ST. ALPHONSUS, PATRON SAINT OF CONFESSORS AND MORALISTS
VATICAN CITY, 30 MAR 2011 (VIS) – In this Wednesday’s general audience,
celebrated in St Peter’s Square, the Pope spoke about St. Alphonsus Maria of
Liguori, bishop, Doctor of the Church and “outstanding moral theologian and
master of spiritual life”.
“St. Alphonsus was born in 1696 to a rich and noble Neapolitan family”,
and undertook a brilliant career as a lawyer, which he abandoned in order to
become a priest in 1726.
The Holy Father explained that the saint “began his work of evangelisation
and catechesis at the most humble levels of Neapolitan society, to whom he
enjoyed preaching and whom he instructed in the basic truths of the faith”.
In 1732 he founded the religious congregation of the Holy Redeemer. Its
members, “under the guidance of Alphonsus, were genuine itinerant
missionaries, who travelled to the remotest villages exhorting conversion to
the faith and perseverance in Christian life, above all by means of prayer”.
Benedict XVI recalled that St. Alphonsus died in 1787, was canonised in
1839 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871. This title was granted for
a number of reasons. Firstly, for his valuable teachings in the field of
moral theology, which accurately expressed Catholic doctrine and on account
of which Pius XII proclaimed him as “patron of all confessors and
“St. Alphonsus”, continued the Pope, “never tired of repeating that
priests were a visible sign of the infinite mercy of God, Who pardons and
illuminates the minds and hearts of sinners that they might convert and
change their lives. In our age, in which there are clear signs of a loss of
moral conscience and – it is necessary to note with some concern – a certain
lack of respect for the Sacrament of Confession, the teaching of St.
Alphonsus remains valid”.
The Holy Father explained that, “along with his theological works, St.
Alphonsus composed many other writings which contributed to the religious
formation of the people, such as ‘Eternal Maxims’, the ‘Glories of Mary’ and
the ‘Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ’. This last work represented a
synthesis of his thought and is his masterpiece”.
The Pope emphasised that the Neapolitan saint “insisted on the need for
prayer”, and remarked that “among the forms of prayer recommended by St.
Alphonsus, most important was the visit to the Blessed Sacrament or, as we
would say nowadays, adoration – brief or sustained, personal or communal –
of the Eucharist”.
“Alphonsus’ spirituality was eminently Christological, centred upon Christ
and His Gospel. Meditation on the mystery of the Incarnation and of the
Passion of the Lord were frequently subjects of his teachings. … His piety
was also markedly Marian. Personally devoted to Mary, he emphasised her role
in the history of salvation”.
Benedict XVI concluded his catechesis by commenting that “St. Alphonsus of
Liguori was an example of a zealous priest who won souls by teaching the
Gospel and administering the Sacraments, and by his own gentle and mild
manner which originated from his intense rapport with God’s infinite
goodness. He had a realistically optimistic view of the resources the Lord
grants to every man, and gave importance to affections and sentiments of the
heart, as well as to the mind, in loving God and others”.