St Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church, Pt 2

Oct 24, 2018

Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,

Last week I spoke about three types of Redemptorist-Lay associations. The newest one being the Lay-Redemptorist or Lay-Missionary group. Various religious orders have such groups, some of them like the Franciscans have been doing it for a very long time; while others, like we Redemptorists, are fairly new at it. Different Redemptorist Provinces throughout the World, and even different communities here in the Denver Province have had very different approaches to it.

The basic idea is that St. Alphonsus, along with his spirituality & charism, does not just belong to we Redemptorists, but to the entire Church. There are individuals in The Church who are drawn to Alphonsus and his spirituality, but are not necessarily called to religious life within the Congregation. Obviously, some Redemptorists have had a hard time grasping this, as they see Alphonsus as ours and no one else’s. Some of these people are simply drawn to an internalization of St. Alphonsus’ spirituality. It shapes their prayer life and their theology. Others add an outward expression by seeking to minister to the “poor and most abandoned,” just as Alphonsus did. And still others seek to do so in partnership with Redemptorists. It is this third group that has caused the most confusion and struggles, especially within the Congregation.       

In some locations, such as Canada where the number of Redemptorists are very low, The Lay-Redemptorists have actually lived in community with Redemptorists. Some Lay-Redemptorists have partnered with Redemptorists in giving retreats and parish-missions. Some have a hard time making the distinction between these individuals and those who are simply parishioners at a Redemptorist parish or an employee at one of our ministry sites. When every community was being encouraged to promote this and identify their own local Lay-Redemptorists, some communities simply pointed toward their secretary or DRE. Others took someone along on a parish-mission and had them pass out programs and envelopes, and then called them “Lay-Redemptorists.”       

Another thing that we have struggled with is the formation that is offered. Some have received very intense formation and have read and studied a lot about St. Alphonsus, while others have simply joined a group. Obviously, we need to come up with some happy medium that will help lay people explore Alphonsian Spirituality and decide if this is truly something that they are drawn to and want to commit their life to living.         

If you think you might be interested in learning more, then I would recommend as a first step to begin reading one of the biographies of St. Alphonsus and/or some of his own writings. St. Alphonsus is one of the “Doctors of The Church” in part due to his prolific writing. He wrote everything from moral theology to poetry, and even Christmas carols. He is most noted for his writing style, which was and still is, very approachable by the average person in the pew. This was a new concept in his day and made him very popular. While he wrote in a very popular style for those in the pew, his moral theology has stood the test of time and is still being taught today.         

For a person who had his life laid out before him from birth, his life took many unexpected twists and turns. Through all the adversities Alphonsus remained faithful and continually turned to prayer, especially to his beloved Mother Mary, for guidance and solutions. His life has indeed inspired countless souls, both within and outside the Congregation he founded. It is perhaps fitting that due to some legal issues, this lawyer died outside his own Redemptorists Congregation, for it is an affirmation that he truly does belong not just to us Redemptorists, but to the entire Church, a Doctor of The Church and a man for The Ages.

In the Redeemer,

Fr. Rick