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Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester lives and works in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York. Website URL:

St. Alphonsus Liguori: Feast Day August 1

An intellectual prodigy – St. Alphonsus Liguori earned a doctorate in both civil and canon law by the age of sixteen – this future Doctor of the Church was not, however, destined to remain in the secular legal profession.  After the humiliating loss of a court case in his mid-twenties, he gave up the law and instead turned his heart and his life toward serving God’s people as a priest and preacher.

Alphonsus Liguori was born in Naples, Italy, in 1696 to a noble and pious family.  Against the wishes of his father, who had encouraged his legal career, Alphonsus was ordained a priest in 1726 and soon became known as a particularly articulate preacher.  His gentleness, especially in the confessional, was a matter of controversy for some, as this was a time when the Church was struggling with the heresy of Jansenism; this teaching, which was actually a form of Calvinism, was condemned by the Pope in 1713, but vestiges of its austerity and scrupulosity were still being felt in the actions of some religious orders and confessors.

In 1732, Alphonsus Liguori founded a religious order dedicated to working among the rural poor.  The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, popularly known as the Redemptorists, lived in community in imitation of Christ and preached parish missions throughout the countryside of Italy. Liguori himself worked at this calling for over twenty-six years but was, ironically, expelled from his own order for a time due to internal strife and the desertion of some of the original members of the community.

His contributions to the life of the Church did not end with the Redemptorists, however.  As a moral theologian, Liguori stressed, not the condemnation of God, but His mercy and readiness to forgive sins.  (Were he alive today, he would no doubt have rejoiced at Pope Francis’ “Year of Mercy.”)  His two-volume work, “Moral Theology”, has become a classic of Catholic teaching, and has subsequently been translated into more than sixty languages.  In addition to his theological writing, he also authored several devotionals, many of which are still readily available today at www.amazon.com. (Simply search under the name “Alphonsus Liguori”.)

Alphonsus Liguori was particularly devoted to the Blessed Mother.  It was she who gave him comfort and strength in times of his greatest struggles.  Although not in the best of health throughout his life, Liguori was especially debilitated during his last years, suffering from arthritis and rheumatism so painful that it deformed his body.  Confined to a wheelchair and nearly blind, his head was permanently bent forward onto his chest; as a result, for years he had to drink from tubes in order to get any nourishment at all.

 It was during this time that his enemies in the government, in an attempt to revise the Rule of the Redemptorists to better suit themselves, tricked him into signing a document that effectively removed him as head of his own order.  This led Liguori to spiral into a “dark night” of fear, uncertainty and scrupulosity, which took years to overcome and was ultimately relieved by his devotion to Mary. 

St. Alphonsus Liguori died peacefully on August 1, 1787 at the age of ninety-one.  Canonized in 1839, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871.  The patron of theologians and vocations, his feast day is celebrated on August 1.


Sources for this article include:

www.americancatholic.org

www.catholiconline.com

www.cssr.news

“Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori“. CatholicSaints.

Info. 19 March 2016.

Schreck, Alan.  “Catholic Church History from A to Z.”  Ann Arbor, Michigan:  Servant Publications, 2002.

Book Review "River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times" By Susan Bailey.

One of the first things that attracted me to this book was the fact that it involved both hard times and a kayak.  I have a friend who has known both; more than 20 years ago, her youngest son was permanently paralyzed as the result of a hockey accident.  In the intervening years, as he and every member of his family has had to come to grips with the enormity of what  happened and how radically it changed their lives, my friend discovered that some of her spiritual healing came in the form of a kayak.  Even now, she tells me, there is such peace that comes from sitting quietly on the river, letting God’s spirit wash over her.

Indeed, the subtitle of the first chapter of “River of Grace” could have been written by my friend.  It simply states, “What God Taught Me through My Kayak” and for author Susan Bailey, it was also this simple boat that signaled the beginning of a profound and unexpected journey into the heart of God. 

This book has many pluses to recommend it.  To begin with, it is a highly personal memoir, written in a tone which allows the reader to walk with the author as she essentially goes on a spiritual pilgrimage.  Like any such journey, this one will take her from a place of darkness, confusion and near despair, into the presence of light, peace and the authentic self God was calling her to be.  It also opens her to God’s presence in ways and places she never expected.  “I grew up thinking that grace came from a church building, granted by a priest during a formal gathering such as the Mass,” she says.  “It never occurred to me that it could come from elsewhere, especially something as mundane as a boat.”

Bailey deals with life events that most readers can relate to:  the death of both her parents, a near financial disaster for her and her husband, the loss – happily temporary – of an ability that she thought she would have forever and as such, took for granted, and a significant change in her husband’s spiritual life that reverberated through the whole family.  The fact that she presents her reactions to these things truthfully, without any pious sugar-coating, makes this a genuine and honest work.  Because of that, the insights and advice she shares about how to be open to God’s grace are genuine and honest as well.

In addition to the elements of memoir, the book can also serve as a kind of retreat.  Each chapter contains both questions for the reader to reflect on – through journaling, if he or she is comfortable with that – as well as what the author calls “Flow Lessons” – practices toward grace which are more tactile in nature.  The author also references her web site, www.beasone.org, for further resources, videos, and “flow lessons.”  Not every reader will necessarily be comfortable with or want to do every activity she suggests, but the book works whether all or some of the practices are followed – or if the reader chooses to read and reflect on Bailey’s words alone.

 The only criticism I have with this book – and it is a minor one compared to the positives of the whole – is that it sometimes seems repetitious.  I occasionally caught myself thinking that I had read nearly the same thought in a previous chapter; but perhaps that is to be expected, as these same lessons of grace go deeper and deeper as one progresses to the close of the book.  And in the end, that is what this journey has been about.  “That invitation to go deeper is the call of grace,” Bailey concludes.  “When we obey that call, we agree to let God be our guide.”

"River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times"  By Susan Bailey,  Indiana:  Ave Maria Press, 2015.  193 pages.  Paperback: $14.12, Kindle and Nook: $10.49
 

About the Author

Susan Bailey wears many hats.  She is a marketing/advertising assistant for a local real estate firm in her area, but she is also very active in the Church as a writer, speaker and musician. 

In addition to having written several books,  Bailey hosts her own blogs, which can be found at louisamayalcottismypassion.com and beasone.org. She is also a frequent contributor to CatholicMom.com and the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers.   Her monthly column, “Be As One,” appears in the Catholic Free Press, the diocesan paper of the Diocese of Worcester, Mass.  Currently, she is an associate member of the Commission for Women of the Diocese of Worcester, for which she has previously served as both chairperson and secretary. 

A professional musician and graphic artist, Bailey released three CD’s and has performed on EWTN, CatholicTV and at World Youth Day in 2002.  She has served as a cantor at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Westborough, Mass., for more than 15 years.

Bailey is a graduate of Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, with concentrations in U.S. history and music.  She and her husband, Rich, have two grown children and currently reside in North Grafton, Mass.
  • Published in Reviews

Communion of Saints: St. Hyacintha of Mariscotti

Feast day January 30

Often, the stories of the saints inspire by showing us, not so much the holiness they eventually attained, but the very human obstacles they overcame to get there. St. Hyacintha of Mariscotti is one such example; although indulging in a luxurious, spoiled existence – even in the midst of convent life – God found a way to soften her heart and reform her ways, so that it was her humility and penitential heart that eventually inspired those who lived with her.

Hyacintha was born in 1585 near Viterbo, Italy, and entered the Convent of St. Benardine after her hopes for marriage did not come to pass. For 10 years, however, she virtually ignored her vows, using her family's wealth to provide herself with rich foods and luxurious clothes. It was only when a serious illness forced her confessor to bring Communion to her in her cell that he observed her manner of life; he advised her most strongly to cease what she was doing and cultivate a life of humility instead. Inspired by his words, Hyacintha changed completely; by the time she died in 1640, she had become a model of humble service to others and an inspiration to all.

St. Hyacintha's feast day is Jan. 30.

Sources for these articles include: www.americancatholic.org

Butler, Edward Cuthbert. "St. Anthony." The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907.

Mershman, Francis. "St. Hyacintha Marisco_i." The Catholic Encyclopedia, 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

"Saint Anthony the Abbot". CatholicSaints.Info. 1 July 2015.

"Saint Hyacintha of Mariscotti". CatholicSaints.Info. 29 January 2013.

Shrek, Alan. "Catholic Church History from A to Z." Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.

 

St. Anthony of Egypt: Feast Day Jan. 17

Feast day January 17

It is interesting that someone who once hoped to be a martyr would instead live to be 105 years old – thus it was with St. Anthony (or Antony) of Egypt. Born in the year 251, he would not only live through the last of the persecutions of Christians by the Roman Empire, but he would then go on to fight the heresy of Arianism and eventually become known as "the father of monasticism."

Anthony was born in Coma, Egypt, to affluent parents who died when he was only 20 years old. Left with a substantial material inheritance, it would be the spiritual foundation that his family had impressed upon him which would have the greatest influence on his life. Not long after their death, Anthony heard a Gospel reading at church that he felt was spoken directly to him: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven." (Mt 19:21)

Much like St. Francis of Assisi, Anthony took this Scripture passage quite literally; after providing for a younger sister, he gave up all his material belongings and began to live a life of self-denial and asceticism. Unlike Francis, however, Anthony went on to live the majority of his life in solitude, devoting himself to prayer and contemplation of the bible.

Anthony began his spiritual journey not too far from his home, in an empty tomb where he remained apart from the world for 15 years. During this time, St. Athanasius, whose Life of St. Anthony is the source for much of what we know of the saint, tells us that he did battle with demons, which often came to him in the guise of wild beasts. Not only did they torment him spiritually, but physically as well, occasionally leaving him nearly dead.

At about the age of 35, Anthony felt God calling him to even greater solitude, and so he moved into the desert, occupying an abandoned fortress there for the next 20 years. During that time, which was filled with intense prayer, further battles with demons, and the overwhelming presence of God, it is said that he never saw the face of another human being. When Anthony finally emerged from solitude, it was not as an emaciated, damaged man, but rather as one who was robust, healthy, and on fire with the love of Christ.

Despite his desire for solitude, Anthony's reputation for holiness and joy had a_racted others to him, and he soon found himself providing them with spiritual guidance and even physical healing. Many of them wanted to follow the same kind of vocation as Anthony, and so the solitary saint organized a "monastery" of sorts, composed of individual cells scattered around his retreat, where monks could live their lives in prayer and contemplation. For about six years, this "desert father" ministered to them, and it was for this reason that he became known as the father of the "eremitical" life – that is, the life of a hermit.

Although the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire ended in 313 with the Edict of Milan, the Church would go on to endure an even greater threat – the Arian heresy. At the age of 88, Anthony became a vigorous opponent of this teaching, which maintained that, although Jesus is Lord and Savior, he is not equal to the Father, but instead is merely the highest creation of God.

Anthony spent the last years of his life as a hermit but, unlike his earlier withdrawal from the world, he did meet periodically with the pilgrims who came to seek his advice. He died in solitude in the year 356, at the age of 105. His feast day is Jan. 17.

Articles written by Kay Winchester Vermont Catholic staff writer

 
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