Born near Naples in 1696, Alphonsus Liguori at first turned his brilliant skills as an orator to his own worldly advantage. He had become a doctor of both canon and civil law when he was only sixteen, undoubtedly the best scholar of his year, and for eight years was a successful barrister.
One day his rhetoric carried him away. The case was over an estate worth £100,000. Alphonsus spoke with his customary eloquence. But he had failed to read his papers properly. One crucial point he had not even spotted. His opposing lawyer told him he had wasted his breath. Alphonsus lost the case, and vowed never to enter a courtroom again.
Alphonsus began to study theology and was ordained priest. Now his skills as a speaker were devoted to the field of mission. He preached persuasively in and around Naples, making such a name for himself that he was able to bring together a group of followers (known as Redemptorists) to develop this work. Yet this did not bring him peace of mind. The Redemptorists quarrelled. They unscrupulously excluded Alphonsus from their councils. He was deeply depressed for many years, a sadness exacerbated by continual physical illness.
Two achievements shone through all these troubles. First, Alphonsus turned his legal brain to writing a massive work of moral theology, in which he tried to analyse what exactly was sinful in the actions of human beings and what can be regarded as merely error. Secondly, he wrote and preached beautifully. Subtle as he was in his theology, in his preaching and devotional writing he said that the simplest person in a congregation should understand him.
Alphonsus Liguori died in 1787, but his writings have continued to inspire and to draw men and women nearer their Saviour ever since.
'A soul can do nothing
that is more pleasing
to God than to
communication in a state of grace.'
'He who trusts in
himself is lost.
He who trusts in
God can do all things.'
From A Calendar of Saints -
The Lives of the Principal Saints of the Christian Year
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