The Model Bishop – St. Alphonsus Liguori August 17, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, episcopate, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Holy suffering, Interior Life, mortification, religious, Saints, sanctity, Spiritual Warfare, Tradition, true leadership, Victory, Virtue.
As a corollary to the big news of the day in the post below, a brief overview of some of the great virtues practiced by St. Alphonsus Liguori, as written by Fr. Eugene Grimm, CSsR. If Liguori was the ideal, or some representation of it, it is perhaps a bit depressing to contemplate the degree to which most, if not practically all, current-day bishops correspond to this ideal.
Note, the below has to do almost solely with personal practice of virtue, but it is the personal practice that powers the public apostolate. That is to say, holy men make holy bishops, and not the other way around. From pp. 14-15 of The Victories of the Martyrs:
…..[O]ur revered author was not satisfied with telling us how we may imitate the heroes of faith; he shows us this much better in his wonderful life, which was a prodigy of patience and long martyrdom. There are but few Saints who suffered as much as he suffered.
He was his own tyrant and his own executioner. Although he had never committed a grievous sin from his youth, yet, impelled by his ardent love for Jesus Christ, he gave himself up to the most cruel penances, and God permitted that he could continue them to the age of nearly ninety-one years. He regarded himself as a victim that was to be entirely immolated to divine love without the least reserve; and convinced that this love is manifested by labor and suffering, as he himself teaches us, he thought only of laboring and suffering as much as possible for God. But obedience being better than sacrifice, he bound himself by a vow to follow in all things the advice of the director of his conscience, in which he recognized the Divine Will. By renouncing all worldly hopes, he condemned himself to a life of extreme poverty; his garments, his furniture, and everything that he used, even when he was a bishop, bore the impress of this virtue, and reduced him to what was strictly necessary. At night he took his short repose on a simple straw mattress, and sometimes on a plank; and when travelling, if he could not go on foot, he would use only a donkey for riding.
He took but little nourishment, and was careful to mix it with bitter herbs so as to render its taste very disagreeable; and this he often ate on his knees or sitting on the floor. Besides the ordinary fast and abstinence, he fasted on bread and water on all Saturdays and vigils of the principle feasts. When he studied or wrote, he would stand with small stones in his shoes in order to suffer. He severely scourged himself every day, and frequently to blood; he used, besides, little chains, hair-cloth, and other instruments for the purpose of continually tormenting his flesh. One evening, worn out with fatigue, he fell down in his room, having swooned away, and remained unconscious the whole night and the greater part of the following day; the doctor ordered him to be disrobed, and on him was found a hair shirt that covered his whole body. From this we may form any idea of his austerities, which he strove so much to conceal from the eyes of men. To these self-inflicted penances must be added his great labors in the midst of pain, solicitude, and continual trials.
In reality, many of Saint Alphonsus’ penances were commonly practiced by many saintly bishops, especially those of the early Church and the Age of Faith. And even more salutary for our own souls is less to consider how today’s bishops correspond to his eminent example, but how we ourselves do, not that we are called to be bishops, but we are all called to holiness. I’m a great one for taking extra things on, a sort of positive penance, if you will, but when it comes to self-denial, I’ve always been weak. Please pray for your wimpy blogger.
Victories of the Martyrs is shaping up to be an excellent, excellent book, even by the very high standards of St. Alphonsus. It will take me months to get through it, though.