Alphonsus Maria de Liguori : biography
Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, C.Ss.R. (September 27, 1696 – August 1, 1787), was an Italian Catholic bishop, spiritual writer, scholastic philosopher and theologian, and founder of the Redemptorists, an influential religious congregation. He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI. Pope Pius IX proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1871.
Alphonsus was proficient in the arts, his parents having had him being trained by various masters of the arts, and was a musician, painter, poet, and author at the same time. He put all his artistic and literary creativity at the service of the Christian mission and he asked the same of those who joined his congregation. His biography says that, in his later days, he liked to go to the local theater, which at the time had a very bad reputation. After being ordained, each time he attended the recitals Alphonsus simply took his optic glasses off and sat in the last row, listening to the music and not paying attention to anything else.
Alphonsus wrote 111 works on spirituality and theology. The 21,500 editions and the translations into 72 languages that his works have undergone attest to the fact that he is one of the most widely read Catholic authors. Among his best known works are The Great Means of Prayer, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ and The Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament. Prayer and its power, love, his relationship with Christ and his first-hand experience of the pastoral needs of the faithful made Alphonsus one of the great masters of the interior life.
His best known musical work is his Christmas hymn Quanno Nascetti Ninno, later translated into Italian by Pope Pius IX as Tu scendi dalle stelle ("From Starry Skies Thou Comest").
In the field of Mariology, Alphonsus Liguori wrote The Glories of Mary, Marian Devotion, Prayers to the Divine Mother, Spiritual Songs,The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, Visitations to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary, and other writings. His Mariology, though mainly pastoral in nature, rediscovered, integrated and defended the Mariology of Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose and other fathers and represented an intellectual defence of Mariology in the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment, against the cold rationalism of which his often flaming Marian enthusiasm contrasted.P Hitz, Alfons v. Liguori, Paterborn 1967, p. 130.
Alphonsus’ greatest contribution to the Church was in the area of moral theological reflection with his Moral Theology. This work was born of Alphonsus’ pastoral experience, his ability to respond to the practical questions posed by the faithful and from his contact with their everyday problems. He opposed sterile legalism and strict rigorism. According to Alphonsus, those were paths closed to the Gospel because "such rigor has never been taught nor practiced by the Church". His system of moral theology is noted for its prudence, avoiding both laxism and excessive rigor. He is credited with the position of Aequiprobablism, which avoided Jansenist rigorism as well as laxism and simple probablism. As a master of moral theology, he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871 by Pope Pius IX, one of only 35.
The Redemptorists founded the Alphonsian Academy for the advanced study of Catholic moral theology in the spirit of St. Alphonsus. The Academy offers licentiates and doctorates in moral theology. Many of the professors are Redemptorists.
- "Inspired by St. Alphonsus M. de Liguori, who strove to renew moral theology in his time, and in harmony with the Magisterium of the Church, as expressed especially in the Second Vatican Council, the Alphonsian Academy seeks the fullest human and christian knowledge about humankind. Rooted always in the salvific Mystery of Christ the Redeemer, the Academy promotes the worth and meaning of human life by discerning the norm of human behaviour in the individual, in the family, in civil society and in religious faith. Over 4.600 students who have passed through the Academy give vital witness to the pastoral and doctrinal worth of the Institute." (http://www.alfonsiana.edu/English/en_index_istituto.htm)