The first day of August is dear to Redemptorists throughout the world. It is the Feast day of their Founder, St. Alphonsus de Liguori. Born in Naples in 1696, he died at Pagani in 1787, in his 91st year. At the age of 36, he founded a congregation of Missionaries especially dedicated to preaching the Gospel to those who were most abandoned, especially those living at that time in the remotest places. He gathered his first companions in the village of Scala, above Amalfi, in Southern Italy. All but one of his first companions deserted him; the one who remained was Brother Vito Curzio, who had earlier lived a rather colourful career. Later, Alphonsus was joined by a number of other priest companions and brother companions, and this new band of Missionaries began preaching in a wide area of Southern Italy, going to the remotest villages and towns high in the mountains. One of the best known and loved Redemptorist brothers from that time,- and still greatly loved throughout the world- was Brother (now Saint) Gerard Magella.
This band of Missionaries were eventually given their present name of The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer,- later shortened in popular usage to Redemptorists, or Redemptorist Missionaries. This congregation is now found in about 72 countries around the globe, still going to places where others do not wish to go, and reaching out to people of all ages, young and old. Our mission is to bring to people the message of the Abundant Redemption of God,- the ‘crazy’ love of God for us, as Alphonsus often called it (‘Dio, pazzo per amore’)
His core message to us, in our generation too, is to ‘Return love for love’,- to allow ourselves to be utterly captivated by the ‘crazy’ depth of God’s love for us, and to seek with our whole being to return love for love. Alphonsus spoke passionately to people about the great mysteries of Christ,- the love of God shown us in the Crib, on the Cross, in the Eucharist, and in the gift of Mary the Mother of God who is our Mother also.
Please keep Redemptorists worldwide in your prayers, and pray that the Lord will send many more young men to join us in bringing the ‘crazy’ love of God to people all over the world and in Ireland as well. ‘Caritas Christi urget nos’,- ‘the Love of Christ is driving us!,- St. Paul. Our religious profession makes all Redemptorists truly missionaries. Please pray too for all Redemptoristines, our sister Order of the Most Holy Redeemer, whose enclosed life is a powerhouse of prayer for the whole world. Their house in Ireland in on St. Alphonsus’ Road, Drumcondra, Dublin. And today, we honour and celebrate with all our Redemptorist lay co-workers and friends, who make up the Redemptorist Family.
S. Devitt C.Ss.R
‘The Christ of immense Compassion, The Mother of immense Tenderness,’ – The heart of Alphonsus’ preaching.
The following was written, following a visit to the tomb of Alphonsus, in Pagani, in Italy.
Alphonsus, A Man on Fire
“Return Love for Love”
is what he said to do.
When all was said and done, this was his heart’s deep cry,-
‘return love, for love’.
Live in the Birth of Bethlehem,
walk in its stables,
smell its smells,
be filled with speechless wonder
at the One Who Is,
and who is lying in the food-trough of
Live in the Call of Calvary,
Come back again to stand
upon that hill,
don’t run away from the awe-filled
horror as you stand
and gaze at our Messiah,-
Sent by the One who so greatly
loved the World.
Live in the shadow of its radiance.
Live in the ever-lasting gift of Eucharist,
Behold the Man! Behold the Lamb!
Behold your God, given in a wafer:
Drink in the meaning of the Cup.
‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink?’
‘We can…’ said those
two Thunder Brothers to their Lord.
And so can we,- drink of the
overflowing cup of given life.
Return love for love.
‘Live in my love’, said He.
‘As He (my Father) has loved me,
that is the very how
my love is now
Come, live in it, and drink of it,-
Come, laugh in it
‘so that your joy may be full’.
If he has so loved us,-
might live our lives,
returning love for love.
*( Memories of visit to Naples-Scala, and of page 47 of Frederick Jones’ book on the writings of Alphonsus Liguori, in Classics of Western Spirituality Series..)*
Seamus Devitt C.Ss.R., from a collection of poem-reflections www.emptifulvessels.com