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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Wednesday

Focused on the person of the Redeemer

Today we celebrate the life and legacy of our founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori, who died on this date in 1787 at the age of 91. In addition to founding the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Alphonsus was an accomplished moral theologian, spiritual author, pastor, preacher, artist and musician. He became a bishop in 1762, was canonized in 1839, and declared a doctor of the church in 1950. He is the patron of confessors, moral theologians and arthritics.

But above all, Alphonsus was a missionary. This past June we celebrated the 250th anniversary of Alphonsus’ consecration as a bishop. Our Superior General, Fr. Michael Brehl, addressed the confreres and friends gathered in Rome to celebrate the anniversary, and spoke about the missionary zeal of this reluctant bishop:
 
On June 20, 1762, in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, Alphonsus Liguori was ordained a Bishop. This year, we celebrate the 250th anniversary of this event. This occasion calls us to reflect on the missionary service of St. Alphonsus as a Redemptorist and as a bishop. It reminds us that the “Congregation shares the mandate given to the Church, which … is missionary of its very nature” (Const. 1).
 
Why is this occasion so important to celebrate? Many Redemptorists are Bishops. Over the history of the Congregation, 154 Redemptorist Missionaries have been called to the episcopacy. 51 of these Redemptorist Bishops are still living today. Most of them are Missionary Bishops, in challenging pastoral situations.

In his biography, Fr. Rey-Mermet quotes from a letter written by his confessor about a month after Alphonsus Episcopal Consecration:

“Everyone admires his tireless energy, his great patience … and his big heart in giving audience to even the most insignificant person. He is always ready to go down to the Church to hear people’s confessions or go to the parlor to listen to them. He will go anywhere if his presence will help. He is an untiring preacher…” (p. 539)


Focused on the person of the Redeemer and moved by compassion for the abandoned and the poor, Alphonsus gave himself totally for plentiful redemption. He gave his life for his sheep. Afflicted with illness and worn out by his ministry, he thought of resigning. Hearing this, the Pope is reputed to have commented that from his sick bed, the episcopal ministry and presence of Alphonsus had greater impact for the good of people than many bishops at the courts of kings.

I would like to conclude these few reflections with some thoughts from St. Alphonsus himself. Fr. Rey-Mermet quotes from a circular letter written by the Bishop in 1775:

“My beloved brothers, I am certain that Jesus Christ is looking most lovingly on our small Congregation which is the apple of his eye. Experience has proven that he continues to make us worthy of being instruments of his glory in many countries, multiplying his graces. I shall not see it because my death is not far off but I am firmly confident that our small flock will continue to grow, not in riches and honors, but in the promotion of the glory of God. By our work Jesus Christ will be better known and loved by other men and women.” (p. 607)
 
As we preach the Gospel ever anew, may the celebration of this anniversary inspire every Redemptorist missionary — Bishops, priests, deacons, brothers, lay men and women — to follow more closely in the footsteps of Jesus the Redeemer in the spirit of St. Alphonsus. Amen.