St. Aloysius Gonzaga was a Jesuit priest who served the infirmed during the Plague of 1591 in Rome. He was born into a wealthy family. His father was a military hero and desired the same for his son. As a child, Gonzaga would teach the equivalent to catechism classes to poor youth. He would fast and pray multiple times a day as a child. Initially, due to his father’s expectations, he trained to become a soldier in the Spanish Army until he contracted a kidney disease. While recuperating, he decided to enter into the priesthood. He learned about the servant nature of the Jesuits and decided to join their order. While a priest and serving the infirmed, he fell victim to the plague and died at the age of 23. He was canonized into sainthood by Pope Benedict XIII in 1723. St. Aloysius Gonzaga is the patron saint of youth and teenagers.
Truth be told, my knowledge of St. Aloysius Gonzaga was quite limited. The first time I heard of Gonzaga was the University named after him in Washington State. It was in 2006 when Adam Morrison and the men’s basketball team made a historic run in the NCAA tournament. Morrison was on the cover of EA Sport’s NCAA March Madness 07. Unfortunately, Morrison’s career seemed to fizzle into obscurity, at least in the United States.
It’s interesting reading about the legacy of St. Aloysius Gonzaga and his dedication to teaching youth. His upbringing would suggest that he could care less about the poor. Instead, the light and call of God pulled him into a different path, different than what his father wanted. He gave up a potentially lucrative military career to teach, preach and care for the sick. Although he died four months after his start at the infirmary, he still served. He knew that there was a strong possibility of dying, but he did it anyway.
Every day I run into people who decided to go against what society wants for them, and serve something bigger than them, God. They leave very profitable jobs to become missionaries. They sacrifice time away from their families in order to train military service members. They risk their lives with the hope of inspiring someone to greatness. This is the spirit of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. It’s the spirit of a saint.
– Fr. JMH