Wednesday, August 02, 2023

St Alphonsus on the Need for Reverence in the Liturgy

When he was appointed bishop of the small town of St Agata dei Goti in 1762, St Alphonsus de’ Liguori (OF feast day August 1, EF August 2) began his episcopal ministry by sending missioners out to every corner of diocese. He “recommended two things only to these missioners, simplicity in the pulpit, charity in the confessional, and after hearing one of the priests neglect his advice he said to him, ‘Your sermon kept me awake all night... If you wanted to preach only yourself, rather than Jesus Christ, why come all the way from Naples to Ariola to do it?’

At the same time he set about a reform of the seminary, and of the careless way that benefices were granted. Some priests were in the habit of saying Mass in fifteen minutes or less; these were suspended ipso facto until they amended their ways, and the bishop wrote a moving treatise on the subject: ‘ “The priest at the altar”, says St Cyprian, “represents the person of Jesus Christ.” But whom do so many priests today represent? They represent only mountebanks earning their livelihood by their antics. Most lamentable of all is it to see religious, and some even of reformed orders, say Mass with such haste and such mutilation of the rite as would scandalize even the heathen... Truly the sight of Mass celebrated in this way is enough to make one lose the faith.’ ” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints, revised by Herbert Thurston S.J. and Donald Attwater, 1956)

St Alphonsus Kneeling Before the Blessed Sacrament; stained glass window in Carlow Cathedral, Ireland. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 4.0)

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