1730 AT SCALA
In the year 1730 Alphonsus was exhausted from his missionary work. His doctor ordered him to get some rest and breathe some clear mountain air. With a few of his companions he went to Scala on the Amalfi coast, south of Naples, in Italy where he had been working as a priest. High up in the mountains was a sanctuary of Santa Maria dei Monti, a perfect place to rest, a perfect place for contemplation near mountain heights and with the sea below.
THE ABANDONED POOR
Scala also meant poverty. In the mountains of Scala there lived groups of shepherds who came to the babies cry for food but there is no one to give it to them.” [Lam. 4:4] His first biographer tells us that when Alphonsus left Scala a part of his heart remained with these shepherds and he would weep thinking of how he could help them.
DISCERNMENT AND DECISION
In Naples, after much prayer and consultation to help him to discern clearly he came to understand that he had to return to Scala. Surely there was poverty in Naples as well, but there were many others who could help the poor escape from their place as society’s marginalized. In Scala the poor were alone with no one to help them. They were totally abandoned. During the time of St. Alphonsus these shepherds and the country peasants were the most downtrodden group in society. It was because of their lot in life that St. Alphonsus choose to be there at their side, to share his life with them and bring them, in abundance, the word of God.
On November 9, 1732 in his beloved Scala, St. Alphonsus Liguori founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer to follow the example of our Savior Jesus Christ announcing the Good News to the poor. He was 36 years old. His life became one of mission and service to the most abandoned. The congregation was approved by Pope Benedict XIV on February 25, 1749.
Alphonsus and his companions, among whom St. Gerard Majella was outstanding, strove to come to the relief of the spiritual needs, at that time of the poor of the country districts. These they sought to assist especially by means of missions, spiritual exercises and renewals, after the manner of St. Paul [Acts 15:36].
Due to the untiring zeal of St. Clement Hofbauer, a man with wonderful faith and possessed of the virtue of invincible constancy, our congregation spread out of Italy and into Poland and Austria. Due to the efforts of Fr. Joseph Passaret, Redemptorists established missions through Europe and then in the United States of America where St. John Neumann continued the spirit of St. Alphonsus. The Congregation spread to other regions as well till at length its boundaries extended to the limits of the world itself.
Redemptorists missionaries continue the charism of St. Alphonsus in the church and in society. That spirit is captured in the Redemptorist Constitutions. : Strong in faith, rejoicing in hope, burning with charity, on fire with zeal, in humility of heart and persevering in prayer, Redemptorists as apostolic men and genuine disciples of St. Alphonsus follow Christ the Redeemer with hearts full of joy; denying themselves and always ready to undertake what is demanding they share in the mystery of Christ and proclaim it in Gospel simplicity of life and language, that they may bring to people plentiful redemption.”
“Strong in faith, rejoicing in hope, burning with charity, on fire with zeal, in humility of heart and persevering in prayer, Redemptorists as apostolic men and genuine disciples of St. Alphonsus follow Christ the Redeemer with hearts full of joy…”
OUR MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP
Mary’s title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has been linked with the well-known 15th century icon of the same name. In 1866 Redemptorists were entrusted with the mission of making Our Lady of Perpetual Help known. Subsequent years have shown a growth in the love and understanding that Catholics share in and through Mary. The guidance, inspiration and loving care of Mary, Mother of God, is indeed a fount of perpetual help to all who call upon her. Regular missions and novenas are celebrated by Redemptorists worldwide in honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
SEAL OF THE CONGREGATION
The seal of the Congregation consists of a cross with a lance and sponge mounted on three hills; on either side of the cross are the abbreviated names of Jesus and Mary; above the cross is an eye sending forth rays; over all a crown. Around the seal is the motto: “With him is Plentiful Redemption.” The symbolic elements of the seal represent the work of Redemption carried out by Jesus Christ and which the Congregation was to proclaim under the protection of Mary. The seal, therefore, is considered as a clearer expression of the identity and mission of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer – Preaching Plentiful Redemption.
All the members, striving to carry out the missionary work of the Most Holy Redeemer and the apostles, put forth their most earnest efforts to preserve the spirit of their holy founder Alphonsus. They ever identify themselves with the energetic missionary activity of the church especially in everything that has reference to the poor and devote all their powers to relieving the needs of the world today. Redemptorists live in missionary communities always welcoming and prayerful like Mary of Nazareth. By means of Missions, Retreats, Pastoral Ministry, ecumenical apostolates, the ministry of reconciliation and the teaching of moral theology, they proclaim the love of God the Father which in Jesus “dwelt among us.”
There are over 5,500 Redemptorists and they work in 77 countries on all five continents helped by many more men and women who collaborate in their mission and together form the Redemptorist family.