St Aloysius, a Visionary Saint in Modern Times
St Aloysius of Gonzaga is one among the young saints who died at their prime. The life that he lived was meaningful, in service to God and to mankind and thereby an inspiration to us all. St Aloysius Gonzaga is a popular saint among all those who have had their education at some point or the other at the Aloysian campus. I thus take it for granted that we all have come across the name St Aloysius of Gonzaga at least once in our lifetime. While I was going through the life history of St Aloysius Gonzaga, I personally felt that the life that he lived was much pleasing to God and the society. Every single incident that occurred in his life has something to teach us even today. In this article my attempt will be to highlight with real life examples on how St Aloysius Gonzaga plays a major role in each one’s life even during these modern times. To closely understand his eminence today one has to first comprehend and learn about his life and how he managed to touch lives within a short span of 23 years of his lifetime.
Aloysius Gonzaga was the oldest son of seven children born to Ferrante Gonzaga and Marta Tana in the year 1568 in Italy. Since he was the eldest child, his family, especially his dad had a very high expectation on St Aloysius Gonzaga to develop a military career as a nobleman. St Aloysius Gonzaga got his education at the Ducal Courts of Florence and Mantua. When He and his family moved to Spain to the Royal Court of Madrid, young Aloysius became page to King Philip II child Diego. Nevertheless, in the year 1585 he decided to surrender his princely life and decided to enroll at the Society of Jesus (a religious order of the Catholic Church) at Rome. In Rome, St Robert Bellarmine was his spiritual director, his confessor and a great theologian.
Aloysius was well-known for his self-discipline. He volunteered to care for the sick and dying patients at a Jesuit hospital when plague broke out in Rome. While he was in his formation stage in the Society of Jesus and shortly before his ordination, he was diagnosed with an incurable disease to which he succumbed at the prime age of 23. In the year 1729, Pope Benedict XIII named St Aloysius Gonzaga as the Patron of Youth. Every year on 21st of June the entire Christian community especially the Jesuits celebrate the feast of St Aloysius Gonzaga.
An Aloysian student once enrolled into the school keeps learning more and more about St Aloysius over the years. I too was one among the many students who was fortunate to join St Aloysius School and learn more about him in the years ahead. The most celebrated moment as an Aloysian student is the experience of celebrating the Feast of St Aloysius of Gonzaga every year with great pomp and jubilation. The plays enacted at occasions like these have had a special impact on my mind. The selfless love that St Aloysius showed towards the sick touched and inspired me. How could a boy of this age think of a noble act like this, when he could have led a luxurious life with his family that was quite wealthy. However, he chose a simple and a religious life.
In the ancient period the elder son was always given an advantageous position when it came to power and prestige. Aloysius was the eldest among his siblings. His father, Ferrante Gonzaga, wanted him to take responsibility and obtain his father’s status and title. It was really shocking for me to read that Aloysius was made to join the military training at the age of four. He was also given a few set of miniature guns during his training. In the modern situation, we find few parents wanting their children to gain their parents status and title as they grown up.
I had a senior in St Aloysius PU College. Both his parents were Doctors and he was the only child to them. His dream and life goal were totally different from his parents. He was forced to take up Science (Biology) by them and they had already decided that their son would be a doctor. At the end of the first week of College he approached the Principal and requested, “Please allow me to switch from Science to Arts.” The boy was shifted into the Arts stream and he is now a successful lawyer today. If he hadn’t switched to arts, probably he would have failed because Science was not his cup of tea. The vision that St Aloysius of Gonzaga saw was to serve the sick. Switching from a royal life to a religious and selfless life was a tough decision for him to make. Yet, he chose what his heart desired for him. It’s really hard to find a person St Aloysius of Gonzaga. If he hadn’t chosen to serve the sick, we probably wouldn’t have known about Aloysius. St Aloysius through his life is an example to all students to aspire for excellence and to do what they love. Remember that things that are easy for others may be difficult to you. Taking advice from others is totally fine, but making a final decision on your career is left to you. Hence chose you goal wisely like how St Aloysius of Gonzaga did.
History says that when St Aloysius of Gonzaga was just 8 years old suffered from a kidney related ailment. During his period of rest he had gotten into the habit of reading about the lives of saints. He began reciting his personal prayers and probably was set to aid the suffering. Daily communication with God through prayers made St Aloysius of Gonzaga to fall in love with God.
Prayer is like food which all of us need in our day-to-day life. I myself have witnessed several times on how prayer helps us. We recite rosary at home every single day without fail. There is not a single day where we have missed reciting rosary. In case we are about to reach home late, we either recite it on our way back to home or we recite it as soon as we reach home. By this I feel that am always protected by God wherever I go and whatever step I take.
In testing times like these where the Pandemic questions our faith in God and His existence, it is saints like St Aloysius who through his life motivates us to pray in times of adversities. When Aloysius’ own family members were trying to convince him to change, he was busy building a permanent relation with God. Hence let’s imbibe this quality of St Aloysius Gonzaga in us and spend some time every day thanking our creator for protecting us with his love and care.
As I was reading further I came across that St Aloysius Gonzaga received his first holy communion in the year 1580 from St Charles Borromeo soon after which, he developed an interest in reading books that were related to Jesuit missionary in India. His reading enabled him to make a choice to join the seminary. He began by teaching catechism to young children. St Aloysius Gonzaga was himself young, yet, he chose to teach young boys. I personally feel that Teacher-Student relationship is one among the best relations that I have ever come across when it comes to profession.
As a teacher St Aloysius Gonzaga can still inspire those engaged in the field of education. Every teacher is a blessing in student’s life. Learning is a never-ending process. St Aloysius truly motivates teachers to consider their vocation as a priced possession and work hard on educating young minds. The need to learn and the desire to teach the same is what St Aloysius highlights through his life.
The society in which we live today is completely different from that of St Aloysius Gonzaga’s times. If you observe children aged between 1 to 12 mainly focuses on playing games. They don’t even decide what they want to be in future. They just enjoy and have fun. This is natural and there is nothing wrong in it. But when it comes to St Aloysius Gonzaga, at the age of 9 his idea and approach were totally different and challenging. His desire to serve the sick people was not liked by his family. In short his parents and family failed to understand him. Every parent must be a guide and support to their children in terms of choosing career. Children must be given freedom to choose and at the same time corrected by the elders whenever they commit any mistake. It is the duty of parents and teachers to see to it that children grow in a disciplined manner just like St Aloysius Gonzaga.
Being titled as the Patron of Youth, St Aloysius Gonzaga is truly a role model for all the youngster of today’s generation. Youth need to take a bold step and come forward to serve the needy that are around you. I completely agree that it is quite difficult to follow the life pattern of St Aloysius Gonzaga. However it is not difficult to learn some of the qualities of St Aloysius Gonzaga and implement them in our day to day life. There are quite a few numbers of youth who are always ready to serve the society. We often fail to see and recognise the services they render to the society. Some of the example we can see the youth these days are risking their lives and reaching out people during the pandemic to provide essential goods, spreading awareness on safety measures and how to stop the spread of COVID-19, donating blood whenever during emergency, visiting the sick, orphans and old age homes.
I must mention this; the young, dynamic and versatile India actor Sonu Sood has helped many poor people during the last one and a half year. We all have read about him in news channels and social media. He came forward and took the initiative in providing food and transport facility during the lockdown. This indeed shows that we have people like St Aloysius Gonzaga even in modern times.
In the current scenario we all have mastery over technology. Every bit of information is available on the internet within seconds. Why not we make use of the advancement of the technology and help the society rather than forwarding unnecessary forward messages? Why do we get to hear about crime? Why do people commit suicide? Why do children leave their elderly parents in the old age home? The answer is quite simple, they are not brought up with discipline, they were ignored by their parents at early age, they were not supported by anyone while choosing a career and much more.
Human beings are now on the verge of losing humanity. Sensitivity to others’ emotions is slowly vanishing. It takes a heart like St Aloysius Gonzaga’s to lend a helping hand to an individual in trouble. At times human beings are more active when it comes to crisis situations. St Aloysius knew the sufferings of others and helped the sick immediately. However, the modern world has seen more people video shoot an accident scene. St Aloysius’s life shows us that humanity is above all. He carried sick people in his arms, took care of them and didn’t bother about himself. Indeed his life was saintly and it was a moment of gratitude from him to be called Saint Aloysius Gonzaga.
Things and people often tempt us to do wrong. This is quite common. We need to take courage and have a proper control over it. St Aloysius Gonzaga too was tempted by his family members, but the life that he led was much beyond his capacity. He was very much focused and stood firm for the choice that he made. I consider St Aloysius Gonzaga as a gift and a blessing in my life. In just a span of 23 years he won the hearts of many. He was a chosen one to carry out the mission to take care of the sick. Each one of us needs to lead a life that is very much pleasing to our creator and the society. If St Aloysius Gonzaga can sacrifice himself for the sick I guess even we too can lend our hand to the needy people in our surrounding. Let us put in some efforts in learning and practicing the values that St Aloysius Gonzaga teaches us today and be a role mode to the upcoming generation.
Article by: Ashish Joseph Carvalho, Derebail