of advancing, than retarding, him in his studies, and that the short relaxation might enable him to resume them again with renewed vigor..." "In his old age he mentioned, that at the same time he had been very fond of hunting, but had never indulged in it, except on days when he was dispensed from study, adding, that the birds were fortunate that had to do with him, for, notwithstanding all his endeavors, he rarely killed one. Such were the useful and interesting occupations of the young Alphonsus; and we believe his parents were wise enough to interdict other accomplishments usually taught, and regarded by worldly persons as indispensable. They looked upon dancing as an amusement perilous for the soul, and on fencing, as exposing both soul and body to many dangers." [ Tannoja, Antonio, "The life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori" (1855) p. 19] ] Austin Carroll, another biographer, confirms this by writing: "Dancing and fencing were not among his accomplishments, because they were considered dangerous to his soul." [ [ Carroll, Austin, "The life of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church, Founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer." (1874) p. 16] ]

But the Catholic Encyclopedia article on St. Alphonsus says: "Riding and fencing were his recreations..."

Tannoja wrote that when he was a bishop he refused to play the harpsichord for a priest, saying: "What will be said, if I pass my time at an idle instrument, in place of employing it in thinking of my diocese. My duty, and that of every bishop, is to give audience to all, to pray, to study, and never to play the harpsichord." [ [ Tannoja, Antonio, "The life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori" (1855) p. 270-271] ] However, a short biography of him by James Wallace C.SS.R says, "It's true that in his old age, Alphonsus cautioned his nuns that singing could lead to vanity and also to a waste of time, but he firmly stated that "singing in church is a good thing: it is praise of God. Even when he was in his eighties, Alphonsus could easily be persuaded by his seminarians to play the harpsichord for them in the house of studies at Pagani." [ "St Alphonsus Mary Liguori: Artist of the Gospel"] (N.B. St. Alphonsus had been released from the care of his diocese before this time, which is why he was then living at Pagani, a house of his Redemptorists outside of his former diocese, St. Agatha of the Goths. Hence the difference in praxis concerning the harpsichord.)

Overview and works

Alphonsus was proficient in the arts--his parents having had him being trained by various masters of the arts--being a musician, painter, poet and author at the same time. He put all his artistic and literary creativity at the service of the Christian mission and he asked the same of those who joined his Congregation. His biography says that, in his later days, he liked to go to the local theater, which at the time had a very bad reputation; after being ordained, each time he attended the recitals Alphonsus simply took his optic glasses off and sat in the last row, listening to the music and not paying attention to anything else.

Alphonsus wrote 111 works on spirituality and theology. The 21,500 editions and the translations into 72 languages that his works have undergone attest to the fact that he is one of the most widely read Catholic authors. Among his best known works are: "The Great Means of Prayer," "The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ," and "The Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament." Prayer, love, his relationship with Christ and his first-hand experience of the pastoral needs of the faithful made Alphonsus one of the great masters of the interior life.

His best known musical work is his Christmas hymn "Quanno Nascetti Ninno," later translated into Italian by Blessed Pius IX as the well known carol "Tu scendi dalle stelle" ("From starry skies Thou comest").


In the field of mariology, Alphonsus Liguori wrote "The Glories of Mary," "Marian Devotion," "Prayers to the Divine Mother," "Spiritual Songs," "Visitations to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary," "The True Spouse of Jesus Christ," and other writings. He had a great influence upon Mariology during the Age of Enlightenment. His often flaming Marian enthusiasm contrasted with the cold rationalism of the Enlightenment. It is mainly pastoral in nature. His Mariology rediscovers, integrates and defends the Mariology of Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose and other fathers and represents an intellectual defence of Mariology in the eighteenth century. [P Hitz, "Alfons v. Liguori," Paterborn 1967, p. 130]


Alphonsus' greatest contribution to the Church was in the area of moral theological reflection with his "Moral Theology." This work was born of Alphonsus' pastoral experience, his ability to respond to the practical questions posed by the faithful and from his contact with their everyday problems. He opposed the sterile legalism which was suffocating theology and he rejected the strict rigorism of the time, the product of the powerful theological and ecclesiastical elite. According to Alphonsus, those were paths that were closed to the Gospel because "such rigor has never been taught nor practiced by the Church". His system of moral theology is noted for its prudence, avoiding both laxism and excessive rigor. He is credited with the position of equi-probablism, which solved the problem of Jansenistic rigorism while also avoiding the laxness of simple probablism.




* [ Sermons for all the Sundays in the year]
* [ Glories of Mary]
* [ Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament and to Most Holy Mary: The Classic Text and with a Spiritual Commentary by Dennis Billy, C.Ss.R.] published in 2007 by Ave Maria Press

ee also

*Power of Christian prayer

External links

* [ "Life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori," by Antonio Tannoja]
* [ The theology of vocation of St. Alphonsus Liguori and its influence on Opus Dei.]
* [ "Opera Omnia of St Alphonsus Liguori"]
* [ Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Alphonsus Liguori"]
* [ "Alphonsian Academy"]
* [ "St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori"]
* [ "Founder Statue of St Alphonsus Liguori in St Peter's Basilica"]

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