St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591)
Portrait of the true innocence of youth. Aloysius was born in Castiglione, Italy. His father was the Marquis and had great military aspirations for his firstborn son. From a young age, Aloysius took to religion. Despite all the demands of life in the noble courts, Aloysius practiced a life of prayer and penance. Inspired by the lives of the Saints, and the stories of the missionary Jesuits in India, Aloysius aspired to become a Jesuit himself. However, Aloysius’ father was furious at the prospect. For four years many attempts were made to dissuade Aloysius from his course. However, Aloysius’ father finally relented. With the Jesuits, Aloysius learned a new form of penance: obedience. Aloysius was made to lighten his penances and was restricted in the amount of time he dedicated to prayer. When the plague broke out in Rome, Aloysius served the sick in the hospital set up by the Jesuits. Aloysius himself caught the disease, and though he somewhat recovered, he was left weakened and with a fever. After three months of this weakened state, Aloysius died at the age of twenty three. It was attested by his confessor, St. Robert Bellarmine, that Aloysius never committed a mortal sin in his life.
O God, giver of heavenly gifts, who in Saint Aloysius Gonzaga joined penitence to a wonderful innocence of life, grant through his merits and intercession, that, though we have failed to follow him in innocence, we may imitate him in penitence.