Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Key Aspects of Redemptorist (Alphonsian) Spirituality

     Catholicism is like the greatest glass of wine you ever had.  A single sip of wine encapsulates so many different flavors and inspires the senses.  The same can be said for Catholicism.  One of my favorite aspects of Catholicism is the vast array of spiritual approaches that exist inside of such a society.  My journey in the Catholic Church has been a path of discovery to these various approaches to ancient Christian spirituality.  

     Before becoming Catholic I had an immense fascination with St. Francis of Assisi and his Little Brothers.  In fact, down the road I should add to my series with how St. Francis made me Catholic.  Then upon entry in the Catholic Church I became interested in Benedictine Spirituality and their influence on the historical spiritual development in the British isles.  I also have had an attraction to Ignatian spirituality, which would scandalize many of my Anglo-minded friends.  Now I am seeking to understand the elements that make up Redemptorist spirituality.  

     The Redemptorists were founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori.  St Alphonsus is not only a saint, he is a Doctor of the Church.  He is the patron of moral theologians (and arthritis).  As I discover more aspects to his spiritual approach I will post more, but for now I wish to post a few elements of Redemptorist spirituality.

"Those who do not pray are not saved."

     Many orders in the Church have mottos, for example the Benedictines have "Ora Et Labora" or the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta is "I thirst".  This was one of the mottos of St. Alphonsus.  While the Redemptorists are not a full-fledged contemplative order, it contains elements of it.  St. Alphonsus was a big proponent of practicing mental prayer.  Similar to St. Francis De Sales, St. Alphonsus prescribed his readers and followers to practice mental prayer over every other devotion (outside of the mass) if they were able.  Yet, it simply was that St. Alphonsus rightfully believed that you could be assured that if you were not praying, your were not seeking the Lord.  So when people wanted more assurance of their St. Alphonsus told people they needed to pray.  St. Alphonsus also emphasized Christ's presence in the Church.  He encouraged his followers to also pray before the Blessed Sacrament and to attend Adoration and Holy Hour.  

Mercy and Charity

     One of the reasons St. Alphonsus is the patron of moral theologians is that he was (while certainly not the first) was a big proponent of thinking and talking on moral theology through the lens of mercy and charity.  He advised priests to be loving and kind in the confessional booth, and not to be too rigid with souls seeking reconciliation.  St. Alphonsus also had a heart for the poor.  One of the missions of the Redemptorist order was outreach to poor communities.  They would found Churches in these areas to minister too.  All this boils down to the love of our Holy Redeemer.  St. Alphonsus wanted to preach for everyone to see the world, their neighbors, with the love of Christ.  

God through the Arts

   This one involves a little intuition on my part.  I have not seen anything this explicit that describes Redemptorist spirituality as having an artistic component, yet I think it is true.  St. Alphonsus was studying to be a lawyer before he became a priest.  He was quite fond of the opera and the arts.  St. Alphonsus painted portaits, such as the portait of Christ Crucified.  He composed hymns and Christmas carols.  He wrote over 300 works on spirituality.  So St. Alphonsus expressed his love of God through writing and the arts.  

I hope to continue this post in another part later.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, Pray For Us.

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