Alphonsus Maria de' Liguori

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Alphonsus Maria de' Liguori
Bishop of Sant’Agata de’ Goti
Sant'Alfonso Liguori.jpg
Metropolis Benevento
Diocese Sant'Agata de' Goti
See Sant'Agata de' Goti
Appointed 14 June 1762
Installed 20 June 1762
Term ended 26 June 1775
Predecessor Flaminius Danza
Successor Onofrio de Rossi
Ordination 21 December 1726
Consecration 20 June 1762
by Ferdinando Maria de Rossi
Personal details
Born (1696-09-27)27 September 1696
Marianella, Campania, Kingdom of Naples
Died 1 August 1787(1787-08-01) (aged 90)
Pagani, Campania, Kingdom of Naples
Denomination Roman Catholic
Feast day
Venerated in Catholic Church
Title as Saint Bishop, Moral Theologian, Confessor and Doctor of the Church
Beatified 15 September 1816
Rome, Papal States
by Pope Pius VII
Canonized 26 May 1839
Rome, Papal States
by Pope Gregory XVI
Patronage Pagani, Cancello, Naples (co-patron); arthritis, confessors, moralists
  • Basilica Sanctuary of St. Alphonsus di Liguori
  • 1, Piazza Sant'Alfonso di Liguori,
  • Pagani, Salerno, Italy

Alphonsus Maria de' Liguori, C.Ss.R. (27 September 1696 – 1 August 1787), was an Italian Catholic bishop, spiritual writer, scholastic philosopher and theologian.

Born into Neapolitan nobility, Ligouri had a successful law career before becoming a priest. He founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists) to work among the poor. In 1762 he was appointed Bishop of Sant'Agata dei Goti. He was a prolific writer, publishing nine editions of his Moral Theology in his lifetime, in addition to other devotional and ascetic works and letters. Among his best known works are The Glories of Mary and The Way of the Cross, the latter still used in parishes during Lenten devotions.

He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI. Pope Pius IX proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1871. One of the most widely read Catholic authors, Alphonsus Ligouri is the patron saint of confessors.


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.[2] Alphonsus Liguori went to law school at age sixteen, becoming a very well known lawyer. He was thinking of leaving the profession, and wrote to someone: "My friend, our profession is too full of difficulties and dangers; we lead an unhappy life and run risk of dying an unhappy death. For myself, I will quit this career, which does not suit me; for I wish to secure the salvation of my soul."[3] At the age of twenty-seven, after having lost an important case—the first he had lost in eight years of practicing law—he made a firm resolution to leave the profession of law.[4]

In 1723, after a long process of discernment, and with his legal career abandoned, he decided to offer himself as a novice to the Oratory of St. Philip Neri with the intention of becoming a priest. His father strenuously opposed this plan, but after two months (and with his Oratorian confessor's permission), he and his father compromised: he would study for the priesthood, but not as an Oratorian and while living at home.[2] He was ordained on 21 December 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 which were managed 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.[5] 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".[6]

In 1729, Alphonsus left his family home and took up residence in the Chinese Institute 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 9 November 1732, Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, 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. Its goal was to teach and preach in the slums of cities and other poor places. They also fought Jansenism, a doctrine that barred many Catholics from receiving the Eucharist because of its excessive moral rigor. He gave himself entirely to this new mission. A companion congregation of nuns was founded simultaneously by Sister Maria Celeste.

Alphonsus kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in a 19th-century stained glass window of Carlow Cathedral.

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 and canonized on May 26, 1839, by Pope Gregory XVI. 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, and was 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

His best known musical work is his Christmas hymn Quanno Nascetti Ninno, later translated into Italian by Pope Pius IX as Tu scendi dalle stelle ("From Starry Skies Thou Comest").


In the field of Mariology, Alphonsus Liguori wrote The Glories of Mary, Marian Devotion, Prayers to the Divine Mother, Spiritual Songs,The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, Visitations to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary, and other writings. His Mariology, though mainly pastoral in nature, rediscovered, integrated and defended the Mariology of Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose and other fathers and represented an intellectual defence of Mariology in the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment, against the cold rationalism of which his often flaming Marian enthusiasm contrasted.[7]

Moral theology[edit]

Alphonsus' greatest contribution to the Church was in the area of moral theological reflection with his Moral Theology. This work was born of Alphonsus' pastoral experience, his ability to respond to the practical questions posed by the faithful and from his contact with their everyday problems. He opposed sterile legalism and strict rigorism. According to Alphonsus, those were paths closed to the Gospel because "such rigor has never been taught nor practiced by the Church". His system of moral theology is noted for its prudence, avoiding both laxism and excessive rigor. He is credited with the position of Aequiprobablism, which avoided Jansenist rigorism as well as laxism and simple probablism.

The Redemptorists founded the Alphonsian Academy for the advanced study of Catholic moral theology in the spirit of St. Alphonsus. The Academy offers licentiates and doctorates in moral theology. Many of the professors are Redemptorists.

"Inspired by St. Alphonsus M. de Liguori, who strove to renew moral theology in his time, and in harmony with the Magisterium of the Church, as expressed especially in the Second Vatican Council, the Alphonsian Academy seeks the fullest human and christian knowledge about humankind. Rooted always in the salvific Mystery of Christ the Redeemer, the Academy promotes the worth and meaning of human life by discerning the norm of human behaviour in the individual, in the family, in civil society and in religious faith. Over 4.600 students who have passed through the Academy give vital witness to the pastoral and doctrinal worth of the Institute." (


  1. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 99
  2. ^ a b Castle, Harold (2007). "St. Alphonsus Liguori". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Archived from the original on 5 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  3. ^ Tannoja, Antonio. "The life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori" (1855) p. 30
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Selected writings by Saint Alfonso Maria de' Liguori, 1999 ISBN 0-8091-3771-2 page 209
  6. ^ The true spouse of Jesus Christ: The complete works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori 1929 by Redemptorist fathers Press, ASIN B00085J4WM page 545
  7. ^ P Hitz, Alfons v. Liguori, Paterborn 1967, p. 130.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 


External links[edit]

Media related to Alphonsus Maria de Liguori at Wikimedia Commons