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St Alphonsus Liguori

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Saint Of The Day

Bishop and founder of the Redemptorists. Alphonsus was born in 1696 near Naples, the son of a Neapolitan nobleman. He studied law and became a distinguished and eloquent barrister. One day his rhetoric carried him away. He forgot to read an important point in a document and lost a case worth a larg e fortune. From that time onwards, he abandoned law and studied to be a priest.

Alphonsus was ordained in 1726 and by 1730 had become famous as a preacher. He established a convent and in 1732, founded the Congregation of the Holy Redeemer for priests dedicated to preaching to the rural poor.

Alphonsus was a prolific author. In 1745 he published the first of his 111 devotional and theological works, the most important being Moral 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. He was also proficient in the arts and was a musician, painter and poet.

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 his preaching, spiritual direction and writing, St Alphonsus aimed at simplicity, gentleness and intelligibility. He said a sermon should be meaningful to the simplest person in the congregation, as well as the most sophisticated.

He said: "He who trusts in himself is lost. He who trusts in God can do all things."

St Alphonsus became bishop of St Agatha del Goti in 1762. He tried to refuse the appointment because of his poor health, but went on for three years during which he wrote sermons, books and articles encouraging devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady. He reformed the seminary and suspended priests who celebrated Mass in less than 15 minutes. He sold his carriage and episcopal ring to give money to the poor. He resigned at the age of 69 because of ill health. He suffered a painful illness in his last years, losing his sight and hearing. He died in 1787. St Alphonsus was canonised in 1839 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

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