Alphonsus Liguori was born on September 27, 1696, in a suburb of Naples, Italy. The eldest of
eight children in a wealthy "upper class" family, his poor eyesight and chronic asthma prevented him
from following his father into the military so he was educated for the legal profession. After
successfully practicing for almost ten years, Alphonsus grew disgusted with the path his father had
chosen for him. Alphonsus rejected the lifestyle, as well as any future marital plans made by his
father which caused a period of estrangement between the two.
During the years that followed, Alphonsus spent his time under the guidance of his mother's
spiritual director and joined several Oratorian confraternities. These groups not only provided
spiritual services for their members but also introduced them to apostolic work at the Hospital for
Incurables and at local prisons. In 1722 Alphonsus entirely abandoned his secular lifestyle for a more spiritual one and made a personal vow of celibacy.
Alphonsus was ordained a diocesan priest in 1726 at the age of 30. During his first years as a priest, Alphonsus worked primarily with the homeless and marginalized youth of Naples. He founded the Evening Chapels, and taught the young people to manage them. These chapels were centers of prayer and piety, preaching, community, social activities and education. At the time of his death, there were 72 of these Evening Chapels with over 10,000 active participants. Alphonsus's sermons were especially effective at converting those who were alienated from their faith.
In 1729 Alphonsus took up residence in the Chinese Institute in Naples. It was there he began his missionary experience in the interior regions of Naples where he found people who were even poorer and more abandoned than any of the street children he had previously encountered.
Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in November 1732, with the goal to teach and preach in the slums of cities and other poor places. In 1762 Alphonsus was consecrated Bishop of St. Agatha of the Goths. He tried to refuse the appointment, siting his age and poor health, however, Pope Clement XIII would have none of it and "holy obedience" won the day. Despite recurring bouts with serious illness, Alphonsus threw himself into his new ministry with vigor. His first order of business was to reform the serious ecclesiastical abuses in the diocese. He organized general
missions for the diocese and established social welfare programs for the
poor. In 1775 he was allowed to retire from his office and went to live
in the Redemptorist Community of Pagani, Italy, where he died on
August 1, 1787.
In 1839 Alphonsus Liguori was canonized and in 1950 Pius XII declared
him the official patron of moralists and confessors.
The beautiful icon of Saint Alphonsus pictured right was written by Sister Alena Diabolkova, O.Ss.R., of the St. Alphonsus Monastery in Dublin, Ireland, and is shared with permission from our friends at the Redemptorist Community in Esker, Co. Galway, Ireland. The original appears in their Community Chapel. (Thank you Father Seamus!)