ALPHONSUS 338 ALPHONSUS to be able to rebut tlie cliarge of being an illegal religious congregation, which was one of the chief allegations in the ever-adjourned and ever-impending action by Baron Sarnelli. Perhaps in any case the submission of their Rule to a suspicious and even hostile civil power was a mistake. At all events, it proved disastrous in the result. Alphonsus being so old and .so infirm— he was eighty-five, crippled, deaf, and nearly blind — his one chance of success was to be faithfully .served by friends and subordinates, and he was betrayed at every turn. His friend the Grand Almoner betrayed him; his two envoys for negotiating with the Grand Almoner, Fathers Ma- jone and Cimino, betrayed him, consultors general though they were. His very confessor and vicar- general in the government of his Order, Father An- drew Villani, joined in the conspiracy. In the end the Rule was so altered as to be hardly recognizable, the very vows of religion being abolished. To this altered Rule, or "Regolamento", as it came to be called, the unsuspecting Saint was induced to put his signature. It was approved by the king and forced upon the stupefied Congregation by the whole power of the State. A fearful commotion arose. Alphonsus himself was not spared. Vague rumours of impending treachery had got about and had been made known to him, but he had refused to believe them. "You have founded the Congregation and you have destroyed it", said one Father to him. The Saint only wept in silence and tried in vain to devise some means by which his Order might be saved. His best plan would have been to consult the Holy See, but in this he had been forestalled. The Fathers in the Papal States, with too precipitate zeal, in the very beginning denounced the change of Rule to Rome. Pius VI. already deeply displeased with the Neapolitan Government, took the Fathers in his own dominions under his special protection, forbade all change of rule in their houses, and even withdrew them from obedience to the Neapolitan superiors, that is to St. Alphonsus, till an inquiry could be held. A long process followed in the Court of Rome, and on 22 September, 17S0, a provisional Decree, which on 24 August, 1781, was made abso- lute, recognized the houses in the Papal States as alone constituting the Redemptorist Congregation. Father Francis de Patila, one of the chief appellants, was appointed their Superior General, "in place of those", so the brief ran, "who being higher superiors of the said Congregation have with their followers adopted a new system essentially different from the old, and have deserted the Institute in which they were professed, and have thereby ceased to be mem- bers of the Congregation." So the Saint was cut off from his own Order by the Pope who was to declare him "Venerable". In this state of exclusion he lived for seven years more and in it he died. It was only after his death, as he had prophesied, that the Neapolitan Government at last recognized the original Rule, and that the Redemptorist Congrega- tion was reunited under one head (1793). .Mphonsus had still one final storm to meet, and then the end. About three years before his death he went through a veritable "Night of the Soul", learful temptations against every virtue crowded unon him, together with diabolical apparitions and illusions, and terrible scruples and impulses to de- spair which made life a hell. At last came peace, and on 1 August, 1787, as the midday Angelus was ringing, the Saint passed peacefully to his rew-ard. He had nearly completed his ninety-first year. He was declared "Venerable", 4 May, 1796; was beati- fied in 1810, and canonized in 1839. In 1871, he was declared a Doctor of the Church. "Alphonsus was of middle height", says his first biographer, Tannoia; "his head was rather large, his hair black, and beard well-grown." He had a pleasant smile, and his conversation was ery agreeable, yet he had great dignity of manner. He was a born leader of men. His devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady was extraordinarj'. He had a tender charity towards all who were in trouble; he would go to any length to try to save a vocation; he would expose himself to death to prevent sin. He had a love for the lower animals, and wild creatures who fled from all else would come to him as to a friend. Psychologically, Alphonsus may be classed among twice-born souls; that is to say, there was a definitely marked break or conversion, in his life, in which he turned, not from serious sin, for that he never com- mitted, but from comparative worldliness, to thorough self-sacrifice for God. Alphonsus's temperament was very ardent. He was a man of strong passions, using the term in the philosophic sense, and tremendous energy, but from childhood his passions were under control. Yet, to take anger alone, though compara- tively early in life he seemed dead to insult or injury which affected himself, in cases of cruelty, or of in- justice to others, or of dishonour to God, he showed a prophet's indignation even in old age. Ultimately, however, anything merely human in this nad dis- appeared. At the worst, it was only the scalTolding by which the temple of perfection was raised. In- deed, apart from those who become saints by the altogether special grace of martyrdom, it may be doubted if many men and women of phlegmatic temperament have been canonized. The differen- tia of saints is not faultlessness but driving-power, a driving-power exerted in generous self-sacrifice and ardent love of God. The impulse to this pas- sionate service of God comes from Divine grace, but the soul must correspond (which is also a grace of God), and the soul of strong will and strong passions corresponds best. The difficulty about strong wills and strong passions is that they are hard to tame, but when they are tamed they are the raw material of sanctity. Not less remarkable than the intensity with which Alphonsus worked is the amount of work he did. His perseverance was indomitable. He both made and kept a vow not to lose a single moment of time. He was helped in this by his turn of mind which was extremely practical. Though a good dog- matic theologian — a fact which has not been suffi- ciently recognized — he was not a metaphysician like the great scholastics. He was a lawyer, not only during his years at the Bar, but throughout his whole life — a lawyer, who to skilled advocacy and an enormous knowledge of practical detail added a wide and luminous hold of underlying principles. It was this which made him the prince of moral theo- logians, and gained him, when canonization made it possible, the title of "Doctor of the Church". This combination of practical common sense with extra- ordinary energy in administrative work ought to make .Alphonsus, if he were better known, particu- larly attractive to the English-speaking nations, es- pecially as he is so modern a saint. But we must not push resemblances too far. If in some things Alphonsus was an Anglo-Saxon, in others he was a Neapolitan of the Neapolitans, though always a saint. He often writes as a Neapolitan to Neapoli- tans. Were the vehement things in his letters and writings, especially in the matter of rebuke or com- plaint, to be appraised as if uttered by an Anglo- Saxon in cold blood, we might be surprised and even shocked. Neapolitan students, in an animated but amicable discussion, seem to foreign eyes to be taking part in a violent quarrel. St. Alphonsus ap- peared a miracle of calm to Tannoia. Could he have Deeii what an Anglo-Saxon would consider a miracle of calm, he would have seemed to his companions absolutely inhuman. The saints are not inhuman but real men of flesh and blood, however much some
Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/378
This page needs to be proofread.