At his weekly general audience today, Pope Benedict XVI praised the 18th century Italian St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, in particular his teaching on the importance of prayer as necessary for salvation.

The founder of the Redemptorist Order, the Holy Father recalled, describes prayer as "a means necessary to salvation and the graces we need to achieve it” – a sentence, the Pope added, that “synthesizes Alphonsian understanding of prayer.”

The 18th century saint “wanted us to understand that in every situation of life we need to pray, especially in times of trial and difficulty,” the Pope said, recalling the saint’s famous maxim:  “He who prays is certainly saved; he who does not pray is certainly damned."

"To save one's soul without prayer is most difficult, and even [as we have seen] impossible…but by praying our salvation is made secure, and very easy,” St. Alphonsus wrote.

Reflecting on the saint’s words, the Pope said: “Only through prayer can we accept Him, His grace, which, by illuminating us in every situation, helps us discern the truth, and, by fortifying us, renders our will capable of implementing what we know to be good.”

He continued: “We often know what is good, but are incapable of doing it. Through prayer, we can. The disciple of the Lord knows he is always exposed to temptation and in prayer never fails to ask God for help conquer it.”

Vatican Radio has the full text of the Holy Father’s catechesis from today.

The Pope quotes from St. Alphonsus’s 1759 book: “Prayer: The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection” – a work which the saint considered “the most useful of his writings,” the Pope said.

Thankfully, the book can be read online - almost in its entirety - here.