SAINT ALOYSIUS DE GONZAGA
Saint Aloysius de Gonzaga, (March 9, 1568 – June 21, 1591) was an Italian aristocrat. Born the eldest of seven children, Aloysius was in line to inherit his father’s title and status of Marquis. In November 1585, he gave up all rights of inheritance and went to Rome where, because of his noble birth, gained an audience with Pope Sixtus V. Following a brief stay at the Palazzo Aragona Gonzaga, the Roman home of his cousin, Cardinal Scipione Gonzaga, on 25 November 1585, he was accepted into the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Rome.
In 1591, a plague broke out in Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital for the stricken, and Aloysius volunteered to work there. After begging alms for the victims, he began working with the sick, carrying the dying from the streets into a hospital founded by the Jesuits. There he washed and fed the plague victims, preparing them as best he could to receive the sacraments. But though he threw himself into his tasks, he privately confessed to his spiritual director, Fr. Robert Bellarmine, that his constitution was revolted by the sights and smells of the work.
At the time, many of the younger Jesuits had become infected with the disease, and so Aloysius’s superiors forbade him from returning to the hospital. But Aloysius—long accustomed to refusals from his father—persisted and requested permission to return, which was granted. Eventually he was allowed to care for the sick, but only at another hospital, called Our Lady of Consolation, where those with contagious diseases were not admitted. While there, Aloysius lifted a man out of his sickbed, tended to him, and brought him back to his bed. But the man was infected with the plague. Aloysius grew ill and was bedridden by 3 March 1591, a few days before his 23rd birthday.
Aloysius rallied for a time, but as fever and a cough set in, he declined for many weeks. It seemed certain that he would die in a short time, and he was given Extreme Unction. Aloysius had another vision and told several people that he would die on the Octave of the feast of Corpus Christi. On that day, 21 June 1591, he seemed very well in the morning, but insisted that he would die before the day was over. As he began to grow weak, Bellarmine gave him the last rites and recited the prayers for the dying. He died just before midnight. Many people considered him to be a saint soon after his death, and his remains were moved into the Sant’Ignazio church, where they now rest in an urn of lapis lazuli in the Lancellotti Chapel. His head was later translated to the basilica bearing his name in Castiglione delle Stiviere. He was beatified only fourteen years after his death by Pope Paul V, on 19 October 1605. On 31 December 1726, he was canonized together with another Jesuit novice, Stanislaus Kostka, by Pope Benedict XIII.