Dear Sisters & Brothers,
Happy Feast Day!!! Actually, The Feast of St. Alphonsus was on Wednesday, but we decided to transfer the feast of our patron Saint and the founder of the Redemptorists. From birth, Alphonsus’ father had his life mapped out for him. He was the first-born, and the son of a naval commander. While the family wasn’t exactly “wealthy” by today’s standards, they were part of society’s upper crust. Alphonsus had the best of tutors from his earliest years. Throughout his life he would be a prodigious author and composer. One of his Christmas carols is the modern day Italian equivalent of our Silent Night. He wrote everything from plays to a comprehensive moral theology that is still used today. He obtained not one, but two doctorates while still a teenager.
While Alphonsus was a prominent lawyer and considered one of the most eligible bachelors in all of Naples, he was also very involved in ministry. One of his favorites was caring for people at “The Hospital for Incurables.” Even while still a lawyer, he dreamed of being a foreign missionary and traveling to exotic locations and sharing his faith. When Alphonsus lost his first case, due to an oversight on his part, he vowed never to practice law again. He traded in his sword (a sign of his social status) and hung a rosary in its place. In opposition to his father’s wishes, Alphonsus would dedicate the rest of his life to God, and serving God’s children.
While still struggling with what to do, a friend asked him to go to the small hill town of Scala to council a young woman who was having “visions.” To make a long story short, while there he encountered the shepherds and hill people of the region, and like Jesus, “he was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” While Naples was bursting at the seams with priests, most of these people had never seen a priest. Alphonsus didn’t have to go to some far away land to evangelize the poor and poor-in-Spirit, here they were.
Alphonsus gave up wealth & status, in order to spend his life in the service of “the poor an most abandoned.” He had tremendous compassion for those who were truly hungry for The Good News. He was a man of many gifts and keen intelligence and he used those gifts & talents in the service of God’s people. He even used his legal skills to save The Jesuits when they were about to be expelled from The Church. (Perhaps his one mistake!