Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the Redemptorist Congregation. He was born Alphonsus Marie Antony John Cosmos Damien Michael Gaspard de Liguori on September 27,1696, at Marianella, near Naples, Italy. Raised in a pious home, Alphonsus went on retreats with his father, Don Joseph, who was a naval officer and a captain of the Royal Galleys. Alphonsus was the oldest of seven children, raised by a devout mother of Spanish descent. Educated at the University of Naples, Alphonsus received his doctorate at the age of sixteen.
According to St. Alphonsus Liguori’s biographer Théodule Rey-Mermet cssr,
Saint Alphonsus Liguori is the author of The Glories of Mary, published in 1750, which was a bestseller right from the time of its release (1000 partial editions, including 16 in Italy, sold during his lifetime). The Glories of Mary, widely regarded as Saint Alphonsus Liguori’s finest masterpiece, has for two and a half centuries stood as one of the Catholic Church’s greatest expressions of devotion to the Blessed Virgin. The book presents the person and life of the Virgin Mary, explains Marian spirituality, and includes prayers of the saints and some popular devotions. Its author ends each chapter with an edifying "example", generally the account of an apparition or a miracle - about 40 in all. The intention is to show the role of the Virgin in the Church and among the faithful. Written as a defense of Our Lady at a time when Jansenistic writers were ridiculing Marian devotion, this classic work combines numerous citations from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church with Saint Alphonsus’s intense personal piety to produce a timeless treasury of teachings, prayers, and practices. According to Redemptorists, St. Alphonsus believed that since God has given us Jesus through Mary, then the surest way for us to come to Jesus is through Mary. In fact, Alphonsus is so thoroughly ‘Marian’ because he is so completely ‘Christological.’ This is the first and fundamental basis on which we can speak of St. Alphonsus and Mary. But always, this love for Mary was lived in the context of Jesus Christ as the absolute centre of his life. He believed and witnessed to the fact that there is no Marian theology or spirituality apart from Christology. It is Jesus who is central, and from whom Marian devotion takes its meaning. Alphonsus wrote many works addressed to Mary, or about Mary. As he writes in the preface to the Glories of Mary, and repeats on several occasions, “There are those who protest that they have a great love for the Blessed Mother, but they do not speak of her often, and they do not speak with her daily. Such shows little proof of love.” This could certainly not be said of Alphonsus! Even in those works which are not dedicated especially to Mary, there is scarcely a page without a prayer, a reference, or an example invoking her presence. However, the context in which Alphonsus speaks and writes about her is the context of his Christo-centric theology, spirituality, morality, and devotion. Jesus Christ always is at the centre.
According to Michele Chronister, had a cognitive problem, especially at the end of his life, he suffered terribly from scrupulosity. Needless to say, the scrupulosity did not prevent him from becoming a saint. In fact, it became a part of the cross he bore, that made him a saint. During St. Alphonsus’s time, little was known about scrupulosity’s neurological component. We now know that scrupulosity is often a manifestation of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), in that it manifests in obsessive thoughts about whether a sin has been committed, and the compulsive need to go to Confession or seek reassurance from loved ones. Knowing this now means that scrupulosity can be treated and managed with greater effectiveness. However, it does not negate the weight of the suffering caused by scrupulosity and other mental illness.
On July 31, 1787, at about 6 p.m., St. Alphonsus was dying. He was holding an image of the Virgin Mary (still preserved at the church of the Redemptorists in Paris), when, according to witnesses, "suddenly his face became ablaze and resplendent, as he spoke softly and smiled at the Madonna. An hour later, before the eyes of three other members of the Society, the same 'encounter' occurred again." His austerities were rigorous, and he suffered daily the pain from rheumatism that was beginning to deform his body. He spent several years having to drink from tubes because his head was so bent forward. He died peacefully on August 1,1787, at Nocera di Pagani, near Naples as the Angelus was ringing. He was beatified in 1816 and canonized in 1839. In 1871, Alphonsus was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX. His writings on moral, theological, and ascetic matters had great impact and have survived through the years, especially his Moral Theology and his Glories of Mary. The peasants and poor then, as now, often experienced that those who love them have no power to help them, and those who have power do not love them. Alphonsus presents Mary, and the Redeemer, as those who love them and have power to help them. This is revolutionary. A Madonna who is a shepherdess, close to the sheep, the smell of the sheep on her dress and apron – This is a powerful symbol of a woman in mission and ministry usually reserved to men. A mother who sings a lullaby to her son who shivers in the cold. A young girl who receives the Holy Spirit without full understanding of all that this will mean. Mary, whether we know it or not, is at the center of our lives.
His Feast Day is August 1.