June 21, 2016 — Today is the feast day of St. Aloysius
Gonzaga, an Italian Jesuit known for his courage in serving the sick and his
dedication to the education of young students.
Born into a noble family in
Castiglione, Italy, St. Aloysius’ father, the Marquis of Castiglione, groomed
him for a military career. At the age of eight, he went to serve in the court
of the Grand Duke Francesco I de ’Medici and was then sent to Florence for his
Shortly thereafter, St. Aloysius
began suffering from kidney disease, which he saw as a blessing as it allowed
him time to reflect and pray. It was during this time that he first felt called
to the priesthood. He received his First Communion from St. Charles Borromeo in
In the wake of his illness, St.
Aloysius spent his time teaching catechism to poor young men, instead of
continuing his military training. Against his father’s wishes, St. Aloysius
announced his intent to join the Society of Jesus. At 18 years old, he
renounced his title and lands.
In 1585, St. Aloysius entered the
Jesuits and studied under St. Robert Bellarmine, SJ, who acted as his spiritual
adviser. He professed First Vows in 1587 and studied at the Roman College.
In 1591, a plague swept over Rome.
St. Aloysius volunteered to serve at the Jesuit-established hospital, where he
and his fellow Jesuits worked directly with the infected. St. Aloysius begged for
alms for the victims and also worked one-on-one to feed and clean those
affected by the epidemic. He contracted the plague and his health declined
St. Aloysius Gonzaga died in Rome on
June 21, 1591, at the age of 23. He was
canonized in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. St. Aloysius is the patron saint of
youth, students and AIDS patients and caregivers.
Many academic institutions have been
named in his honor, including Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and Gonzaga
College High School in Washington, DC.
[Source: Ignatian Spirituality,