Jubilee of St Aloysius Gonzaga
The celebration of a Jubilee Year for the birth of Saint Aloysius is a more than perfect occasion to turn our attention to this inspiring boy. In these months especially focused on the young – with the October Synod of Bishops in Rome and the January 2019 World Youth Day in Panama -, the Holy See has just announced the Holy Year, starting today – March 9, 2018 – and ending on the same date in 2019.
The Church of Saint Ignatius in Rome, where the remains of Saint Aloysius lie, and all the churches in the world dedicated to the young saint have been identified as privileged places of pilgrimage.
In a letter to the whole Society of Jesus, Father Arturo Sosa warmly invites us to take this day and the coming months as a golden opportunity to celebrate and make known the life of the young saint.
Pope Benedict XIII declared Aloysius Gonzaga patron of the youth; Pope Pius XI proclaimed him patron of students; and Pope John Paul II named him patron of those suffering from AIDS.
Born in Castiglione delle Stiviere in 1568, Gonzaga grew up in a Christian family setting, although the context was rather a mundane one, presenting to the vigorous boy a future of wealth and fame. For his strong faith and incredible interior freedom, however, he sought to understand the call of God, a discernment which eventually led to his becoming a member of the Society of Jesus, at the time, recently founded.
As he died at the tender age of 23 years, Gonzaga didn’t have time to go through the entire formative path to become a priest, but he devoted himself completely to formation. He was a student of Theology when he fell ill. In 1591, the plague broke out in Rome and Gonzaga was helping in a hospital the Jesuits had opened for those affected by the disease, who were excluded and marginalized. The voluntary service offered by the young man, considering the health risks and the discrimination coming from it, is a saintly model for us all. The generosity and dedication of Gonzaga, at such an early age, shine in the culture of worldly idols many young people are immersed in today.
2018 also marks the 450th anniversary of the death of Saint Stanislaus Kostka, another admirable example of a determined and enthusiastic young member of the Society of Jesus. The Polish novice was canonized in 1726. Like Saint Aloysius, the decision to enter into religious life didn’t come smoothly, but rather with many obstacles from his family. When in the end the boy succeeded in entering the novitiate, he fell ill with a high fever, which led to his death in 1568.
Welcoming the invitation of the Jesuit Superior General, let us bring the light and the courage of these two young men into our communities, spreading the message of faith and hope they embraced 450 years ago.
Why is St Aloysius's life worth celebrating? Read Christopher Brolly SJ's reflection Facebook Graces