About St. Aloysius Gonzaga

 

June 21 is the feast day of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, patron of teens and young people, an extremely devout young Jesuit novice who died at the age of 23. The first born child to the Marquis of Castiglione in 1568, Aloysius was born an Italian noble, and as such he grew up in a castle, trained from the age of four to be a courtier and soldier. His father expected him to become a soldier, as small wars were often breaking out in the region, but at an early age Aloysius interpreted the call to religious life. As son of a Marquis, Aloysius was obligated to appear often at court, and witnessing the frivolous lifestyle at court motivated him to take a private vow of chastity at age nine.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga

About two years later, he suffered from kidney disease and he counted this as a blessing because it left him bedridden, which gave him time for prayer and reading about the saints. He recovered, but his health was weakened forever. It was around this time that he read a book about the Jesuit missionaries in India. Having already privately determined to resign his right to inherit the Marquisate of Castiglione in favor of religious life, Aloysius seemed to have been inspired by the book at this point to join the Jesuits and work for the conversion of heathens. Around the age of eleven, he began to spend the summers teaching the Catechism to the poor boys of Castiglione.

In 1581, Aloysius and his family traveled to attend Empress Mary of Austria in her journey to Spain, and once there, Aloysius and his brother were assigned to serve as pages to Don Diego, Prince of the Austrias. Though Aloysius did not falter in his assigned duties, he never curtailed his devotions and was very determined to become a Jesuit. His mother approved, but his father was initially outraged. After returning to Castiglione after the death of Don Diego, Aloysius' father and other relatives tried to persuade him to give up his vocation. When Aloysius would not be moved, his father finally consented, and allowed him to sign away his inheritance and transfer the succession to his younger brother, Ridolfo.

In November of 1585, Aloysius joined the Jesuit novitiate house of Sant Andrea. He was an ideal novice, and begged often to be allowed to perform the most menial tasks, such as washing dishes, in order to understand humility more than his aristocratic early life allowed him. Sometime in his first years as a novice, Aloysius received a revelation that he would not live much longer, a revelation which filled him with joy. He was in Rome in 1591, when an epidemic of plague broke out in the city. The Jesuits had a hospital there, and Aloysius, despite being in fragile health himself, zealously performed the lowest duties of washing the plague patients and making their beds.

Though he fell ill with the plague, he initially, and unexpectedly, recovered. But it was short lived and he became sick once more with a fever lasting three months and greatly reducing his strength. Near his death, he experienced a vision lasting all night which revealed he would die on the octave of Corpus Christi. It was just about midnight between June 20th and 21st of 1591 when he died, his final gaze on a crucifix before him. He was beatified in 1621 and canonized in 1726 and his remains are kept in urn of Lapis Lazuli and silver in St. Ignatius church in Rome.

 

 Prayer of St. Aloysius Holy Card

 

This article adapted from Butler's Lives of the Saints, Complete Edition, and the New Advent Encyclopedia entry on St. Aloysius.

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