Thursday, 26 May 2011

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

Icon of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

I have discovered a new patron -- St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, or as I usually call him, St. Alphonsus.  I have know about St. Alphonsus for a long time.  The religious community of enclosed nuns I lived with for some years was actually founded by St. Alphonsus and a nun by the name of Sr. Maria Celeste Crostarosa.  There was even a very dear sister in that community (may she rest in peace) by the name of Sr. Mary Alphonsus.  So, it is not like I haven't been aware of him for a long time.  What has changed?

Well, ever since I had that bad fall about 6 or 7 weeks ago, I have begun to look more and more like St. Alphonsus in his old age -- that is, my back is now curved a bit more and my neck is bent forward at an uncomfortable angle!  I had forgotten about how he ended up with such terrible arthritis -- another thing we share in common -- which obviously affected his spine from top to bottom.  Then what finally brought everything together for me was coming across the following prayer.  While I realize that parts of this prayer may not be very appealing to some of my readers, I feel that I need to quote it in its entirety in order to demonstrate the effect it has had on me at the point in my life. 

Dear St. Alphonsus
    friend of the poor and arthritis sufferer.
   You are the special patron of all who
   suffer from arthritis and the
   pains of aging.
When our joints and related areas hurt so
   much that tears well up in our
   eyes, help us to recall the blood,
   sweat and tears that flowed from
   our crucified Jesus who bore so
   much suffering out of love for
   each of us.
St. Alphonsus, afflicted with curvature of the spine
   and nailed to a wheelchair cross in
   your final years, teach us to unite all
   our pains and sufferings with those
   of Jesus, so our patience and love may
   inspire others to accept the difficulties
   of their lives in union with Jesus on
   the cross.
May we be enabled to be one with Jesus in His
   great act of suffering, dying and rising.

The part that really spoke to me were the two lines which read:  "St. Alphonsus, afflicted with curvature of the spine and nailed to a wheelchair cross in your final years..."  For, I, too, am now bent over and usually have to use my wheelchair these days instead of the walker.  This phrase also inspired me when I set about drafting my drawing as I knew that I had to have some indication of that "wheelchair cross" in it.  This explains why you see the top of a wheel next to his chair frame -- in his day, wheelchairs were simply wooden chairs with wooden wheels attached.

Now that you know why I am suddenly talking so much about St. Alphonsus, let me tell you a bit about his life and times.

A drawing of the elderly St. Alphonsus which I found online
The following, rather lengthy biography, was taken from Wikipedia.  Feel free to skip as much of it as you wish!

"(September 27, 1696 – August 1, 1787) was an Italian Catholic Bishop, spiritual writer, scholastic philosopher and theologian, and founder of the Redemptorists, an influential religious order. He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI and declared a Doctor of the Church.

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori was born in Marianella, near Naples, then part of the Kingdom of Naples. He was the first-born of seven belonging to the Neapolitan nobility. Two days after he was born he was baptized at the Church of Our Lady the Virgin as Alphonsus Mary Antony John Cosmas Damian Michael Gaspard de' Liguori. Alphonsus Liguori went to law school at age sixteen, becoming a very well-known lawyer.

In 1723, after a long process of discernment, he abandoned his legal career and, despite his father's strong opposition (and reluctant consent), began his seminary studies in preparation for the priesthood in the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. [Interestingly, today is the feast day of St. Philip Neri].  He was ordained a priest on December 21, 1726, at the age of 30. He lived his first years as a priest with the homeless and marginalized youth of Naples. He founded the "Evening Chapels." Run by the young people themselves, 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 chapels with over 10,000 active participants. His sermons were very effective at converting those who were alienated from their faith. 

The saint suffered from scruples much of his adult life, and felt guilt about the most minor issues relating to sin. Moreover, the saint viewed scruples as a blessing at times, he wrote: "Scruples are useful in the beginning of conversion.... they cleanse the soul, and at the same time make it careful".

In 1729 Alphonsus left his family home and took up residence in the Chinese College in Naples. It was there that he began his missionary experience in the interior regions of the Kingdom of Naples where he found people who were much poorer and more abandoned than any of the street children in Naples.

On November 9, 1732, St. Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (later known as the Redemptoristines), when Sister Maria Celeste Crostarosa told him that it had been revealed to her that he was the one God had chosen to found the Congregation. This order's goal was to teach and preach in the slums of cities and other poor places. They also fought Jansenism which was a heresy that denied humans free will and barred many Catholics from receiving the Eucharist. He gave himself entirely to this new mission. A companion order of nuns was founded simultaneously by Sister Maria Celeste.

Alphonsus was consecrated Bishop of Sant'Agata dei Goti in 1762. He tried to refuse the appointment, proposing his age and infirmities as arguments against his consecration. During this time he wrote sermons, books, and articles to encourage devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1775 he was allowed to retire from his office and went to live in the Redemptorist community in Pagani, Italy where he died on August 1, 1787. He was beatified on September 15, 1816 by Pope Pius VII, canonized on May 26, 1839, by Pope Gregory XVI, and later proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871 by Pope Pius IX. He was named "Patron of Confessors and Moralists" by Pope Pius XII on April 26, 1950, who subsequently wrote of him in the encyclical "Haurietis Aquas."

Alphonsus was proficient in the arts - his parents having had him being trained by various masters of the arts - being a musician, painter, poet, and author at the same time. He put all his artistic and literary creativity at the service of the Christian mission and he asked the same of those who joined his Congregation. His biography says that, in his later days, he liked to go to the local theater, which at the time had a very bad reputation; after being ordained, each time he attended the recitals Alphonsus simply took his optic glasses off and sat in the last row, listening to the music and not paying attention to anything else.
Alphonsus wrote 111 works on spirituality and 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. Among his best known works are The Great Means of Prayer, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ and The Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament. Prayer and its power, love, his relationship with Christ and his first-hand experience of the pastoral needs of the faithful made Alphonsus one of the great masters of the interior life."

St. Alphonsus, pray for us.

Now, after all that dry and dusty material, why not join me in a quick look at some zebra?!  I can remember as a young child trying to figure out if zebra had a white coat with black stripes or was it the other way around!  I soon discovered that this is one of those questions you ignore!  Anyway, I have always been fascinated by the look of these "horses" of the African plains.

Seeing Double!
 Zebra are a truly social species and you rarely ever see one standing alone -- at least not for very long -- and they really seem to enjoy one anothers' company!

"Quit staring.  What else is a backside for?"
Here is another common behaviour of the Zebra -- this business of resting the head along the body of their closest companion!  I have never seen them in the wild, but whenever I have seen films about them, I have noticed often how common this practice is.

The Happy Family doing the Zebra thing!
Here, once again, is a zebra doing the zebra "thing" while the two smaller animals seem to be giving each other a friendly kiss.  This actually looks a bit like those family photos where the one with the camera shouts: "now everybody make nice"!

I really enjoy this optical illusion.  It always takes me half a second to get it right!

And, finally, here is one of nature's optical illusions.  I remember the first time I saw this photograph.  It actually took me a minute or two to finally figure out exactly what I was seeing.  Even now, as I mentioned in the caption, it still always takes me a couple of seconds to get it right.  I really would be interested in knowing if anyone else has this problem.


As for Suki and myself, we are doing reasonably well.

The above discussion about St. Alphonsus gives you some indication of the issues that I am dealing with at the moment and even though these are difficult issues, they are all problems that I think I can learn to live with relatively comfortably given some more time and occupational therapy.

As for Miz Suki, she might disagree with me about this "doing reasonably well" business!  She seems to truly believe that she is being severely deprived because I refuse to feed her as often as she would like.  I have tried to explain about weight gain and how fat cats have more physical problems and die younger, but I can see from the look in her eyes that she is not convinced.  I can only hope she doesn't report me to the Humane Society!


I am praying for all these people who are suffering from the monster storms recently across the States.  How terrifying that type of experience must be for those who have survived and how sad many of the survivors must be because friends and family members did not make it.

So I say with deep desire:  "May the peace of God be with us all".

1 comment:

Amra Porobic said...

Dear Sallie, it was great to see you today. This post is great and your drawing of St Alphonsus is extraordinary. Thanks for sharing. I realy admire you for your strenght and figth, despite all the troubles that life brings...