The feastday of St. Alphonsus Liguori was this past Saturday. I posted a bit on it, and of course other bloggers did so, posting excerpts from the saint’s devotional and moral writing.
I headed to archive.org just to shop around the many public domain translations of his work they have available
…and randomly clicked on a volume of The Complete Ascetical Works. Volume 22, to be exact. Letters to be even more exact.
And while the content so far might bore some seeking out more elevated conversations, I was delighted, for what I’ve read so far from this volume is correspondence from the saint to his publishers, as well as others with an interest in the books he was writing and publishing.
There’s some theological material, as he explains why he is deleting this or that portion of a manuscript, but it’s mostly (so far) totally prosaic, and focused on practical matters of communication, orders and pricing.
I need to read more, but at this point (this volume contains letters from late in his life…he’s in his late 70’s (although he would go on to live more than a decade more) – the letters reflect quite a bit on his concern to get this books out there to people who will read them – Naples is always out of copies, but that’s one of the few places he has an interested audience, and the priests, well….
I am glad that the History of the Heresies is finished.
Once more, I remind you not to send me any copies for
sale, as the priests of my diocese are not eager for such
books; indeed, they have very little love for any reading
whatsoever. Besides, I am a poor cripple, who am Hearing
my grave, and I do not know what I should do with these
Rest assured, that I regard all your interests as though
they were my own. If I could only visit Naples, I might
be able to do something personally. But confined here in
this poverty-stricken Arienzo, I write letters innumerable to
people in Naples about the sale, but with very little result.
I am much afflicted at this, but affliction seems to be all
that I am to reap from these negotiations.
So, writers….you’re not alone!
In scanning some of what is to come, I see that the letters move away from this subject, to one just as interesting – his directives for reform and clergy discipline. So more to come. I seethed on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that “Everyone should just take a year-long break from social media and read history and make things instead.” My meaning (as I WROTE THIS ON FACEBOOK) being that the culture of quickly surveying and quickly commenting is superficial and uncreative and skews one’s perspective. I’m saying this to myself as well.
So what I’m saying here is that history – especially that from primary sources, rather than via agenda-driven secondary or tertiary accounts – gives an invaluable, even calming perspective. But don’t take that to mean a “Calm down, it will be all right. HOLY SPIRIT IN CHARGE!” perspective. Because when you read history, you see problems – just as serious or even more serious than those we face. Some suggest that we stop there and sit back and calm down.(which is a code for stop talking and disturbing us) No, we don’t stop, content with knowing that The Problems Have Always Been With Us. Because, see, St. Alphonsus was a reformer. The history teaches us not only about our non-uniqueness and the persistence of sin, but also what authentic, courageous, Catholic, Christ-centered reform looks like.