Ordinary Time: August 1st
Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop & doctor
Old Calendar: Holy Machabees, martyrs; St. Peter's Chains (Lammas Day)
St. Alphonsus de Liguori was a great preacher of the Gospel to the poor. His charity and apostolic spirit led him to found the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer to carry on this work. He sent his Redemptorists, as our Lord did the Apostles, into the countryside and the market towns and villages, to announce the Kingdom of God. He became Bishop of Sant' Agata dei Goti, near Naples, and died at the age of ninety, in 1787. For his great works on Moral Theology he has been declared a Doctor of the Church.According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Peter's Chains. It celebrates the dedication of the basilica of St. Peter ad Vincula in Rome which was built in about 432 on the Esquiline Hill in Rome and consecrated on August 1. It is also the commemoration of the Holy Machabees. The seven Machabees were brothers martyred with their mother under Antiochus Epiphanes in about the year 150 before Christ. There is an account of their wonderful death in the Old Testament. Their relics venerated at Antioch in the time of St. Jerome, were translated to Rome in the sixth century, to the church of St. Peter's Chains.
St. Alphonsus Liguori
Alphonsus Liguori, born in 1696, was the son of an ancient Neapolitan family. His father was an officer in the Royal Navy. At the age of sixteen, Alphonsus received his doctorate in both canon and civil law and for nearly ten years practiced at the bar. When he found that one of the legal cases he was defending was not based on justice but on political intrigue, he gave up the practice of law and dedicated his life to God.
- From the Catholic Culture Library: Habits of Holiness by Vito Lombardi.
St. Peter's Chains
There in some controversy as to whether St. Peter's chains were brought from Jerusalem by Eudoxia in 439, or by some travellers sent to the East in search of them by the martyr St. Balbina and her father, St. Quirinus, in 116. Gerbet defends the latter opinion and says St. Balbina gave them to Theodora, sister of St. Hermes, martyr, Prefect of Rome, from whom they passed into the hands of Pope St. Alexander I (108-117). St. Bede the Venerable, writing in the seventh century, speaks of the chains in connection with St. Balbina and St. Alexander.
The seven Machabean brothers, together with their mother, were martyred about the year 164 B.C. by King Antiochus Epiphanes. The mother in particular deserves to be admired for the heroic fortitude with which she encouraged her children to suffer and die. Their remains were venerated at Antioch. After the church which was built above their resting-place was destroyed, they were taken to Rome; during the renovation of the high altar of St. Peter in Chains (1876), a sarcophagus dating from the fourth or fifth century was found; lead tablets related the relics to those of the Machabean martyrs and their mother. Seldom does it happen that the Roman Church venerates Old Testament saints in the Mass and Office; it is much more common in the Greek rite. Martyrdom before the advent of Christ was possible only through faith and hope in Christ. Today's feast is among the oldest in the sanctoral cycle. In the second Book of Machabees, sacred Scripture recounts the passion and death of the Machabees in a very edifying manner. St. Gregory Nazianz discusses why Christians honor these Old Testament saints: "They deserve to be universally venerated because they showed themselves courageous and steadfastly loyal to the laws and traditions of their fathers. For if already before the passion of Christ they suffered death as martyrs, what heroism would they have shown if they had suffered after Christ and with the death of the Lord as a model? A further point. To me and to all who love God it is highly probable that according to a mystic and hidden logic no one who endured martyrdom before the advent of Christ was able to do so without faith in Christ."