The Feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori
Today’s church calendar focuses attention on St. Alphonsus Liguori, the 18the Century founder of the Redemptorist Congregation. Stark, challenging Scripture readings for today’s liturgy illuminate the spirit of St Alphonsus.
The Old Testament reading is a reminder of how costly obedience to God’s Word can be! The prophet Jeremiah must deliver a difficult message. Not caring for his summons to fidelity, the people seize him with death threats on their lips! The reading from St. Matthew’s Gospel voices the same theme. Matthew recounts that Jesus’ own friends and neighbors "found him altogether too much for them." This resistance, sadly, would grow into the terrible fear and hatred that ensnared Jesus in the Passion.
St. Alphonsus and his Redemptorist Congregation are noted for their zealous concentration on the love God has for us. Of noble birth and high social standing, Alphonsus received excellent education and began a legal career. Spiritually unsatisfied, he abandoned this path to the consternation and vigorous disapproval of his family. Yet, in this rupture, he found peace and knew God’s guiding hand. The more he gave himself to God’s inspirations, the more his spirit soared.
St. Alphonsus worked among the poor and forgotten of his time. Their need for spiritual reassurance and practical moral guidance led him to fashion a new moral approach that echoed the Gospel practicality of Jesus himself. Suspected of being wishy-washy and heretical, Alphonsus clung to the lights God gave him. He is revered in the church today as the patron saint of moral theologians and confessors.
We pray today for courage to walk in fidelity to God’s summons. Let no price be too great to pay in this great quest! May the life witness of St. Alphonsus Liguori be comfort and reassurance for us.
Fr. Jim Thoman, C.P. is director of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center, Detroit, Michigan.