Saturday, August 1, 2015

St. Alphonsus Ligouri

The Saint's head was left permanently bowed by an illness.

St. Alphonsus Ligouri is one of our lawyer-saints. He was of a noble family and afforded all the benefits of that state. He was a prodigy on the harpsichord (but only through grueling practice) and a fencer. He loved the opera, but removed his glasses so he could not see the performers. He was comfortable in the world and met with success, but partly because the influence of his pious father, did not fall into sin.

It is said that he never lost a case. That is, until his last one. Let us read from the Catholic Encyclopedia of a courtroom humiliation that shook to the core this young star of the Neapolitan courts. It was a civil suit involving a large sum of money. Even today, is there a lawyer who can read the following without cringing?

When the day came the future Saint made a brilliant opening speech and sat down confident of victory. But before he called a witness the opposing counsel said to him in chilling tones: "Your arguments are wasted breath. You have overlooked a document which destroys your whole case." "What document is that?" said Alphonsus somewhat piqued. "Let us have it." A piece of evidence was handed to him which he had read and re-read many times, but always in a sense the exact contrary of that which he now saw it to have. The poor advocate turned pale. He remained thunderstruck for a moment; then said in a broken voice: "You are right. I have been mistaken. This document gives you the case." In vain those around him and even the judge on the bench tried to console him. He was crushed to the earth. He thought his mistake would be ascribed not to oversight but to deliberate deceit. He felt as if his career was ruined, and left the court almost beside himself, saying: "World, I know you now. Courts, you shall never see me more." For three days he refused all food. Then the storm subsided, and he began to see that his humiliation had been sent him by God to break down his pride and wean him from the world.

On August 28, 1723, he received a spiritual calling and left his sword before a statue of the Virgin Mary. His long career was challenged by intrigue, controversy and ill health, but he made a vow not to waste a moment's time. The massive corpus of work he left behind remains a testament to his keeping of that vow.

He died on August 1, 1787. He was canonized by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839, and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871. He advocated a middle course for confessors, that avoided both the rigorism of Jansenism and laxity. He is the patron saint of confessors.

Undoubtedly, he his best known today for The Glories of Mary. It is a veritable encyclopedia of Marian devotion, much beloved by generations of Catholics, written in a time when Jansenists were attacking Marian piety. Quoting St. Bonaventure, St. Alphonsus wrote: "No one can enter Heaven unless by Mary, as though through a door."

He also counseled Catholics to speak to God humbly, but familiarly about their ordinary concerns.

Apropos of of our discussion about the Liturgy of the Hours, today is a good example of ribbon flippin' aplenty! Everything is from the Common of Pastors, except what is from the Common of Doctors of the Church. But don't forget to use the psalms from Sunday, week 1 (which are fortunately printed on a card, so one less ribbon), and the hymn, of course. Finally, there is also the following prayer from the Proper of Saints. (The Bear knows it sounds crazy, but it really isn't that hard once you understand the way it works. Good manual dexterity helps.)

Father, you constantly build up your Church
by the lives of your Saints.
Give us grace to follow Saint Alphonsus in his loving concern for all men,
and so come to share his reward in heaven.
Grant this through our lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever.

--Christian Prayer

1 comment:

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Moderation is On.

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