Alphonsus, 1696-1787. Marian and Morality Doctor, Feast Aug
The only modern day Doctor of the Church prior to St
Therese was a brilliant priest and leading lawyer who lived in
Naples. Before establishing a religious order, he acknowledged his
gifts from God by never attending to the law courts without first
attending the holy sacrifice of the mass.
devout from Italian parents, Alphonsus was scrupulously steeped in
the fear of God. Why anyone highly successful in any profession
would abandon it indicates that God will enlighten and move us to
new heights if we ask. Prayer enriches with new unknowns. It led
Alphonsus continually because he prayed daily. Success is not
necessarily a guarantee that we are doing the right thing. Success
and sanctity do not necessarily run in parallel paths. Holy
discernment with total surrender is necessary to become holy, happy
and a true follower of Jesus.
Father Liguori is the patron of
confessors and moral theologians. This is indeed a most high honor
and distinction. He is an exemplary model for canon lawyers,
theologians and bishops. He submitted his precious gift of choice to
the church continually. He was always humble and docile to the
movements of grace. He allowed this to draw his heart and mind. His
conscience was formed and fixed on the love of God, neighbor and the
church. He was absolutely consumed with zeal for souls and he poured
himself out daily practicing what he believed.
aware of his conscience and that made all the difference. Many are
not aware that the conscience needs formation and guidance to
operate fully and effectively. It is only when one is open and flexible that one
receives what God is speaking to the consciousness beyond the
natural from the supernatural. The soul has an awareness that is
supernatural but the mind follows to the natural or lower awareness.
The whole area of conscience of morality stems from one aspect.
There is an illusion that since we act according to our conscience
one cannot be wrong. Conscience is the door of the soul but the key
to open it is awareness. There is a difference. You obtain the key
by honesty, prayer and willingness to change and be open to grace.
You must be true to your conscience. It is the 'aboriginal' vicar of
God. However, it sometimes is difficult to tap into it. The
conscience is a sanctuary and God's voice. It whispers within and
echoes silently. We need to be on the right attunement from God to
hear. It requires absolute honesty and practice to pick up God's
There are many degrees of consciousness. Some
include physical consciousness, self-consciousness and there is that
important element of spiritual consciousness. Obviously, those who
are spiritually conscious have the highest degree of awareness
because their insights come from above. Each dimension of
consciousness has different depths. Consciousness is
multi-dimensional. The gift of faith is a spiritual consciousness.
It is a belief one holds onto because the individual considers it to
be true. The more one exercises faith, the firmer it becomes. Faith
gives us an inner vision. We are able to see the inside 'world' from
the outside and from within. St Alphonsus had penetrating, spiritual
insights and all of his writings reflect his vision from within. Our
own perception becomes more illuminating through God's graces.
Awareness of God is obviously firmly established in the heart as
well as in the mind. When this happens, one becomes less impervious
to the devices of the Devil, temptations and his ruses. Grace gives
our perception more purity and precise understanding of God and how
God works in our life. Many business leaders and religious founders
have great visionary skills. This comes from grace, experience and
All life either imitates spiritual life or is
under divine providence's designs. There are positive and negative
components to all life and substances beginning with the atom. Some
spiritual, positive aspects of spiritual consciousness or awareness
are wholeness and enjoyment. Some spiritual, negative aspects are
fragmentation and the absence of joy. Wholeness and enjoyment we can
equate with love and the opposite of that is hate or the absence of
Alphonsus is a most distinguished, Catholic, doctor in
matters of morality because of his absolute surrender to God in
faith and his conscience. Moral philosophy focus is on ethics and
the discipline dealing with good and bad and with moral duty and
obligations. The Ten Commandments are not a wish list. Christ
crystallized them for us by saying they are summed up in love for
God and neighbor. We can not attain our victory over immorality
unless we possess virtue. Virtue is moral excellence. Our business
world for the past two decades has been reading In Search of
Excellence. Christians need to ponder moral excellence. The Book of
Virtues, by William Bennett, will give one a superior insight into
authentic virtue, morality and the entire range of good and bad.
Good principles contain rules and order. They can be
comprehensive and fundamental laws, doctrines or assumptions. They
are rules or codes of conduct and they can be habitual devotion to
right or wrong principles or laws. Listen to the wise statement of
Aristotle, who was considered a pagan, and what he had to say about
excellence. Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We
do not act rightly because we have excellence or virtue. It is when
we act virtuous that we have excellence. Thus, right is excellence.
Wrong is not excellence. The more we act rightly, the more our
excellence will be seen and manifested. Aristotle claims that we are
what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
Our habits make us champions or slaves. Everyone who does acts that
are right become masters of their habits. Those who perform bad
habits become slaves and prisoners of those habits. Jesus said the
same thing in the gospels.
The doctor of morality knew
spiritually (he was aware of) that Jesus had redeemed man and he was
going to allow God to use him. This insight and wisdom did not come
in a flash. It was a scrupulous and tedious struggle. He looked into
History, the church and his conscience daily. He followed God's
commandments diligently and scrupulously. He begged God for
obedience, sincerity, goodwill and virtue every day. One can not
only follow one's conscience. One becomes wise by drawing from
history, tradition, the bible, one's religion, the practice of daily
holy prayer, repentance and forgiveness to be a genuine Christian.
It may sound complicated but Jesus simplified it. It's all contained
in acting charitable. We might beg God daily to help us in the daily
practice of being kind and generous. It is very difficult and our
nature resists it. We must do our part now if we want to share God's
part later. We need to be redeemed daily-we're not angels. When we
fail, God will use other creatures to be kind to us.
us are, in a sense, morality doctors. I've associated this name with
St Alphonsus mainly because of his keen sense of the awareness of
sin and guilt. Sin and guilt invade all creatures except those who
are divinely favored or exempt. We mustn't think that guilt is a bad
feeling. It is an authentic feeling. God permits us to have the
feelings we experience. Guilt can be a gift from God. It is also a
blessing and a divine favor.
We ought to beg God to let us
sense guilt when we do wrong. It is not necessarily a perpetual
gift. We can lose, forfeit, shun or spurn this precious gift. When
this happens, it is a tragedy and the beginning of spiritual
decline. This results in spiritual danger and should cause us fear.
Often we are oblivious. Sin hides truth. Human beings have the
capacity to kill guilt when God permits. This is a deplorable and
helpless state and only God's mercy and other's prayers can change
this horrible situation.
There are healthy feelings of guilt
and there are non-healthy feelings of guilt. Only by divine
discernment can one know the truth. Psychiatrists, psychologists,
counselors, therapists and priests have distinctively different
roles ordained by God. One should discuss and pray to discern which
person can help you the best when their conscience bothers them. For
those who offer counseling or pardon to others in this matter, one
needs to implore the good God not only for intelligence but also for
the wisdom to help others. One role is never a substitute for the
other and all should complement each. St Alphonsus is an exemplary
patron for confessors. Each is a specialist and talented by God. We
should not allow others to impose a 'guilt trip' on us. That
happens sometimes and is 'dead' wrong. No one wants to feel guilty
because it is sorely distressing.
Remorse is guilt for past
wrongs. It is a gnawing distress arising from past wrongs. It is a
self-reproach. When you do bad things you are suppose to feel
guilty. That is conscience informing us of some disorder. God will
allows us to feel contrition and compunction when we sin if we are
truly sorry and repentant. However, be assured they are gifts. Some
people do not feel guilt when they do wrong. Why? Sin obfuscates!
Evil is attractively sinister and misleading. The Devil can act like
a genius. He is a crafty genius. He confuses and confounds us when
God permits. Hell is pandemonium, disorder and outrageously bitter
and hateful because of the absence of divine love. Oh, there is love
there but it's self-love, angry-love and disrespectful loathing for
oneself and all who share in utter misery, pain, torture, resentment
Unrepentant sinners can often lose the sense of
guilt. Some do not want or refuse it. Others are obstinate about it.
Some disbelieve and often repress or suppress it. When this happens,
it will always haunt or nag the individual when God permits it.
Compunction is the painful sting of conscience. Alphonsus and the
church would urge us periodically to use the sacrament of
reconciliation, to exercise repentance, penitence, contrition and
The Creator encourages us to regret wrongdoing.
God's goodness will supplies the gifts and courage to achieve this
when we cooperate. All creatures have some form of mental anguish.
No one escapes this ordeal. Prayers and penance will help us remove
the remorse that is guilt for past wrongs. Jesus is our victorious
Victim and Expiator of sin if we turn to him with our hearts. The
Lord has laid on him all of our burden, sin and guilt. He embraced
it in profound love. He offered his life, lovingly, in perfect
sacrifice for us. God knew we were going to sin when he made us. By
Jesus' coming we know that no one can thwart the divine plan and
that he came for each to crush and eliminate guilt, sin, death and
hell. Christ is our Conqueror and Champion.
Listen to your
heart. It is connected to your brain and that is connected to your
nervous system. Our God is a feeling and understanding Father. God
sends continual signals through your whole being: body, heart, mind,
soul and spirit. It is healthy to feel shame and embarrassment for
failures or mishaps. Acknowledge them, humbly realize your weakness
and confess them according to the appropriate channels that you
believe or endorse. Never live ashamed. Do penance and live proud!
To be proud is not pride and is a sign of humility. Those who humble
themselves will be exalted. Pride hates to admit sin. Those who
possess pride wallow in perdition. God offers his love. We choose
what we love eternally.
Alphonsus founded and established
the Redemptorist Religious Order. It is undoubtedly a great mainstay
and pillar of the church today. His book, The Glories of Mary is a
masterpiece. His writings are clear, profound and reveal great
scholarship and erudition. No one could possibly say anything more
in quantity about Mary than Mary herself. The plethora of modern day
seers, visionaries, writers and mystics reveal Mary. Mary's
discourse to them only compliments what Alphonsus has already said.
St Alphonsus Liguori is a must read for any serious explorer of
Mariologist. He is without doubt, the Marian Doctor par excellence. Other
doctors have written similar qualitative things about Mary but he
added a quantitative component. Comparisons are always odious before
God and we know that the greatest is the least in God's
Catherine Anne Emmerich's books on Mary are
breathtaking. They reveal an uncanny historical and ancestral
perspective and accuracy that is incredible to describe. The depth
and precision, which she records, are constantly being substantiated
by current biblical scholars and experts. Another current book on
Mary is: Meeting Mary by Janice Connell. It affords a summary of
Mary's meetings down through the century. It is beautifully written,
precise and historically fascinating. Images, facts and devotional
books on Mary are numerous and some are in the Sources.
Primate of Italy commanded Alphonsus to become bishop and he obeyed.
His health was always a problem. His arthritis left him disabled in
a frightening position-completely bent out of shape with rheumatic
arthritis. This disability today affects more than two million and
millions more with minor forms of arthritis. This doctor would be an
excellent intercessor for those who suffer this painful condition.
Pray to him! He, with Mary, effects cures and spiritual wholeness
The Liguorian magazine published by the
Redemptorist Fathers and Brothers carry on his spirit of
enlightenment, instruction and legacy. Subscribe to it for spiritual
enrichment, joy and pleasure. It contains fascinating stories,
insights and a rich legacy.
Alphonsus lived to his nineties
vowing never to squander a precious moment due to God either in
praying, writing, preaching missions, visiting the sick, pastoring
his flock as bishop and giving retreats. He unendingly implores us
to visit the Blessed Sacrament, our Redeemer, and to live out God's
holy will and obtain salvation and redemption through Jesus in union
with his mother, Mary.
Another area that Alphonsus would be
most helpful toward is age. He is the oldest of the doctors and his
intercessory power will be most valuable, as we grow older.
Redemption for most will come, as we grow older. Knowing that our
Redemption is assured as we slowly age is most reassuring, and he is an
excellent model to petition for help, guidance and perseverance to
St. Alphonsus' writings on the Stations of the Cross
and martyrs are most touching and redemptive. Christ's death, and
the process that lead to it in the carrying of the cross, should
move our conscience profoundly. It was constantly in his thoughts as
they are in all sincere Christians. The stations according to some
authors and historians actually got started by Jesus' mother, Mary.
She wanted to keep the memory of her Son alive and she frequently traced
his actual steps in Jerusalem. The closing down of the holy lands
during a period in the church's history was another reason the
church rejuvenated the Stations of the Cross locally. We do not have
to wait for the Lenten season to think or make the stations. There
are hardly any catholic churches in the world that do not display
the journey that led to Christ's final agony and victory over sin
and death. This is Jesus heroic and dramatic struggle up Calvary. It
is a cordial reminder of love bestowed by three mothers: God, our
Divine Mother and Author of all creation and redemption, the Mother
of God, the holy, Virgin Mary, and the Mother of our mystical life,
The saint's writings on the martyrs are rich in
details. He wrote precisely and scholarly and adds to our precious heritage
the whole drama of redemption by Christ and his martyred
members. Although he is perhaps, among all the doctors, the most
prolific on this subject, his writings on martyrdom are but a tiny
snapshot when we look at the church's entire history of those who
have given up their lives for our loving Redeemer.
Butler, who is listed in the Sources, has listed thirty-five categories of martyrs. They range from small groups to large groups as the one hundred and twenty Martyrs of Persia (Iran). Each martyr's death is an extension of Christ's personal life and death. We must not think of martyrs dying only during the persecutions of the early Christians. Only two centuries ago during the French Revolution, sixteen women of the Carmel of Compiegne offered their lives at the guillotine to restore peace to the church and to France. Terrye Newkirk recounts the story of these courageous women in her book entitled: The Martyrs of Compiegne. Perhaps the best-loved opera of modern times is based upon Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites.
Martyrs give inspiration to composers, writers and thousands of other categories. Martyrdom is but one type of death. There are many martyrs of desire. Giving back to God our life in any form is most pleasing to the Almighty. It is also the seeds and the cause for the surest and fastest spread of Christianity.
The word martyrs has a board connotation outside of religon. For example: a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle is also considered a martyr. The many wars that saw the sacrifices and deaths of millions of people is a horrible reality. Negotiations, compromises and goodwill has power to stop wars but none have more power as prayers and sacrifices to stop war. There is no substitute.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and many others have said: if you want to stop war, stop abortion. We must be sure we act on the right principles in order that we are not mislead. When our hearts and minds are turn toward God, we receive abundant, divine light. God always enlightens those who turn to him in trust and goodness and is never outdone in generosity.
technology most of us are going to live a long life as St Alphonsus.
Baring unforeseen accidents, our lifetime will be a long, drawn out
adventure of pleasure and pain. Our body will test us more as we
age. Only 10 percent of the general population use to live to age
65. Today, 80 percent of the general population live that long.
Perhaps the real struggle of our life may be in the area of our
faith. Weakness and gloom can creep into our consciousness with
pain, age and lack of virtue. God-given trials can inflict us for
reasons we will never know. The martyr's lives will encourage us in
our difficulties with aging and crosses. Jesus urged us to hold firm
to the end.
We always have a superior Model in Christ in his
agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Why did he, who was Almighty,
petition his Father three times to be removed from his crucifixion?
He certainly knew his redemptive calling. Wouldn't one plea have
been sufficient? We know he deeply wanted to cooperate with his
Father's plan. At the Last Supper, Jesus said that it was with desire
that he wanted to share his last meal with his friends before he
The Morality Doctor always aims to move our
conscience toward the buying-back theme that the Man-God enacted.
With Christ's precious surrender of his life, all human beings have been
paid for with a priceless bounty. God's purchasing of humankind is
not only historical on Calvary. According to our incredible catholic
faith, tradition and theology the same scene and event is reenacted
bloodlessly during holy mass. Alphonsus' comprehension of this fact
encouraged him to attend mass as a young boy and lawyer. He
discovered his ultimate vocation only afterwards.
He was in
his late twenties when he was enlightened through his conscience to
give himself more fully to God. He was already serving God. When God
gave him more light he exclaimed that he had resisted all the
previous calls. God keeps after us if we keep after God through
earnest supplication and doing charitable deeds.
to Mary, he claimed, helped him discover God and his vocation anew.
His devotion to Jesus and Mary, his brilliant writings, his
paintings of Mary, his holiness and his role as the founder of the
Redemptorist has ensured his place in God's church. The total
numbers of Redemptorist are around 6000 in the USA. For more
information on this Order, or any religious Order within the
Catholic Church, please consult the Catholic Almanac listed in the
The Redemptorist Religious Order has a litany of
extraordinary models. The church holds St Gerard Majella high in
esteem as an outstanding wonder-worker. He is particularly helpful
for pregnant women. This saint greatly helps men and women to
support one another when conflict arises. Why is Gerard the patron
of expectant mothers? Read about him. Discover and learn about his
personal ordeal on this issue.
In the book entitled:
Mysteries, Marvels and Miracles in the lives of the Saints, the
author, Joan Carroll Cruz, has cited more miracles attributed to him
in her book than any other person in the entire history of the
church. This book is listed in the doctoral sources on this site.
God's will can not be known and achieved without
prayer, grace and God's favor. We are often caught between what the
law permits and what are God's laws. We need to look to the church
and individuals such as Alphonsus and Gerard whose moral courage
stands out and shows us the way.
God's laws are always
highter than man-made laws. We must always respect all laws but we
need to question it at times when it contradicts our history,
tradition and especially our conscience.
More choices are
afforded us than previous generations. It would appear we have more
freedom to choose how we want to live and whom we want to obey.
Everyone seems to have his or her own ideas of what is right or
wrong. Prayer is the basis for all spiritual growth. We can not do
better in understanding moral choices than to read the book entitled
St Alphonsus Liguori . He read everything (during his lifetime)
significantly written about the history of the church. This book
written by Fathers Miller and Aubin, both Redemptorists, expounds on
a wise author of over 100 books and is perhaps the most published
author, among the doctors along with St Augustine.
St Alphonsus Church in downtown Baltimore, the premier Archdiocese in the United States, is where saints have prayed...
The Holy Name of Mary - The Power of Her Name
By St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church
Richard of St. Laurence states "there is not such powerful help in any name, nor is there any other name given to men, after that of Jesus, from which so much salvation is poured forth upon men as from the name of Mary." He continues, "that the devout invocation of this sweet and holy name leads to the acquisition of superabundant graces in this life, and a very high degree of glory in the next."
After the most sacred name of Jesus, the name of Mary is so rich in every good thing, that on earth and in heaven there is no other from which devout souls receive so much grace, hope, and sweetness.
Hence Richard of St. Laurence encourages sinners to have recourse to this great name, "because it alone will suffice to cure them of all their evils;" and "there is no disorder, however malignant, that does not immediately yield to the power of the name of Mary." The Blessed Raymond Jordano says, "that however hardened and diffident a heart may be, the name of this most Blessed Virgin has such efficacy, that if it is only pronounced that heart will be wonderfully softened." Moreover, it is well known, and is daily experienced by the clients of Mary, that her powerful name gives the particular strength necessary to overcome temptations against purity.
September 12th is the Feast Day of The Most Holy Name of Mary
In fine, "thy name, O Mother of God, is filled with divine graces and blessings," as St. Methodius says. So much so, that St. Bonaventure declares, "that thy name, O Mary, cannot be pronounced without bringing some grace to him who does so devoutly.". . grant, O Lady, that we may often remember to name thee with love and confidence; for this practice either shows the possession of divine grace, or else is a pledge that we shall soon recover it.
On the other hand, Thomas a Kempis affirms "that the devils fear the Queen of heaven to such a degree, that only on hearing her great name pronounced, they fly from him who does so as from a burning fire." The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget "that there is not on earth a sinner, however devoid he may be of the love of God, from whom the devil is not obliged immediately to fly, if he invokes her holy name with a determination to repent." On another occasion she repeated the same thing to the saint, saying, "that all the devils venerate and fear her name to such a degree, that on hearing it they immediately loosen the claws with which they hold the soul captive." Our Blessed Lady also told St. Bridget, "that in the same way as the rebel angels fly from sinners who invoke the name of Mary, so also do the good angels approach nearer to just souls who pronounce her name with devotion."
Consoling indeed are the promises of help made by Jesus Christ to those who have devotion to the name of Mary; for one day in the hearing of St. Bridget, He promised His Most Holy Mother that He would grant three special graces to those who invoke that holy name with confidence: first, that He would grant them perfect sorrow for their sins; secondly, that their crimes should be atoned for; and, thirdly, that He would give them strength to attain perfection, and at length the glory of paradise. And then our Divine Savior added: "For thy words, O My Mother, are so sweet and agreeable to Me, that I cannot deny what thou askest."
The Most Holy Name of Mary
St. Ephrem goes so far as to say, "that the name of Mary is the key of the gates of heaven," in the hands of those who devoutly invoke it. And thus it is not without reason that St. Bonaventure says "that Mary is the salvation of all who call upon her." "O most sweet name! O Mary, what must thou thyself be, since thy name alone is thus amiable and gracious," exclaims Blessed Henry Suso.
Let us, therefore, always take advantage of the beautiful advice given us by St. Bernard, in these words: "In dangers, in perplexities, in doubtful cases, think of Mary, call on Mary; let her not leave thy lips; let her not depart from thy heart."
Names of Jesus and Mary
In every danger of forfeiting divine grace, we should think of Mary, and invoke her name, together with that of Jesus; for these two names always go together. O, then, never let us permit these two most sweet names to leave our hearts, or be off our lips; for they will give us strength not only not to yield, but to conquer all our temptations.
"The invocation of the sacred names of Jesus and Mary," says Thomas a Kempis, "is a short prayer which is as sweet to the mind, and as powerful to protect those who use it against the enemies of their salvation, as it is easy to remember."
Hour of Death
Thus we see that the most holy name of Mary is sweet indeed to her clients during life, on account of the very great graces that she obtains for them. But sweeter still will it be to them in death, on account of the tranquil and holy end that it will insure them.
Let us then, O devout reader, beg God to grant us, that at death the name of Mary may be the last word on our lips. This was the prayer of St. Germanus: "May the last movement of my tongue be to pronounce the name of the Mother of God;" O sweet, O safe is that death which is accompanied and protected by so saying a name; for God only grants the grace of invoking it to those whom He is about to save.
Father Sertorius Caputo, of the Society of Jesus, exhorted all who assist the dying frequently to pronounce the name of Mary; for this name of life and hope, when repeated at the hour of death, suffices to put the devils to flight, and to comfort such persons in their sufferings.
The Most Holy Name of Mary said Devoutly is a Prayer
"Blessed is the man who loves thy name, O Mary," exclaims St. Bonaventure. "Yes, truly blessed is he who loves thy sweet name, O Mother of God! for," he continues, "thy name is so glorious and admirable, that no one who remembers it has any fears at the hour of death." Such is its power, that none of those who invoke it at the hour of death fear the assaults of their enemies. St. Camillus de Lellis urged the members of his community to remind the dying often to utter the holy names of Jesus and Mary. Such was his custom when assisting people in their last hour.
Oh, that we may end our lives as did the Capuchin Father, Fulgentius of Ascoli, who expired singing, "O Mary, O Mary, the most beautiful of creatures! let us depart together."
Let us conclude with the tender prayer of St. Bonaventure:
"I ask thee, O Mary, for the glory of thy name, to come and meet my soul when it is departing from this world, and to take it in thine arms." (End)
The Marian Doctor would be incomplete without listing some links on our Blessed Mother Mary:
Marian group St Alphonsus could identify if he were on earth would
be the Marist. To explore them go to the link:
You may also write the Marist Society, Inc at 4408 Eight Street NE
Washington DC 20017-2298.
Lastly, another Marian group is the
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Their National Shrine of the
Lady of Snows can be seen at
additional links to the Redemptorist Family and Catholic communities read the below link.
The Liguorian Publication
The follow link supplies a number of quotes from St Alphonsus'writings