June 20, 2017

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the Patron of Young People

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

On June 21st, the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, a 16th century Jesuit seminarian known for his radiant purity and holiness. He was born March 9, 1568, in Castiglione, Italy, to a wealthy and influential family. His father had big plans for his oldest son. He sent Aloysius to serve in the court of King Philip II of Spain. Although destined for the military, unbeknownst to his father, at age 9, Aloysius dedicated himself to religious life, making a vow of perpetual virginity. Saint Charles Borromeo gave him his first Holy Communion.

A kidney disease prevented Aloysius from having a full social life. Consequently, he spent his time praying and reading about the lives of the saints. He was drawn to spiritual things more than material wealth. As a teenager, he asked permission to renounce his inheritance and to pursue his religious vocation. At first his father opposed him, but in time relented. When he was 18, Aloysius joined the Jesuits.

In 1591, a plague ravaged Rome. The Jesuits would open a hospital in response. As a young seminarian, Aloysius went around the city looking for the sick whom he carried to the hospitals where he bathed them himself and prepared them for death. Because he nursed patients, washing and caring for them, he contracted the disease. His fever persisted and he was so weak he could scarcely rise from bed. Still, he maintained his great discipline of prayer, knowing he would die.

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga was born into eternal life on June 21, 1591, at the age of 23. He was named the patron of youth by Pope Benedict XIII at his canonization. In addition to his selfless love for others, especially the sick, the helpless and the dying in whom he saw the crucified Christ. he was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Almighty ever-living God, giver of heavenly gifts, who in Saint Aloysius Gonzaga joined penitence to a true innocence of life, grant through his merits and intercession that we may follow his example and imitate him in penitence.

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