Saint Aloysius Gonzaga
Patron of Catholic Youth
“Due to his short lifespan, a look at the life of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga deals mainly with his childhood and seminarial life. He 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 The Saint then suffered a malady that allowed him to stay out of the public eye, withdrawn in prayer and study of the Saints.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.”