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