These are antique pictures (ca. 1888) on the life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (Feast Day: August 1st).
THE SAINT AS A YOUTH IN PRAYER.
Once, when Alphonsus was at play with some comrades at a country-seat belonging to Prince della Riccia, one of them said to him angrily: “I thought you said, you did not know the game.” And he added an indecent word. Alphonsus was shocked, and said: “Why offend God for such a trifle? Here is your money.” So saying, he threw it on the ground and left his playfellows.
In the evening, after seeking him in every direction, they found him at length in a solitary part of the garden, kneeling before a statue of the Blessed Virgin, and so absorbed in God, that he heard nothing of what took place around him.
THE SAINT PUT HIS SWORD ON THE ALTAR OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN.
Without delay he entered the nearest church, that of the Redemption of Slaves, knelt down before the altar, and besought Jesus and Mary to accept the offer of his person. He renounced his right of primogeniture, made a resolution to enter a religious order, and placed his sword on the altar of the Blessed Virgin as a pledge of inviolable fidelity to his promise. This day of grace was a marked one in his life, and he always spoke of it afterwards as the day of his conversion.
THE SAINT TENDS THE SICK.
Grace prevailed in him: his only pleasure was found in prayer, meditation, spiritual reading and visits to the hospital for incurables.
Once while visiting there, he heard a voice say: “Why remain any longer in the world?” At first he paid no attention, thinking it a track of the imagination but, when about to leave the hospital, he saw himself enveloped in a splendid light, the house seemed to fall down, and he heard again the same voice saying: “Why remain longer in the world?” Then he stood still, and exclaimed, weeping, “O Lord, too long have I resisted Thy grace: here I am; do with me according to Thy will.”
APPARITION OF THE B. V. TO THE SAINT.
Alphonsus was called by God to found a Congregation of Missionaries, who should assist the most abandoned souls. In spite of the greatest opposition he laid the foundation of his Congregation by erecting the first house at Scala, November 9th, 1732. He and his first companions devoted themselves to the work of their own sanctification and the instruction of ignorant sinners. In the neighborhood of their house was a grotto, where the Blessed Virgin appeared to her Servant and bestowed on him the most exalted graces. In his old age he was heard exclaim: “O my grotto, my sweet grotto! Ah, might I but visit you again, since long before Mary revealed to me there so many delightful things.
THE SAINT PERSEVERES IN HIS VOCATION.
“Dear father,” said Alphonsus, “I see that you suffer for my sake. However, I must declare, that I no longer belong to this world: God has called me, and I am determined to follow his voice. I pray you, bless your child.”
On hearing this his father become silent from emotion. For three hours he clasped his beloved son in his arms, weeping and repeating these words: “My son, why will you leave me? Oh, my son, I don’t deserve this treatment. Never could I have believed such a thing of you. My son, do not leave me!”
It was a bitter struggle, and Alphonsus declared that he had never had such another trial; that but for his confidence in God, he would had been overpowered.
MORTIFICATION OF THE SAINT.
Even when Alphonsus was ninety years old he still mixed bitter herbs in his food, and could not be persuaded to take meat on the days of fasting and abstinence ordered by the Church, nor on Wednesdays. Every Saturday he fasted, and abstained the whole day from drinking. In fear of making a mistake, he often asked Brother Antonio what day of the week it was. Once, on a Friday, while at Rome, he was harassed with pain and fatigue. His superior ordered him to be served with meat, but Alphonsus refused to eat it: then pronouncing a benediction, he made the sign of the cross over the meat, and at the same instant the meat was changed into fish.
THE SAINT’S LOVE OF THE POOR.
In every poor and unhappy creature Alphonsus beheld the living image of Jesus Christ: hence arose his great charity. From the very beginning of his episcopate he resolved so to husband the revenues of his See so as to employ it all in the service of the church and the poor, keeping only a small portion for his on subsistence; even his patrimony and his personal income was used for that purpose. Very often he exhausted all, so that he had nothing left to give, and found himself in want. When, during the famine of 1763, he was at a loss what to do in order to assist his beloved poor, he sold his episcopal cross and ring.
APPARITION OF OUR LADY OF FOGGIA TO S. ALPHONSUS.
Another event occurred, which raised still higher, at Foggia, the already high idea that they had of the sanctity of Alphonsus. He was preaching, one evening, in the presence of all the people, over the high altar. Whilst he was extolling the glory of the mother of God, his hearers thought that they saw an angel rather than a man. Suddenly they beheld a beaming ray of light detach itself from the countenance of Mary, shoot across the whole church, and come to rest on the face of Alphonsus. At the same instant he was ravished in ecstasy, and raised several feet above the pulpit: on seeing this the people burst into shouts of joy, which were heard at a great distance from the church and which drew thither a large number of spectators. More than four thousand persons witnessed the miracle, and several striking conversions were the happy result of it.
SAINT ALPHONSUS ON HIS DEATHBED.
No sooner had the tidings of Alphonsus’ last illness spread, than all the Rectos and the Fathers and Brothers desired to receive the last blessing of their beloved and holy Founder, and the witness his happy death. God glorified his servant, who now, as during life, gave proof of the highest perfection. Though quite insensible, he was ordered under obedience by Father Villani, his director, to give his blessing to the Congregation. At the word obedience he revived, and raising his hand blessed the Fathers and Brothers, then the physician who attended him, afterwards the king, princes, and all the magistrates; finally he blessed his former diocese and the Nuns of the order of the M. Holy Redeemer.
He died August 1st, 1787, surrounded by his weeping children.
ANGELS BEAR ALPHONSUS TO HEAVEN.
It pleased God to glorify his servant immediately after his death, and to perform miracles at the invocation of his name. Among many facts, the following may serve to prove the truth of these words.
On August 2nd, Maria Fusco brought her nephew Joseph, a child one year old, who was almost dying to the body of Alphonsus, and made him touch the holy remains: the child was instantaneously cured. Next day some images were spread before little Joseph, among which was one of Alphonsus; on seeing it, the infant grasped it in its tiny hand, kissed it, and pressed it to its forehead, then pointing to Heaven, it exclaimed: “Alphonsus in Heaven, Alphonsus in Heaven!” The child had never uttered a word before, and had never heard the name of Alphonsus.
In order to ascertain the truth of this miracle they changed the image with another similar one, but the child would not take it, and called out: “No, no, it is not he!” It was soothed after receiving the image of Alphonsus in its hands, and cried out: “The saint in Heaven, Alphonsus in Heaven!”
This wonderful evidence of a child, as yet unable to speak, increased greatly the veneration for Alphonsus.
THE RELICS OF SAINT ALPHONSUS MARY, AT NOCERA DI PAGANI.
The day after the holy death of the Saint, a painter, uninvited, came from Naples to take the portrait of Alphonsus; he also took a cast of his face in plaster. Then the body was put in a leaden coffin, provided with six seals of the Cathedral-chapter, four of the town council of Pagani, and two of the Congregation. Besides this, it was locked with three different keys, one of which was confided to the care of the Prince of Polleca, Don Joseph Capano Orsini, who represented the family at the funeral; another key was given to the municipal council, while the third remained with the rector of the house.
These precautions having been made, the coffin was laid at the left of the altar.
A Carmelite Nun, who died in the odour of sanctity at Ripa Candida, saw Alphonsus in the eternal glory, encircled by a radiant light.