I have chosen this little book to succeed, for the time being, the Meditations for Religious which was recently completed. Enjoy!
St Alphonsus Liguori was born at Marianella, near Naples, on September 26, 1696. As a boy he was quick beyond his years and made great progress in learning. At the age of sixteen he took his degree as Doctor of Laws. He then continued to prepare for the Bar, and about the age of nineteen practised his profession in the courts. I t is said that for eight years he never lost a case. Then, by some oversight, which he himself could never explain, he lost an important case, on which ₤100,000 depended. This was the turning-point in his life. He had always been a model of virtue, but now he felt himself irresistibly drawn to devote the rest of his life to the service of God.
Notwithstanding the violent opposition of his father, he began to study for the priesthood, and three years later he was ordained priest, having attained his thirtieth year. After laboring for six years in and around Naples, he was called by God to the work of his life. In 1732 he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the primary object of which is to give missions, especially to the poor and most neglected souls, and for twenty years the Saint was the greatest missioner of Southern Italy.
When he was sixty-six years of age, by a formal command of the Pope, he was consecrated Bishop of St Agatha. In spite of his many bodily infirmities he ruled his diocese with the zeal of an apostle for thirteen years. He then retired to his religious congregation, where he spent the remainder of his life. His holy death took place, in his ninety-first year, on August 1, 1787.
St Alphonsus is known throughout the Catholic world as a writer. It is by no means easy to understand how the Saint found time to compose his numerous works. A certain amount of light, however, is thrown on the matter from the fact that he made a very unusual and difficult vow--a vow never to lose time. He was, as the Church says of him, on fire with zeal for souls, and his zeal left him no rest.
St. Alphonsus was above all a practical Saint, and he sought in all his writings to give direct help to souls. His Moral Theology, written to help priests in hearing confessions, is one of the great treasures of the Church, and is found in the hands of confessors in every part of the world. His devotional books have been translated into almost all European languages. The Saint's heart was on fire with love of Jesus and Mary: he loved the divine Child; he loved Jesus crucified; he loved our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; he loved the Mother of God. And the love that burnt in his own heart he sought to enkindle in the hearts of all men. And so he gave to the world his books on the Incarnation, the Passion, the Blessed Sacrament, the Glories of Mary, the Necessity of Prayer, and the Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ. Conscious that so many Christians forget our Lord because they forget death and the life to come, the Saint wrote his books on Preparation for Death and the Way of Salvation.
There is a peculiar unction about the writings of St Alphonsus, and on every page there is something that speaks straight to the soul. That is why Pius IX and Benedict XV recommended them so earnestly to all the faithful. For this reason, too, Bishop Hedley, in his best-known book, his Retreat, advises his readers to make use of the Saint's works, especially on the Blessed Sacrament and the Glories of Mary.
There are many, no doubt, who read the books of St Alphonsus from time to time; but it may be that they do not feel inclined to take up a devotional book of any size to read as a daily practice; or perhaps they have already read the works of the Saint which they possess, and would wish to know more of his spirit. In this little book thoughts will be found for every day of the year, taken from the various devotional writings of the Saint. It is hoped that their variety and shortness will make the reader willing to give the few moments necessary to keep in daily touch with the works of St. Alphonsus.
Whoever puts into practice the teaching of the Saint contained in these short extracts from his writings will without doubt avoid sin, lead a holy life, and attain a high degree of glory in heaven.
Compiled by Rev. C. McNeiry, C.SS.R.
Imprimatur: Joseph Hull, C.SS.R., Prov. Angl. Sup.
Nihil Obstat: Innocentlus Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor Deptutatus.
Imprimatur: Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius Generalis.
Westmonasterii, Die 9a Junii, 1927.
First published 1927