Thursday, August 1, 2013

Alphonsus: Seeing through a world in vertigo

August 1st of every year marks the feast day of St. Alphonsus (1696-1787). This is a man who knew adversity. When he was young, be pursued a career in law but it didn’t go anywhere. After losing a case he felt a strong calling by God to the priesthood. Eventually he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and was later ordained a bishop.

But his religious order was met with obstacles. One source has it that after just one year the Saint only had one lay brother. The other religious brothers left him for another religious group. Years later, he was kicked out of the congregation he founded.

Yet, so steeped he was in the love of Christ, he knew how to rise above these trials. He was a prolific writer. Many of the books he had written, such as The Spouse of Christ, gives us great insight into his interior joy and peaceful endurance. Above all, he said, the greatest gift we can offer God is our will. He said, “Since nothing is more dear to us than self-will, the sacrifice of it is the most acceptable offering we can present to the Lord.”

And as for our conversion and the offering of our will to God, St. Alphonsus likened it to a transformation of a solid substance into liquid. In order for us to know what true happiness is, our will has to conform to the will of Christ. And if the will of our Lord can be compared to a container- and if our will must fit into that container –it cannot be made of solid substance. He continues: “What is rendered liquid no longer retains its own shape, but takes the form of the vessel in which it is contained.”

One of the great lessons that the Lord teaches us is that things are not always what they appear to be. This is especially the case when nothing seems to be going our way. The circumstances that might mend themselves to failure, setbacks and loss may, in fact, be the very thing we need for success and gain in the long run. Our Lord’s crucifixion last three agonizing hours, but His Resurrection endures for an eternity.

St. Alphonsus was able to look at life this way. Although such convictions did not always come easy for him, he knew that “all things worked together” for his ultimate good and his best interests. When counseling a religious sister, he encouraged her to look at the world and all of its disappointments with a spiritual panoramic view. “We labor,” he said, “under a vertigo and therefore many things appear to us to go to ruin; and we know not that it is our giddy head that makes them appear to us from what they are in reality…for all that happens comes from God. He does all for our welfare, but we know it not.”

However, the Saints knew it. St. Alphonsus Liguori knew it. But I hope we know it! After all, this kind of priceless knowledge and vision can come only through much grace and many trials.