Oil dedicated to St Aloysius Gonzaga on prayer cloth
Oil dedicated to St Aloysius Gonzaga was born the eldest of seven children, at his family’s castle, into the illustrious House of Gonzaga. His mother was a lady in waiting to Isobel, the wife of Phillip of Spain.
As the first-born son, he was in line to inherit his father’s title and status of Marquis. His father assumed that Aloysius would become a soldier. His military training started at an early. Also, he received an education in languages and the arts. At age five, Aloysius was sent to a military camp to get started on his training. His father was pleased to see his son marching around camp at the head of a platoon of soldiers. His mother and his tutor were less pleased with the vocabulary he picked up there.
He grew up amid the violence and brutality of Renaissance, Italy. Also, he witnessed the murder of two of his brothers. In 1576, at age 8, he was sent to Florence with his younger brother, Rodolfo. They were to serve at the court and to receive further education. While there, he fell ill with a disease of the kidneys, which troubled him throughout his life. While he was ill, he took the opportunity to read about the saints. Also, he spent much of his time in prayer. He is said to have taken a private vow of chastity at age 9. In November 1579, the brothers were sent to the Duke of Mantua. Aloysius was shocked by the violent and frivolous lifestyle he encountered there.
Oil dedicated to St Aloysius Gonzaga returned to Castiglione where he met Cardinal Charles Borromeo. Felt strongly that he wanted to become a missionary. Started practicing by teaching catechism classes to young boys in Castiglione. He also adopted an ascetic lifestyle.
Aloysius wants to be a religious
Aloysius started thinking in earnest about joining a religious order. As he had a Jesuit confessor in Madrid he decided to join that order. His mother agreed to his request, but his father was furious. He prevented him from doing so.
The family returned to Italy. Aloysius still wanted to become a priest. Several members of his family worked hard to persuade him to change his mind. They realized there was no way to make him give up his plan. They then tried to persuade him to become a secular priest. If he were to become a Jesuit he would renounce any right to his inheritance.] His family’s attempts to dissuade him failed; Aloysius was not interested in higher office and still wanted to become a missionary.
Aloysius joins the Jesuits
In November 1585, Aloysius gave up all rights of inheritance. On 25 November 1585 he was accepted into the novitiate life of the Society of Jesus in Rome. During this period, he was asked to moderate his asceticism. Also, he was asked to be more social with the other novices.
Aloysius’ health continued to cause problems. In addition to the kidney disease, he also suffered from a skin disease, chronic headaches and insomnia. He was sent to Milan for studies. After some time he was sent back to Rome because of his health. In February and March 1588, he received minor orders. He then started studying theology to prepare for ordination. It is said that he had a vision in which the Archangel Gabriel told him that he would die within a year.
In 1591, a plague broke out in Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital for the stricken, and Aloysius volunteered to work there. After begging alms for the victims, Aloysius began working with the sick, carrying the dying from the streets into a hospital founded by the Jesuits. There he washed and fed the plague victims, preparing them as best he could to receive the sacraments. But though he threw himself into his tasks, he privately confessed to his spiritual director, Fr. Robert Bellarmine, that his constitution was revolted by the sights and smells of the work. He had to work hard to overcome his physical repulsion.
Aloysius is infected by the plague.
He was allowed to care for the sick, but only at another hospital, called Our Lady of Consolation. Those with contagious diseases were not admitted. While there, Aloysius lifted a man out of his sickbed, tended to him, and brought him back to his bed. But the man was infected with the plague. Aloysius grew ill and was bedridden by 3 March 1591, a few days before his 23rd birthday.
Aloysius had another vision and told several people that he would die on the Octave of the feast of Corpus Christi.] On that day, 21 June 1591, he seemed very well in the morning, but insisted that he would die before the day was over. As he began to grow weak, Bellarmine gave him the last rites. Also, recited the prayers for the dying. He died just before midnight. As Fr. Tylenda tells the story, “When the two Jesuits came to his side, they noticed a change in his face and realized that their young Aloysius was dying. His eyes were fixed on the crucifix he held in his hands. He died as he tried to pronounce the name of Jesus.
Purity was his notable virtue. The Carmelite mystic, St. Maria Magdalena de Pazzi claimed to have had a vision of him on 4 April 1600. She described him as radiant in glory because of his “interior works,” He was a hidden martyr for his great love of God.
He was beatified only fourteen years after his death by Pope Paul V, on 19 October 1605. On 31 December 1726, he was canonized together with another Jesuit novice, Stanislaus Kostka by Pope Benedict XIII.
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