ALPHONSUS 336 ALPHONSUS and went to live witli Hipa, without, however, be- coming a member of his society. In his new abode he met a friend of liis host's, Fatlier Thomas Falcoia, of the Congregation of the " Pii Operarii" (Pious Workers), and forineil with him the great friendship of liis life. There was a considerable difference in age between the two men, for Falcoia, born in 1663, was now sixty-six, and Alphonsus only thirty-three, but the oUl priest and the young had kindred souls. Many years before, in Rome, Falcoia had been shown a vision of a new religious family of men and wonien whose particular aim should be the perfect imitation of the virtues of Our Lord. He had even tried to form a branch of the Institute by uniting twelve priests in a common life at Tarentum, but the com- munity soon broke up. In 1719, together with a Father Filangieri, also one of the "Pii Operarii", he had refounded a Conservatorium of religious women at Scala on the mountains behind Amalfi. But as he drew up a rule for them, formed from that of the Visitation nuns, he does not seem to have had any clear idea of establishing the new institute of his vision. God, however, intended the new institute to begin with these nuns of Scala. In 1724, soon after .A.lphonsus left the world, a postulant, JuUa Crostarosa, born in Naples on 31 October, 1696, and hence almost the same age as the Saint, entered the convent of Scala. She became known in religion as Sister Maria Celeste. In 1725, while still a novice, she had a series of visions in which she saw a new order (apparently of nuns only) similar to that revealed to Falcoia many years before. Even its Rule was made known to her. She was told to write it down and show it to the director of the convent, that is to Fiilcoia himself. While affecting to treat the novice with severity and to take no notice of her ■^asions, the director was surprised to find that the Rule which she had written down was a realization of what had been so long in his mind. He submitted the new Rule to a number of theologians, who ap- proved of it, and said it might be adopted in the convent of Scala, provided the community would accept it. But when the question was put to the community, opposition began. Most were in favour of accepting, but the superior objected and appealed to Filangieri, Falcoia's colleague in establishing the convent, and now, as General of the "Pii Operarii", his superior. Filangieri forbade any change of rule and removed Falcoia from all communication with the convent. Matters remained thus for some years. About 1729, however, Filangieri died, and on 8 Octo- ber, 1730, Falcoia was consecrated Bishop of Castella- mare. He was now free, subject to the approval of the Bishop of Scala, to act with regard to the con- vent as he thought best. It happened that Al- phonsus, ill and overworked, had gone with some companions to Scala in the early summer of 1730. Unable to be idle, he had preached to the goatherds of the mountains with such success that Nicolas Guerriero, Bishop of Scala, begged him to return and give a retreat in his cathedral. Falcoia, liearing of this, begged his friend to give a retreat to the nuns of his Conservatorium at the same time. Alphonsus agreed to both requests and set out with his two friends, John Mazzini and Vincent Mannarini, in September, 1730. The result of the retreat to the nuns was that the young priest, who before had been prejudiced by reports in Naples against the pro- posed new Rule, became its firm supporter, and even obtained permission from the Bishop of Scala for the diange. In 1731, the convent unanimously adopted the new Rule, together with a habit of red and blue, the tratlitional colours of Our Lord's own dress. One branch of the new Institute .seen by Falcoia in vision w:us thus established. The other was not to be long delayed. No doubt Tliomas I'ulcoia had for some time hoped that the ardent young priest, who was .so devoted to him. might, under his direction, be the founder of the new Order he had at heart. A fresh vision of Sister Maria Celeste seemed to show that such w.as 'the will of God. On 3 October, 1731, the eve of the feast of St. Francis, she saw Our Lord with St. Francis on His right hand and a priest on His left. A voice said "This is he whom I have cliosen to be head of My Institute, the Prefect General of a new Congrega- tion of men who shall work for My glory." The priest was Alphonsus. Soon after, F'alcoia made known to the latter his vocation to leave Naples and establish an order of missionaries at Scala. who should work above all for the neglected goatherds of the mountains. A year of trouble and anxiety followed. The Superior of the Propaganda and even Falcoia's friend, Matthew Ripa, opposed the project with all their might. But Alplionsus's director, Father Pagano; Father Fiorillo, a great Dominican preacher; Father Manulio, Provincial of the Jesuits; and Vincent Cutica, Superior of the Vincentians, supported the young priest, and, 9 November, 1732, the " Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer ", or as it was called for seventeen years, "of the Most Holy SaN-iour", was begun in a little hospice belonging to the nuns of Scala. Though St. Alphonsus was foimder and de facto head of the Institute, its general direction in the beginning, as well as the direction of .lphonsus's conscience, was undertaken by the Bishop of Castellamare and it was not till the latter's death, 20 April, 1743, that a general chapter was held and the Saint was formally elected Superior- General. In fact, in the beginning, the young priest in his humility woultl not be Superior even of the house, judging one of his companions, John Baptist Donato, better fittetl for the post because he had already had some experience of community life in another institute. Tlie early years, following the founding of the new order, were not promising. Dissensions arose, the Saint's former friend and chief companion, Vincent Mannarini, opposing him and Falcoia in everj'thing. On 1 April, 1733, all the companions of Alphonsus except one lay brother, Vitus Curtius, abandoned him, and founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, which, confined to the Kingdom of Naples, was extinguished in 1860 by the Italian Revolution. The dissensions even spread to the nuns, and Sister Maria Celeste herself left Scala and founded a convent at Foggia, where she died in the odour of sanctity, 14 September, 1755. She was declared Venerable 11 August, 1901. Alphonsus, however, stood firm; soon other companions arried, and though Scala itself was given up by the Fatliers in 1738, by 1746 the new Congregation liad four houses at Nocera de' Pagani, Ciorani, Iliceto (now Deliceto), and Caposele, all in the Kingdom of Naples. In 1749, the Rule and Institute of men were approved by Pope Benedict XIV, and in 1750, the Rule and Institute of the nuns. Alphonsus was lawyer, founder, religious superior, bishop, theologian, and mystic, but he was above all a missionary, and no true biography of the Saint will neglect to give this due prominence. From 1726 to 1752, first as a member of the Neapolitan "Propaganda", and then as a leader of his own I'atliers, lie traversed the provinces of Naples for the greater part of each year, giving missions even in the smallest villages and saving many souls. A special feature of his method was the return of tiie missionaries, after an interval of some montlis, to the scene of their labours to con.solidate their work by what w.as called the " re- new.al of a mission." After 1752 Alphon.sus gave fewer mis.sions. His infirmities were increasing, and he was occupied a good deal with his writings. His promotion to the episcopate in 1762 led to a renewal of his missionary activity, but in a slightly different
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