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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. In God's plan of creation and salvation, the indivisible call to love and to freedom is to be cherished. In his moral theology and pastoral care, Alphonsus draws his conclusions from the primacy of love and liberty. One conclusion says: Where there is a concrete doubt about the existence or application of a law or prohibition, freedom is always "in possession.
Creative and faithful love is immensely greater than that of laws.
From his own pastoral experience, Alphonsus knew that overburdening people's conscience with laws, especially if these laws were arbitrary, suffocated the creativity of love and freedom and caused anguish. Most of the good that Christians do is neither regulated nor imposed by law but is inspired by spontaneous and creative love.
Therefore, the core of Alphonsian moral teaching is the ability to discern what is true love, genuine redeemed and redeeming love. Alphonsus best expresses this in his small book The Praxis of Love, which he considered not only his most pious but also his best writing. Alphonsus writes from personal experience.
He had only gradually been liberated and healed from his early experience of rigoristic teaching that he had received while preparing for the priesthood. As a friend of the poor and the outcast, he could fill their hearts with this good news, becoming for many a healer of anguish.
Learning to always give primacy in his pastoral care to the good news of liberating and healing love had taught Alphonsus to test all laws and norms to see whether they truly served the cause of creative and faithful love. Time and again, his opponents accused him of opening doors to arbitrariness and unbridled egotism.
All of his responses reflect his firm conviction that the love of God is poured out into the hearts of the faithful. He adored the Holy Spirit, who endows even the most simple person with the gift of wisdom and discernment. Against legalistic moralism, Alphonsus sets a well-elaborated doctrine on the primacy of conscience. His great work on moral theology Moral Theology shares some deficiencies of the period.
But his unique and lasting contribution is the role he gives to conscience and the care with which he describes the dynamics of a sound conscience. Two distinct traits of Alphonsian moral theology are the great reverence he accords each person's conscience and the equally strong appeal to each individual to form a mature conscience. For Alphonsus, the latter does not mean an insistence on the minute details of all possible moral norms and prescripts. Without neglecting the role of norms and laws in Christian life—always, of course, in the light of true love—his main emphasis is on the upright conscience: the individual's search for the meaning of genuine love and for its implications for the good of each person and of the community.
Formation of conscience centers on the ability to discern what furthers or hinders the growth of true love.
St Alphonsus – Sermons for Every Sunday of the Year
Formation of conscience coincides with the formation of character and an ever more committed choice to love Jesus, joining him in his loving concern for others. Favoring the preeminence of conscience and inner freedom over an anguishing rigorism and legalism is the hallmark of Alphonsian moral teaching. It is significant that two Redemptorists Father Domenico Capone and I drafted the final wording of the article on conscience in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.
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I believe that this text accurately summarizes the Alphonsian vision on conscience:. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God.
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His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged see Rom His conscience is man's most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths. By conscience, in a wonderful way, that law is made known which is fulfilled in the love of God and of one's neighbor see Mt ; Gal Through loyalty to conscience Christians are joined to other men in the search for truth and for the right solution to so many moral problems which arise both in the life of individuals and from social relationships.
Hence, the more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by the objective standards of moral conduct.
Yet it often happens that conscience goes astray through ignorance which it is unable to avoid, without thereby losing its dignity. This cannot be said of the man who takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin" The merit of this truly Alphonsian text becomes even more evident if you read previous formulations written by those from a more legal-minded tradition.
Alphonsus and his followers in moral theology fought difficult battles to sustain this vision, supported by other great men such as Cardinal John Henry Newman. It is gratifying to recognize in these battles for the preeminence of conscience over law and control not only Alphonsus' skills as an outstanding lawyer but his thoroughly pastoral approach as well. He was a bold advocate of the upright and sincere conscience. We need to be aware that the moral theology of Alphonsus reflects to some degree the influences of his time.
Alphonsus had to work, think, and write within the context of his culture and, as far as possible, in accordance with the Church of his time. Even so, Alphonsus was ahead of his time in his teachings on several controversial issues. I mention here two examples: his stand on usury and on marital chastity regarding the transmission of life, where he had to fight not only stubborn rigorists but longstanding tradition as well.
Our Founder St Alphonsus
His stance—vehemently labeled as laxism—was, in reality, rooted in Alphonsus' emphasis on the universal vocation to holiness. Many people in those days identified holiness with belonging to the so-called "states of perfection" and with scrupulous observance of rigoristic norms usually of prohibitive character. Alphonsus, on the contrary, firmly believed that God calls each of us, married people as well as celibates, business people as well as cloistered nuns, to Christian holiness that integrates love of God and love of neighbor.
In Alphonsus' time, borrowing or lending money with interest was labeled and condemned as usury. Traditional rules did not allow any exceptions, which alerted the pastoral concern of Alphonsus. How could people whose economic status forced them to borrow or lend money with interest fulfill their vocation to holiness? The solution had to be in accordance with the vocation of all to holiness. Looking to Tradition and church documents with little success, he turned to the example of good Christians.
He found that many of them had good reasons and felt free to lend or to borrow capital with interest. He finally trusted in the experience of these good people and determined that there were occasions when taking or granting loans with moderate interest should be allowed. This decision provoked wild protest from numerous moralists and other churchmen, but Alphonsus was finally able to convince Pope Benedict XIV. When Alphonsus first became a moral theologian, the Augustinian view of marriage and marital chastity was commonly held: conjugal inter-course could be "excused" from sin only when motivated by the intention to transmit new life.
In this matter, Alphonsus was particularly daring. He wrote that "with all respect for Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas," it has to be affirmed that the conjugal act, when manifesting conjugal love and faithfulness, needs no "excusation" by a direct intention to procreate new life. And he sharply concluded: "And this is a matter of faith— Et hoc est de fide " Moral Theology. Many issues mentioned in this article manifest clearly why Alphonsus is known for his courageous stand against rigorism and legalism.
For him, this was nothing less than removing unnecessary obstacles on the road to holiness. He didn't stop, however, at just removing obstacles; his strongest characteristic was in giving positive encouragement. Through his wisdom and enthusiasm, he could somehow "contaminate" people with his own firm conviction that all are called to nothing less than holiness.
Its origin is God's love, its road is love, its final goal and fulfillment are everlasting love. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori was born in near Naples, Italy, the son of a captain in the Royal Navy and a very devoted mother from a noble family in the city.
The Sermons of Saint Alphonsus Liguori
His parents provided him with an exceptional education in philosophy, literature, and the arts. He was 16 when he was awarded doctorates of civil and canon law. When he was 18, like many nobles, he joined the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy with whom he cared for the sick at the hospital for "incurables," washing afflicted bodies, feeding the helpless, changing bedclothes and devoting himself to works of mercy and compassion. Following his father's will he became a lawyer and before he was 20, he was regarded as one of the most gifted lawyers working in the kingdom of Naples.
This work, however, despite its success, did not satisfy him at the deepest levels of his heart and soul.