Saint Alphonsus De Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist Congregation, had a great impact on the life of Eugene de Mazenod, the founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Saint Alphonsus Maria De Liguori (1696-1787)
Saint Alphonsus Maria De Liguori was born of a noble family on October 27, 1696 in Marianella, near Naples. Alphonsus was the eldest of eight children, four of whom were girls. His father, Joseph, a Knight of Porta Nuova, was a captain of the royal galleys. His mother, Anna Cavalieri was woman of prayer. Three sons and two daughters consecrated themselves to God’s service.
Alphonsus was a very gifted child, prayerful, but energetic and high-spirited. His early education took place within the family. There was no hesitation in obtaining for him the best of teachers. At twelve years of age, with a dispensation because of his age, he was received as a student in the faculty of law at the university of Naples. After four years, with a dispensation because of his age, on January 21, 1713, he was awarded the degree of doctor utriusque iuris. He articled for three years and then began to plead cases with great success. His future looked very bright, filled with the promise of worldly acclaim.
An incident would abruptly interrupt this brilliant career. A conflict arose between Duke Orsini and the Grand Duke of Tuscany. What was in question was a piece of property valued at an estimated 500,000 ecus. Duke Orsini entrusted his case to Alphonsus. Alphonsus delivered an extraordinary plea to the effect that everyone thought he would win the case. But the advocate for the other party pointed out that, in quoting the most important document, Alphonsus left out a negative particle and, as a result, the document would have exactly the opposite meaning from that given it by Alphonsus. To the consternation of everyone, Alphonsus acknowledged that he had made a mistake and, completely bewildered, could only mutter these words: “I made a mistake! I made a mistake!” Upon his return home, he fell on his knees before his crucifix and wept bitter tears. He promised Jesus that he would renounce all glory as a barrister and would consecrate his life to the service of the poor. He began at the care home for the Incurables. One day while he was at prayer, an interior voice bade him: “Alphonsus, withdraw from the world; you must live only for me.”
In spite of the opposition of his parents, he decided to follow the call of Christ and to become a clergyman in order to devote himself entirely to Christ. On October 27, 1723 in the age of 27, he took holy orders and began to study theology under the direction of Canon Torni. After three years of studies, he was ordained as a priest on September 21, 1726.
In 1729, in order to devote himself entirely to his priestly ministry, he left his father’s house and went to live in the Chinese College, founded by Father Ripa. He preached and heard a lot of confessions. His fiery sermons drew the crowds and his confessional was besieged by long lines of penitents. He founded a work called “The Chapel” where periodically he gathered young workers and the people of the lowest social class dubbed the “Lazzaroni.” He played the guitar for them and got them to sing songs he himself had composed. People enjoyed themselves and the group kept growing.
Overloaded with work, he fell ill. In order to recover his health, he withdrew to Scala near Amalfi. While he was convalescing, he continued to carry out his priestly ministry. He took on the role of director of the community of the Sisters of the Visitation who were in need of reform. Alphonsus drew up new statutes for the sisters and also gave them a new name, the Redemptoristines. That was the beginnings of the future feminine branch of the Redemptorists.
In traveling about the region, Alphonsus noted the great misery and material poverty of the lower classes and the fact that from the religious point of view they were abandoned. He began by gathering about him a few zealous priests and on November 9, 1732, along with these priests, he founded the first community of the Most Holy Redeemer. Their only goal was to be an apostolate through preaching parish missions and works of that nature. Some among them who wanted to add to this goal the education of youth were not able to remain in the community. To the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, they added that of perseverance. The congregation was approved by Benedict XIV on February 25, 1749. Through the missions he preached and the confessions he heard, Alphonsus soon became aware of the rigorism then in vogue, a rigorism that rendered his work difficult. Consequently, he set about drawing up a theology that was more human and more adapted to the needs of souls. It became a guidebook for all his confreres.
In 1762, Alphonsus was named Bishop of Saint Agatha of the Goths, a diocese with 40,000 souls, souls very much abandoned from the spiritual and the moral point of view. The new bishop stepped down from his governing role in his congregation and committed all his energy to reforming the clergy and the people of his diocese. Overloaded with work and constantly under attack from those who opposed his moral theology, he fell gravely ill. On May 9, 1775, Pius VI was obliged to accept his resignation. The bishop withdrew to the Redemptorist community a Nocera dei Pagani. He health improved slightly to the extent that he could take up again direction of the Redemptorists. This final period in his life was made up of one suffering after another, a genuine way of the cross. Bent with age and partially paralysed with generalized rheumatism, he spent most of his time sitting in an armchair.
To his physical sufferings was added the pain of seeing his congregation split into two branches. In 1780, without his knowledge, in order to obtain royal approbation, two of his members concocted a Regolamento in conflict with the principles of his Rule. The Redemptorist houses situated in the Papal States were recognized by the Holy See as the only ones that enjoyed Papal approval and a new superior general was named as their head. Those that were situated in the Kingdom of Naples under the direction of the founder lost their papal approbation. To drink the chalice to the lees, Alphonsus was denounced in Rome as the author of the Regolamento and fell from grace with the Pope. This split was healed only in 1794, seven years after the founder’s death.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori died on August 1, 1787. In spite of the split, he had the joy of seeing his death bed surrounded by spiritual sons from both branches of his congregation. The Pope acknowledged that the Regolamentohad been concocted without the knowledge of the founder and freed him of all suspicion of disobedience to the Holy See.
On April 26, 1796, seven years after his death, his cause for beatification was introduced in Rome and, on May 7 of that same year, he was declared venerable. His cause for beatification advanced rapidly. On May 18, 1803, his writings were declared free of error. On May 7, 1807, his heroicity of virtues was recognized. September 15, 1816, he was beatified by Pius VII and canonized on May 26, 1839. With the soundness of his moral and spiritual doctrine universally recognized, on March 23, 1871, Saint Alphonsus was proclaimed a doctor of the Church. On April 26, 1950, Pius XII added to this list the title of “heavenly patron of confessors and moralists.”
Saint Alphonsus is the most prolific writer of all the doctors of the Church. His moral theology appeared for the first time in 1753. It was subsequently corrected and re-issued several times. The reform of moral theology went hand in hand with the reawakening of the Christian life of the faithful, as well as among the priests and religious. With this in mind, Alphonsus published some 160 works or short treatises on asceticism, spirituality, and special devotions, especially to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of Mary. They were translated into several languages. The complete edition of his works published in Venice in 1831 amounted to 101 volumes.
Similarities between Saint Alphonsus and Saint Eugene de Mazenod
When we peruse the life of the two saints, we notice several similarities. We will only mention the most salient points. Both of them were born into noble families and had somewhat the same fiery, energetic character, but in the same time were eminently sensible. Both of them initially wanted to have a career in the world, Alphonsus as a lawyer and Eugene as an attendant in the royal court of Naples. They both experienced resounding failures in their desire for worldly glory and were “seized” by the grace of God with the result that they consecrated themselves to his service. Both of them began their priestly ministry with the youth and the rural poor. They then founded missionary congregations, both in about the same age: Alphonsus in 36 and Eugene in 33.
When the founder of the Oblates drew up the first Rule in 1818, he used the Redemptorists’ rule as a template. Both of them were named bishops and had to endure being misunderstood by the Holy See only to be later showered with blessings. And finally, both were proclaimed saints: Alphonsus in 1839 and Eugene in 1995. The charisms of the two founders, very similar charisms, have been perpetuated in their respective congregations. They figure among the largest congregations in the Church.
Eugene de Mazenod’s first contacts with the writings of Saint Alphonsus
During his sojourn in Italy (1791-1802), Eugene de Mazenod may have had access to a few of Saint Alphonsus’ devotional tracts, especially during his “pious” days in Venice. But we have no convincing proof of that. After his return to France in October of 1802, and especially in the crucial 1805-1808 period of his life, he may have read a few treatises on asceticism or on devotion in Italian since he spoke that language flawlessly. In a letter from the Baroness de Talleyrand dated from La Ferté, September 9, 1805, we know that she had given Eugene, who was in Paris at the time, the task of obtaining for her “the works of the worthy Liguori.” But she added that they “were not known in Paris.” (AGR: FB 2-3) We do not know whether Eugene did in fact find the writings in question. In any case, that is the first reference we find to Saint Alphonsus in the correspondence of Eugene.
In October of 1808, Eugene entered the seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 21, 1811 in Amiens and remained in Paris until the end of 1812. It was during this period that he makes explicit mention of Saint Alphonsus. In a July 12, 1809 letter to his sister, he urged the reception of frequent communion and quotes the advice of Alphonsus Liguori in support of his argument: “The more you are in the world, the more you need help,” says the Venerable Liguori … “the more you need help because you have greater temptations. So make it a rule to receive holy communion every eight days, (You find this in the programme he outlines for people obliged to live in the world) with the firm resolve never to omit it … This holy Bishop, who only wrote his works after exercising the ministry for 28 years, seems to link eternal salvation to this frequency of holy communion, and he is not wrong.” (Oblate Writings I, Vol. 14, No. 57, p. 130)
As for the moral theology taught at Saint-Sulpice by Professor Montaigne (1795-1821), it eschewed the rigorism of the Jansenists, but, as well, failed to endorse the probabilism of the Jesuits. We can define it as probabilioristic. The moral theology of the venerable Alphonsus, well-known in Paris, was quoted, but no attention was paid to it. It seemed to be laxist.
Abbé de Mazenod becomes a great proponent of Saint Alphonsus
Abbé de Mazenod returned to Aix toward the end of 1812 and immediately began to exercise his priestly ministry among the youth and the lower classes. He soon became aware that the moral theology he had learned at Saint Sulpice was too rigid to be applied in the confessional. Consequently, he turned to the teachings of venerable Alphonsus. It seems that it was Father Bony, a Sulpician and superior of the seminary in Aix who set him upon that road. (J. Leflon, Eugene de Mazenod, trans. Francis D. Flanagan, o.m.i., Vol. II, p. 130)
In order to learn more, Eugene turned to his friend Collegno in Turin and asked him to be so kind as to obtain for him the entire works of venerable Liguori, his portrait and the office dedicated to Blessed Liguori, beatified in 1816. He was happy to receive the books in 1816. With the same end in mind, he wrote a letter to his father in Palermo. In his May 1, 1816 letter, he asked his father to send him the Constitutions and Rules of the Redemptorists, the readings of the breviary for Blessed Alphonsus and a large print to be placed in their community room. In a subsequent letter dated July 8, 1816, he added: “I have studied his works extensively and we have taken him as one of our patrons; we would like to walk in his footsteps and imitate his virtues… I have some (of his writings), among others his moral theology which I like very much and have studied in a special way when I had the time to study since at the present time I can do nothing else but be active, and that is very much against my inclination…” (Oblate Writings I, Vol. 13, No. 3, p. 6)
Indeed, at this time, Abbé De Mazenod was extremely busy. Toward the end of 1815, he began to gather around him a few priests in order to preach parish missions and on January 25, 1816, he founded with them the “Mission of Provence.” In order to house the missionaries, he bought a part of the former Carmelite convent in Aix located on Cours Mirabeau. April 7 saw the blessing of the church adjoining the convent and its opening for public service. Saint Vincent de Paul was chosen as its main patron. After the beatification of Saint Alphonsus, he was declared the second patron and a side altar, the first such altar in France, was erected in his honour. A miracle worked by the newly beatified saint had a great impact on the city of Aix. Mrs. Félix, the wife of a former attorney at the Chamber of Accounts who was suffering from an ulcer in the womb, was on her deathbed. That was when Father Tempier, her confessor, had the idea of applying to her body the picture of Blessed Alphonsus. The sick lady immediately sat up and leaped off her bed instantaneously healed. “She is eating, drinking and speaking as if there had never been anything wrong with her,” wrote Fortuné to President de Mazenod August 11, 1818 (GA). She came to the Mission and prayed for a long time before the altar of Blessed Alphonsus to thank him for this dazzling miracle. Abbé de Mazenod drew up the report in due form and sent it to Rome to Cardinal Mattei, dean of the Sacred College, who had been a friend of Eugene’s from the time of his stay at the seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. He asked him to present it to the Pope. With the archbishop’s permission, they celebrated the feast of Blessed Alphonsus with great pomp and ceremony. Father de Mazenod inspired “by his great devotion to Blessed Liguori and urged on by the ardent desire to make him known in France” (Fortuné to the his brother, the President, July 16, 1818) distributed everywhere his images and pictures (Rey I, 198). The influence Blessed Alphonsus had on Father de Mazenod was so profound that, when Father de Mazenod was composing his own Rule in September of 1818, he used Blessed Alphonsus rule for the Redemptorists as his template.
The first biography in French of Blessed Alphonsus
The best means of making the life and teachings of Blessed Alphonsus known would undoubtedly be a publication of a biography in French. The Founder of the Oblates was going take up this task with all his ardour. It would be the first biography in France. Upon Eugene’s repeated insistence, his father and his two uncles resigned themselves to return to France. On December 27, 1817, they disembarked in Marseilles. The President and his brother Louis settled down in Marseilles and their brother Fortuné, since he was a priest, took up residence at the Mission of Provence in Aix. The correspondence between Aix and Marseilles from 1818-1820 (377 letters) allows us to follow the progress of the first French biography of Blessed Liguori.
Upon his return to France, the President de Mazenod brought with him from Sicily the Constitutions and Rules of the Redemptorists, the biography of Blessed Alphonsus, as well as a few other writings. The biography had been written by V. A. Giattini, postulator for the cause, and was published in Rome under the title: Vita del beato Alfonso Maria Liguori, fondatore della congregazione del SS.mo Redentore, e vescovo di Santa Agata de’ Goti…, Rome 1816, 384 pages.
Abbé de Mazenod had the intention of having it translated into French in order to publish it in France. He turned to his father and pressed him hard to take on this work. Whether he liked it or not, the President finally accepted Eugene’s project. The translation, done under the watchful eye of Abbé de Mazenod, was launched in June of 1818 and was brought to an end in May of 1819. The Founder of the Oblates was very happy and wanted to publish it without delay. To this end, he asked permission to do so from the postulator of the cause and gave his father the task of reworking the translation to make it more elegant. Unfortunately, President de Mazenod fell ill and died on October 10, 1820, leaving his work unfinished. Then Father de Mazenod approached Fathers Suzanne and Courtès to finish the task, but their ministry did not leave them enough free time to seriously take on the job.
In 1823, Father de Mazenod traveled to Paris with his uncle Fortuné who had been named bishop of Marseilles. He availed himself of this occasion to ask Mr. Gosselin, his classmate at Saint-Sulpice Seminary and a well-known writer to undertake the translation with a view to publication. Mr. Gosselin accepted, but after having kept the manu for a year without having done any work on it, he responded on September 23, 1824 that it was impossible for him to do the work because of his teaching commitments and because of health. He advised the Founder to approach the Jesuits: “They have just obtained permission to celebrate the feast of Blessed Alphonsus. They will certainly be keen to contribute to his glory by engaging one of their members to do the task in question…. I will faithfully keep your manu until you let me know that I am to give it back to you” (Rey I, 436).
On December 2, 1824, he sent the manu back to Eugene. The Founder did not let this discourage him. He asked Father Jeancard (1799-1875) to revise the manu according to the demands of the contemporary French language to prepare it for publication. But the work proved difficult because the original translation used by President de Mazenod was “replete with idiomatic Italian expressions.” (Jeancard, Vie du bx. Alphonse, p. XXII) That was the situation at the end of 1825 when the Founder was leaving for Rome in view of obtaining approbation of the Rule for his congregation. He arrived in Rome on November 26, 1825. While carrying out the necessary steps to obtain the approbation, he went to visit the house of the Redemptorists and made inquiries about the life of their founder. He also obtained permission to read the three-volume biography of Blessed Alphonsus written by Tannoia. In February of 1826, he asked the superior general to be so kind as to obtain for him a copy of this biography so that he could read it at leisure and bring it back to France with him. This letter deserves to be quoted because it breathes forth the Founder of the Oblates’ deep devotion to Blessed Alphonsus. “Your Reverence [Father Celestino Cocle, Superior General of the Redemptorists] will no doubt have learned from Reverend Father Mautone and one of his assistants, whom I had the good fortune to know in Rome, how great my devotion is in regard to your blessed Founder and how much I desire to make him and his so remarkable and holy works ever better known in France. I will not repeat to you all I have done for this purpose… I consider myself very fortunate to have been chosen in some way by Divine Providence to procure some glory for the blessed one and some profit to souls who are able to learn from his example and to be enlightened by his insights… I could also call myself a son of your blessed Father; and it is in virtue of this and in view of greater good that I would very dearly want to possess the first life of him written by Father Tannoia… This book would become my favourite reading: there are also some little matters that I could add to the translation that we have already done of his life… I beg you then to obtain for me at any price this life in three volumes, which I would like to take back to France with me, along with some relics… Marseilles’ cathedral is the first church in France that, thanks to my uncle, the Bishop of this diocese, has celebrated the feast of the blessed one; it is only proper then that we should obtain for it an extraordinary relic. The Bishop should also have one. Further, the church of the Missionaries, where we also solemnly celebrate the blessed one’s feast, should not be deprived of a relic, indeed a more important one than those usually given to simple individuals. Finally, three other communities of these same missionaries which also celebrate this feast in virtue of the same pontifical re would be envious if they did not share in the generosity of your Congregation.” (Oblate Writings I, Vol. 13, No. 55, p. 76-77)
Upon returning to Aix in July of 1826, Father de Mazenod brought with him the three-volume biography of Blessed Alphonsus written by Father Tannoia and a few other writings of Blessed Alphonsus and some relics. These documents showed how incomplete and inaccurate was the translation upon which they were working. The decision was taken to drop that translation and to compose an original work. That is how Father Jeancard, “inspired by and under the orders and direction of Father de Mazenod” during the period from 1826 to 1827, made a new biography of Blessed Alphonsus. (Jacques Jeancard, Mélanges historiques, p. 57)
The biography for “edification” that Abbé de Mazenod desired and that Father Jeancard drew up in elegant style and a pleasure to read appeared in May of 1828. It bore the following title: Vie du bx Alphonse Marie de Liguori, évêque de Sainte-Agathe des Goths et fondateur de la congrégation des prêtres missionnaires du Très Saint Rédempteur, by M. Jeancard, Missionary of Provence, dedicated to the Lord Bishop of Marseilles, Paris-Lyon-Marseilles, 1828, XXIX, and 609 pp.
A close comparison of this biography with the translation done by President de Mazenod reveals that the former is one third the volume of the latter. It eschews all the inflated style of the translation and highlights the fact that holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things, but in carrying out one’s duties well and in exercising all the virtues. In this we see the common sense of the Founder. Sometimes Father Jeancard transcribes word for word a few pages of the translation and sometimes he corrects the style. But in large part, it is an original work as much from the point of view of content as to style.
Once the biography was published, the Founder strove to distribute it to every corner of France. Through the kind offices of the Marquis of Croza, the chargé d’affaires of Sardegna with the Holy See, he offered a richly bound copy to Pope Pius VIII. Along with this gift, he added a letter dated July 22, 1829. (Yenveux, Les saintes Règles, Vol. III, p.208) The biography of Blessed Alphonsus de Liguori “perfectly written and interesting to the utmost.” (Oblate Writings I, Vol. 7, No. 293, p.150) proved very successful in France and was re-issued several times. It made a powerful contribution towards making Blessed Liguori known in France as well as making known his ascetical works and especially his moral theology.
The spread of Blessed Alphonsus’ moral theology in France
Now let us follow the progressive diffusion of alphonsian moral theology in France and let us see how Saint Eugene de Mazenod contributed to this diffusion. First of all, we have to say something about this moral teaching. It draws its inspiration from the basic idea of man as free, but responsible.
1) Man is bound above all to seek truth. If the opinion in favour of the law is more probable, he is bound to follow it.
2) Man’s freedom must always be respected. If a law or an interpretation of that law is uncertain, it cannot impose any sure obligation.
3) There are cases where one cannot follow an opinion that is only probable: e.g., if it is a question of the faith; the medical doctor must prescribe the more provenly effective medicine; the judge must act on the evidence that is the most sound; in the administration of the sacraments, except in case of necessity, it is not permitted to follow an opinion that is only probable.
4) When two opinions are equally probable, one can choose either of them. This is the doctrine of equal probability, which is characteristic of Saint Alphonsus’ moral theology.
This teaching encouraged the contemporary human individual to use his freedom to the full, but also to take full responsibility for his actions with all its risks. He could be excused, if, in spite of his good intentions, he was deceived. As a teaching, this moral theology was spread through different moral treatises and by practical application during parish missions and by the missionaries. Lets take a look at the chronological development of these treatises or tracts.
Saint Alphonsus’ moral theology received Rome’s approval in 1803 and, in 1804, his Praxis confessarii appeared in Paris. This publication does not seem to have had a great deal of success. An important step in the spread of moral teaching of Saint Alphonsus was the publication of a small book of 158 pages in Paris and Lyon in 1823. It bore the title, Réflexions sur la sainteté et la doctrine du bx Liguori. The work bore no indication of authorship, but it is certain that it was composed by Father Bruno Lanteri (1759-1830), founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary in Turin. Lanteri was an ardent follower of alphonsian moral theology in Italy and wanted to make it known in France. The author asserts that the moral theology of Blessed Alphonsus is sound because it was approved by the Holy See. In the course of his trip to Rome in November of 1825, Father de Mazenod stopped off in Turin and had the opportunity to meet with Father Lanteri. They probably discussed the question of alphonsian moral theology.
In 1828, there appeared in France the first biography of Blessed Alphonsus composed by Father Jeancard. Fr. Jeancard admitted that in writing the chapter on moral theology (pp. 553-578), he “derived some of the documents from the work” of Lanteri mentioned above. Thomas Joseph Gousset, the future cardinal, also drew on Lanteri in his book published in 1832 under the title: Justification de la théologie morale du bx Alphonse Marie de Liguori. At the same time, Jean-Baptiste Bouvier (1783-1854) another defender of alphonsian theology published Dissertatio in sextum decalogi praeceptum in 1827, and, in 1834, Institutiones theologicae ad usum seminariorum. These two works were very successful and went through several editions.
Finally in 1844, Gousset published his Théologie morale à l’usage des curés et des confesseurs. It was the most important alphonsian theology manual adapted to the mentality and the socio-political situation of France. He perhaps made a greater contribution than any one else to the general acceptance of the moral theology of Blessed Liguori in France. The theology manual of Louis Bailly (1730-1808) which was in use in seminaries, had just been withdrawn and on December 17, 1852 was placed on the Index librorum prohibitorum donec corrigatur [Index of forbidden books until corrected]. In its place the moral theology of Bouvier was adopted as interpreted in the light of the moral theology of Saint Alphonsus. From 1834 to 0, it saw fifteen editions.
Hand in hand with the theological publications favouring the moral theology of Saint Alphonsus went the preaching of parish missions and the teaching in the major seminaries of France. Eugene de Mazenod and his Oblates made their contribution. Considering their small number, their contribution was greater than that of others. Father de Mazenod as well as his missionaries, and especially Fathers Albini, Guibert and Tempier incorporated the moral teaching of Blessed Alphonsus in their mission preaching, adapting it to the conditions of life of France. This was done in spite of the opposition of certain priests, some bishops even. The biography of Blessed Alphonsus written by Father Jeancard had a powerful impact on the minds of some.
There were indeed some bishops who presented to the missionaries such a long list of sins reserved to the bishop that, according to Father Guibert, future archbishop of Paris and cardinal (1802-1886), the missionaries, instead of being able to absolve sinners, saw their powers restricted only to fervent souls. They sometimes had to take a firm stand so that the bishop in question would broaden the powers of the missionaries.
The Oblates likewise contributed to the spread of Blessed Alphonsus’ moral teachings in the five seminaries that they directed, namely, Marseilles, Ajaccio, Fréjus, Romans and Quimper. The seminary of Marseilles was under the direction of the Oblates from 1827 to 1862. Father Yvon Beaudoin in his work on Le grand séminaire de Marseille, published in Ottawa in 1966 informs us of the moral theology taught in this seminary (pp.100-103). Father Albini, who already in Aix was teaching the scholastic brothers the theology of Blessed Alphonsus, was appointed professor of moral theology for Marseilles. In order to prepare himself well for this task, he wanted to read the works of Blessed Alphonsus from cover to cover at his leisure. In view of this, he wrote to Founder on July 17, 1827: “I called upon the help of his prayers and the illness disappeared… This saint is admirable in his writings. He has foreseen every possible case. I always read him with a renewed pleasure, and for a long time now I have been longing for a bit of leisure time to read him from cover to cover.” (G.A.: Albini)
It is therefore natural that Father Albini taught alphonsian moral theology with competence and enthusiasm. The Oblate professors of moral theology in other seminaries, closely supervised by the Founder, also strove to follow this theology. To be sure, the Bailly manual was in use at the beginning, because it was better organized and less hefty than the moral theology of Blessed Alphonsus, but on disputed issues, it was Blessed Alphonsus’ teaching that was followed. It was only when the Bailly manual was withdrawn from seminary usage and the introduction of the work by Bouvier that they were able to teach without hindrance and at their ease the theology of Blessed Alphonsus.
At the General Chapter of 1837, some people wanted to prescribe by decree the teaching of the moral theology of Blessed Alphonsus. The Founder was against this, judging that it was sufficient to recommend it. This prudence can be explained by the fact that this theology, drawn up in Italy, could not be accepted just as it was. Sometimes it was necessary to adapt it to the socio-political situation in France.
From 1816 until the of death of Eugene de Mazenod on May 21, 1861, what a course it ran! At the beginning, the moral theology of Blessed Alphonsus was labelled “immoral” and then, little by little, it was adopted and taught everywhere in France. Eugene de Mazenod and his Oblates had the distinction of popularizing it, more than others perhaps, by their writings, parish missions and by their teaching in the seminaries.
It was therefore quite accurate, but also with a certain pride that Bishop Eugene de Mazenod could write to Bishop Gousset on July 21, 1852: “Do I need to cite to you this holy Alphonsus de’ Liguori, whose theology I have had taught and put into practice long before the books written by you to this effect were published, whose veneration I was the first to establish in France and whose life, written under my supervision and inspiration by a member of my group, since that time spread all over and was translated into several foreign languages, seemed formerly to catch your own attention. I had wanted to serve the cause of God by the teaching and by the examples of this admirable bishop… who, in the 18th century, was the most eminent expression and the most splendid witness of the Church’s holiness.” (Rey, II, 423)
Jósef Pielorz, o.m.i.
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