Sacred Heart Church, Manville NJ
† Who Are The Redemptorists?

The Redemptorists are a religious order of men founded in 1732 by Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Their special mission is to spread the Gospel to the poor and most abandoned. They began this work by going among the poor and forgotten shepherds living in the hill country surrounding Naples in southern Italy.

At first, there was just a handful of men working with Alphonsus Liguori. In the Congregation's centennial year of 1832, six Redemptorists (three priests and three Brothers) journeyed to America. Presently there are approximately 7,000 Redemptorists working for souls in most parts of the world. More than 1,000 Redemptorists work in the United States alone.

Those four letters, "C.Ss.R.," behind the name of a Redemptorist stand for Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris. The official Latin title given to this religious order can be translated into English as "Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer." Members of the Congregation are more commonly called "Redemptorists." It is a fitting name since they continue the work of Christ's Redemption in a very special way. Their task is similar to that of the first apostles -- to bring the message of salvation to all people. The motto of the Redemptorists also reflects their mission and charism. Translated from the Latin, it is "With Him is plentiful redemption."

† The Work of Redemptorists

The first task of every Redemptorist is to work for his own heavenly reward. His second task is to bring other people to this same salvation and eternal happiness. The Redemptorists work toward this goal either as priests or Brothers.

The major types of work done by the American Redemptorists can be summarized thematically to give some idea of the diversity and scope of their apostolic endeavors.

At the request of many U.S. bishops, the Redemptorists have assumed the care of parishes. American Redemptorist parishes can be found in big cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. You will also see Redemptorist parishes in small towns. Poor and abandoned souls are present everywhere--in the noise and clamor of a big city as well as in the quiet countryside. As parish priests, Redemptorists maintain the missionary zeal for souls taught to them by their saintly founder, Alphonsus Liguori.

Special Preaching
St. Alphonsus wanted his men to be preachers. They were to travel from town to town and parish to parish bringing the Word of God to the people. In modern times this often means a parish mission or renewal. A Redemptorist priest will go to a parish and each day, for a week or more, preach a special sermon calling the faithful to a fuller practice of the Christian life and a deeper love for God. There will be special devotions, visits to the sick, and also a time for the sacrament of reconciliation.

Redemptorist special preachers also conduct triduums and novenas (three- and nine-day periods of prayer). Their dedication to service makes them frequently called upon to preach retreats to laypeople, priests, Sisters, and Brothers.

Retreat Houses
The Redemptorists have traveled great distances to preach God's word during the past two centuries. In the United States, they have found that by establishing retreat houses near populated areas they can also preach to the people who come to them.

A retreat may be priests, Sisters, or Brothers spending a week in a special union with the Father. Or it may be a weekend that laypeople will use to put their lives in order and give God a chance to work in them.

Special Apostolates
Some Redemptorists have been given a special talent to be used among his people. Others see a special need in the Church and do their best to fill it. Some American Redemptoristists do special work for the American bishops. Others serve as hospital or military chaplains. Still others feel called to work primarily with deaf Catholics, with the young, the old, minority groups, or migrant farm workers. These people are certainly among the most abandoned. The Redemptorists have been called to serve them in a special way.

Overseas Missions
At the request of the Holy Father, the Redemptorists have undertaken work in various countries as missionaries. American Redemptorists labor in Brazil, Thailand, and Nigeria.

By this missionary work they have fulfilled a dream of their founder, Saint Alphonsus, that his Redemptorists might spread the Gospel to the whole world.

Apostolate of the Pen
Following in the footsteps of Saint Alphonsus, who wrote more than 100 books in his own lifetime, American Redemptorists work to spread God's message through Liguori Publications.
† Our Lady of Perpetual Help

This beloved picture may look strange to modern Western eyes. It doesn't portray Mary as a delicate maiden with downcast eyes. Her direct gaze and strong features command our attention. We are struck by the unrealistic qualities of the figures. Jesus is the size of toddler, but his features are those of an older child. Mary and Jesus aren't set in a scene but float against a background of gold.

This picture was painted in the Byzantine style of the Eastern Church. The purpose of this style of art is not to show a beautiful scene or person but to convey a beautiful spiritual message. Because the artist is trying to communicate something more glorious than anything in this world, the picture isn't a realistic portrayal.

A Byzantine painting is like a door. Seeing a beautiful door is nice, but who wants to just stand there looking at the door?

We want to open the door and go beyond it. The door might be attractive or unattractive, but it is only a door, there to lead us into a new world. That's how we must approach this picture. The artist, realizing that no one on earth would ever know what Mary or Jesus really looked like, and that their holiness could never be depicted in purely human terms, has portrayed their beauty and their message in symbols.

What does this picture tell us about Mary and about Jesus?

The History of the Icon

† Redemptorist Saints
Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
Founder of the Redemptorists, Bishop, Doctor of the Church, Patron of Confessors and Moral Theologians, and one of the greatest moral theologians and spiritual writers in the history of the Church. Read More

Saint Clement Hofbauer (1751-1820)
Redemptorist missionary who brought the Congregation to northern Europe from where it spread to the Americas, Asia, and Africa. An apostle to the poor and an influential figure in Catholic Romanticism. Read More

Saint Gerard Majella (1726-1755)
Redemptorist Brother, Patron Saint of new mothers and families; guide to simple prayer. Read More

Saint John Neumann (1811-1860)
Redemptorist missionary to the United States; Bishop of Philadelphia, founder of the parochial school system in the United States, author of the first Baltimore Catechism; only American man canonized. Read More

Blessed Peter Donders (1809-1887)
Redemptorist missionary who spent his life caring for lepers, slaves, and native peoples in South America. Blessed Kaspar Stanggassinger (1871-1899) Young German Redemptorist teacher with special love for the Eucharist; youth guide and consoler.
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Blessed Gennaro Sarnelli (1702-1744)

Close friend of St. Alphonsus, who gave special care to the poor, an ardent social reformer to remove the scandal of Neapolitan youngsters whose poverty forced them into prostitution. Author of many books on spirituality. Read More

Blessed Francis Seelos (1819-1867)

Great Redemptorist missionary throughout the United States; ministered especially to the sick, and died from yellow fever contracted from victims during the plague in New Orleans. His beatification took place in 2000. Read More

Blessed Kaspar Stanggassinger (1871-1899)
In 1899 the Redemptorists opened a seminary in Gars, Bavaria. Father Stanggassinger was sent there as director. He was 28 years old at the time, but was only able to preach one retreat to the students and to participate in the opening of the school year before succumbing to a case of peritonitis on September 26. His simple holiness was of such power that in April 1988 Pope John Paul II declared him "blessed," a saintly model of Christian life.
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