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- Mother of Perpetual Help
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Alphonsus Maria de Liguori was born in 1696 near Naples, Italy, the son of a captain in the Royal Navy and a very devoted mother from a noble family in the city. His parents providedhim with an exceptional education in philosophy, literature, and the arts. He was 16 when he was awarded doctorates of civil and canon law.
Christ’s claim on the heart of Alphonsus was absolute and irresistible. As a young priest he worked himself to the point of exhaustion. Caring for the poor, wherever his journey took him, was the hallmark of his calling.
Three great images, basic to the Christian faith, formed the heart of Alphonsus’ preaching and teaching — Jesus an infant in the crib, Jesus crucified on the Cross, and Jesus vibrantly alive and filled with love for all in the Eucharist. To this he added the image of Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. When other theologians were opposed to devotion to Mary, Alphonsus invoked her: “Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.”
In the course of his long life, Alphonsus authored more than 100 books, including his most beloved: Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, and The Glories of Mary.
He was confident Mary would hear his prayers, and she was a great spiritual wellspring of his life. He never wrote a single letter — and his personal correspondence ran into the tens of thousands — without beginning or ending it with the words, “Long live Jesus and Mary.” He strongly encouraged his fellow Redemptorists and others to pray the rosary daily, and to visit Marian shrines to foster their love for the mother of God. For him she was a constant helper and guide in all matters concerning his congregation.
Early in the evening on July 31, 1787, Alphonsus made one final request. “Give me my lady,” he whispered. They placed a picture of Mary in his hands. He spent the night in prayer with the Blessed Mother. The next day at the stroke of the noon Angelus, Alphonsus died at the age of 91.