Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) was born near Naples, Italy, into a noble family. He began life as a lawyer but abandoned law to become a priest. He devoted himself to bringing the gospel to the poor through simple sermons and instructions. “I never preached a sermon that the poorest old woman in the congregation didn’t understand,” he claimed. In 1732 he founded the Redemptorists, the Congregation of the Holy Redeemer.
A prolific writer, poet and musician, Alphonsus authored a series of devotional books on Mary and important works on moral theology. He advocated leniency and mercy towards people, steering a course between severity and laxity. In hearing confessions, he said he never denied anyone absolution. We can see why he is an example for pastoral workers in the church.
In 1762, he became bishop of Sant Agata dei Goti, a small diocese near Naples, where he worked to reform the clergy and renew its people in their faith. In 1775 he resigned his bishopric because of his health, but continued writing religious and devotional tracts till his death in 1787. In 1816 he was canonized by Pope Gregory XVI. Pope Pius IX declared him a doctor of the church in 1871.
“Hasn’t God a claim on our love? From all eternity God has loved us. ‘ I first loved you. You had not yet appeared in the light of day, nor did the world yet exist, but already I loved you. From all eternity I have loved you.’
God gave us a soul endowed with memory, intellect and will; he gave us a body equipped with the senses; it was for us that he created heaven and earth and all things. The truth is the eternal Father went so far as to give us his only Son.
By giving us his Son, whom he did not spare precisely so that he might spare us, he bestowed on us at once every good: grace, love and heaven; for all these goods are certainly inferior to the Son. He who did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for all of us: how could he fail to give us along with his Son all good things?”