Musician Saints: St. Alphonsus Liguori

In addition to all his academic studies and the learning of noble sports, his dad made young St. Alphonsus Liguori “practice the harpsichord for three hours a day, and at the age of thirteen he played with the perfection of a master.”

Later in life, he also wrote many poems and hymns (including music for them), which are still well-known in Italy today. The most famous is the Christmas carol “Tu scendi dalle stelle.”

He got his law doctorate at age 16, so obviously music practice doesn’t stop you from studying.

There’s tons of good stuff in that article about Liguori’s life. There’s the exciting story of the visions and prophecy that prompted the foundation of the Redemptorists. There’s the story of how he was made bishop of the run-down diocese of St. Agatha of the Goths (Santa Agata dei Goti), and totally turned it around, all the while thinking he was being useless. There’s the story of how, in his old age, he could only drink at meals through a tube, but a smart Augustinian prior figured out a way that he could drink from the chalice at Mass, so that he could at least say Mass with assistance.

Like our Pope Emeritus Benedict, St. Alphonsus Liguori had to resign his see because of ill health. He was expected to die in 1775, as soon as he got back to his Redemptorists, but he lived on until 1787.

Also like our Pope Emeritus, St. Alphonsus went almost blind. Several of his subordinates took advantage of this to rewrite the Redemptorist Rule (which had been received in a vision by Sr. Maria Celeste Crostarosa). They made it something that the Neapolitan government would like, and then they lied about it to the poor old saint so that he’d sign it. Pope Pius VI, not understanding the situation, cut off St. Alphonsus from running his own order and imposed penalties on him. (The same pope would later declare Alphonsus a “Venerable” in 1796.) This was only one of the many severe trials he suffered in his last years, which were far from a peaceful retirement.

(St. Gerard Majella was an early Redemptorist, too, and suffered false accusations patiently.)


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