Commentaries and Facts about St. Alponsus de Liguori

Contributed by an Anonymous Author

Permission to post this collection has been given by its author, who desires to remain anonymous. Many of the quotations are given to prove that (i) St. Alphonsus was a Thomist (which some people seem to deny) and (ii) St. Alphonsus was not a rigorist (as some claim).

(in 1961)



St. Alphonsus (+1787)



Shakespeare (17th c)







Any language


Way of the Cross


63 editions


890 editions

De Meulemeester

Visits to the Bl. Sacrament


54 editions


2,009 editions

De Meulemeester

Glories of Mary


32 editions


736 editions

De Meulemeester

Theologia Moralis

82 editions



21,000 editions


(Way of the Cross & Visits to the Bl. Sacrament) “St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross and Visits to the Blessed Sacrament give familiar testimony to his devotion to the sacred humanity of Christ. These are his works most published in English, and in fact all languages. According to a count made in 1933, the Way of the Cross had at that time been published 63 times in English and 890 times in all; the Visits had been published 54 times in English and 2,009 times in all.” (Source: Thirthy-Three Doctors of the Church, Rengers C. O.F.M. Cap., Washington, 1993, p. 616)

(Pius IX) “One can in fact assert that there has not been one error even in our times which Alphonsus, at least in great measure, did not fight against.” (Source: Qui Ecclesiae Suae, Apostolic Letter, Pius IX, Rome, 1871)

the Moral theology of St. Alphonsus

Haec est sententia D. Thomae, quam ego sequor... Theologorum princeps D. Thomas sic docet... S. Thomas sibi objicit... et sic respondet... D. Thomas docet... Ipse sibi objicit... et ita respondet... Evidenter appareret moralis certitudo sententiae nostrae, vel potius sententiae D. Thomae... Similitudo a D. Thoma hic allata nequit esse magis lucida et convincens... Doctor Angelicus subdit... Hanc suam sententiam D. Thomas valde confirmat... S. Doctor hoc sibi objicit et respondet... Docet S. Thomas... Eamdem sententiam D. Thomas fortius confirmat... S. Doctor affirmat... Attendamus hic quomodo S. Doctor fuerit semper firmus et uniformis in hac sua sententia... Posito igitur principio a D. Thoma tradito... S. Thomas docet... Docet S. Thomas... Id quidem agnovit D. Thomas... Hoc maxime confirmatur a S. Thoma... Ex hac autem doctrina S. Thomae... duo corollaria descendunt... Ex principio tam firmiter et multipticiter a D. Thoma probato... Principium a S. Thoma superius jam probatum est... Sed deveniamus nunc ad rationes intrinsecas: pro quibus rem ex suis principiis, Angelico Doctore semper duce, sumamus... S. Thomas sic definit... docet... quaesitum proponit... respondet... A S. Thoma alibi ita definitur... Idem S. Doctor tradit... sibi objicit... respondet... Id clare docet S. Thomas... Sicque asseveranter aio a S. Thoma doceri... Docet ipse S. Thomas... subdit... declarat... et objiciens sibi... respondet... Tradit S. Thomas... Docet Angelicus Doctor... Ad mentem S. Thomae indagandum... Nec obest quod dicit S. Thomas... Nam ipsemet S. Doctor ibidem ait... Hoc idem docet D. Thomas... S. Doctor sibi objicit... et respondet... Hoc clarius et firmius in alio loco statuit Magister Angelicus... (Quid) S. Thomas... intenderit... constat a contextu... Idem S. Thomas in alio loco aperte declaravit... Haec doctrina utique non est mea: est D. Thomas qui ponit quaesitum... et sibi objicit... et respondet... Idem docuit S. Thomas... Idem tradidit alibi S. Thomas... Itaque, secundum D. Thomam... Quod in hoc puncto S. Thomas docet, id solum sufficit ad nostram sententiam omnino firmandam... Idque confirmat D. Thomas... Hinc patet quod S. Thomas semper conformis fuit, nos instruens... Dixit... Dixit... Dixit... Dixit... Dixit... Itaque juxta has omnes D. Thomae doctrinas concludendum... Firmiter confirmatur principium a S. Thoma nobis traditum...” (Source: Système Moral de Saint Alphonse de Liguori, Delerue F. C.SS.R., Saint-Étienne, 1929, p. 138)

St. eugene de Mazenod and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate

It is easy enough to establish this manifest plagiarism and use it to explain the exceptional rapidity of the Founder’s redaction, which Jeancard and Rambert incorrectly prolonged. On the other hand, it is far from clear why Fr. de Mazenod changed his initial order of choices. Why did Liguori who, in 1815, ranked lowest among the five models from which the components of the Rule were borrowed climb to the highest place in 1818? Why did Liguori eclipse St. Ignatius, St. Charles, St. Philip Neri and St. Vincent de Paul, even to the extent of becoming the source utilized almost exclusively at Saint Laurent? No statement of the Founder sheds any light on this point. Perhaps even he would have been hard put to give a clear explanation of the stages leading to this reversal, which resulted from a slow and more or less conscious formulation.

It does not seem impossible, however, to pick out certain elements of the progressive movement which brought about his preference and restricted his choice: for one thing, his increasing devotion to the great bishop of Saint-Agatha of the Goths who was beatified in 1816. [Footnote: Not satisfied with adopting and teaching in his sermons the theological principles of the moral theologian, Father de Mazenod had placed his community under the protection of the missionary bishop. As soon as Liguori was beatified, the Founder dedicated an altar to him in the church of the Carmelites. On August 2, 1818, the newly-beatified’s feast day was solemnly observed for the first time. This devotion was even rewarded by a miraculous cure, shortly after that date, in favor of Madame Felix, wife of the chief clerk of the Aix Commercial Court. During that year of 1818, President de Mazenod devoted his leisure time at Marseilles, at his son’s request, to translating an abridged life of Liguori, published at Rome at the time of the beatification. His death in 1820 prevented him from finishing this work, and Father Jeancard, who originally was assigned merely to put the finishing touches on the manuscript, published in 1828 the first biography in French of the Founder of the Redemptorists, adapted from Tannoia’s three volumes in-quarto published at Naples (1799-1802) and from the acts of the canonical process. Cf. Vie de B. Alphonse-Marie de Liguori, évêque de Sainte-Agatha des Goths par Monsieur Jeancard, Missionaire de Provence (Paris-Marseille, 1828); 2 ed. in 1834. In addition, Fr. de Mazenod wrote to Monsieur Reinaud, a well-known engraver of Aix, and had him make engraved pictures of the future saint in order to spread that devotion among the faithful. Father Jeancard relates three cures obtained in Aix and Marseilles in 1827, through the intercession of the Blessed Alphonsus. The account of one of them was even sent to Rome to be used in the canonization process.] For another, the perfect similarity between the aims which Liguori set down for his Society and those which the Superior of the Missionaries of Provence was pursuing, using the exact same means. No religious congregation came closer to de Mazenod’s ideal; more and more, the Redemptorists’ Constitutions, a copy of which he had tried to obtain beginning with 1816, and which Fortuné brought with him on his return from Sicily around the beginning of 1818, seemed superlatively suited to his own small diocesan Society. [Footnote: On November 11, 1816, the President wrote back to his son who, on May 1 of that same year, had asked him to «visit the Redemptorist missionaries» established in Palermo, «to ask them for their Constitutions and Rules» (Rey, I, 197): «It was not without difficulty and delay that we finally succeeded in procuring what you had asked for, in the way of relics, pictures, constitutions and an abridged life of the Blessed Liguori (Aix, Méjanes, B 69). But the package did not reach its destination, and Canon Fortuné had to new steps with the Liguorians, who disliked the idea of giving their Rules to outsiders. Before leaving Sicily, Monsieur de Mazenod was able to assure Eugene once again by informing him on October 30, 1817: «Your uncle finally succeeded, not too easily, in procuring Bishop Liguori’s Constitutions.» (Ibid) Fortuné must have delivered this precious work personally to his nephew on disembarking at Marseilles.] It, too, was dedicated to the rural apostolate and to the practice of Christian perfection. Thus, instead of presuming to innovate, it seemed far better to hold to that rule which was hallowed by the authority of a newly beatified, and whose twofold aim matched the aims of the Aix Society so perfectly: The evangelization of country parishes and the personal sanctification of its members.

In spite of the abundance and literalism of the excerpts he took from Liguori’s statutes, the Founder, nevertheless, added certain modifications and complements, since those statutes had been drafted in the eighteenth century, and the French Revolution, to which de Mazenod devoted several strongly-worded pages of his own, had achieved its «iniquitous work» since then. «To remedy all this evil and correct all this disorder» which made the «infernal operations» of the preceding era still more heinous, the activities of his institute would therefore have to become more diversified due to the changed order of things. Its primary aim, of course, would still be the same as that of the Redemptorists: «To form a group of secular priests who would live together in a community and strive to imitate the virtues and examples of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, principally by devoting themselves to evangelizing the poor… under the authority of the Ordinaries to whom they will always be subject.» Added to this aim was the determination to supply for the «lack of so many fine religious institutes» which once existed and the loss of which has left «a frightful void»; this would be done by cultivating the piety and fervor which flourished in religious orders, prior to their dissolution in 1791, and by reforming the clergy concerning whose state the Founder expressed himself in such harsh language that he would later soften the extreme severity of that particular part of his text. This broadened field of activity also included the spiritual direction of youth, chaplaincies in prisons, ministry the dying, and the salvation of the most abandoned souls, all inspired by his own past experience.

As with the first part of the Rule relative to the claims of the Institute, the second part follows, step by step, the Rule of the Redemptorists, or, as it is termed, their ‘Statuti Capitolari’ of 1802. Here again, Father de Mazenod took circumstances into account and, instead of imposing the four vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and perseverance as exacted by Liguori’s Constitutions, he temporarily excluded the vow of poverty. «Reasons of circumstances,» he wrote. (…) However, although he renounced closely copying the Redemptorist Rule on this point, he borrowed from St. Alphonsus, who was a skilled jurist, a supplementary vow that would make the ties binding the Missionaries of Provence to their Institute more indissoluble. Paragraph 4 of Part II of the Rule stipulates: «In addition to the vows just mentioned, the members of the Society will take the vow of perseverance. By this vow, they will bind themselves to live until death in the Society and will be dispensed from it only by the Sovereign Pontiff or the Superior-General.» (…)

The final section of Part II of the Rule treats of the other principal observances: charity, humility, unworldliness, frequent reception of the Sacraments, dress, care of sick members, suffrages for the dead, silence, recollection, mortification, community conferences. Some of the foregoing imitated the Rule of St. Alphonsus while others complemented it.

Part III deals entirely with the government of the Society, modeled exactly upon that of the Redemptorists; an essentially monarchical form of government in which the only elective offices are those of the Superior-General, his assistants and the Bursar-General. The authority of the Superior-General is counterpoised only by the General Chapter.

The two Rules, therefore, are very closely related. But, altogether Liguori’s sober and concise Constitutions seem rather juridicial, those of Father de Mazenod are copious in certain places with ascetical considerations. For example, he was influenced by Rodriguez, even to the point of repeating some of the latter’s inexact patristic questions in his introduction to what concerned poverty and obedience. Likewise, St. Ignatius furnished him with an entire passage on the demands of obedience and on the qualifications of a Superior-General. It might also be noted that opening one’s conscience to the Superior was obligatory for the Missionaries of Provence just as it is for the Jesuits.

Obviously, then, the Rule as a whole lacked originality and since it had been redacted so hastily, it needed revising before it could be considered definitive. However, most founders of religious orders borrowed from rules of older orders, as prescribed by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. Their religious families nonetheless bear the distinguishing impress of their personalities. That of Father de Mazenod was forceful enough to give his Society such an individualizing mark that no one today would be likely to mistake an Oblate for a Redemptorist. Each of the two congregations has its own style of observing the same Rule.” (Source: Eugene de Mazenod, Vol. II, Leflon J., New York, 1970, p. 160-165)

St. John Bosco and St. Alphonsus

To combat these pernicious errors there arose, in the middle of the 18th century, the Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose works provided a powerful antidote. Father Guala was very active in spreading the writings of this saint throughout Piedmont. Printed in France, they could be brought into Piedmont only clandestinely, because of government opposition. In this undertaking Father Guala found an able assistant in a penitent of his, a certain Giani, a sculptor from Cerano in Vall’Intelvi above Lake Como. Using Marietti’s bookstore [as his distribution center] he sold at low cost and sometimes donated to customers: The Way To Love Jesus Christ, The Glories Of Mary, The Great Means Of Prayer and Visits To The Blessed Sacrament. In a short time these precious books were in the hands of many religious and especially of young students. Besides these ascetical works, Father Guala distributed to priests St. Alphonsus’ two volumes on moral theology, and an bridged edition of Homo Apostolicus [The Apostolic Man]. He personally presented them to the many priests he knew, while his friend Giani offered them to pastors and other priests when they came to Marietti’s bookstore. Sometimes Giani would include free copies of St. Alphonsus’ works with books that had been ordered.

Thus a start was made in correcting false ideas and many were rought back to the right path. Such holy and heroic labours induced many priests to study the moral principles taught by St. Alphonsus. In those days a great controversy was raging among theologians concerning the moral systems of probabilism and probabiliorism. The supporters of the former followed St. Alphonsus Liguori’s teaching which had been commended by the Church and declared free of censure. The supporters of the latter, instead, followed the opinions of some rigid authors, which, if not applied with prudence, could lead to the practice of an unreasonable rigorism, spiritually harmful.

Father Guala’s aim in founding the ‘Convitto Ecclesiastico’ was to put an end to this controversy. With the charity and meekness of our Lord as a basis for all discussions, he was able in great part to quiet the dissension, and he succeeded in having St. Alphonsus accepted as the Master of moral and pastoral theology. This re- stored tranquillity of conscience to the faithful and was of great spiritual advantage to them.

In the beginning, though, Father Guala had to make use of the official textbook of moral theology by Alasia; but he never failed to bring in St. Alphonsus, whom he habitually called «our saint». In those days it was dangerous to oppose Alasia’s teachings and Father Guala had to lecture with the greatest circumspection, for if news of this new trend in teaching had reached the diocesan board of education, it would certainly have created difficulties for this most worthy undertaking.

Father Guala’s right-hand man was Father Joseph Cafasso, his substitute in the chair of moral and pastoral theology, and later his successor. Endowed with virtues capable of withstanding all adversities -a prodigious serenity, an admirable discernment and prudence, an exemplary, and at the same time, unassuming and sincere piety -Father Cafasso banished from Piedmont all traces of that acrimony which still lingered among some of the probabiliorists against the followers of St. Alphonsus. He also played an important part in the formation of a learned and exemplary clergy. (…) It was to this school, run by model priests and exceptional teachers that Don Bosco was invited. Father Cafasso’s advise was excellent. (…) Don Bosco looked upon Father Cafasso’s advice as a command and a heavenly inspiration.” (Source: BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS OF ST. JOHN BOSCO, Vol. II, Lemoyne Giovanni Battista, New Rochelle, 1966, p. 32-35)

St. Gabriel of the Seven Sorrows and St. Alphonsus

(The ‘Song of Mary’) “During his novitiate or shortly afterwards Gabriel had compiled an anthology in praise of Mary. Usually called his ‘Marian Creed,’ it might with better reason be called his ‘Song of Mary.’ (…) In selecting material, Gabriel employed but one criterion. If the statement glorified the power of Mary, he accepted it, no matter how debatable the implications might seem to an exacting theologian. (…) If the original came from Fr. Norbert C.P., whence did Gabriel select his material? A careful scrutiny of the ‘Song of Mary’ elicits the interesting fact that every single item can be found and identified in the well-known work of St. Alphonsus Liguori, ‘The Glories of Mary.’ «The precision of the references is so complete,» observes Fr. Ntale Cavatassi C.P., «that it is not too difficult to trace the 148 quotations and to complete the two articles in the Marian Creed which the saint left unfinished» (Il Maestro e il Discepolo, Cavatassi, C.P., p. 23). In fact, apart from the insertion of the words, «I believe that besides a few conjunctive particles here and there, the entire text is taken bodily from the book of St. Alphonsus Liguori.»” (Source: Happy was my youth, Burk Edmund C.P., Westminster, 1962, 174-175)

St. Anthony Mary Claret and St. Alphonsus

(Instructions by St. Anthony Mary Claret on preaching in a letter) “Explaining points of doctrine serves to instruct the people; sermons serve to move them. Sermons should be chosen with the listener in mind. St. Alphonsus calls some sermon topics, such as the last things, necessary, while he calls others optional.” (Source: Autobiography, St. Anthony Mary Claret, Chicago, 1976, § 294, p. 103)

St. John Mary Vianney

(Left rigorism thanks to St. Alphonsus) “Until 1840, he certainly followed the rigorism which at that time prevailed in most of the confessionals in France. . . . From 1840 onwards, thanks to some conversations with M. Tailhades, a pious priest, and one inclined to leniency; thanks to a study of the theology of St. Alphonsus, which had just been published in Frnech by Cardinal Gousset, the Curé d’Ars showed himself sensibly less strict: [Footnote: The interpretation of St. Alphonsus must have come to his knowledge by word of mouth or, maybe, someone lent him the works of that eminent moralist. The edition of Gousset (Théologie morale à l’usage des cures et des confesseurs, 2 vols. in 8, Paris, Lecoffre), which the Curé d’Ars had on his bookshelves, bears the date 1845.] Barring quite extraordinary cases, it never again happened, as it had in former days, that the same sinner was compelled to return to his confessional as often as five, six, or seven times.” (Source: THE CURÉ D’ARS, c. 14, Trochu F., London, 1927, p. 314)

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (Foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart)

Servant of God William Doyle (Jesuit)

(Entered religious life after reading St. Alphonsus) “«Did you ever think of the religious life?» asked his brother. «Never!» was the emphatic reply. . . . This led to an animated discussion concerning religious Orders in general and the Society of Jesus in particular. Willie was so far shaken as to accept a copy of St. Alphonsus Liguori’s work on the religious state [‘Instructions and Considerations on the Religious State’], with a promise to read it and to think it over.” (Source: FATHER WILLIAM DOYLE S.J., O’Rahilly Alfred, New York, 1925, p. 9)

Ven. Pauline-Marie Jaricot (Foundress of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith and the Association of the Living Rosary)

Bl. Louis Guanella (Founder of the Servants of Charity)

(Admiration of the work of St. Alphonsus) “We can testify with what a sense of admiration and affection our Father spoke to us of the Sons of St. Francis of Assisi, of St. Benedict, of St. Dominic, of St. Ignatius, of the Carmelites, of St. Alphonsus, of St. Paul of the Cross, of St. Jerome Emiliani, of St. Camillus de Lellis, of St. Anthony Zaccaria, of St. Vincent de Paul, of the holy founders and their works.” (Source: LIFE, THE SPIRIT AND THE WORKS OF FATHER LOUIS GUANELLA, Mazzucchi Leonardo, Springfield, 1980, p. 338)

Fr. Frederick William Faber (Oratorian)

Bl. John Henry Newman

Works of St. Alphonsus de Liguori