Life of St. Aloysius (1568-1591)

Aloysius was the eldest son of Marquis Ferdinand of Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, Prince of the Holy Roman empire and as such was expected to become a great statesman and soldier. Though he could live in luxury, pomp and show; his thoughts, at the age of eight were already absorbed in spiritual matters. He was sent from one court to another but he continued to impose on himself rigorous discipline and severe fasts to conquer the quick temper and ready criticism of others. At the age of twelve he received his First Holy Communion from Charles Borromeo, his relative, who was the Archbishop of Milan.

Not long after this, Aloysius decided to resign his title in favour of his brother and become religious minded but his father vehemently opposed this move. It took three years of persistent effort to obtain the paternal consent, but meanwhile he was sent for two years as a page of Honour to the brilliant Count Philip II of Spain and then the dukes and Princes of Northern Italy.

All were urged to sway his determination but in vain. Finally in the fall of 1585, at the age of seventeen, he was able to set out for Rome to enter the Jesuit Novitiate, known as the Society of Jesus.

Aloysius had already developed his life of prayer and a continuous union with God even while living in the world. That stood him in good stead while in the novitiate. The virtue for which he now became outstanding was obedience to his Superiors and his conformity to the will of God which produced in him a marvellous peace of soul which was always evident.

I am a twisted piece of iron, and have entered religion in order to get straightened out.

In his twenty second year he had a premonition of approaching death and he turned over his theological and spiritual notes to his rector the only material things to which he was still attached. When a great famine broke out in Italy in 1590, followed by pestilence, the Jesuits opened an emergency hospital, and Aloysius solicited alms and tended the sick. But in March 1591 he too fell ill and succumbed to illness after three months of patient suffering. St. Robert Bellarmine spent the entire last night by his side.

St. Aloysius was only twenty three and had been Jesuit for only six years. In 1927 the Church declared him the special protector and patron of all youth, especially of young Catholic students.

He is an inspiration to all youth by the very fact of his not falling a victim to the huge illusions of his time. It was a time of large scale bohemian life style when its vices were fierce, opportunities for evil pleasures were unlimited, its thirst for fame and honours perfectly insane, its faith on this new culture unshakable but ridiculous. In such an age Aloysius achieved his Christian and religious perfection. He developed a Christian character by which he was freed from the need to make idols of the sense of possessions and privileges of rank and prestige.