Feast day: June 21 Canonization: 1726 Patron of plague victims, purity, and chastity
Aloysius de Gonzaga was barely 23 and a seminarian when he died caring for plague victims in Rome. But the 16thcentury Jesuit’s holiness was evident even as a young child – he immersed in serious prayer, taught catechism, and fasted regularly.
An aristocrat and eldest of seven, he grew up in northern Italy. His father, a Marquis nobleman, planned for Aloysius to become a soldier
While a teenager serving at a Florence court, Aloysius became seriously ill. Like St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits), Aloysius was radically transformed during convalescence as he studied lives of the saints.
Over his father’s objections (but to his mother’s delight), he joined the Society of Jesus in 1585, with St. Robert Bellarmine as his spiritual advisor. In 1591 while studying theology for ordination, a plague broke out in Rome. Aloysius contracted it while caring for a hospitalized plague patient.
Before taking his last breath on June 21, 1591, Aloysius’ eyes were fixed on a crucifix he held. He succumbed while pronouncing the Holy Name of Jesus, on the octave day of Corpus Christi.
Despite being ill, this saint fasted on bread and water three times a week . . .
Feast Day: June 21
Patron of Catholic youth, AIDS patients
Aloysius was born Luigi Gonzaga to a wealthy Italian family. His father was in service to King Phillip II of Spain, and his mother was a friend to the king’s wife. By the age of seven, Luigi desired sainthood, but his father wanted him to follow in his footsteps with a military and political career.
Luigi developed kidney trouble which made him very weak. During his illness he read about the lives of the saints, which increased his desire for sanctity. He arose nightly for prayers and fasted on bread and water three times per week. Safeguarding his purity was one of his highest interests. At 15 he wished to join the Jesuits, but his father refused. In an attempt to divert the boy’s intentions, he sent him on a two-year journey through Spain and Italy. Luigi’s mother supported his desire for religious life, and by the age of 17 his father relented and gave his permission.
In Rome, Luigi’s Jesuit superiors curbed his penitential practices for the sake of his health. He took the name Aloysius and was a model novice. While in Milan as part of his formation, he received a revelation that he hadn’t long to live. Because of his weak physical condition he was sent back to Rome to complete his theological studies. In 1591, the plague hit Rome and the Jesuits set up a hospital where Aloysius offered his services to help the sick. He was stricken with the plague and after three months was given the last rites by St. Robert Bellarmine. With his eyes fixed on the crucifix he was holding, Aloysius spoke the name of Jesus and died at the age of 23. He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.
This column is produced for Legatus by the Dead Theologians Society, a Catholic apostolate for high school age teens and college age young adults. On the web: deadtheologianssociety.com