We learn by watching good role models. The young Missionaries of Provence, full of enthusiasm but with little experience, needed the example of someone who had successfully achieved what they were setting out to do. This model was Alphonsus of Liguori. [See above the entry of April 27, 2011]
A century before Eugene, this Italian lawyer’s life had been transformed by an encounter with Jesus the Redeemer. His life was consequently dedicated to preaching to the poor in their own language and to bring them to his same liberating experience of the merciful Redeemer. He invited other missionaries to join him in the group that came to be known as the Redemptorists. Central to his life and preaching was his conviction of the tender love of a God who was forgiving and helped people to make new beginnings after they had failed.
It was Eugene who introduced the thought and theology of Alphonsus to France. In order to do this he had commissioned his father to translate a life of Alphonsus from Italian to French. After his death this fact was recalled, as well as the formative influence of this work in the life of the Missionaries:
The President [de Mazenod] lived with his brother, the Rear Admiral, in a house at the Rue des Petites Maries, in Marseilles. He was involved in the translation of the life of St Liguori and the documents that were attached to it. His work was quite advanced in that it could be used for the time of the annual retreat. In 1819, the reading for the refectory was taken from the manuscript prepared by the hard-working old man.
The relationship between father and son was always cordial and during the great Mission of Marseilles, the President had enjoyed with justified satisfaction the wonderful success brought about by the word and zeal of the untiring superior of the Missionaries of Provence…
Rey I p 256 – 257
“Just as a mother finds pleasure in taking her little child on her lap, there to feed and caress him, in like manner our loving God shows His fondness for His beloved ones who have given themselves entirely to Him and have placed all their hope in His goodness.” Alphonsus Liguori