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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

St Alphonsus, a saint for the Year of Mercy

In just another act of generosity that marks the best of Catholic internet activity, somebody has scanned/transcribed the texts of three important spiritual books:
  • Meditations and Readings for Every Day of the Year selected from the writings of St Alphonsus Liguori
  • The Spiritual Combat by Father Dom Lorenzo Scupoli
  • True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Louis de Montfort
The texts are available at the Religious Bookshelf. I am currently using the Meditations selected from St Alphonsus for each day. St Alphonsus is a completely trustworthy writer: so much so that Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him a doctor of the Church in 1871, just 32 years after he was canonised by Pope Gregory XVI. Each day, there is a meditation for the morning, a short passage for spiritual reading, and a meditation for the evening.

St Alphonsus was certainly able to write with passion about the love and mercy of Our Lord. His reflections on the passion are filled with heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifice which our Redeemer offered for us. When he writes of the Blessed Sacrament, he cannot keep from exclaiming in wonder at the generosity of the Lord. He encourages us to ponder the love of the Sacred Heart:
Oh, if we could but understand the love that burns in the Heart of Jesus for us! He has loved us so much, that if all men, all the Angels, and all the Saints were to unite with all their energies, they could not arrive at the thousandth part of the love that Jesus bears to us. He loves us infinitely more than we love ourselves.
He is one with St Paul in exclaiming how much grace abounds for us:
Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, Who came into the world to obtain salvation for us His sheep, has said: I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. (Jo. x. 10). Mark the expression, more abundantly, which signifies that the Son of Man came on earth not only to restore us to the life of grace we lost, but to give us a better life than that which we forfeited by sin.
At the same time, St Alphonsus always spoke with fervour to sinners to persuade them to convert, to turn away from sin and change their lives:
"The sinner says: But God is merciful. I reply: Who denies it? The mercy of God is infinite; but with all that mercy, how many are lost every day! I come to heal the contrite of heart. (Is. lxi. 1). God heals those who have a good will. He pardons sin; but He cannot pardon the determination to sin."
This kind of admonition is never left as though it is merely a criticism of others. Our Saint makes his own the prayer of repentance, offering us an expression that we can use in our own prayers:
"Behold, O Lord, one of those madmen who so often has lost his soul and Thy grace, in the hope of recovering it! And if Thou hadst taken me in that moment, and in those nights when I was in sin, what would have become of me? I thank Thy mercy which has waited for me, and which now makes me sensible of my folly. I see that Thou desirest my salvation, and I desire to be saved. I repent, O Infinite Goodness, of having so often turned my back on Thee; I love Thee with my whole heart. I hope, through the merits of Thy Passion, O my Jesus, to be no longer so foolish; pardon me speedily, and receive me into Thy favour, for I wish never more to leave Thee."
St Alphonsus is piercing in his assessment of the abuse of God's mercy:
God is merciful but He is also just. "I am just and merciful," said the Lord one day to St. Bridget; "sinners regard Me only as merciful." Sinners, says St. Basil, choose to see God only under one aspect: "The Lord is good, but He is also just; we will not consider Him only on one side." To bear with those who make use of the mercy of God only to offend Him the more, would not, said Blessed John of Avila, be mercy, but a want of justice. Mercy is promised to him who fears God, not to him who abuses it. "His mercy is to them that fear Him," as the Divine Mother sang.
And again he applies it in prayer by way of fostering our own conversion:
Ah, my God, behold, I have been one of those who offended Thee because of Thy goodness to me! Ah, Lord, wait for me; do not forsake me yet; for I hope, through Thy grace, never again to provoke Thee to abandon me. I repent, O Infinite Goodness, of having offended Thee, and of having thus abused Thy patience. I thank Thee for having waited for me until now.
The meditations of St Alphonsus offer us plenty of food for meditation during the Year of Mercy.
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