by Jean M. Heimann
The saint of the day for June 21, Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591), was the firstborn in a highly wealthy and influential Italian noble family. His father was a famous mercenary soldier. Aloysius assumed adult responsibilities at an early age. He began his training as a soldier and courtier at the age of four and, when he was only eight, served in the court of Grand Duke Francesco I de’Medici. While serving in the court, he studied in Florence, where he received an excellent classical education.
In Florence, Saint Aloysius became ill with kidney disease, and in the process of recovery spent time in spiritual reading and prayer. At the age of nine, Gonzaga made a private vow of chastity.
At the age of twelve, he returned home to his father’s castle, where he met St. Charles Cardinal Borromeo, who gave him his first Holy Communion. Shortly thereafter, Aloysius began to teach catechism to young boys. Much to the displeasure and anger of his father, Aloysius stated his intention to become a Jesuit. His father was obstinately opposed to the idea, both because he wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, and because, by becoming a Jesuit, Aloysius would give up all rights to his inheritance. However, Aloysius was adamant, and at the age of 18, he signed away his legal right to his family properties and title.
At the age of seventeen, Aloysius entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rome and at the age of 19, he took vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. While he was ordained a deacon at the age of 20, he never became a priest.
In Rome, his spiritual adviser was St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, who counseled him to reduce his long hours of prayer and severe penances. Instead, St. Robert asked him adhere to the Jesuit rule of regular hours of prayer and simple acts of self-control and self-denial and to spend time counseling his companions. In 1590, Aloysius, suffering from kidney problems and other physical ailments, received a vision of the Archangel Gabriel, who told him that he would die within a year. When a plague broke out in Rome in 1591, Aloysius actively cared for the plague victims and, within a few weeks, contracted the disease himself. He received the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and recovered, but, in another vision, he was told that would die on June 21, the octave day of the Feast of Corpus Christi that year. His confessor, St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine administered Last Rites, and Aloysius died on June 21, 1591. He was 23 years old.
Aloysius Gonzaga was beatified by Pope Gregory XV in 1621 and canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.
He is the patron saint of: AIDS care-givers, AIDS patients, Catholic youth, Jesuit students, sore eyes, and teenagers.
"There is no more evident sign that anyone is a saint and of the number of the elect, than to see him leading a good life and at the same time a prey to desolation, suffering, and trials."
"He who prays most receives most."
-- St. Aloysius Gonzaga