Thursday, June 20, 2013

Saint Aloysius: A Saint for Seekers

Born in 1568, Aloysius was the son and heir of the powerful Gonzaga family of Castiglione and a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. At an early age he manifested habits of prayer and virtue which formed a strong spiritual foundation for his later life. Sometimes given to excess in his penances, he was nonetheless unrelenting in his desires to please God and see God's will above all things. Feeling called to religious life, he entered into a battle of wills with his father, who refused to allow his son to abdicate his title and the right of succession. However, after years of prayer, sacrifice, and struggle, Aloysius was given the necessary permission by his family to enter the Society of Jesus at Rome. Well-liked by his superiors and confreres, he was an outstanding student and desired to serve in the Society's Asian missions. In the spring of 1591, he contracted the plague after carrying a dying man from the street to a hospital. Aloysius died during the night of June 20-21, after a long and painful illness. He was 23 years old at the time of his death.

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

Honored as a model of virtue, particularly purity, for the young, he was canonized in 1726. In 1729, and again in 1926, Aloysius was proclaimed patron saint of youth and he is also patron of those suffering with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers. The memorial of Saint Aloysius is celebrated on June 21.

Known for his spirit of prayer, simplicity, and humility, Aloysius recognized that God was calling him to a particular way of life when he was still young. The desire to serve God and the Church as a Jesuit priest was the driving force of his life. Although he is often dismissed in our day largely on account of the overly-sentimental portraits of him, he remains a model for those seeking their place in the Church and the world.

Saint Aloysius recognized that God calls each person into a special relationship, entrusting each of us with a unique vocation. To give ourselves wholeheartedly to this vocation is essential. As he reflected, "The pillars of heaven have fallen; who can promise me that I will persevere? The world is now full of iniquity; who shall appease the wrath of the Almighty? Very many priests and religious think but little of their vocation... Such thoughts ought to rouse our lethargy and renew our resolution to do penance and serve God with constancy and sincerity."

Prayer in honor of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga +
O God, giver of heavenly gifts,
who in Saint Aloysius Gonzaga
joined 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 Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Taken from the Third Edition of the Roman Missal)

This reflection is adapted from my book From Season to Season: A Book of Saintly Wisdom.

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