TAKEN FROM THE SPIRIT OF ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
Mission Church Press, 1910
with Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat
Even as a young man in the world, he fasted on bread and water every Saturday in honor of the Mother of God, and this he continued to do, unless prevented by sickness, till the end of his life. Besides this, he was accustomed to impose other mortifications on himself; for example, on days devoted to the Blessed Virgin, he would deny himself even a drink of water to quench his thirst however great it might be; on Saturdays during her Novenas and on the vigils of her seven principal feasts he was accustomed to discipline himself to blood. In a reply to the attacks from Abbe Rolli, the Saint declared that from his tenderest years he had always had a special veneration for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Before beginning any action and as often as he heard the clock strike he would recite a Hail Mary devoutly. As soon as he heard the Angelus bell ring, he would kneel down to recite his prayers, no matter how muddy the road or how distinguished the persons with whom he might happen to be----it even happened that when he was sick in bed he would rise in order to say the Angelus on his knees. On his table he always kept a picture of Our Lady of Good Counsel which he often gazed upon with love, and before which he frequently prayed for light in perplexities and doubts and for comfort in the trials of life.
He frequently visited churches dedicated to the Mother of God. When he repaired to Rome for his episcopal consecration he made use of the opportunity to visit the Holy House of Loretto. There in deep contemplation he admired the wondrous humility of the Son of God and he never tired showing Him marks of his gratitude and love. On his arrival at St. Agatha, he noticed that there was no statue of the Mother of God in the Cathedral. He had an artist paint a picture of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin for the high Altar, in order that the faithful after their visit to the Blessed Sacrament, might salute the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In a place not far distant from his residence there was an old dilapidated church once dedicated to the Mother of God. He had this church entirely rebuilt and adorned with a picture of the Sorrowful Mother, and whenever he took a walk, he always went there to pay his respects to the Blessed Virgin. He had a great devotion to the holy Rosary, as this form of prayer was revealed to St. Dominic by the Blessed Virgin herself. Besides the ordinary beads which he wore about his neck, he had even as bishop a Rosary of fifteen decades hanging at his cincture, and the members of his congregation are obliged to wear the Rosary constantly as a sign of their devotion to the Mother of God. According to the Rule of his Order he said the Rosary every day, and even as bishop he said it in common with the members of his household, and strangers who happened to be stopping with him, howsoever distinguished had to take part in this devotion. Before they began to recite the beads he would inquire whether all were present, and if anyone was absent he had him called.
This devotion of the Rosary was so dear to him that he made constant use of it on his missionary journeys, his visitations, and even his walks. When, in the latter part of his life, his memory began to fail him, he would often ask the lay brother assisting him if he had already said the Rosary. The brother would assure him that he had said it and would at times chide him for doubting so often about it; but the Saint would answer very earnestly: "If I express a doubt as to whether or not I said the Rosary, you must not take it ill, for all my thoughts are centered on my soul and its salvation, and to doubt whether I said my Rosary or not, is to doubt whether I have done what will procure for me the grace of perseverance and eternal salvation." "Very well," said the brother "we'll make an agreement----every Hail Mary you say beyond the number----making up the Rosary will be for the good of my soul." "Ah, now, that's enough," replied Alphonsus, "you are using idle words, and some day you'll have to give an account of them to God." Our Saint always wore four Scapulars that of Mt. Carmel, of the Immaculate Conception, of the Seven Dolors and of the Blessed Trinity.
To the great wonder of all who witnessed it, it was found several years after his death when his remains were taken up and examined, that his Scapulars were still preserved intact, whereas all his apparel had crumbled to dust. Did not the Blessed Virgin wish to signify by this how pleasing to her was the devotion of her faithful servant?
Alphonsus knew well how to animate others with the love for the Blessed Virgin which filled his own heart. Through this devotion he looked to an abundant harvest from his apostolic labors and his hopes were not in vain. He introduced the custom of preaching a sermon at every mission on the powerful protection of the Blessed Virgin; and he was wont to say that whoever was not touched and converted by this sermon must certainly have a hardened heart.
Besides this he had the Rosary said every evening before the sermon, with a short consideration on the mysteries. He prescribed that in all the churches of his Congregation a short sermon should be preached every Saturday on the prerogatives, the virtues or the patronage of the Blessed Virgin. As bishop he enforced the same regulation in the more important places of his diocese. The Saturday sermon he always preached himself. His words always and everywhere touched the hearts of his hearers and were so striking and effective that the people seemed to imagine that they were listening to an angel. He desired to communicate to everyone the feeling that had taken possession of his own heart. He called Mary his Mother, his Hope and his Refuge, and it was sufficient to hear him speak about the Blessed Virgin to be filled with love for the Queen of Heaven.
One day he related in a sermon, the following occurrence. During a mission which was given by the members of our congregation, some one came into the church during the sermon simply to disturb the people and ridicule the missionary who happened to be preaching on the Blessed Virgin. The missionary spoke to him from the pulpit and said: "Since you do not care to listen to the sermon, at least cast one glance at the picture of the Mother of God;----that is not so difficult." The scoffer thought within himself, "well that is easily done," and immediately placed himself before the picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary; scarcely had he done so when his eyes filled with tears, and with a loud voice he begged pardon of God. From that moment he was sincerely converted. Although the Saint did not mention it, it is probable that this occurrence happened to himself.
It was his pious custom to distribute pictures of the Mother of God wherever he happened to be, and at the same time he would exhort all to honor and love the Queen of Heaven and recommend themselves to her in time of temptation. Although he was always well provided with these pictures, it always gave him great pleasure when his friend Salvator Tramontana brought him a number from Naples. "She is our Mother," he would often say: "She will bring us to Heaven."
As bishop he was often heard to utter this prayer: "My Mother and my hope, help me and my people."
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