Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious, 1568-1591
Aloysius was the oldest son and heir of the Marquis Ferrante of Castiglione who was in the service of Philip II of Spain. His father wished to see Aloysius become a military officer, but Aloysius had another idea in mind.
At about the age of seven, Aloysius had a spiritual awakening and began his day with regular prayers, including the Office of Mary and the Psalms. At nine, he was sent to Florence to be educated. By the time he was eleven, Aloysius was teaching the catechism to poor children and fasting three days a week as well as practicing other austerities.
After reading a book about the Jesuits’ experiences in the missions of India, Aloysius decided to enter the Society of Jesus. His father strongly objected to his decision and enlisted the aid of eminent churchmen and noblemen to persuade Aloysius to pursue a more “normal” career. After a four-year struggle, his father relented and Aloysius joined the Jesuits in Rome in 1585.
During his studies at the Jesuit seminary in Milan, Aloysius undertook different spiritual practices. Under his spiritual advisor, St. Robert Bellermine, he was obliged to eat more than he previously had, to take exercise with his fellow seminarians, and to pray only at the appointed times. Because of his frail health, Aloysius was called to Rome and took his vows there in 1587.
Several years later, a plague struck Rome. The Jesuits, in response, opened a hospital to care for the victims. Together with the other Jesuits, Aloysius performed personal services for the patients, nursing them, washing them and making their beds. Aloysius, already in frail health, caught the affliction himself. He became so weak that he could scarcely get up from his bed, yet he continued his daily devotions. Within three months, after receiving the last rites from St. Robert Bellermine, Aloysius Gonzaga died at the age of 23 on June 21, 1591.
Aloysius Gonzaga was canonized in 1726. He was declared protector of young students by Pope Benedict XIII, and patron of Catholic youth by Pope Pius XI. We honor this saint on June 21 by a memorial.
Aloysius' message today: Aloysius chose the path he wanted to follow very early in his life and he let nothing deter him from it. In today’s world, there is much to distract us from the goals we have set for ourselves. We should try to emulate Aloysius and persevere until we reach our own goals.