St. Aloysius Gonzaga
A Different Dream
St. Aloysius Gonzaga, born Luigi Gonzaga, was born in 1568 in Castiglione, Italy. He was the eldest son of the Marquis of Castiglione and heir to the family title. Simply put, Aloysius was from a noble family. As soon as he was born, Aloysius’ parents began to plan for the boy’s future. His mother wanted him to be a priest. His father, however, was determined that his son would become a political figure or a military leader.
When he was five, Aloysius was sent to a military camp to get an early start of his career. His father must have been very happy about this. However, his mother and his tutor were utterly displeased when Aloysius went home using the coarse language of the camp. At the age of seven, Aloysius decided to become a saint and began acting on his decision. He prayed for hours and fasted several times a week.
Fulfilling the Jesuit Dream
Aloysius also made a vow of perpetual virginity. To protect himself from temptation, Aloysius would keep his eyes persistently downcast in the presence of women. When they were on a visit to Spain, Aloysius read the lives of saintly Jesuit missionaries. Inspired by their lives, he decided to become a Jesuit. His father, who was disappointed, and other relatives tried hard to change Aloysius’ mind.
After several years, his father gave him permission. Aloysius gave his large inheritance to his brother and in November 1585, he joined the Jesuit order at age 17. He set out for Rome where he presented himself to the Superior General, Claudio Acquaviva, who admitted him to the novitiate of Sant’Andrea. He manifested maturity despite his age, and found life as a novice less rigorous than the life he had been living by his own decisions. Nevertheless, he obediently followed the rules of the order and the guidance of his novice master. He went to study in the Roman College and finished his philosophy studies before taking his first vows, after which he immediately went into theology.
A Servant Amid the Plague
In 1591, famine and plague struck Italy. Aloysius actively cared for the victims of the plague. He begged alms for the sick and literally carried those he found in the streets to a nearby hospital. He washed and fed them and prepared them for the sacraments.
Many young Jesuits were becoming sick. The superior forbade Aloysius to return to the hospital. However, he was permitted to work at the hospital of Our Lady of Consolation which did not treat anyone with contagious diseases. Aloysius obeyed, but he contracted the plague when he cared for a man who had been infected. The young Jesuit’s health worsened and then improved somewhat. But he could not recover fully.
Fever and a cough set in and he slowly lingered on. He knew he was dying and asked to receive Holy Communion. Two Jesuits watched with him through the night and saw his face change as he held onto a cross and called the name of Jesus. He died soon after on June 21, 1591. He was canonized in 1726.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Aloysius Gonzaga
- St. Aloysius Gonzaga is the patron saint of Catholic youth and plague victims.
- St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s first words as a child were the names of Jesus and Mary.
- St. Charles Borromeo was the one who gave St. Aloysius Gonzaga First Holy Communion.
- In 1729, Pope Benedict declared St. Aloysius Gonzaga as the patron saint of young students.
- When he was eight, St. Aloysius Gonzaga fell ill with a disease of the kidneys, which troubled him throughout his life.
Prayer to St. Aloysius Gonzaga
O God, giver of heavenly gifts,who in Saint Aloysius Gonzagajoined penitence to a wonderful innocence of life,grant, through his merits and intercession,that, though we have failed to follow him in innocence,we may imitate him in penitence.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever. Amen.