(LifeSiteNews) — St. Alphonsus Liguori truly was an amazing man. He obtained a civil and canon law degree at the age of 16 and practiced law for a decade, never losing a case until his last, which prompted him to become a priest. Also in the course of his life wrote over 100 books, several hymns, and established the religious order of the Redemptorists.
Here to discuss with me the life and thought of the Church’s Doctor of Moral Theology is LifeSite journalist Stephen Kokx, along with his new book on St. Alphonsus, St. Alphonsus for the 21st Century: A Handbook for Holiness.
Kokx begins by recalling how he was introduced to St. Alphonsus. He says he came across a stack of books by the Doctor in his roommate’s apartment a decade ago. When Kokx began reading, he was struck by the power of St. Alphonsus’ pen and his extensive use of Scripture and the Church Fathers, especially the saint’s thoughts on the priesthood.
Explaining St. Alphonsus’ thought on the priesthood, Kokx quotes from him directly, saying that a priest gives greater honor to God than any angel, saint, and even Our Lady, for the simple fact that he can offer the Mass, and that his power is greater than that of Our Lady because he can absolve sins.
“That understanding… of the priesthood, as well as what St. Alphonsus says about when the priest says the words at the consecration… in Mass, God Himself… obeys him,” Kokx tells me, also discussing the purity required of the priest by virtue of that dignity.
“The priest must deny himself in all sorts of ways,” he continues. “His tastes, his… preferences… and live only to pleasing God.”
“When you hear about that… you think about… what’s the state of the clergy today? What is the state of the Church today?” says Kokx, connecting what St. Alphonsus says to the crises of our time. “What it gets down to is we have to have a proper hierarchical understanding, not an egalitarian, flattened sort of ‘Synodal Church’… We have to have that proper understanding of the priesthood, what they do… and their power… and priests have to understand, too.”
Kokx further relates that St. Alphonsus thought that the holiness of a congregation was related to the holiness of the priest, that the holier the pastor of a parish was, the holier the congregation would be
Returning to the priesthood itself, Kokx explains that St. Alphonsus lived according to his understanding of the priesthood, looking at it as a “complete crucifixion.”
“He understood that your entire life from [the moment of ordination] is a continual sacrifice to God,” he relates.
We also discuss St. Alphonsus understanding of the religious life, with Kokx recounting St. Alphonsus “strong” advice for parents of children, such as not allowing daughters to spend time with young men who have strong feelings for them, and that fathers lead families in prayer, discuss everyone’s day with the family, and encourage their children to enter religion.
In fact, Kokx tells me, St. Alphonsus opined that if a parent attempts to stop their children from entering religious life, they are guilty of not just one sin, but two. “Not only is [it] a sin against charity, but also against piety… by denying the Church a potential soul to live in its service,” Kokx says.
Toward the end of the interview, we discuss a work of St. Alphonsus called The Glories of Mary, a book comprised of five books in one volume dedicated to Our Lady.
Explaining St. Alphonsus’ thought on Our Lady, Kokx tells me that St. Alphonsus compared Our Lady to the moon, which reflects the light of the sun to enlighten the night, just as Our Lady reflects the beauty of Her Son and brings souls in the darkness of sin to Him. St. Alphonsus also wrote that people should make Our Lady their mother, especially priests, after the example of Our Lord, who lived under Her charge with St. Joseph until He turned 30.
However, Kokx also discusses the implications and requirements of what it means to be the child of Mary.
“[St. Alphonsus] also makes the point that at judgment… Christ is going to judge us according to justice… and Mary will be there to plead with Him, to be our intercessor of mercy,” Kokx says. “She will be there if we’ve prayed… through our lives and… put ourselves under… her patronage by not sinning.”
“St. Alphonsus most importantly says, though, to be a child of Mary, we have to… give up sin,” he continues. “We have to be worthy of Her… protection, by following the footsteps of Her Son Jesus Christ.”
Order Stephen Kokx’s book, St. Alphonsus for the 21st Century: A Handbook for Holiness, by clicking here.
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