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St. Alphonsus of Liguori. 1696 - 1787 AD

St. Alphonsus of Liguori

1696 - 1787 AD

St. Alphonsus started his career in the secular law courts. After his priestly and theological studies, he specialised on moral theology. He was both extremely astute as a scholar and very sensitive to people’s spiritual needs. This is reflected in his works which comprise both theological and spiritual treatises. His devotional book on Mary, the Glorie di Maria, was widely translated and republished. He was canonised in 1839, declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871 and patron of moralists and confessors in 1950.

Mary was not a sacramentally ordained priest

As other theologians in his time, St. Alphonsus was very much aware of the exclusion of women from priestly ordination. This has consequences for Mary. She was not sacramentally ordained and lacked the powers of the priesthood.

“The power of the priest surpasses that of the Blessed Virgin Mary; for although this divine Mother can pray for us and by her prayer obtain whatever she wishes, yet she cannot absolve a Christian from the smallest sin.” Selva (1760) p. 31; in The Complete Ascetical Works of St. Alphonsus, Centenary Edition, Brooklyn 1927.

The exact reasons for denying Mary sacramental priestly powers is explained more explicitly by Francis Pepe SJ, fellow Neapolitan and close friend of St. Alphonsus (cf. C.Dillenschneider, Mariologie de S. Alphonse, Paris 1931, vol. 1 p. 256).

Mary offered Jesus as a sacrifice to the Father

“Although from the moment she became the Mother of Jesus, Mary consented to his death, yet God willed that on this day she should make a solemn sacrifice of herself, by offering her Son to him in the Temple, sacrificing his precious life to Divine justice. Hence St. Epiphanius calls her a priest . . .
Mary already knew all the torments which her Son was to endure . . . All the minute circumstances of the sufferings, internal and external, which were to torment her Jesus in his Passion, were made known to her, as our Lord revealed to Saint Teresa. She consented to all with a constancy which filled even the angels with astonishment; she pronounced the sentence that her Son should die, and die by so ignominious and painful a death, saying: ‘Eternal Father, since Thou willest that it should be so, “not my will, but Thine be done.” I unite my will to Thy most holy will, and I sacrifice this my Son to Thee. I am satisfied that he should lose his life for Thy glory and the salvation of the world. At the same time I sacrifice my heart to Thee . . . . ’
Hence it was that Mary was silent during the Passion of Jesus, when he was unjustly accused. She said nothing to Pilate, who was somehow inclined to set him at liberty, knowing, as he did, his innocence; she only appeared in public to assist at the great sacrifice which was to be accomplished on Calvary; she accompanied her beloved Son to the place of execution; she was with him from he first moment when he was nailed on the cross: ‘There stood by the cross of Jesus his Mother’; until she saw him expire and the sacrifice was consummated. And all this she did tko complete the offering which she had made of him to God in the Temple . . . .
Mary, then, having by the merit of her sorrows, and by sacrificing her Son, become the Mother of all the redeemed, it is right to believe that through her hands Divine graces, and the means to obtain eternal life, which are the fruits of the merits of Jesus Christ, are given to people . . . .
If the sacrifice of Abraham by which he offered his son Isaac to God was so pleasing to the Divine Majesty, that as a reward he promised to multiply his descendants as the stars in heaven -- . . . we must certainly believe that the more noble sacrifice which the great Mother of God made to him of her Jesus, was far more agreeable to him . . . ” The Glories of Mary, 1750 AD, here English edition, Burns & Oates, London 1852, pp. 358-367.

St. Alphonsus derived these thoughts from the classical texts that described Mary as a sacrificial priest.

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