Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Embracing the Crucifx by Luis López Piquer (1802-1865); 1825; Lazaro Galdiano Museum, Madrid, Spain

St Aloysius Gonzaga (9 March 1568 – 21 June 1591)

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga whom the Church commemorates today, was born Luigi Gonzaga, the eldest son of Farrante, the Marquis of Castiglione, on the 9th of March, 1568. From the earliest age, the young saint was given to prayer, including the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the seven Penitential Psalms and other devotions.

Being eldest son, Aloysius was expected to carry on the family name, and would fulfill this by his father’s wish for him to become a soldier. The hand of God would not allow this fate.
In 1577, his father took Luigi and his brother to Florence to study and improve their Latin and Italian. As it would happen, young man would develop an affinity for study of the saints even more than his regular studies. In 1579, he father moved the brothers into the court of the Duke of Mantua. There the Saint decided to abjure his claim to his father’s title and place, passing it to his brother Ridolpho. The Saint then suffered a malady that allowed him to stay out of the public eye, withdrawn in prayer and study of the Saints.
At this time Aloysius read of the Jesuit missionaries in India, and he resolved to join the Society of Jesus. He began this direction in life by instructing the boys of Castiglione in the catechism. At Casale-Monferat, where he spent winters, he assumed the discipline of a monk, fasting three days a week, scourging himself, and praying at midnight on the stone floor of his unheated room.
Over the next two years, Aloysius would fight with his father, mother, regals and delegates over his impending Jesuit vocation. They disagreed with it adamently on the grounds he should follow in his father’s stead. Finally, they relented after most of the family title and responsibilities fell to his younger brother Ridolpho, thus allowing Aloysius to enter his novitiate in November, 1585.
In the third year of study, he came to the revelation he would not live long. The plague struck in 1591, and he was sent to aid the ill in the Jesuit hospital of Rome. He performed the lowliest of duties, but contracted the disease in time. He was sure this was the cause of his eventual demise, and once asked his confessor, St. Robert Bellarmine, if it was poosible to avoid Purgatory after death. St. Robert assured it was possible, and Aloysius aspired to this end.

Aloysius’ health was so poor that he received Holy Viaticum and Extreme Unction on several occasions. It was revealed to him that he would pass on the Octave of Corpus Christi, and though he appeared much better in the days preceeding the Feast, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga did in fact turn and die on the Octave of Corpus Christi, June 21st, 1591.

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga who was beatified in 1605 and canonised in 1726 is the Patron of Catholic youth.

 

From a letter to his mother by Saint Aloysius Gonzaga
(Acta Sanctorum, Iunii 5, 878)

I will eternally sing the mercies of the Lord

 

May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honoured lady. Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over. If charity, as Saint Paul says, means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad, then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in his grace and his love for you is showing me the path to true happiness, and assuring me that I shall never lose him.

The divine goodness, most honoured lady, is a fathomless and shoreless ocean, and I confess that when I plunge my mind into thought of this it is carried away by the immensity and feels quite lost and bewildered there. In return for my short and feeble labours, God is calling me to eternal rest; his voice from heaven invites me to the infinite bliss I have sought so languidly, and promises me this reward for the tears I have so seldom shed.

Take care above all things, most honoured lady, not to insult God’s boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Saviour; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness. When he takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have.

I write all this with the one desire that you and all my family may consider my departure a joy and favour and that you especially may speed with a mother’s blessing my passage across the waters till I reach the shore to which all hopes belong. I write the more willingly because I have no clearer way of expressing the love and respect I owe you as your son.

Prayer

Our God, fount and origin of all celestial gifts, You who united in Saint Aloysius Gonzaga an admirable purity of life with the practice of penitence, grant us, through his merits and intercession, that those who have not been able to imitate him in the innocence of his life are able to imitate him in his spirit of penitence. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit and is God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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2 Responses to Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

  1. Robert John Bennett says:

    I think his letter to his mother indicates what a remarkable saint he was.

  2. St Aloysius’ letter is a great comfort to me as I grapple with the suffering of others. It reminds us we were made for God and our home is in heaven.

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