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She was firm in the face of adversity. The famous incident, which we call the Miracle of the Eucharist of Assisi, took place at San Damiano in 1241, twelve years before Clare died. The catalyst that the Lord used to bring about this miracle was a German prince, Frederick II of Swabia. There is a tradition that Frederick was born in Assisi at the same time as Francis, and was baptized on the same day in the church of San Ruffino. The Pope had treated this Frederick very well, being sure he was brought up comfortably, affording him every courtesy. The young German repaid his kindness by turning on the Pope and the Church, waging a war against them, and the people of the Umbria. He had visions of an empire that would spread itself from Assisi down to Sicily. To this end, he recruited a band of Saracen (Arab) mercenaries to be his army. Reinforced by his band of merciless cutthroats, Frederick proceeded to march against Assisi.
The convent of San Damiano stood between the troops of Frederick II and the city of Assisi. The fact that there was a group of virgin nuns in the convent was particularly appealing to the Saracens, who hated Christians, and had a lusty appetite for Caucasian women. They proceeded to attack the Convent. Clare was sick in bed at this time. Her ladies rushed to her, crying, in a state of panic. What would they do? Could she protect them from the attacking soldiers? One of the Sisters ran into the room to report that she had seen soldiers in the fields close to the convent. A general state of alarm broke out.
Clare had two Sisters help her up out of bed. She went to their little Chapel, and removed a Monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament. She held it in her hands, pressed her head against it, and prayed to the Lord. She walked to the large open window facing the courtyard below. She spoke to the Lord, and He answered her. She implored, “Protect, Lord, these your servants, that I now, by myself, cannot protect.”
A very sweet voice, that of a young child, answered her, “I will take care of you always.”
Clare added another prayer. “My Lord, protect also, as it pleases you, this city that by your love supports us.”
The reply she received was, “It will have to go through suffering, but it will be defended by my protection.”
Strengthened by these words, Clare turned to her Sisters, who were terrified by the prospects of the attack of the feared Saracens. “I guarantee you, my daughters, that you will not suffer any evil. Only have faith in Christ.” She took the monstrance and held it high in the air.
The advancing Saracens froze in their tracks at the courtyard of the Convent. They looked up at Clare, at the Monstrance in her hand. Petrified with fear, as if they could recognize the God Who was there, they turned and ran, fleeing from the convent of San Damiano, leaving Clare and her Sisters in peace. The next day, the people of Assisi were pleased, but astonished that the Saracens had not attacked their city. Survival not conquest, uppermost in their minds, the invaders had left without ever setting foot in the town
When at last they at Auschwitz, a welcoming band greeted them with German folk songs. They were told to disrobe completely. They were handed soap and towels. A sign read “Clean is Good!” They were led to cottages where they were told, they would be deloused. The mothers with an instinct only a mother has, tried to hide their children under the clothes, until they would come out from the showers. When the guards caught them and asked them why, they replied, they were afraid the disinfectant would harm the children. They were assured this was nonsense, and so the mothers led their children into the cottages with them.
When some of the prisoners became aware of their fate and refused to enter the gas chambers, they were clubbed and thrown in. The guards carefully silenced anyone who gave the slightest evidence of hysteria, lest they incite a riot. They really had very little to fear; most were too weak from the long, arduous trip to stand up, no less fight.
For Edith and her sister and all the others who had survived the days of unbearable heat locked inside the airless cars, the walk from the train stop to the cottages was a long, hard one. [When we were at Auschwitz, we looked down from the guards’ post in the watch-tower. Our guide pointed out the distance the sisters and the Jews had to walk; it was miles from the platform to the cottages.] Edith thought that the guards would choose them to work in Germany. That’s what they did with strong, able-bodied women. And so, I wonder if she knew the fate that awaited them. Was there possibly a ray of hope that they would survive?
It was the beginning of the implementation of their perfect plan! The Nazis had to devise a method of disposing of the Jews and their political prisoners, in the fastest, most efficient way. They learned, all too soon, that they could not handle the hundreds of thousands who were being herded into the camps, so their next plan was to exterminate them! They came upon a plan to use Cyclon B, a bitter, extremely poisonous gas that was supposed to kill those
trapped within, in fifteen to twenty minutes. Before they died, their lungs, their throats, their esophagus’, were set on fire by this powerful acid. It was a horrible death.
But when Edith and her sister arrived, the Nazis had not yet perfected this method of exterminating defenseless men, women and children. The guards had not thrown enough cans of cyanide in the air-tight, sealed cottage, and so, when they opened the door twenty-four hours later, they were still alive. They threw in more cans.
We stood on the spot where the cottage once stood, the torture chamber where Edith and her sister, along with so many other Martyrs, went to their horrible death. All that remains is a small sign where a harmless looking cottage became a house of horror. Less than twenty feet from the cottage was a mound of bones that had survived over fifty years, there as a witness to man’s inhumanity to man. When the Nazis could not cremate the bodies fast enough, to keep up with the mass annihilation, they piled the dead bodies, forming funeral pyres. In this large field, we saw Crosses where the bodies of Christians had been burned and Stars of David where the Jews had been.
Because she and all those who had been chosen to die [approximately 1/2 had been judged unfit to work and therefore killed.] were killed immediately, there were no records. It would appear that the world would never know what had happened that dark and ugly day. But the Lord would not allow His bride to be lost in a maze of shadows of the valley of death. Our faithful Father in Heaven wants her story to be told, as well as the events that led up to such a massacre of humanity. The world is poorer because we have been cheated of loving, talented, committed Saints like Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta a Cruce. The Lord will not allow them to die in vain. Their cries will not be silenced. God will not allow us to ignore history. Why? Because He loves us.
Who was Edith Stein? As with Saint Maxmilian Kolbe, Edith Stein would have been nominated for Sainthood even if she had not died a Martyr’s death. Her writings, so long suppressed under the Nazis have now been published not only in German but have been translated and published in English.
“Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it”
Edith Stein was one of 6,000,000 Jews, and 4,000,000 Christians who were murdered while the world looked the other way.
At 25 years old, Saint Dominic realized his walk was not as a secular priest but as a religious.
At that time, Saint Dominic’s bishop ,Martin Bazan, voiced a desire to bring about reform; he wanted the canons of his cathedral to live a shared life as religious, as part of a community.
He and the new prior of the canons, Don Diego de Asevedo, had heard of Dominic’s piety and wisdom, and his desire to be a religious.
Their hope was that he could convince these self-absorbed, strong-willed clerics into coming together and join the Canons Regular; they summoned Dominic!
So after he was ordained a priest, Saint Dominic was vested in the habit of the Canons Regular of Osma, made his profession to that Order, and for the next nine years faithfully followed the Rule of Saint Augustine. One of his companions said of him, at this time,
“Now it was that he began to appear among his brethren like a bright burning torch, the first in holiness, the last in humility, spreading about him an odor of life which gave life, and a perfume like the sweetness of summer days.
Day and night he was in the church praying without ceasing. God gave him the Grace to weep for sinners and for the afflicted; he bore their sorrows in an inner sanctuary of compassion which pressed on his heart, flowed out and escaped in tears.
It was his custom to spend his nights in prayer and to speak to God behind closed doors.” Dominic consecrated himself, dedicating his life to the salvation of souls for Christ.
He was happy! He thought this was where God had placed him, but that was to come to an end, when Don Diego, now Bishop of Osma, chose him to accompany him on a mission to Denmark, which would be the first leg of a long journey of suffering, pain and torment.
Dominic begins preaching on the Rosary
War and hate killing the innocent, who did not know why they were fighting, or for that matter being killed, it was time for the Mother of God to instruct Her children through Dominic as to the true meaning of the Rosary, Her Life and that of Her Son Jesus. She was calling them to meditate on what Mary and Jesus’ yes cost Them. Although the Rosary had been prayed for generations before the Blessed Mother came to Dominic, it was more of a vocal repetitious praying of Hail Mary’s, Glory be’s and Our Father’s fingering the beads of the Rosary. With Mother Mary giving him this new mission, he was able to have the whole Church participate with Her and Her Son in what They lived through, that we might be saved.
So, we see Dominic, in the midst of hell, with the rabid dog of war wildly, indiscriminately attacking the innocent along with the guilty, no one exempt; and he is preaching the Rosary! Does this sound incredulous? Do we not need to say the Rosary, today, meditating on how Our Lord and Our Lady walked to the Cross for us, how this Church which has been so under attack for the last 2000 years flowed from the pierced Heart of Jesus? Do we think about the price He paid for the Church? Is this what gave them the courage to climb insurmountable heights and face unbeatable foes? When
the Albigensianism heresy was finally defeated, Dominic gave full credit to the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Our Lady of the Rosary intercedes and the war is won!
Dominic became vicar to the Bishop of Carcassonne. But his peace was to be short-lived. Things were out of hand, conditions deplorable. Life would again change for him, along with the course of the Albigensian war. As war is about power more than ideology, more sons would have to die to satisfy man’s gluttonous appetite for might. As this was a war over men’s souls, neither side would give up, the knowing ordering and the unknowing following, “Rachel was once more crying for her children.”
Peter, the King of Aragon, marched into Carcassonne with his massive forces and united them with the Albigensian soldiers. The defenders of Mother Church were so overwhelmingly outnumbered, only a miracle would save her. A council was called in Muret to determine what course to take. Dominic was summoned and went hurriedly to Muret; but on the way he stopped to pray before the tomb of St. Vincent the Martyr. When one of the canons sought him out, he beheld Dominic levitated in ecstasy before the altar.
September 10th, the King of Aragon converged on Muret with forty thousand men. The Count of Montfort was caught with only eight hundred men. With no other course possible, the Count advised his forces he was going to abdicate. He went into the chapel to prepare himself for the inevitable, his death. At the suggestion of Dominic, the Catholic forces began praying the Rosary. The Count of Montfort, fully clad in his resplendent knight’s armor knelt before the bishop and, after receiving his blessing, solemnly pledged his undying love and faithfulness to the God and Church through the Mother of God, “I consecrate my blood and life for God and His Faith.” The Rosary having been said, the troops marched out to battle and the priests retired to the church to pray.
Who is Saint John Mary Vianney?
Saint John Mary Vianney was a humble priest, hidden away in a small remote village, too small to appear on most maps of France. This priest, like the mustard seed, could not be hidden in obscurity; the gifts of the Holy Spirit he received were to bring thousands and thousands to him. It is no wonder he comes from that section where over a century later, the Charismatic Renewal of France began. The Holy Spirit goes where He wills, when He wills.
It is also no coincidence, he was born close to where our Lord showed His Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Jesus told Margaret Mary, He was more deeply hurt by the Crown of Thorns pressed on His Heart by His friends, than by the One His enemies mockingly placed on His Head. How many times, Cure did your heart get pierced from a crown of thorns thrust there by friends? Did it wound you, like it did Jesus?
Here again, like with Mother Mary’s Apparitions and Miracles of the Eucharist, we have clusters of Heavenly happenings. Could it be, the Lord goes where there is much need? You could definitely say that of Ars and of France, at the time of Saint John Vianney. Ars was a village of sin and apathy. The Cure would spend forty-one years of dry martyrdom, as Pastor of Ars, the only parish he would ever serve.
Saint John Vianney was born in France, the France of Heritage, eldest daughter of the Church. This France, in his lifetime, would be ripped apart and aborted by revolution. That malignancy of the spirit was not only to eat away at all the magnificent old traditions of France, but would spread right into the heart of the Church. As anger cannot be contained, those spoiling and destroying did not stop at the aristocracy, but forgetting why they had begun in the first place, turned on Church, guillotining priests and Nuns. We share this because, as in the time of Saint John Vianney, if faith, like a garden, is not cared for and nourished, it will die. And die France did, and the Church along with her. Only in places like French Canada and our beloved Louisiana can you see evidence of the glorious Heritage of the France of Yesterday. There, the old traditions and pride in France and the Church flourish, side by side.
The Curé’s Spirituality
The Curé followed the example and teachings of the Early Fathers of the Desert and that of Saint Sulpice. In that of the Fathers of the Desert, he not only derived inspiration from their teachings, he followed them to the letter, often quoting them verbatim.
The Curé had many friends but he had enemies as well, who were always trying to discredit him. Those who loved him, wanted him to answer his accusers, to defend himself. In response, he told
this story, from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers:
“One day a Saint commanded one of his monks: `Go to the cemetery and say insulting things to the dead.’ The monk obeyed and when he returned the Saint commanded him: `What did they answer?’ `Nothing.’ `Well then return and praise them.’ The monk obeyed once more and came back. `Did they answer you this time?’ `Still nothing’ `Well then,’ answered the Saint, `whether people insult you or praise you, do the same as the dead.’”
Another time, making reference to the lukewarm, those who just go through the motions, mouthing prayers, attending Mass, distracted by the world and its attractions rather than centering on Him, without Whom there would be no world no less its beauty, he again used teachings from the Sayings of the Fathers:
“Flies do not settle on boiling water. They fall into cold or tepid water.”
He was warning: Unless when you are on fire: you continue to stoke up the fire with spiritual reading, attend Holy Mass daily,
receive the Sacrament of Penance often, fast, practice abstinence, make use of the crosses handed to you each day of your life; unless you become a contemplative in action making every thought, every action, every step, every beat of your heart in adoration of the Lord and His Sacred Wounds, you will become as tepid or cold as the stagnant water flies like to habitat.
Father Vianney was not one who lived in the past, the good old days. True, he was influenced by the lives of the Saints before him, using forms of their spirituality and wisdom to more closely portray Jesus Christ in our midst. But he was a man for all seasons. He tried to walk boldly in the footsteps of the Desert Fathers while accepting and using the available gifts of the Church of the nineteenth century.
These two spiritualities were closely fused into the man-priest that made up Father John Mary Vianney: one from the ancients and the other from the Church of his day. He loved this Church on the move. He revered this Church which stood on the foundation of centuries of faithfulness and martyrdom. Right from his days in the Seminary and with Father Balley, strength was formed within him which would last and sustain him throughout his entire priesthood. He had Jesus as the center of his life and the Blessed Mother as his mother and intercessor.
From the spirituality of Saint Sulpice, he developed an acute awareness of his Lord in the Holy Eucharist. From this 7th century Saint, he learned, the one perfect Adorer of His Father was Jesus, the Eternal priest, in the Eucharist.
The burning love Father Vianney had for the Savior was manifested as he prepared for the Sacred Celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy. But although the Eucharistic Liturgy was the high point of his Mass, he carefully balanced the Liturgy of the Word with the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
He could feel his Savior’s presence in the Tabernacle, so he took every opportunity to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. His Presence brought tears to the Curé’s eyes. This passion he felt for the Lord was no on-again off-again affair. Speaking of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, he said:
“If we had a lively faith, we would certainly be able to see Him in the Blessed Sacrament. There are priests who see Him every day during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
Many who saw the Curé during the Mass, believed he was speaking of himself as one of those priests, but the Curé would never have admitted that, never wanting attention brought to himself. He would have considered this consolation. He not only did not seek consolation, he distrusted it:
“When we have no consolations, we serve God
for God’s own sake. When we have them, we are in danger of serving Him for ourselves.”
If there was one phrase which would typify the life of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, I believe it would “an uphill fight.” He felt that he had a vocation to the priesthood as a young man. He had to learn Latin to be eligible to study for the priesthood. Peter was taken out of school at thirteen, to work at his father’s business. The entire family was shocked by Mr. Eymard’s decision, but no one dared question it, not Peter’s mother, not the parish priest. Mr. Eymard’s word was final in all things. Peter always said that the Receiving of Holy Communion was a turning point in his life. After receiving First Holy Communion, he asked his father permission to follow his calling and study for the priesthood..
He thought for sure the father would understand his sincere desire to follow his vocation. Just the opposite happened. The father was absolute in his refusal to consider such a thing. Although he was a good Catholic, Mr. Eymard was adamant that Peter was to take his place beside him in their small business, which supported the family. . Saint Peter Julian Eymard was completely crushed. He couldn’t believe that this was happening to him. He walked a distance of thirty miles to the Shrine of Our Lady of Laus. He wanted to unload all his sorrow and disappointment at the feet of Our Lady, and quite honestly, ask her :how he could follow his dream of being a priest. He actually spoke to Our Lady at her altar at the Shrine of Laus, and she answered him, through the words of a priest who was in the chapel at the time, a Fr. Touche, who became a lifelong friend and mentor for young Peter.
He asked Peter to repeat his tale of grief and frustration and what he could do about it. The priest encouraged him to stay the course of his determination to become a priest. He recommended Peter begin receiving Communion every week, and insisted that he learn Latin. More easily said than done, thought young Peter. But he had received such affirmation from Our Lady through the hands of this priest, that he went back to La Mure, more resolute in his unwavering commitment to follow his dream. He continued his work for his father, but in his free time, he bought a second-hand Latin grammar book, and learned Latin. This went on for two years. When Peter thought it was safe to ask his father to allow him to go to college, the elder Eymard reacted predictably. He exploded. There was no way that they were going to spend hard-earned money for Peter to go to college. What would he need it for, any way? In the business that he would inherit from his father, he didn’t need college.
Down but not out, Saint Peter Julian Eymard found a way to go to college through a scholarship program offered by the city. The only drawback was that the program was designed for the poor and needy, and while Peter’s family was not well-to-do, they didn’t fall into the category of poor and needy. The principal of the school was upset with Peter being there on scholarship, and made his life miserable all the time he was there. Years later, in recollecting on his years in school, he said “It cost me dearly. I was treated with contempt and often humiliated.
The principal made me pay in so many ways for that education…He wouldn’t let me recreate with the others. Instead, he had me light his fireplace, sweep his office and his classroom, and had me do a hundred other chores.” In addition, Peter’s father was suffering. Remember, he was a very proud man. He worked hard and built up his business and his station in the town all by himself. He was not a poor man, nor was his family poor. He resented the stigma his family received because of Peter’s scholarship. He brought it up to the principal, who agreed with him for different reasons. The principal bellowed at the father, “Well, simply take him out of this school, if that’s the way you feel!” Peter was removed. His father was happy; the principal was happy. The only victim in this scenario was Peter. He was back to square one. He found himself back at his father’s business. But he never gave up.
Saint Peter Julian Eymard went to work for a priest at a hospital in Grenoble, with the assurance that he would have time to study Latin, which was a major hurdle he had to overcome if he were to become a priest. As it turned out, the hospital turned out to be an insane asylum. The priest, although we believe he had all good intentions, never had time to give Peter Latin lessons. So Peter had to learn on his own. He was not happy with the situation, but he was determined to learn Latin, so he accepted his plight at the asylum. At one point, he was shocked by the casual news that his mother had died. He was completely distraught. She had always been his greatest support, even trying to stand up to his father, which was never successful.
Saint Peter Julian Eymard rushed back to La Mure, but by this time, his mother was in the ground, and his father was grieving privately. Peter stayed with the family for a short time, until a priest from the Oblates of Mary came to La Mure to give a Lenten retreat. He must have observed Peter at the retreat, because he boldly went to the house of Peter’s father to ask permission for Peter to enter the Oblate novitiate. Although Mr. Eymard had fought this for years, Peter was now 18 years old, and determined to follow his vocation. Permission was given.
Saint Peter Julian Eymard made a visit to Our Lady of Laus to thank her for her part in softening his father’s heart. Then he headed for Marseilles, and the novitiate of the Oblates of Mary. It was June 1829. You remember we told you he had an uphill fight all his life to realize his dream to become a priest. Well, it didn’t end with his entering the novitiate. Within 5 months, he became so ill; he had to be sent back to La Mure. Actually, his superiors thought he was dying, and were sending him home to die comfortably. However, his sisters, with the help of Our Lady of Laus, no doubt, nursed him back to health. This was a good thing, but not so much a good thing. His sisters adopted a domineering hold on Peter, which took some time and a lot of determination to break.
During this time back at La Mure, his father, who had been very healthy, but grieving over the death of his wife, died. This was only two years after Peter’s mother had passed away. With the help and advice of his sisters, he decided to apply for permission to enter the diocesan seminary in Grenoble. It would be less taxing on his system, so thought the sisters. Actually, they had ulterior motives. As a diocesan priest, they could sweet-talk the bishop into letting him be stationed closer to home, so that they could take care of him. It actually worked for a while. But they could see that he was not necessarily content to be a diocesan priest. This was made manifest when, after his ordination in 1834, at the cathedral in Grenoble, he chose to celebrate his first mass at Notre Dame de l’Ossier, rather than his parish in La Mure, or at the shrine of Our Lady of Laus. The sisters thought this strange.
But his reasoning was fairly simple. Notre Dame de l’Ossier, while not important to him during his lifetime, was under the direction of the Oblates of Mary, and so we see that he still wanted to keep the door open to join the Oblates. However, the Oblates were not sold on the idea of his joining their community, most likely because of his poor health. Meanwhile, the sisters kept in contact with the Bishop, asking for Saint Peter Julian Eymard to be sent closer to home, so that they might take care of him. His first assignment was as associate to the pastor in Chatte, about ninety kilometers from his home town. That was quite a distance to travel, and so he didn’t see his sisters that often. He stayed in Chatte for about two and a half years. During that time, he performed all the duties of a parish priest, but suffered a great deal physically, coughing up blood at times. This was good enough reason for the sisters to appeal again to the bishop to send him even closer to home. His next assignment was in a small village, Monteynard, about 15 kilometers from La Mure, more doable for the sisters to be able to help him. During his time at Monteynard, he really took hold of his ministry. The little church was run-down. They had no priest living there for many years. Peter was actually the pastor for this small community. He did all he could to build up the church. He got new vestments.
He bought statues. They replaced the altar, broken down from age, with a new one. He was well-loved by the parishioners. He worked day and night to accommodate their needs. Nothing was too much to ask for. He would give the working men special time at the rectory at night to go to confession. He restored a small chapel at a far end of town for special services, so that the people would not have to come into town. To the parishioners, the Lord had truly sent an angel. But no sooner had he arrived at Monteynard than his old friend and mentor, Fr. Touché, from Our Lady of Laus shrine, came to visit him. He told Saint Peter Julian Eymard of a new religious community which was being formed in Lyons, the Society of Mary, the Marists. Peter went to speak to the founder and superior, Fr. Colin, who asked him to pray on whether the Lord was calling him to this new order, and if so, to ask his bishop permission to be released from the diocese. Peter wrote to his bishop, asking permission to join the Marists, to do missionary works. The bishop, who did not want to lose him, responded by telling him there was much missionary work to be done right there in the diocese. At the same time, the superior of the Marists wrote that he had accepted Fr. Peter. What to do? When he explained his predicament to the superior of the Marists, he was told to keep after his bishop to get permission to leave. The bishop finally realized that this was God who was directing Fr. Peter, and so he gave in and allowed him to leave the diocese. It would seem like everything should be wonderful. He was given permission to leave. Now all he had to do was to overcome the hurdle of his sisters and his parishioners.
He planned his departure in a way that no one would even know he was gone. He had all his bags packed. He had hired a musician to play at Church to distract the community after Sunday Mass, so that they would not notice him leaving with all his belongings. His sisters had gone to Grenoble to speak to the bishop, trying to talk him out of having Peter do missionary work in the diocese. When the bishop told them of Peter’s plans, to leave the diocese altogether, they rushed back in haste to Monteynard, to try to dissuade him. As luck would have it, they arrived at the church as he was carrying his bags to the coach which would take him to Lyons and his new life. His sister begged him to reconsider his decision. He was adamant. She implored him to spend just one more day with her. He said, “Sister, God calls me today. Tomorrow will be too late!” She collapsed in the arms of her friends who were with her. Peter just kept going. He knew that if he faltered, all would be lost. He could never get that image out of his mind. For years, he talked about that difficult tearing away from his sisters and his community. But the Lord was calling him. He had to say yes. Saint Peter Julian Eymard found tremendous joy in being part of the newly formed community of Marists.
Although he continued to suffer poor health, sometimes to the point of fearing death, he surged forward, becoming more and more a part of the order. He was promoted to high positions. He was given great responsibilities. He accepted all of these as a gift from the Lord and a responsibility to carry out the task the Lord had given him. He traveled all over France for the Marists. In 1849, he went to Paris for the first time on Marist business. While there, he met a man who would have a great impact on his life and future community. His name was Raymond de Cuers, who were involved in an organization promoting nocturnal prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord touched Peter’s heart at that time. All he thought then was that it was a good practice, praying before the Blessed Sacrament, and a great devotion. When he returned to Lyons, he went about setting up such an association in that diocese, in his spare time, which wasn’t that much. However, the Blessed Sacrament began to take first place in his mind and his prayers. A newly formed order of nuns devoted to the Blessed Sacrament was formed in Lyons.
Saint Alphonsus Ligouri
His father had him trained to become a lawyer.
By the time he was sixteen years old, he was so proficient in his studies, he received a degree of Doctor of Laws.
And this came about in spite of the fact that the required age to receive such a degree was no younger than twenty years of age.
When he received his degree, his stature was so small, the robes of his new profession dragged on the floor, dwarfing him, to the delight of all in attendance.
His next step – he studied for the Bar, and by the age of nineteen he was able to practice law in the courts, again far ahead of all who had preceded him. The world and its snares were weaving gossamer fibers (not unlike those of a spider’s web), threatening to entrap the young man in its web.
There was an ongoing battle for Saint Alphonsus Ligouri’s future.
Although his father’s focus was to groom him for the world, his mother, who was highly spiritual, was the loving instrument who would prepare him for a future life as Jesus and Mary’s troubadour.
But it would not be a battle easily won. Now, don’t get me wrong. Saint Alphonsus Ligouri’s father, even when trying to arrange a suitable marriage for him, always prompted him to place God first. Father and son even made retreats together.
Alphonsus begins his walk toward Sainthood
His walk was not to be an easy one. His father was not too happy with his two ill-attempted tries at marrying Alphonsus to a suitable wife of a prestigious family, nor was he pleased with his son’s decision to leave his profession as a lawyer. His worst fears were realized! His father was furious with his decision to leave the world and enter Religious Life, especially as an Oratorian. After enduring two months of trials, finally triumph! – resignation on his father’s side and compromise on that of Alphonsus. His father gave his consent to his son pursuing a Religious Life as a priest, as long as it was not as an Oratorian; and Alphonsus agreed! The other hook was that Alphonsus agree to remain at home; and Alphonsus agreed!
Without fidelity to an Order already established, it freed Alphonsus to found an Order of his own, one day. On October 23rd., in the year 1723, Alphonsus was vested in the clothes of a cleric; and in September of the following year, he received the tonsure, soon after gaining admittance to a missionary secular priests organization, called the “Neopolitan Propaganda” where priests were not required to live a communal life in community. He was to receive minor orders in December of the year 1724, and joined the Subdiaconate in September of the following year, 1725. April the 6th, 1726, he was enrolled in the Diaconate, as a Deacon. On December 21st of that same year, Alphonsus was ordained a priest – he was now thirty years old.
For the next two years, he was involved in missionary work throughout the Kingdom of Naples. (Unlike today, it encompassed many areas of Italy, which at that time was not a unified country). As we aforementioned, the Church was under attack and suffering, what with the liberal, humanistic effects of Renaissance completely out of control and in contrast the unrelenting, uncompromising rigidity toward the Sacrament of Penance – a product of Jansenism, threatening to destroy her from within. St. Alphonsus came against both these extremes. He was able to win the hearts of all who listened, with his simplicity, speaking to the souls of men as well as to their minds, at their level – never talking down to them or over their heads. The simplest baker was able to absorb the Word of God alongside those of the intelligentsia. A common comment was: “It is a pleasure to listen to your sermons; you forget yourself and preach Jesus.” He passed on this wisdom to all he instructed for missionary work: “Your style must be simple, but the sermon must be well constructed. If skill be lacking, it is unconnected and tasteless; if it be bombastic, the simple cannot understand it. I have never preached a sermon the poorest old woman in the congregation cannot understand.”
Again in contrast to the rigors of Jansenism to which he was most opposed, he treated souls seeking forgiveness in the confessional as precious souls desiring to be saved, instead of as criminals deserving punishment. He brought the gentle, forgiving love of the Savior to all who reached out to him, seeking pardon in the confessional. He did not treat penitents harshly. More like his Lord, who gently told Mary Magdalene to go and sin no more, St. Alphonsus did not try to frighten them into leading a more holy life, free of sin. It has been said, he never refused anyone seeking absolution. Now this did not sit well with some, causing them to look upon him and his teaching with distrust.