I write the following because I wish to honor someone who had a great devotion to Mary. He recognized that to love the mother is to love the son, and vice versa. Far from being an obstacle toward salvation, Our Lady is a gift of mercy from the Lord who stops at nothing to help us reach heaven.
“For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plenteous redemption.”
That verse from Psalm 130 was chosen by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori to be the motto of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists), the religious congregation he founded. St. Alphonsus sent the Redemptorists to preach the Gospel to the poor and those in rural areas and to hear confessions. At the heart of the Gospel is of course the great mystery of Redemption, the great love with which Jesus Christ loved us and gave himself to us on the Cross, that we might be saved from eternal separation from him. The Redemptorists, borne of St. Alphonsus’ own fervent love for the Passion of Christ, exist to bring this message of redemption to every person they encounter. St. Alphonsus wrote a devotional book, The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ, for readers to enter into the mystery more deeply. It is a good book to delve into especially during Lent.
Among other books, he also wrote a book called The Glories of Mary in which he gives such beautiful glowing praise to the Mother of God. He recognized that the more you love Mary the more you love Jesus her Son. It is a very beautiful book which I highly recommend. Most, if not all, of his writings are available online for free.
A few years ago, I was in dialogue with a Protestant pastor. He referred me to a lecture or sermon he had heard in which St. Alphonsus was attacked for his love for Mary because it seemed to be detracting from Jesus. When I heard the lecture, I thought to myself, “this guy has no idea who St. Alphonsus really is!” He just read a few lines from the Glories of Mary out of context, without giving any consideration to the Saints’ deep and abiding love for Our Merciful Redeemer. I mean, you could cry from the things St. Alphonsus writes about the suffering of Jesus. It seems to me that his love for Jesus was so profound because Mary gave him her heart in gratitude for his dedication to her.
St. Alphonsus suffered very much throughout his life especially from rheumatoid arthritis which basically caused his neck to bend forward so that his chin touched his neck. This suffering gave him the means of uniting himself to the Passion. He also suffered from calumny, deception, and betrayal from some clerics with ill will. Towards the end of his life, he was afflicted by scruples and temptations to doubt. He persevered and was given the crown of Life. As in life, so as in death: I like to think that it was Mary who took him by the hand and brought him to the Redeemer.
Lastly, I reflect that today’s Gospel reading is so appropriate for today because it is on the multiplication of the fish and loaves. St. Matthew tells us that when Jesus “saw the crowds, He was moved with pity for them.” (Matthew 9) When Jesus fed them, he provided for their lack, he did what they could not do on their own. This is precisely what the Holy Redeemer does. Also, it’s interesting to note that this act of mercy, the multiplication, occurs in a rural area.
St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us that we may love Jesus and his mother as you did!