He received his first communion from St. Charles Borromeo.
During a trip to Spain with his family when he was still quite young, Aloysius decided he wanted to be a Jesuit. His family didn’t approve and his father, a compulsive gambler, did all he could to hinder his vocation.
Aloysius decided to sign away his inheritance and enter the Jesuit novitiate in 1585 when he was 18. While there, his spiritual director was St. Robert Bellarmine. He wrote to his brother that he entered the religious life as a piece of bent iron, knowing that religious life would straiten him out.
During the last year of his life, Aloysius hustled to offer his help in responding to the plague victims in Rome after the outbreak of 1591. Still a seminarian at this point, he contracted the kidney disease that ended up killing him.
Before death but after contracting his kidney disease, he thanked God for his bedridden state because it afforded him extra time to pray.
Interestingly, his spiritual director told people after Aloysius’ death that his spiritual practices were not for everyone. He was quite scrupulous and practiced extreme forms of self-mortification.
Bellarmine also had to order Aloysius to pray only at the appointed hours of communal and private prayer because he had a tendency to neglect his own health and care. Bellarmine advised that a spiritual leader must take care of himself in order to be strong enough to take care of others.
Despite his tendency to extremes, we have much to learn from Aloysius’ example. For instance, his devotion to youth–as a youth himself–earned him patronage of youth and colleges. I also find his devotion of Our Lady inspiring, which is the reason he is often pictured with a rosary. I love this prayer of his to Mary:
O Holy Mary! My Mother; into thy blessed trust and special custody, and into the bosom of thy mercy, I this day, and every day, and in the hour of my death, commend my soul and body. To thee I commit all my anxieties and sorrows, my life and the end of my life, that by they most holy intercession, and by thy merits, all my actions may be directed and governed by thy will and that of thy Son.
Perhaps that prayer is a good way to end this post.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga: Pray for us!