ALPHONSUS 335 ALPHOMSUS Alphonsus, like so many saints, had an excellent father and a saintly mother. Don Joseph de' Liguori had liis faults. He was somewhat worldly ami am- bitious, at any rate for his son, and was rough tempered wlieii opposed. Hut lie wius a nuin of genuine faith and piety and staiidess life, and he meant liis son to be the same. Even when taking him into .society in order to arrange a good marriage for him, he wished Alphonsus to put (iod first, and every year father and .son would make a retreat together in some religious house. Alphonsus. as- sisted by diine grace, thd not liisappoint his fatlier's care. A pure and modest boyhood passed into a St. Alphonsds Liouobi manhood without reproach. A companion, Bal- thasar Cito, who after^vards became a distinguished judge, was asked in later years if Alphonsus had ever shown signs of levity in his youth. He answered emphatically: "Never! It would be a sacrilege to say othenvise." The Saint's confe.s.-a.jr declared that he preserved his baptismal innocence till death. Still there was a time of danger. There can be little doubt but that the young .lphonsus with his high spirits ami strong character was ardently attached to his profession, and on the way to be spoilt by the success and popularity which it brought. Abou» the year 1722, when he was twenty-six years old, he Degan to go constantly into .society, to neglect prayer and the practices of piety which had been an integral part of his life, and to take pleasure in the attention with which he was everj-where received. " Ban- quets, entertainments, tlieatres," he wrote later on — these arc the pleasures of the world, but pleasures which are filled with the bitterness of gall and sharp thorns. Believe me who have experienced it, and now weep over it." In all this there was no serious sin, but there was no high sanctity either, and God, Who wished His servant to be a saint and a great saint, was now to make him take the road to Damas- cus. In 1723 there was a lawsuit in the courts between a Neapolitan nobleman, who.se name has not come down to us. and the (Irand Duke of Tuscany, in which property valued at .'jlW.OOO ducats, that is to say, 850O,(K)O", or £l(X),tXX). w.ts at stake. Al- phonsus was one of the leading counsel; we do not know on which siile. When the day came the future Saint made a brilliant opening speech and sat down confident of victory. But before he called a witness the opposing counsel said to him in chilling tonea- "Your arguments are wasted breath. You have overlooked a document which destroys your whole case." " What document is that?" said Alphonsus somewhat piuued. " Let us have it." A piece of evidence Wius lianded to him which he ha*l read and re-read many times, but always in a sense the exact contrarj' of that which he now saw it to have. The poor advocate turned pale. He remained thunder- struck for a moment; then said in a broken voice: " You are right. I have been mistaken. This docu- ment gives you the case." In vain tho.se around him anil even the judge on the bench tried to console him. He was crusheil to the earth. He thought his mis- take would be ascribed not to oversight but to de- liberate deceit. He felt as if his career was ruined, and left the court almost beside himself, saying: " World, I know you now. Courts, you shall never see me more." I'or three days he refu.sed all food. Then the storm subsided, and he began to sec that his humiliation had been sent him by God to break down his priile and wean him from the world. Con- fident that .some special sacrifice was required of him, though he did not yet know what, he did not return to his profession, but .sixjnt his days in prayer, seek- ing to know God's will. After a short mterval — we do not know exactly how long — the answer came. On 28 -Vugust, 1723, the young advocate had gone to perform a favourite act of charity by visiting the sick in the Ho.spital for Incurables. Suddenly he found himself surrounded by a mysterious light; the house seemed to rock, anii an interior voice said: "Leave the world and give tliyself to Me." This occurred twice. Alphonsus left the Hospital and went to the church of the Redemption of Captives. Here he laid his sword before the statue of Our Lady, and made a solemn resolution to enter the eccle- siastical state, and furthermore to offer himself as a novice to the Fathers of the Oratory. He knew that trials were before him. His father, already dis- pleaseil at the failure of two plans for his son's mar- riage, and exasperated at .Vlphonsus's present neg'ect of his profession, was likely to offer a strenuous opposition to his leaving the world. So indeed it proved. He had to endure a real persecution for two months. In the end a compromise was arried at. Don Joseph agreetl to allow liis son to become a priest, provided he would give up his proposal of joming tne Oraton.', and would continue to live at home. To this .Uphonsus by the advice of his director. Father Thomas Pagano, himself an Ora- torian, agreeti. Thus was he left free for his real work, the foimding of a new religious congregation. On 23 October of the same year, 1723, the Saint put on the clcric.il dress. In September of the next year he received the tonsure and soon after joined the association of missionary secular priests called the "Neapolitan Prop.iganda", membership of which did not entail residence in common. In December, 1724, he received minor orders, and the subdiaconate in September, 1725. On 6 .pril, 1726, he w.as ordained deacon, and soon after preached his first sermon. On 21 December of the same year, at the age of thirty, he w.is ordained priest. For six years he laboured in and around Naples, giving missions for the Propaganda and preaching to the lazzaroni of the capital. With the aid of two laymen, Peter Bar- barese. a schoolmaster, and NaRlone, an old soldier, both of whom he converted from an evil life, he en- rolled thousands of lazzaroni in a sort of confra- ternity calleti the " .Association of the Chapels ", which exists to this day. Then God called him to his life work. In .pril, 1729, the .postle of China, Matthew Ripa, founded a missionary college in Naples, which became known colloquially as the "Chine.se College". A few months later .lpbonsus left bis father's bouse
Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/375
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