St. Alphonsus  Liguori

Feast • Aug. 1

Church • Pittsford


St. Alphonsus Liguori was an intellectual prodigy who excelled at the law, but he was not destined to remain in that profession. Instead he chose to devote his life to serving God as a priest and preacher.

Born into a noble and pious family in Naples, Italy, in 1696, Alphonsus was ordained in 1726 and soon became known as a particularly articulate preacher as well as a gentle confessor. In 1732, he 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 throughout the countryside of Italy.

As a moral theologian, Liguori stressed not the condemnation of God, but His mercy and readiness to forgive sins. He was particularly devoted to the Blessed Mother who gave him comfort and strength in times of his greatest struggles. During his last years, Liguori suffered from arthritis and rheumatism so painful that it deformed his body. In an attempt to revise the Rule of the Redemptorists to better suit themselves, his enemies tricked him into signing a document that effectively removed him as head of his own order. This led Liguori to spiral into a spiritual “dark night” which took years to overcome and was ultimately relieved by his devotion to Mary.

St. Alphonsus Liguori died peacefully in 1787 at age 91. Declared a Doctor of the Church 1871, he is patron of theologians and vocations. His feast is Aug. 1.

St. Alphonsus Parish was scheduled to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the dedication of its church on July 5. The original structure, built in the Romanesque style with a barrel-vaulted ceiling, has been modified. A steeple that once sat on the summit of the roof was removed due to structural issues and replaced with the bell tower that now houses a 1,500-pound bell and serves as the main entrance to the church. A fire on the north end of the building in the early 1900s required that the sanctuary of the church be rebuilt. In rebuilding the sanctuary, a stained-glass window of St. Alphonsus was added.

Traditionally, on the Sunday closest to St. Alphonsus’ feast day, the prayer for those who suffer arthritis is prayed. He suffered from arthritis and curvature of the spine and is the patron saint of arthritis.

For most of its history, St. Alphonsus Parish was tended to by diocesan clergy. The Capuchin Franciscans of the New York and New England Province accepted the ministerial responsibilities in 2011. Father Maurice Moreau is the current pastor.

—Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.