Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Notes on the Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

For many modern believers, 16th century Jesuit Aloysius Gonzaga appears to be a highly paradoxical figure. As the patron of Catholic youth and of Jesuit scholastics, Aloysius may seem a dubious figure for emulation. Delicate and sickly from childhood, Aloysius further ruined his health with severe penances that seriously limited his ministerial abilities. Given Aloysius' apparent rigidity and extreme scrupulosity, his family and fellow Jesuits must have found the saint a hard person to live with. Caring for plague victims in Rome, Aloysius threw concerns about hygiene to the wind and seemingly went out of his way to ensure that he caught the disease that would claim his life at age 23.

Some may be tempted to dismiss Aloysius Gonzaga as a specimen of an antique and outmoded strain of piety; however, if we compare Aloysius' choices and challenges with our own we may find that Aloysius has something important to say to us today. Like many modern young people, Aloysius found himself searching for a deeper sense of purpose in a culture that struck him as decadent and materialistic. Aloysius discovered his life's purpose when he entered the Society of Jesus; in much the same way, an encouraging number of modern youth find meaning and fulfillment in committing themselves to lives of service - some in religious life, but many more in volunteer programs that benefit others in their own communities and around the world. After entering the Jesuits, Aloysius was forced to moderate his ascetic regimen of prayer and penance; his struggles to do so should remind young religious that each of us faces unique challenges in adapting to this life.

For all the apparent dissimilarity between Aloysius Gonzaga and ourselves, on reflection we may discover that this saint of the early Society was a lot like us. Today's celebration of Aloysius' life helps us recognize that even those saints who seem not to speak to our circumstances have something to teach us about ourselves. AMDG.


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