Today, June 21, we celebrate the feast day of *Saint Aloysius Gonzaga,* patron saint of Catholic youth, charity workers, and AIDS caregivers and victims.
Aloysius was born into a powerful and wealthy Italian family. When he was 10 years of age he spent two years of his life in Mantua, where he lived with relatives. To Aloysius’ delight, the house contained a fine private chapel, where he spent time reading the lives of the saints and meditating on the Psalms. Here, at the young age of twelve, he felt first called to the priesthood. His father, greatly displeased with his son’s progress, brought him home and he made his First Holy Communion, further deepening his intimate relationship with the Lord through the Blessed Sacrament. His virtues grew, and he became known by others as a humble, kind, and faith-filled young man.
When he was 13 years old, he travelled with his parents and the Empress of Austria to Spain and acted as a page in the court of Philip II. The more Aloysius saw of court life, the more disillusioned he became, seeking relief in learning about the lives of saints. Following receipt of his father’s permission to become a Jesuit at age 17.
In 1591, a plague struck Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital of their own. Aloysius sat with the ill, reading to them, guiding their devotions, and bringing them to the heart of Christ.
Because he nursed patients, washing them and making their beds, Aloysius caught the disease himself. A fever persisted after his recovery and he was so weak he could scarcely rise from bed. His body became so covered with sores that he was in constant pain.
On June 21, as he sensed his death was imminent, his Jesuit brothers brought him Communion. He cried out, “I am going, gladly,” and with his eyes fixed on a crucifix, Aloysius proclaimed, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” He then struggled to pronounce the name of Jesus repeatedly until he died at the young age of 23, after receiving the last rites from St. Robert Bellarmine.
Numerous miracles have been reported through his intercession. St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s outstanding quality was his radiant purity and the Church praises this perfect innocence with the words, “Thou hast made him little less than the angels.” On December 31, 1726, he was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII.
*Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us.*