Way of St Alphonsus
As witnesses of the Good News of the grace of God (cf. Acts 20:24) Redemptorists proclaim before everything else the very high destiny of the individual and of the whole human race. They know very well they are all sinners, but equally they know that at a deeper level, all have been chosen, redeemed and gathered together in Christ (cf. Romans 8:29 ff). Therefore, they will strive to encounter the Lord where he is already present and at work in his own mysterious way.- Constitutions of the Redemptorists, No. 7
St Alphonsus had a spirituality of his own. But he did not expect other people to live his spirituality; nor did he leave it to his followers. In this way, he was different from other great saints, many of whom left behind spiritualities and spiritual systems. Not St Alphonsus!
Alfonso de Liguori, perhaps more than anything in his life, was taken up with the unfathomable love of God for himself and for all humanity. He knew it to be a very personal thing – a personal God touching and getting involved with ordinary and unique human persons.
Alphonsus’ God, revealed in the Redeeming Christ, had truly pitched his tent among the poor, the broken, and the abandoned. As a young lawyer, Alphonsus met that God in the eyes of the suffering at the Hospital of the Incurables. As a middle-aged priest, he met that God in the glances of the Scala’s struggling shepherd families. As an older man, he met that God pleading with him in the bound-up consciences of troubled souls. God was always there and God was forever loving.
It was from his convictions about God’s love that Alphonsus acted:
- reaching out to the poor,
- founding the Redemptorists,
- guiding priests,
- preaching to the abandoned,
- writing his extensive moral theology,
- leading the crowds in prayer and song,
- bringing people to new insight about their humanity,
- promoting a justice that celebrated the lives of all.
Knowing the deeply personal nature of God’s love for each human person, Alphonsus’ aim was to lead each person into the fullness of that relationship themselves. It would be unique in every case. He did not give them his spirituality; he led them to discover their spirituality. In doing so he unveiled for them the courtesy of God.
While he did not impose his spirituality onto others, the ever-practical Alphonsus gave the people simple guiding practices so they might explore their own spirituality. These practices helped them know God’s love for them and to love God themselves.
- Frequent informal prayer, even repetitive prayer, thanking God and seeking God’s accompaniment.
- A devotion to the humanity of Jesus, an expression of the presence of God permeating the world:
- A devotion to the infancy of Jesus, a sign that God was truly among us;
- A devotion to the life of Jesus among the poor, a pledge of the kingdom and justice for all;
- A devotion to the passion and death of Jesus, a conviction that personal Love was behind it all;
- A devotion to the Eucharist, the realisation that in the Risen Christ we are all included, and a new time is upon us, a new way of real presence is opening up for humanity.
- A devotion to the Mother of Jesus, lest anyone forget just how close and how loving God is.
Alphonsus was truly special in respecting everyone’s dignity, everyone’s spirituality. He acknowledged and honoured God’s personal dealings with every little person. Redemptorists delight in following the way of Alphonsus.