St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591) was a young man who experienced his faith as something more important than the worldly concerns of life. He lived in Renaissance Italy, a time noted for its high cultural achievements and low moral standards.
Because he was born of a noble family, Aloysius was very familiar with court life, serving for a time as a page to King Philip II of Spain. The more he saw of such life, however, the less he appreciated its violent and licentious aspects. His father desired him to be a great military leader, but Aloysius, inspired by a book describing the work of Jesuit missionaries in India, decided to enter the Society of Jesus. His appalled father forbade this, and had eminent churchmen attempt to convince his son to follow a “normal” lifestyle, but Aloysius was not to be deterred.
After a four-year struggle of wills between father and son, the youth was allowed to enter the Jesuit novitiate in Rome. Aloysius had to adapt himself to Jesuit discipline, which was less rigorous than that which he was already observing on his own (for instance, he was now obliged to eat and recreate more, and pray less often than was his custom). Nonetheless, Aloysius was a model novice; he studied philosophy and had St. Robert Bellarmine as his spiritual director. The Jesuits established a hospital in Rome when a plague broke out in 1591; Aloysius was very active there in caring for the patients. He himself caught a lingering fever, but he continued his great discipline of prayer until his death at age twenty-three several months later.
1. Jesus said, “What profit does a man show who gains the whole world at the cost of his soul?” (Lk 9:25). St. Aloysius Gonzaga took these words to heart, and rejected the allurements of the world in order to follow Christ.
2. Sometimes parents’ desires for their children are contrary to God’s will; as Aloysius’ life shows, a holy persistence (combined with respect for those in authority) can eventually bear fruit.
Other Saints We Remember Today
- St. Terence (1st Century), Bishop
image: Heilige Aloysius van Gonzaga engraving / Rijksmuseum / Europeana (Public Domain)