Saint Alphonsus Liguori and the Chains of Love
Since God knew that man is enticed by favors, he wished to bind him to his love by means of his gifts: - I want to catch men with the snares, those chains of love in which they allow themselves to be entrapped, so that they will love me.And all the gifts which he bestowed on man were given to this end. He gave him a soul, made in his likeness, and endowed with memory, intellect and will; he gave him a body equipped with the senses; it was for him that he created heaven and earth and such an abundance of things. He made all these things out of love for man, so that all creation might serve man, and man in turn might love God out of gratitude for so many gifts.But he did not wish to give us only beautiful creatures; the truth is that to win for himself our love, he went so far as to bestow upon us the fullness of himself. The eternal Father went so far as to give us his only Son.- St. Alphonsus
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On the first of August in the Liturgical Calendar of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church we commemorate one of the treasures of the Church, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church and master of Moral Theology named Alphonsus Liguori.
In the first reading at Holy Mass we hear St Paul addressing the Christians at Corinth in a troubled time in their nascent community. Some members were questioning Paul's apostolic authority.
The Apostle Paul speaks out of a reservoir of humility. He does not point to himself but to the source of all true moral and spiritual authority, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the true mark of a "saint", a holy one. It is never about him or her, but about Jesus, the One whom they serve. They willingly embrace the chains of love.
Paul wrote:"When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God." (1 Cor. 2:1-5)
So it has been with those who have followed in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul and addressed the area of the Christian moral life. This is a topic which is so critical, particularly in troubled times such as our current age. So it was with the Saint we remember on this day. Alphonsus was a truly holy man precisely because he emptied himself of himself and continually sought to be filled up with the love of God.
Saints speak out of a reservoir of spiritual grace within them which comes from a deep interior life. They are living in an intimate communion with the Lord Jesus - and thus enabled to be vessels of His saving wisdom and redemptive love in a special way. They have turned their freedom toward its source, the Lord, and surrendered themselves voluntarily to Him, for the sake of others.
This is evident in these words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) It is replicated in the pattern of life of the saints whom we commemorate throughout the year.It is meant to become our own way of life. We are all called to be saints.
Alphonsus Liguori lived a long life, dying at the ripe old age of 91. He lived during a time of real spiritual and moral decline in the Church. As a result of that decline in the Church, the culture of Europe also declined. There is always a connection between the two. There is in our own age.
After all, the Church is the yeast, the leaven of every culture into which she is sent.
Alphonsus was a civil lawyer. His struggles in living out that career, even his failures, drew him to his knees, at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ. That turn to Jesus crucified, turned Alphonsus toward a new way of life. He became another kind of advocate, an advocate of and for the love of God. He is the Patron of all Moral Theologians for good reason.
Alphonsus died in the year 1787, near Naples, surrounded by sons in the faith. They were drawn to live radically for Jesus through his holy witness of life, his profound preaching, and his inspired writings on the Christian life.
Alphonsus Liguori, is the founder of the Redemptorist community. In the constitution of the community we read these words: "Strong in faith, rejoicing in hope, burning with charity, on fire with zeal, in humility of heart and persevering in prayer, Redemptorists as apostolic men and genuine disciples of St. Alphonsus follow Christ the Redeemer with hearts full of joy; denying themselves and always ready to undertake what is demanding, they share in the mystery of Christ and proclaim it in Gospel simplicity of life and language, that they may bring to people plentiful redemption." (Constitution #20)
He left a lasting legacy for the whole Church. Not only in the religious community he founded, which continues into our own age, but in his profound prayers, books, reflections and spiritual writings which are still read by millions.
The principles and insights given in his Moral Theology is viewed by many to have helped to prepare the way for the wonderful renewal of Moral Theology which occurred at the Second Vatican Council, many years later.
He is especially known for his deep love for Mary, the Mother of the Lord, whom he saw as the model disciple and teacher of the way of holiness for all who seek to follow Jesus Christ. She is the Second Eve, the one who said "YES" and thus undid the "no" of the first Eve.
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In her Yes, we find the path laid out for each one of us, as we freely choose to empty ourselves of ourselves in order to be filled up with Him.
The Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours offers us a beautiful excerpt from one of his homilies which I am happy to share with my readers:
From a sermon by Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop, On the love of Christ
All holiness and perfection of soul lies in our love for Jesus Christ our God, who is our Redeemer and our supreme good. It is part of the love of God to acquire and to nurture all the virtues which make a man perfect. Has not God in fact won for himself a claim on all our love?
From all eternity he has loved us. And it is in this vein that he speaks to us: "O man, consider carefully that I first loved you. You had not yet appeared in the light of day, nor did the world yet exist, but already I loved you. From all eternity I have loved you."
Since God knew that man is enticed by favors, he wished to bind him to his love by means of his gifts: "I want to catch men with the snares, those chains of love in which they allow themselves to be entrapped, so that they will love me."
And all the gifts which he bestowed on man were given to this end. He gave him a soul, made in his likeness, and endowed with memory, intellect and will; he gave him a body equipped with the senses; it was for him that he created heaven and earth and such an abundance of things. He made all these things out of love for man, so that all creation might serve man, and man in turn might love God out of gratitude for so many gifts.
But he did not wish to give us only beautiful creatures; the truth is that to win for himself our love, he went so far as to bestow upon us the fullness of himself. The eternal Father went so far as to give us his only Son. When he saw that we were all dead through sin and deprived of his grace, what did he do? Compelled, as the Apostle says, by the superabundance of his love for us, he sent his beloved Son to make reparation for us and to call us back to a sinless life.
By giving us his Son, whom he did not spare precisely so that he might spare us, he bestowed on us at once every good: grace, love and heaven; for all these goods are certainly inferior to the Son: He who did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for all of us: how could he fail to give us along with his Son all good things?
Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate.
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