Post by Hildegard on May 27, 2020 22:31:13 GMT
Penance and Reparation Appease the Almighty
When St. Alphonsus brought about an end to a severe drought by exhorting the people to do penance and make reparation to God for their sins, and even prophesied the exact day the rains would return; and how he tamed a Vesuvius eruption.
From the Life of St. Alphonsus by Fr. Austin Berthe.
For almost six months the town of Nocera had been in great distress, for during all that time the sky had been as bronze as in the days of Elias, and not a drop of rain had fallen on the parched earth. Were the drought to continue a little longer it meant the ruin of the crops with consequent famine for many. The people wept at the thought of the future, and Alphonsus wept over the sins of the people, which are the cause of such scourges.
Weak though he was [he was 83 and infirm], he organized one Sunday, the fifteenth of May, a penitential procession to appease the anger of God. Robed in purple, sprinkled with ashes, and with a cord around his neck, he set out with his religious for the parish church, preceded by the cross. The distance being considerable he was obliged to make part of the journey in a carriage, but no entreaties could prevent him from doing the second half, supported by two attendants, on foot.
The whole town was present at the touching ceremony, and the church, with the square in front of it, was thronged. The holy old man determined to profit by the occasion to exhort sinners to repentance. The pulpit was moved down to the door of the church, so that those outside might be able to hear his words, and as he was unable to ascend it by himself, he was borne into it on the shoulders of a number of the people. For an hour he raised his voice against mortal sin, which, he said, not only offends God but often draws down the most terrible chastisements. “God has reason to chastise us,” he exclaimed, “for we have deserved it; I have deserved it more than all; but spare the innocent, O my God, have pity on these poor little ones.” Men and women wept and asked forgiveness for their sins, and soon all the confessionals were thronged.
But heaven seemed deaf to the appeals of the afflicted people. Eight days passed, and no change took place in the sky, while Alphonsus continued to pray and to ask for the prayers of others also. On the Monday after Pentecost, May 24, he was returning from his drive when just as he reached the monastery he suddenly ordered the coachman to turn back and take him to the church of Our Lady of Grace. The people, seeing him leave the carriage, gathered in the church to pray with him. The saint asked to have the statue of Mary unveiled, and exhorted those present to appeal confidently to her all-powerful protection. Then he turned to them, and said with confidence, “Continue to recommend yourselves to the Madonna, go to confession and communion this week – on Sunday you will have rain.
All through the week the sky maintained its pitiless blue. Sunday brought no change, and people began to whisper that this time the saint was no prophet, when suddenly, towards evening, a complete change took place. The heavens became covered with clouds, and rain fell in such abundance that all the fields were flooded. As for the servant of God, on seeing the rain fall, he was covered with confusion and said to those around him, “People will take the promise I made for a prophecy; but the words only escaped me – I am anything but a prophet.”
Picture: Credit: De Agostini – Getty
Three months later, on August 10, 1779, the community of Pagani witnessed another wonderful phenomenon, which seems more than a coincidence. For some time past Vesuvius, which dominates all that area, had been pouring fiery lava over the district of Ottaiano. The entire neighborhood was in consternation. One evening especially the flames rose to such a height as to excite apprehensions of some terrible catastrophe. The fathers contemplated the splendid but fearful spectacle from the windows of one of the corridors. “Filled with terror,” related Fr. Dominic Corsano, “I ran to the cell of the servant of God, and begged him to come out and see what was going on. He came, drew near the window and then started back in fear, repeating three times: 'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!' Then, in my presence, he made a great sign of the Cross in the direction of the mountain, and that very moment the immense whirlwind of fire and flames disappeared into the crater.”
Brother Leonard Cicchetti makes a similar deposition: “Brother Francis Romito, Alexis Pollio, and I,” he says, “led the holy old man to one of the windows so that he might see the flame which rose to a prodigious height from Vesuvius. He made the sign of the Cross and the flame instantly disappeared. All we saw afterwards was the smoke.”
Thus did God exalt His servant before King and people alike, and even before his own spiritual children. But alas! These months of favor were to be followed by the most terrible trials. It was the calm before the storm, the oasis wherein Divine Providence permits the traveler to enjoy a moment of repose before he plunges into the sands of the desert – or rather it was as the Palm Sunday of his Master which preceded the Passion. When we think of the events which are to follow, we would like to close the story of our saint here, did we not know that the life of Our Divine Redeemer want on the the Crucifixion. Alphonsus, an imitator of Jesus in His hidden and active life, was destined to go through a dolorous passion and climb the hill of Calvary like his Lord; thus by a mystical crucifixion to die to the last remnants of human attachment and self-love, and make perfect forever his union with Jesus in heaven.
SOURCE: Life of St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, by Fr. Austin Berthe, Volume Two, pp. 471-473.