(Italy) The devotion and the love for the founder of the Redemptorists, Saint Alphonsus, on Sunday, 1st of August was extraordinary. Pagani, the city where the saint is buried, experienced a memorable day, culminating in the evening with the celebration of the Eucharist presided over by His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.
The square in front of the Basilica was gradually filled to capacity, eventually welcoming a truly considerable crowd, at the limit of capacity. There were also many civil authorities present, starting with the President of the Campania Region, Vincenzo De Luca, and almost all the mayors of the nearby municipalities: about twenty. Five bishops were present, but many had been prevented from participating because of some festivities organized for St. Alphonsus in their respective dioceses.
A solemn but at the same time composed and orderly celebration gave due thanks to the Lord for having raised up the Holy Doctor in the Church. In his homily, Cardinal Parolin insisted on this point, 150 years after Pius IX recognized the title of Doctor to our saint: that is, on his ability to teach and transmit in a meaningful way certain values that resist the challenge of time. In the case of de Liguori, the centrality of love for Jesus Christ, the primacy of prayer, the yearning for holiness. At the end of the celebration, the Cardinal Secretary admitted that in order to respond to the invitation made to him to come to Pagani, he had to go back to some of St. Alphonsus’ works that he had read in his youth and that had helped him so much, because the Holy Doctor is still capable of touching the heart, using the right words to go to what really counts in the spiritual life, namely the relationship with the Redeemer.
August 1st was a hot day, although the vespertine celebration eased the temperatures a bit. But the Cardinal Secretary of State had the opportunity to experience another warmth, the human warmth of the many people – beginning with the young people – who wanted to approach him, speak to him, thank him, express a sense of familiarity that for many people of Southern Italy is a natural manifestation of affection.
August 1 began with another visit, this time by an archbishop to the house where Saint Alphonsus was born in Marianella. Finding himself in the area, the new pastor of the Archdiocese of Naples, Archbishop Domenico Battaglia, who has always been a friend of our Congregation (he says he owes his vocation to the Redemptorists), wanted to visit the rooms where the great Doctor of the Church, son of Joseph de Liguori and Anna Cavalieri, came into the light of this world.
Truly the Church never ceases to be grateful to Saint Alphonsus, who still today – as the Gospel passage provided for the solemnity of August 1 rightly reminds us – thanks to his saints continues his mission of teaching, preaching and healing (Mt 9:35).
Serafino Fiore CSsR