St. Alphonsus Liguori
Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.
In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.
At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but she oon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups.
He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over.
Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional — replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions.
He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese.
His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united.
At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent.
Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His Glories of Mary is one of the great works on that subject, and his book Visits to the Blessed Sacrament went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.
St. Alphonsus was known above all as a practical man who dealt in the concrete rather than the abstract. His life is indeed a “practical” model for the everyday Christian who has difficulty recognizing the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure. Alphonsus suffered all these things. He is a saint because he was able to maintain an intimate sense of the presence of the suffering Christ through it all.
Someone once remarked, after a sermon by Alphonsus, "It is a pleasure to listen to your sermons; you forget yourself and preach Jesus Christ."
Patron Saint of:
Pope St. Stephen I — He defined the Sacrament of Baptism and it Stands to this Day
If we could travel back in time to the middle of the third century we would quickly discover the Catholic Church, although fraught with differences from today, had many similarities to our modern day, 21st-century church. There was plenty of hierarchical infighting going on and the politics of leading the Church was in flux.
In the year 250 AD, the Roman Emperor, Decius, unhappy as to how Christianity was spreading, embarked on a persecution of the Christians that, up until that time, was the most brutal they had ever faced. Among the first to die was Pope Fabian, the 16th Pope, who had held the Papacy for fourteen years.
When Fabian died, he was followed by Pope Cornelius who died within a year. He was followed by Pope Lucius I who also died within a year. Both of these men died of natural causes. The Church was then without a pope and was run collegiately under the direction of a priest named Novatian.
Emperor Decius demanded that all Christians offer sacrifice to the Roman gods to show their loyalty to Rome. Any who refused were executed. Others fled into the countryside or tried to bribe officials. The last recourse was to reject the Faith. Many took this route. It was an easier path than giving up one’s life.
After Fabian’s murder and during this time a huge pastoral problem arose. Emperor Decius’ persecution had seen many Christians purchase certificates attesting to the fact that they had made the required sacrifices to the Roman Gods. Other had denied that they were Christians while others took part in pagan sacrifices.
These people were called “lapsi.” The question within the still fledgling Church was whether or not, if they repented for their sins, could they be readmitted to full communion with the Church. If they could, what would be the conditions? Novatian was preaching the false doctrine that those people who were “lapsi” could not be forgiven while the Catholic position was to grant full communion to those who fully repented.
Novatian and his followers would only grant fellowship to the sinners, not full communion. Novatian went even further and said that those who had denied the faith and idol worshipped could not be forgiven as the Church did not have the power to do so. He said that being baptized does not administer forgiveness for certain, heinous sins.
Pope Lucius had appointed his archdeacon, Stephen, as his successor (this was way before the College of Cardinals) and Pope Stephen was faced with the task of reuniting the Church from the schism started by Novatian. He began his papacy in the year 254.
Stephen’s most important battle was his defense of the Sacrament of Baptism. The Novatianist priests were re-baptizing those who sought forgiveness. Stephen insisted that re-baptizing previously baptized persons was unnecessary. He argued that only absolution was required to regain full communion with the Church. Cyprian of Carthage and other African and Asian bishops called what the Novationists were doing as heretical.
Stephen, besides having the support of Cyprian and other bishops, was pressured from others within the Church to be flexible and allow re-baptism for the Novationist priests. Stephen would not waver and stayed true to his conviction. Even Cyprian changed his mind and disagreed loudly claiming that baptism administered by heretics was invalid. All those people who had received this sacrament would need to be re-baptized.
But Stephen was the Bishop of Rome. The unwavering defense of his position on Baptism more than likely established Rome as the seat of the Church. He claimed that he was occupying the seat of Peter as handed down by Christ. He is recognized as the first pope to formally announce the primacy of Rome. He also put in place that Baptism if administered by anyone with the right intent is valid. That practice stands today, 1800 years later.
Stephen died in 257 and his Feast Day is August 2. He is honored as a saint in the Catholic Church and the Eastern orthodox Church.
Pope St. Stephen, pray for us.
St. Peter Julian Eymard
Born in La Mure d'Isère in southeastern France, Peter Julian's faith journey drew him from being a priest in the Diocese of Grenoble (1834) to joining the Marists (1839) to founding the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (1856).
In addition to those changes, Peter Julian coped with poverty, his father's initial opposition to Peter's vocation, serious illness, a Jansenistic overemphasis on sin and the difficulties of getting diocesan and later papal approval for his new religious community.
His years as a Marist, including service as a provincial leader, saw the deepening of his eucharistic devotion, especially through his preaching of Forty Hours in many parishes.Inspired at first by the idea of reparation for indifference to the Eucharist, Peter Julian was eventually attracted to a more positive spirituality of Christ-centered love. Members of the men's community, which Peter founded, alternated between an active apostolic life and contemplating Jesus in the Eucharist. He and Marguerite Guillot founded the women's Congregation of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament.
Peter Julian Eymard was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1962, one day after Vatican II's first session ended.
In every century, sin has been painfully real in the life of the Church. It is easy to give in to despair, to speak so strongly of human failings that people may forget the immense and self-sacrificing love of Jesus, as his death on the cross and his gift of the Eucharist make evident. Peter Julian knew that the Eucharist was key to helping Catholics live out their Baptism and preach by word and example the Good News of Jesus Christ.
“The Eucharist is the life of the people. The Eucharist gives them a center of life. All can come together without the barriers of race or language in order to celebrate the feast days of the Church. It gives them a law of life, that of charity, of which it is the source; thus it forges between them a common bond, a Christian kinship” (Peter Julian Eymard).
St. Eusebius of Vercelli
Someone has said that if there had been no Arian heresy denying Christ's divinity, it would be very difficult to write the lives of many early saints. Eusebius is another of the defenders of the Church during one of its most trying periods.
Born on the isle of Sardinia, he became a member of the Roman clergy and is the first recorded bishop of Vercelli in Piedmont in northwest Italy. He is also the first to link the monastic life with that of the clergy, establishing a community of his diocesan clergy on the principle that the best way to sanctify his people was to have them see a clergy formed in solid virtue and living in community.
He was sent by Pope Liberius to persuade the emperor to call a council to settle Catholic-Arian troubles. When it was called at Milan, Eusebius went reluctantly, sensing that the Arian block would have its way, although the Catholics were more numerous. He refused to go along with the condemnation of St. Athanasius; instead, he laid the Nicene Creed on the table and insisted that all sign it before taking up any other matter. The emperor put pressure on him, but Eusebius insisted on Athanasius’ innocence and reminded the emperor that secular force should not be used to influence Church decisions. At first the emperor threatened to kill him, but later sent him into exile in Palestine. There the Arians dragged him through the streets and shut him up in a little room, releasing him only after his four-day hunger strike. They resumed their harassment shortly after.
His exile continued in Asia Minor and Egypt, until the new emperor permitted him to be welcomed back to his see in Vercelli. He attended the Council of Alexandria with Athanasius and approved the leniency shown to bishops who had wavered. He also worked with St. Hilary of Poitiers against the Arians.
He died peacefully in his own diocese at an advanced age.
Catholics in the U.S. have sometimes felt penalized by an unwarranted interpretation of the principle of separation of Church and state, especially in the matter of Catholic schools. Be that as it may, the Church is happily free today from the tremendous pressure put on it after it became an “established” Church under Constantine. We are happily rid of such things as a pope asking an emperor to call a Church council, Pope John I being sent by the emperor to negotiate in the East, the pressure of kings on papal elections. The Church cannot be a prophet if it’s in someone’s pocket.
"To render the care of souls more efficacious, community life for priests is strongly recommended, especially for those attached to the same parish. While this way of living encourages apostolic action, it also affords an example of charity and unity to the faithful" (Vatican II, Decree on the Bishops' Pastoral Office, 30).
Following God's Law:
God's law, whether it's the Ten Commandments, the natural law he has written in our hearts, or the precepts of the Church, is precisely the magnetic pole towards which we must orient ourselves.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
Be suspicious of all those desires that ... cannot be attained ... to be more precise, these are all those desires for Christian perfection that can be imagined and admired but not practiced, and about which many speak without putting them into practice.
My love and respect for the Church
O Church of God, you are the best mother, you alone can rear a soul and cause it to grow. Oh, how great is my love and respect for the Church, that best of all mothers! - (Diary 197)
Pardon Prayer of St. Francis
The old church was abandoned by the Benedictines (Portiuncula) “small portion”, used by Francis and is now located within Our Lady of the Angels Church, Assisi, Italy.
In the words of St. Francis,
“O my Brothers and Sisters, I want you all to go to Heaven.”
St. Francis of Assisi and the Portiuncula Indulgence - (The Great Pardon)
The Portiuncula (small portion) refers to the land in Assisi, Italy, that belonged to the Benedictines. On this land was an old church dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God but abandoned.
The great St. Francis had great devotion to the Queen of the world and when he saw that the church was deserted, he began to live there constantly and repair it. He heard that the angels often visited it, so that it was called St. Mary of the Angels.
The Benedictines wanted to give Francis the church but to remain faithful to lady Poverty, Francis rented it from them with the annual compensation of a basket of fish from the Tescio river. Here is where Francis began his service to Christ and His Church.
Here Francis founded his Order, received Clare as his spiritual daughter, and where he died commending this spot above all others to the friars.
St. Francis had great love and compassion for everyone. On a night in July 1216, Francis was praying in the little church of the Portiuncula devoured by love for God and a thirst to save souls. He prayed for the forgiveness of sins of mankind.
Suddenly, a bright light shone all around. In great splendor Jesus and Mary appeared in the midst of a dazzling cloud surrounded by a multitude of radiant angels. Out of fear and reverence, St. Francis adored Our Lord prostrate upon the ground.
Then Jesus said to him, “Francis you are very zealous for the good of souls. Ask me what you want for their salvation. St. Francis was rapt in ecstasy before Jesus.
When he regained his courage, he said:
"Lord, I, a miserable sinner beg You to concede an indulgence to all those who enter this church, who are truly contrite and have confessed their sins. And I beg Blessed Mary, your Mother, intercessor of man, that she intercede on behalf of this grace."
Our Lady at once began to beseech her Son on behalf of Francis.
"It is a very great thing that which you ask Me; but you are worthy of even greater things, Friar Francis, and greater things you will have. So, I accept your request, but I want you to go to my Vicar, to whom I have given the power to bind and loose in Heaven and on earth, to ask him on my behalf for this indulgence." (ed. Note: Matthew 16: 19).
With one of his companions, Francis hastened to Pope Honorius III and prostrate implored him to proclaim that everyone visiting the church and confessing their sins with a contrite heart would be as pure from all sin and punishments as he was immediately after baptism. The Pope granted this petition. This indulgence has been extended to all parish churches throughout the world.
The date was set from vespers of the first of August until sundown on the second
of August, the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels. It is said that St. Francis was given this
day by Our Lord because the Feast of the Chains of St. Peter celebrated on August
first is the day Peter was released from prison and his chains removed.
This is an extraordinary demonstration of God’s mercy in removing the chains of sin from those who devoutly and faithfully seek to gain the indulgence by completing
The conditions to obtain the Plenary Indulgence of the Forgiveness of Assisi is (for oneself or for a departed soul) is as follows:
The Portiuncula Indulgence is a grace not to be missed — not only for yourself but for the many suffering souls in Purgatory.
• Sacramental Confession to be in God’s grace (during eight days before or after.)
• Participation in the Holy Mass and Eucharist
• Recitation of The Apostles Creed, Our Father and a prayer for the Pope’s Intention (such as an Our Father, Hail Mary, etc.).
Mark your calendar for the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels beginning at — Vespers (Noon) on August 1st to August 2nd at Midnight.
Tell everyone of the magnitude of this gift.
Once again, we see the unfathomable Divine Mercy of God.
POSTOLIC CONSTITUTION OF POPE PAUL VI INDULGENTIARUM DOCTRINA WHEREBY THE REVISION OF SACRED INDULGENCES IS PROMULGATED NORMS
n. 6—A plenary indulgence can be acquired only once a day, except for the provisions contained in n. 18 for those who are on the point of death. A partial indulgence can be acquired more than once a day, unless there is an explicit indication to the contrary.
Document on the Pardon of Assisi, issued by Pope John Paul II
Portiuncolae sacra aedes: decree.
The sacred building of the Porziuncola, already the Pope Honorius III, for the prayer of St. Francis, not without divine inspiration, enriched by that famous Pardon of Assisi, and where the same spirit of St. Francis was happily full of love its extremes (he died), so it became for centuries the church of all the Franciscan religious, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, excited the minds of the faithful to a sense of compassion and mercy, so to obtain, in 'attitude of all the Christian faithful and the humble undeniable feeling that there, almost all parts of the world, came together and still today, even more frequently, Zolli, driven by the same emotions.
So the Popes, dispensers of heavenly charisms entrusted to them, always showed outstanding reasons width toward the spiritual Portiuncula and expressed a particular love, such as we like to recall the example of Paul VI, of happy memory, he called the Porziuncola a place to receive a plenary indulgence, and to confirm peace with God, and John Paul II, now pastor of the Church for God's mercy, proclaimed Porziuncola as a wonderful source of the original mission which Francis and his children spread widely among people the name of Christ. Rightly convinced of what the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor has given us in his letters officio reverently repeating the prayers of Christians visiting from wherever that place, reciting an Our Father and the heart of the creed, the usual conditions, ie sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, always allowing for a plenary indulgence everyday and Penitentieria, urges Christians to provide for the spiritual wealth of the sum, with Apostolic authority, so willingly support the received prayers, by this decree, trusting that excites them the indulgence of forgiveness and renewal to reconciliation with God and escape the sin, exercise generosity, love of filial respect and love for the Church and thus procure the works of justice and operate the peace among men. Rome, at the Penitentiary, 15 July 1988.
Card. LUIGI DADAGLIO Penitentiary. M.
(Sacra Penitenzieria Apostolica, Prot. N. 47/88/1, Porziuncola,
Prot. N. 146/1988: "Portiunculae sacra aedes")