Aug 1 – Memorial for St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop, religious founder, doctor
Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) vowed early to never to waste a moment of his life, and lived that way for over 90 years. As a lawyer, he had his own practice by age 21, and was a leading lawyer in Naples. He never attended court without having attended Mass first.
As he matured and learned more of the world, he liked it less, and finally felt a call to religious life. He was ordained at age 29. As preacher and home missioner around Naples, St. Alphonsus was noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. He was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious. He founded the Redemptoristines women’s order and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists).
As bishop, St. Alphonsus worked to reform the clergy and revitalise the faithful in a diocese with a bad reputation. The royal government threatened to disband his Redemptorists, claiming that they were covertly carrying on the work of the Jesuits, who had been suppressed. Calling on his knowledge of the Congregation, his background in theology, and his skills as a lawyer, St. Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king‘s approval.
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In the same way your light must shine in the sight of me
We live in very uncertain times. The routines of our daily life have been upended by the COVID-19 safety management measures. This has indeed caused undue stress on the people around us, and has translated to much ‘darkness’ in the world. We are not looking at physical darkness, but the darkness of our heart.
The Gospel of today reminds us that we are called to be the light of the world. In usual terms, electrical energy is needed to power tbe light bulbs in our houses and our workplaces. Similarly, to be the light of the world requires us to draw from an inner reservoir of strength — that of our faith in Jesus. St Alphonsus shares with us the role of prayer in deepening our faith and love in God.
St Alphonsus founded the Redemptorist order to be missionary in nature. Its preachers have been known to be good preachers, especially in the context of parish missions. The purpose is to “invite people to a deeper love for God and a fuller practice of the Christian life.” The Redemporists nourish the faithful with bold homilies to rediscover the love of God within our hearts. In this present situation, parish missions in its previous form might be a bit difficult, but we can adapt and use modern instruments of YouTube and online resources.
In the silence and comfort of our homes, we can recharge our batteries by viewing videos which nourish our faith. In doing so, we can continue to be the light of the world by speaking to the people around us using words of love and in our own way to spread the love of Jesus within us.
This journey of evangelising will get us into many troubles. In today’s modern age, we could get hurt by people on social media who want us to adhere to a certain way of doing things. There will be criticism and hatred levelled against our way of belief. This is the nature of evangelisation, and St Alphonsus went through this process in the last years of his life where he was deceived by his own brothers in his order, to sign a document changing the rule of the Redemptorist order which resulted in great turmoil. Again, Jesus reminds us that we should continue to keep and teach his commandments and we will receive a great reward in heaven. St Alphonsus’ life showed us that a life of prayer is the way to seek God’s guidance in all that we do.
The life of St Alphonsus reflected the turmoil and difficulty of the times he had lived in. It was with this knowledge that he made all members of the order take a fourth vow of perseverance on top of the usual three evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The world seeks to draw us away from Christ with temptations of many kind. Perseverance reminds us to stay faithful in Christ and to the mission he has called us to fulfil in this life. Let us pray for this gift of perseverance to deal with the challenges we encounter in an uncertain world.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: St Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the grace of perseverance.