Today we honor St. Alphonsus Ligouri who was born near Naples Italy in 1696. A very small boy, he was so brilliant that his father home schooled him. Although finding him stubborn, his father found him so eager to learn that when Alphonso was only seventeen he was able to pass all requirements for doctoral degrees both in civil and church law.
After ten successful years in the courtroomd of Naples, Alphonso made a mistake. He was folding up his brief after what he had thought to be a perfect presentation, when he was halted by his opponent pointing out how Alphonso, in his preparation, had overlooked a pertinent document.
Disgusted with himself, Alphonso folded his brief, and declared himself through with the practice of law. His subsequent wanderings had him visiting churches; and then they brought him to listening in to the theological debates at the Oratory founded a century earlier by St. Phillip Neri. Then, without joining their order, he was led to a priesthood in which he came to be loved for his Scripture based sermons and for his kindly directions of people in morality difficulaties.
The priests of the Redemptorist order, that he then founded, came to be loved for that same understanding. Forgive me, though, for recalling an instance in which one of his “Reds” was less than understanding.
Andy Schierhoff, an older seminarian from, my home parish, became a bishop in La Paz, Bolivia. One day in 1968 we were both home at the same time, and I was driving him to meet a mutual friend. We were passing by a Redemptorist parish when he suggested we take advantage of a parlor there, where by pushing a bell we could get a priest at the other side of a screen. He would be ready to hear any priest’s confession.
When I knelt, and rang the bell, through the screen I saw a priest appear. Very suspiciously, he asked, “Are you a priest?”
When I had assured him I was, he went into asking me about my vices. After I got out of there, Bishop Andy went in. Afterwards we drove silently down Grand Avenue until at last I asked, “Did he ask you if you were a priest?”
Andy said, “He did, and when I told him I was a bishop, he really gave it to me.”