Saint Alphonsus Ligouri

Alphonsus begins a life in the courts of law

Saint Alphonsus Ligouri

Saint Alphonsus Ligouri

His father had him trained to become a lawyer.  By the time he was sixteen years old, he was so proficient in his studies, he received a degree of Doctor of Laws.  And this came about in spite of the fact that the required age to receive such a degree was no younger than twenty years of age.  When he received his degree, his stature was so small, the robes of his new profession dragged on the floor, dwarfing him, to the delight of all in attendance.  His next step – he studied for the Bar, and by the age of nineteen he was able to practice law in the courts, again far ahead of all who had preceded him.  The world and its snares were weaving gossamer fibers (not unlike those of a spider’s web), threatening to entrap the young man in its web.

There was an ongoing battle for Alphonsus’ future.  Although his father’s focus was to groom him for the world, his mother, who was highly spiritual, was the loving instrument who would prepare him for a future life as Jesus and Mary’s troubadour.  But it would not be a battle easily won.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Alphonsus’ father, even when trying to arrange a suitable marriage for him, always prompted him to place God first.  Father and son even made retreats together.

But temptations were always lying in wait for the brilliant young lawyer.  Alphonsus’ confessor testified, he never succumbed to serious sin till his death.  In spite of the fact, he did become enamored of his life as a lawyer and grew increasingly fascinated by the daily challenges he was able to easily overcome.  The flattery of those who saw his clever prowess in the courts not only turned his head with their open adulation,[1] to compound the problem, Alphonsus found himself setting aside prayer and spiritual reading for the glitter of the world and its relentless temptations.  And here, the tempter lurked.  It would appear that Alphonsus’ future was sealed, until the day God stepped in.  And as we have said so many times, God often has to teach us in painful ways.

Alphonsus loses; God wins!

It has been said that in the eight years he practiced law, he possessed a record of never having lost a case.  That is, all except the one case which would change his life and the direction it had been taking.  We now find our young lawyer in the year 1723, about to face his first defeat.  There was a trial, centering around a lawsuit between a nobleman from Naples and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, being waged in the courts of law.  We don’t know whether Alphonsus was representing the plaintiff or the defendant.  We only know that Alphonsus began with his usual brilliant, cleverly prepared remarks to the court.  Satisfied with the obvious results which would assuredly be forthcoming, the young Alphonsus confidently sat down, after he finished speaking.  But his contentment was to be short-lived.  Just as he was about to call his first witness, the opposing attorney coldly confronted him, insisting his arguments were ill placed, as Alphonsus had missed a section of the document, which completely negated his allegations and consequently jeopardized the success of his case.  As this was so out of the ordinary, Alphonsus insisted on reading the document.  Incredulously examining and reexamining the brief, and then, not satisfied, poring over it meticulously, over and over again, there was nothing left but to admit he had in fact missed that section and had consequently lost the case.  He was desolate.  All around him, in the courtroom, tried to console him, even the judge; but Alphonsus would have none of it.  His greatest fear was that they might judge he had been purposely trying to deceive them.  No amount of reassurances could dissuade him.  He bolted out of the courtroom, crying out that he was finished with law and all its trappings.

He went to his room and refused to eat anything for three days.  After his battle with himself (he thought), he realized that more than an attempt to humiliate him, this was an act by God to bring him to the road he was supposed to be traveling.  Realizing he had journeyed to his eternal goal by the wide road, allowing the many deviations of the world he had chosen, to distract him and lure him from his Heavenly destination, he spent days upon days praying, seeking God’s Will in his life.  There is no record of how long he prayed; we only know that on August the 28th, in the year 1723, our Alphonsus went to the Hospital for the Incurables, to visit the sick and dying.  As he was making his rounds, suddenly he felt the room he was in, shake.  Whereupon, he heard a voice call out to him, “Leave the world and give thyself to Me.”[2] That he might not think this was his imagination, the voice repeated the command.  His blood racing, his heart pounding, Alphonsus rushed out of the hospital and went over to the church of the Redemption of Captives (or as it also known: Our Lady of the Ransom).  He knelt before the image of Our Lady and laid his sword at Her feet, swearing his lifetime allegiance.  He then made a solemn resolution to enter the Religious Life, starting as a novice in the Fathers of the Oratory.

Reference “Saints Maligned Misunderstood and Mistreated”

For more information about St Alphonsus click here


[1] praise and admiration

[2] Catholic Encyclopedia – 1914 Edition

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